2007-10-10: Collaboration on the Scene
The summer is over and the C64.COM staff is back to work on the site,
as you can see from the addition of over a hundred games to our
database in August and September. Many of those games were requests
that you have sent us by e-mail. We are always happy to hear which
games you really would like to see on the site, so keep those e-mails
Several delightful contacts with C64 enthusiasts have also been
brought about by our recent wanted ad for your C64 floppy collections.
We are happy to hear from you and welcome further contacts. The deal
is that you send us your C64 floppies, we digitise them, send you the
original floppies and the digitised copies burnt on a CD, and –
with your permission – we boost our software collection with the
contents of the floppies. Your gain is to get a backup of your old
data on contemporary media, and we get a chance to find and archive
rare versions of C64 software.
In the close future C64.COM is going to publish a new list of
frequently asked questions (a.k.a. FAQ). It will improve on our old
FAQ based on numerous e-mails we have got from you, our visitors. The
questions range widely from very technical and difficult questions
about real C64 hardware to simple and everyday problems with C64
emulators. We hope the reworked FAQ will serve you better in your C64
related problems. As always, if the FAQ doesn't answer your question,
e-mail us and we'll do our best to help you.
In addition to questions, we have also received lots of nice mail from
people approaching us with their ideas. One of these was from MdZ in
January 2007. He approached us with his C64 media search tool that
went by the workname Spunk. The tool is a search engine with a web
interface. It works on a vast collection of C64 media – mainly disk
images digitised from several private collections that consist of
hundreds or even thousands of floppies. The given search string is
matched with the floppies' directory listings. Any matching media
files are then listed with their directory contents and the files are
MdZ's offer was to have Spunk hosted on C64.COM and allow the searcher
to be used by all visitors. After a long consideration we decided to
turn down the offer. While it would be a nice service for our
visitors to provide them with the games and demos that are yet missing
from the site and thus be one milestone in the history of C64.COM,
hosting the searcher would also have its downsides. C64.COM started
in 2002 as a site (then called C64hq) that would stick out with
quality. In software, that quality consists of ample screenshots taken
from games and demos and credit information that strives for
correctness and completeness. Publishing the searcher on C64.COM would
be contrary to all this. There are already sites that give out bulk
downloads of C64 disk and tape images. Incorporating such a download
feature to C64.COM would diminish the value of screenshots and credit
information; a loss to our efforts at exhibiting the creations of many
talented programmers, artists and musicians. Finally, there is no way
to guarantee that the software in the various collections works. Thus
some of the downloads would give games that don't load up or demos
with messed up graphics, and there would be no way of avoiding it.
This said, it is delightful to see such a useful tool as MdZ's
searcher to be provided for use by a larger group of people. Many C64
software collectors have probably written their own little scripts to
help organise and search through large amounts of digitised C64
media. The way to progress past privately developed single-use scripts
is to make one project public and see how it works in real
use. Interaction with a wider range of users always generates new
ideas and incentive for further development. Nowadays an early
version of the tool can be found on The Commodore 64 Scene Database by
the name SearchDBC64. A newer version is in development.
Hosting MdZ's search tool on a C64 site is still something that should
be done. As the tool doesn't match C64.COM's mission statement, other
sites should take up and host the searcher. This would provide
excellent grounds for further collaboration on the C64 collectors'
scene. It would motivate various collectors to give the search tool
access to their private software collections. Everybody would benefit
because it would be easy to search over large amounts of data,
potentially locating rare items.
2006-10-14: Independent Games - The Case of Emerald Miner
Independent games are games made by individuals on their free time. Independent games are not sold widely. They are mostly spread from person to person. In the early 1980s, many C64 games were made by single individuals on their free time, but they were later sold to game companies and thus jumped from independence to commercial game business. Many games that did not get commercial are probably lost by now, especially in the cases when the game did not reach wide publicity among the author's friends. It is a mission for us C64 lovers to hunt down and save these rarities. One of the rarity hunters is Frank Gasking with his excellent site Games That Weren't C64. But sometimes there is no need for hunting. Instead, we get lucky and the game surfaces by itself.
This happened a few months ago when Donovan Brockmeyer sent an e-mail to C64.com and told us that he had made a C64 game with his friends back in 1989. "[The game] is called Emerald Miner and it is pretty DigDug_esq," describes Donovan. The whole thing started as an inspiration in the head of Greg Kuhl. He had an Amiga and loved to play a game called Emerald Mines. Greg's cousin, Andrew Kuhl, and friend, Donovan Brockmeyer, were into C64 assembler programming at the time, and making a game of their own seemed like a worthy challenge. Donovan comments on splitting the programming between the two coders: "Andrew wrote code mostly. Particularly the parts that worked really well." Greg was the artist of the team. "Greg did all the music and if I remember correctly, much of the graphics, especially the main character," says Donovan. The three were the main team behind Emerald Miner, although many of their friends were interested in the development too. According to Donovan, school played a central part in the development: "[Emerald Miner] was designed at home partly, but mostly at school. I think I only ended up in the office once for skipping class to work on the game. But lunches, spares, etc. were all spent in the computer lab of C64s pounding out code and testing. That was basically the whole of Grade 11."
There are a handful of hidden things in the game. "On a number of the levels there are messages written with the graphics. One says "This is not Dig Dug II", written in bugs and bombs (We were already getting hassles about the Dig Dug type appearance of the game). One screen makes a jab at a teacher we hated, written in Fungus so it would become unreadable as soon as the level began," explains Donovan in his e-mail. Another characteristic is that the game contains over 40 levels of which only 35 are reachable by normal playing. The rest can be reached by hacking the game – see Gamer's Diary for more on that. "I do remember that the last [level] did say "The End" so perhaps it was 35. It is possible we made 47 and then cut a few we thought were not very good," suspects Donovan.
It is interesting how Emerald Miner had also its commercial moments. Donovan tells the story: "Once it was done, we made copies, vacuum sealed it. My mom bought a vacuum sealer for freezing vegetables. Andrew and I spent a Saturday afternoon packaging about 10 copies of the game. We all lived in a rural area of Ontario, Canada. We went to the same high school, West Hill Secondary School in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada. There was a little computer shop in town. We bought all our toys there, the C64 programming guides, the (I forget the name) cartridges we used for a ML monitor that wasn't resident on the computer, etc. So they knew us a little and I went in one day and explained what we had done. The woman who owned the place bought 3 copies for $10 CAD each and I think was selling them for $15-20 each. Anyways we never sold any more, I think she did sell all 3. And that was that."
The guys were also thoughtful enough to prepare themselves for any legal matters that might follow from publishing the game. Donovan explains: "We didn't know how to patent or copyright the game, so we sent a printout of the code and a sealed copy of the game to ourselves via registered mail. That way if there was ever a legal dispute, we could prove the game was ours. ;) Guess we had big hopes."
Emerald Miner is a true rarity. None of its packaged copies remain, except possibly for the three sold in Owen Sound. Luckily Donovan was able to provide us a disk image, so we can save and document this small piece of C64 gaming history. We at C64.com would like to thank Donovan for his delightful initiative. We hope that his behaviour will set an example to other independent C64 game authors. I am sure there are many. C64.com is open for submissions.
2006-05-13: Completing Games
In the end of February we announced the join of C64.com and
C64hq.com. Simultaneously began a time period during which we, the
people behind C64hq, prepare new grand features to the site. I am not
going to dive into those in this editorial, as Andreas is probably the
best person to explain them. I am going to write about games. For me
the join means playing lots of C64 games in preparation to update them
to the site. So far we have got over 500 new games to add to the site,
and I can guarantee that there are some pretty cool ones among
them. But among playing and screenshooting these 500 new games I have
also had to pay some attention to old games.
One cool game that we have had on the site already for some time is
Frankie Goes to Hollywood, created by Denton Designs. This is Frankie
in a nutshell: You find yourself in the town of Mundanesville as a
totally average person looking for a complete personality. You walk
around the town, collecting items and utilising them. There are
several arcade subgames and a few logical puzzles to complete. Your
goal in the C64 version of this game is to obtain 87000 points and
push four bar charts to the max, after which you are supposed to find
an exit and the game ends. Points get scarcer the closer you get to
your goal. In fact, you cannot get more than the required score. In
order to reach it, you must be very systematic in what you do and
watch out for false actions that may prevent game completion.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood has been a big obstacle for many C64 gamers;
for years people on forums and newsgroups have been asking for a
complete solution. Up until recently people have been able to give
only scattered tips on solving Frankie. The tips tell you to feed the
cat with milk, collect all clues for the murder mystery, use flak
jacket in ZTT Room, etc. For a long time there was no complete
solution in the public with all the necessary actions gathered
together. Instead, several people reported being able to gather all
but 100 points of the required limit.
It seemed as if there was no solution to the game, contrary to what
the C64 game manual and the known solution for the Spectrum conversion
suggest. A game that is impossible to complete is no news to the C64
game scene. It is known that in the famous text adventure Castle of
Terror it is impossible to get the maximum score of 290. On CASA,
you can find a confirmation from Grahame Willis, the author of Castle
of Terror himself that, as far as he remembers, he probably just made
the game appear like there was more to it, to keep up people's
interest. It sure worked as he planned.
Another game apparently lacking solution contrary to what is
expected is Parallax. The instructions to this shoot'em up by Sensible
Software claim that the game ends when you find an intergalactic
teleport in the last level. Teleports are common throughout the game,
and in the last level there is one that is obviously the intergalactic
one. Still, entering any of these gives you no endscreen. The only way
to end the game is to die. As far as I know, the programmer Chris
Yates has not been consulted on this, but there are suspicions that
the Parallax team just ran out of memory, and any possible endscreen
was dropped out of the game.
Some games cannot be completed due to a programming error. Fairlight,
for example, is impossible to complete on the C64. In the original
Spectrum version you finish the game by climbing up a tower and
freeing a wizard. In the C64 version you cannot climb the tower
because one of the monks guarding the tower appears as a locked door,
as strange as it sounds. The best guess of Bo Jangeborg, the original
author of the game, is that during the conversion from Spectrum to C64
the monk was incorrectly specified as a door in the program
code. Trevor Inns, who made the C64 conversion, has not been found for
confirmation on his part.
Yet another game I want to mention here is Bobby Bearing. In this
game you are to rescue your four bearing brothers. In the C64 version,
you can rescue three, Barnaby, Bert and Bungo, but the fourth one is
buggy and does not have a proper name. When you rescue also him, the
game crashes. Not much of an ending, huh? This happens even in the
Nostalgia crack, and Nostalgia is known for good cracks. Perhaps also
Remember should have a go at Bobby Bearing and fix whatever bugs there
are in the program code.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood is not like these four games. It is possible
to complete, and complete instructions for doing so were written down
by Neo-Rio of the Gamebase 64 team about a year ago. But even with
these instructions available, people have been asking around if the
game is completable. This may be either because they do not know that
a solution exists, or because they are still unable to complete the
game even with the instructions. Consequently, one reason for the
topic of this time's editorial is to make people aware that Frankie
Goes to Hollywood really is possible to complete.
I was faintly aware of the completability of Frankie for some time,
but it was not until Éjfél Kapitány – or
Captain Midnight for the English-speaking – mailed C64hq and
asked about Frankie when I finally realised that it is about time to
see for myself how does one really complete Frankie. I took Neo-Rio's
instructions and set for the task. Fairly easily I reached the magical
score of all but 100 points. After a few nights' double and triple
checking the instructions, I finally found also the remaining 100
points. In my case they came by touching the three buttons in the ZTT
Room. Another way to gain 100 missing points is to let the duck fly to
Shooting Gallery. Either thing you can do only once, and to complete
the game, you really have to do both once.
One thing Neo-Rio's instructions were missing was a complete and
simplified checklist of things you have to do in order to get the full
87000 points. A similar checklist had already been made for the
Spectrum version of Frankie, but that game has slightly different
items and totally different scoring. While completing Frankie on the
C64, I wrote down this checklist. See the C64 Walkthrough Site for Neo-Rio's
instructions with my checklist included, and Captain Midnight Headquarters
for his additional tips.
2006-02-22: C64hq and Other C64 Sites
The internet is half full of C64 sites. There are C64 portals, discussion forums, game and demo collections, music and remix databases, and others. Many sites concentrate only on some very specific topics. Googling around or browsing some C64 webrings you can find sites that display some very limited but dear selection of C64 games. There are special fan pages for Turrican, Creatures, The Last Ninja, The Great Giana Sisters, and others. Some sites are specialised in some particular aspect such as C64 game endscreens or solutions, enhanced versions of C64 game screenshots, sex on the C64, or worshipping a legendary C64 personality. Several demo and cracker groups have their own webpages. There's also sites that list technical details of Commodore hardware, and sites that concentrate on buying, selling and repairing C64 hardware. English is of course the most common language on all the sites, but there are also several sites in German, French, Italian, Hungarian, Turkish and other langauges. Many of the sites contain interesting C64 related material. Unfortunately many also look like they were made during a month of sudden passion and then left to lie in cyberspace for the occasional visitor.
A few sites surpass the quality and amount of content of the average C64 site. These sites include C64hq, Gamebase64, Lemon64, C64.com, C64 Heaven, Magyar C64 H.Q., The C64 Game Guide, The C-64 Scene Database, and C64.CH, just to name some. Several of the sites date back to late 1990s, to the early age of the internet. Most concentrate either on games or on demos. The largest game-oriented sites have around 3500 (C64.com), 4000 (Lemon64), 6000 (C64 Game Guide), impressive 10000 (Magyar C64 H.Q.), or even 17000 (Gamebase64) C64 games in their database. The largest demo-oriented sites contain around 300 (The Demo Dungeon), 2500 (pouët.net), 5000 (C64.CH), 10000 (The Digital Dungeon), or even the huge amount of 25000 (The C-64 Scene Database) C64 demos.
How does C64hq compare with all these sites? Some of the main elements of a major C64 site are screenshots, credits, downloads and of course usability. I shall now compare C64hq with some other major C64 sites in these four areas.
What comes to screenshots, all the major C64 sites have at most a few of them for each game, sometimes none. Some sites such as Lemon64 do not include the screen borders in its game screenshots. This means lost information in games such as Athena, Emlyn Hughes International Soccer, and Ostfrieslandgames. C64.com, in addition to not showing screen borders, often contains blurred screenshots. In the major C64 sites who at least have a standard quality of screenshots still lack a wide screenshot coverage of the games. I claim that it is much easier to get nostalgic with Green Beret, for example, when you see 12 screenshots instead of just one.
The same screenshot comparison applies largely also for C64 demo sites. One bright exception is The Demo Dungeon (TDD) which features several carefully chosen screenshots of each of the demos it features. This can be contrasted with for example The C-64 Scene Database (CSDb) where there is most often only one screenshot of each demo. A common feature to CSDb and TDD is that the demo screenshots are of varying sizes, but in different ways. TDD always has unscaled screenshots, and the size varies from the standard only when there is a scrolling screen to be displayed as a whole. At CSDb, however, many screenshots are cropped – sometimes even scaled – seemingly only to please the artistic views of the random user who submitted the screenshot. Also at CSDb the 16 color palette varies from demo to demo. In contrast, C64hq aims to have all its games and demos screenshot in what we call high quality. This means that all screenshots will be taken by our standards; the images use our carefully selected 16 color palette to reflect the original C64 colors, all borders are included in the image, and all screenshots are of the standard unscaled size to make navigation more pleasant. To be precise, so far C64hq includes screen borders only in its demo screenshots. We are working to soon include borders also in our game screenshots. Another important guideline for C64hq is to have screenshots taken to represent the whole demo or game in its most characteristic moments. This easily means taking over 10 screenshots per game or demo, sometimes even up to 50.
Concerning credits for games and demos, Magyar C64 H.Q. mentions only the year and copyright of each game. Gamebase64 includes also programmer and musician information. At C64hq we do our best to find out who made what in each game and demo that we feature. Our primary means of finding such information is to look through the game or demo and find the credits there. If we have the original game package or manual at our disposal, we consult it. We may also resort to other C64 databases when we know they can be trusted. The High Voltage SID Collection is one such database. The basic information of each game and demo is the release year, who did programming, graphics and music, and in the case of commercial products the company that held the copyright at the time of release. In addition to this we write down all other credits that we find.
What comes to downloads, most major game-oriented C64 sites have at most one version of each game available for download. C64 Heaven and Magyar C64 H.Q. are welcome exceptions to this rule. In contrast, some sites do not contain any games for download, due to fear of companies who defend their copyrights on outdated software. Not presenting information about different cracks means that the site is focusing on C64 gaming only in the common consumer's aspect, playing. Acknowledging at most one crack of each game overlooks the fact that a large part of the C64 community in the golden times of C64 was revolving around cracking games, not only playing them. It is of a large historical value to gather and store all possible cracks of games. We want to know who cracked and what. We also play the games through until the end – if there is an end. This is a must first of all to get representative screenshots. This way we can also ensure that at least one of the versions of the game really works until the end. It is not uncommon to find faulty copies of games on many of the C64 sites.
Usability manifests itself on C64 sites first of all in graphical site design. Most grand C64 sites have a clear look and a sane system of navigation. Another important feature when talking about large databases is a useful search interface. Surprisingly many big C64 sites such as Magyar C64 H.Q. and C64 Game Guide do not have any kind of search feature. C64hq has a very simple yet effective search engine. It cannot of course match the precision of for example CSDb's highly complex advanced search, but concerning standard usage it is unlikely that one ever needs to search by all the possible database fields there is.
C64hq has its weaknesses too. To compensate the relatively low number of games (700) compared to other major game-oriented C64 sites, C64hq is soon going to heavily boost its game database by temporarily lowering its high requirements for games. Later on the quality levels will be leveled up again. In practice this will mean concentrating on releases of well-known cracker groups and taking screenshots mostly from the beginning of each game. Even this level of quality often surpasses that of other C64 game sites.
Another current weakness of C64hq is that it lacks features to build a live community around itself. At the moment there is only the guestbook and user's comments for games and demos where visitors can interact with the site. One of our planned future additions will be a new feature that will turn the site from a commented database into a real C64 community. We believe that C64hq has good chances of becoming a live central for C64-related discussions because it features several important aspects of the C64 – there are games and demos in one place, it is easy to use. We at C64hq welcome all old and new friends of the C64 to enjoy our future improvements.
2005-08-29: From Scene to Public
It's a great time for the C64. The 23-year-old computer model continues to have its users and fans regardless of the multitude of new computers and other gadgets that have outdated the technical aspects of the phoenix of computers. This fact is demonstrated very simply by having a look at some recent happenings around you. In just one month there have been two parties where the C64 has once again shown its capabilities.
First, in late July, there was Assembly 2005, the grandest computer party in the world, located at the outskirts of Europe in Helsinki, Finland. Being only fourteen years old, Assembly has never lived the most vivid times of the C64. Perhaps because of this, Assembly often lacks the presence of many big names in the C64 scene (or is it just because of the location?). Despite this fact, the C64 is well represented at the party's oldschool competitions. This year's Assembly Oldschool Demo Competition winner, Boogie Factor by Fairlight sticks out from the mass of demos with its clear design and its theme that is based around the 1970s disco boom. It won the competition with a massive majority of votes even though the version provided by the compo deadline suffered from a floppy disk failure and thus was missing the few last parts. A fully working copy is of course available on C64hq.
In early August the Little Computer People 2005 party took place in Linköping, Sweden. Intended for old computers, especially the C64, LCP gathers more cream of the C64 scene than Assembly. This shows in the quality of the demo competition. Looking at the winner, Sphaeristerium by Triad, one easily gets impressed by the 3D effects. How is such possible on a 1 MHz processor? Reading the note that comes with the demo, one however quickly finds out that the effects are largely animations and not calculated real-time. Some might consider animating as cheating but on the other hand it is just another manifestation of the persisting ambition of demo people to invent ways to overcome the technical limits of the computer.
As already a large amount of technical programming inventions has been made on the C64, in increasing amount in the future the highlights in demos shall be those of design and aesthetics, and how well the demo works as a whole. This on its behalf makes demos more accessible to a wider audience. It is a possible scenario that there will start to be an interest in the products of the demo scene also outside the scene. There are already some signs of it. The book Demoscene: The Art of Real-Time, released last year aims to be a general advertisement of the scene to the common people. The book was inspired by the success of a demoscene art exhibition, arranged at the modern arts museum Kiasma in Helsinki, Finland in 2003. Another book about demoscene has also been released very recently. Freax – The Brief History of the Computer Demoscene Volume 1 is now available to be ordered online. This volume focuses on the C64 and Amiga scenes.
All this shows the vitality and growing maturity of the culture around the C64. People who grew up with the computer are now adults, many with families, and some are willing to put their free time into preserving the establishments and memories that live with the culture. This is also what C64hq aims to be about. It is a plain fact that there exists a huge amout of inside information about the computer culture that is not very accessible to the wide public. Projects like Demoscene and Freax are the first serious attempts to build a connection between the scene, regardless of platform, and the public. But already the mammoth C64 from the prehistoric of computing provides a plethora of meaning to many people in the scene. It is about time that an effort is made to write a commonly understandable book about the C64 culture alone. It must be done now when the memory is still fresh and the culture is vivid. A site like C64hq already provides lots of raw material for such a book. What is needed is somebody to compile the raw information into a well-structured unit of information. Perhaps this is an area where C64hq should expand.
years editorial from Ville, Boz and Andreas
Today it's the third anniversary of C64hq. I have not
personally been there with the site from the first day.
My first contact with the site was through an update letter
of The High Voltage SID Collection (HVSC). There they
mentioned this new C64 site. At the time I was interested
in old games. I spent some of my free time playing games
like Battletech on a C64 emulator, and Captive on an old
PC. One day I was remembering a game I used to play on
my late Commodore 128. I only remembered the game was
Omega something, and it was black and white and addictive.
I wanted to play that game again, so I headed to this
new C64 site to look for the game. Unfortunately I did
not find it, so I filed a request for Omega. It did not
take long until I got a reply from the main man Andreas
with Omega Neural Cybertank Design and Simulator attached
to the e-mail. The game was not quite what I was looking
for – Omega Race was the correct game as I learned
afterwards. Nevertheless, I was impressed that there was
a living being on the other end, taking care of my request.
I got interested.
Soon I had more old C64 games in my mind, and as I could not find some of them from C64hq, I finally decided to inform Andreas that I would like to help him put more content to his site. This happened around July 2002. Andreas was happy about the suggestion. Soon I took screenshots of Spy Hunter, Montezuma's Revenge, Panther, and BC's Quest for Tires. From there on my goal was to screenshoot ten games each month.
At the moment I have screenshot a total of 267 C64 games for C64hq. All games are done according to our standards – the game should be completed, the screenshots should depict major events throughout the game, and all possible credit information should be extracted from the game. From July 2002 my tasks in games have increased. In the beginning I only completed the games, wrote down all credits I found, and took the screenshots. Nowadays I also look for all possible copies of the games, prepare the D64 images, write down my thoughts about each game, and also take an ending snapshot whenever there is some special endsequence in a game. Regardless of the increase in tasks, I find game screenshooting very interesting. I feel I have gained some insight into what games were like in the early days. I feel a bit like a game historian.
C64hq has been evolving during its three years of existence. One major addition was the scene interviews. At the moment there are over 70 interviews with scene people from the old times – and some also from the recent times. On the games side, Gamer's Diary was introduced somewhere around April 2003. The first entries in the diary were just snippets from my e-mails to Andreas where I explained things about the games I had screenshot. From there on, I took the trouble of writing something about each game. And surprisingly there is most often something to say about any game. Nowadays the Gamer's Diary is focusing also on different cracks of games. I type down bugs and other notable things that I encounter in cracks. This is very natural development because the games released on the site now have as many different cracks as we can find. In the site's early days it was not always so.
Overall C64hq has been developing more and more into a source of documentation on what happened back in the golden days of the Commodore 64. We have an increasing amount of exclusive interviews, the games cover more of the productions of different groups, and we even got a banner drawn by the well-known C64 artist, The Sarge. The site will be undergoing even further changes as a new enhanced layout will be revealed some time later.
The future of C64hq looks bright. The C64hq team has lots
of ideas to carry out and lots of material to work on.
A hasty calculation shows that it will take at least some
20 years before the site will have all the C64 games there
are, all nicely screenshot, all with a few paragraphs
of commentary. These 20 years will most likely contain
further site development. The goal is of course to make
C64hq stand out as a unique source of all kinds of C64
material, both old and new. So far the site has done exactly
It's incredible how time seems to fly by without you noticing, isn't it? For instance, did you know that C64hq is three years old today? Yes, the C64 nostalgia site enters its fourth year as a central repository for games, demos, reviews, screenshots and all Commodore related news.
The past three years have shown that the Commodore 64 is still revered by many as the best home computer of all time. When it came out in 1982, Commodore invested a lot of money to basically make a video game machine that could be programmed for different games and sent to video arcades. Unfortunately – or fortunately (for us!) – the U.S. market for game arcades collapsed, and Commodore decided to recoup their much-spent cash by making a home computer from the hardware. They made it the big sister of their older VIC-20, and to save a little bit of cash, they gave it the same breadbin look of the predecessor.
Twenty-five years on, and we're all still marvelling at what this tan-coloured box could do. Obviously it had an impressive graphics chip, allowing multiple colours and independently controlled sprites (one of the first to do it); but nowadays the emphasis is more on the chip we all know as SID. The MOS Sound Interface Device Model #6581 has become one of the most famous sound synthesis chips in the world. Robert Yannes, who headed up the SID development team, was a fan of analog computers and wanted to make a chip small enough to fit inside the VIC-30 (the development name for the C64), and five months later, SID was born.
Our love and nostalgia for SID hasn't waned. In the late '90s, people were creating remixes of their favourite Commodore 64 tunes in Trackers, just for fun. But it was in 1998 that Chris Abbott release Back in Time, a commercial CD full of C64 tunes remixed using modern equipment. This led to a massive injection of enthusiasm for SID remixes, spawning sequels to Back Time, more CDs released by other artists, the creation of R:K:O (a central repository of Commodore 64 remixes) and, of course, Back In Time: Live.
C64hq has seen three BITLives since coming online. The 2002 BITLive was held in a little club called Gossips in the Soho district in London. Two bands played live versions of Commodore remixes there: Machinae Supremacy and the now-legendary Press Play On Tape.
2003 turned BITLive into a full-blown exhibition-cum-concert in the famous English seaside resort of Brighton. The day time concentrated on a hall full of companies selling retro products, showing off Commodore and other retro based computers and a games competition corner. In the evening, the event turned into a concert where Press Play On Tape performed once again, along with famous SID tune composer Rob Hubbard. A new live band were also formed and made their first appearance: Stuck In D'80s. SID80s brought Ben Daglish, Mark Knight, Marcel Donné, Reyn Ouwehand and C64hq's very own Andreas Wallström together for the first time, much to everyone's delight.
BITLive 2004 was held at St. Luke's Church in London, and was important in that it was the last of the official BITLive events organised by Chris Abbott. Once again, Press Play on Tape and SID80s (with John "Jops" Hare replacing Reyn Ouwehand) performed, and were joined this time by Makke and Larsec in their C64 Mafia personas; and for the first time, a-capella group Visa Röster performed live.
To celebrate this BITLive, a double-DVD is being produced. DVD 1 will be the London event in full, and DVD 2 will contain highlights from BITLive Brighton, a gallery of all of the events, bonus features and "outtakes" that happened in the gigs. The release date (at time of writing) is expected to be September 10th 2005, and will be released at Back in Time: Lite, a special event being organised by Chris Abbott and Retrovision's Mark "Ming" Rayson. I have been given the honour of directing the DVDs, and I hope you'll enjoy the outcome!
I was also given the opportunity to record Martin Galway's original SID tunes directly from his C128D, which he transplanted the one and only SID chip that he composed his tunes on. Everyone who knows the SID will also know that the filter varied wildly on each chip, so a lot of people would never have heard exactly how Martin composed some of his tunes. On top of this, I managed to salvage Martin's source code for both versions of Street Hawk, which had previously only existed as a low-quality Real Audio file. It's lovely to hear Martin's tunes in their original form, and to be able to let other hear Street Hawk for the first time.
SLAY Radio has also really taken off now; with a recently revamped website and more regular live shows, as well as more user interactivity. SLAY Radio plays SID remixes 24 hours a day, both from the R:K:O archive and from individual contributions, and is one of the major presences that is keeping the C64 scene alive.
What about me? Well, I'm currently juggling lots of things at the moment, which is why I've been a little quiet on C64hq and not reviewing games as I used to. Hopefully this situation will change soon, though. I'm actually moving to Sweden myself (for various reasons), which is the home of C64hq, and I hope to start becoming more involved again.
So, congratulations to C64hq for three solid years in keeping the scene alive. May it continue to reign forever!
C64hq three years! Wohoo! Actually, it's been a
bit more than that if you count the time and work spent
on the site before the official release. But we've been
online for three years, and that's what counts. Now when
I think back on the release day, I was actually quite
nervous (and I'm never nervous). What would people think?
Would it be too late to release a new C64 site, thinking
of the fact that there already were quite a few out there?
But that was the whole idea with the site. There were
so many crap C64 sites out there, and I wanted to do something
that made the C64 justice, something that stood out. This
was back in 1998. It wouldn't be until January 2002 when
work began together with Andry and Johan. Four months
later, the site was out.
It's been really well recieved, but the amount of visitors
haven't been that great, and the amount of mails sent
to us have almost been non-existing. This has bothered
our minds a bit to say the least. Isn't the site interesting
enough? One thing we discovered was that we weren't at
all ranked high when seaching for 'c64' in Google. No
pages were indexed apart from the first page that only
was removed some time ago and we're getting ranked higher
by Google each month, so hopefully more people will find
Lots of great things have happened these past years. I've
learn to know so many people it's incredible! I'm getting
in touch with my old group and swap friends, and I help
other people get in touch with each other after 15-20
years. That's quite rewarding! I've attended most Back
in Time Live events. I've played C64 music live on stage
with Ben Daglish and the rest of Stuck in D'Eighties,
and I've seen Rob Hubbard play live. I've written C64
related articles for various magazines. The Sarge of Triad
gave me his old C64 and Amigas for which I'm eternally
grateful. I've done remixes with the talented Makke, o2
and Marcel Donné. I've aired live shows on SLAY Radio.
I could go on for a while.
We've also done lots and lots of updates on the site.
It's been timeconsuming, but a lot of fun too. It's hard
to pick out one update I'm most proud of as all updates
are important. They're all a part of our plan to preserve
everything C64. If I have pick out one though, it'll have
to be the interview with Honey of 1001 Crew. I got a member
from this legendary group to speak about the old days
after 17 years of silence.
Lots of new updates are on the way. Some examples: layout
updates to make navigation easier, a forum, a huge, no,
HUGE, interview with Jon Hare, scene interviews with people
from Swedish Cracking Crew, Jedi 2001, Genesis Project
and The Supply Team, plus more demos and games –
to name a few. For this anniversary though, we decided
to rest rather than work on a huge update like we've done
previous years. And so when you read this, I'm in sunny
Bonaire for a week of surfing, paddling, scuba, and snorkeling.
Preserve the past (or let us do it for you). <-- C64hq's
new slogan! :)
|» F.A.Q. - look here before you send off an email.
» Credits - the list of people who made all this possible.
» Links - to the top C64 sites out there.
» Scene interviews - C64 sceners answer 20 questions about their time in the scene.