The C16 - a Ferrari with no tires ?

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eslapion
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The C16 - a Ferrari with no tires ?

Post by eslapion »

For the first time in my life, I am the proud owner of a fully functional Commodore 16. On top of that, I developed a 64k RAM expansion for it before I even got to turn it on for the first time.

Then, looking at the specs and how it works, I made 2 shocking discoveries. One great, one that really sucks.

1. It runs faster than both the VIC-20 and the C64 and it can display 121 colors at the same resolution as the C64 along with the equivalent of a Programmer's Aid built-in as well as a Super Expander for graphics built-in. This makes it almost the greatest 8 bit computer I have ever used next to the C128.

2. With 16k RAM built-in, this machine seems to have more bang than a VIC-20 but it takes 3.5k just for the system to run because some memory is required for the screen characters and colors and then it loses another 8k if you use the graphics mode leaving you with a pitiful 4.5k for programs which is only 1k more than a standard VIC-20. To make matters even worst, on the VIC-20 back in the 80s adding RAM was just a matter of going to the nearest electronics shop and buying a 3k, 8k or 16k cart, not so with the C16. Not only do VIC-20 RAM carts not work on the C16, Commodore didn't sell any and actually adding any RAM to this machine was really restricted to the most technical savvy of computer users back when it was on store shelves. That's because the built-in 16k RAM is mirrored all over the full 64k of adressable space.

No wonder this machine met with miserable sales.

Now, I just tested the prototype of SaRuMan-TED in this machine and it works great providing 60671 bytes for BASIC which is even more than you get on the C64 but I guess it comes 35 years too late.

Is there such a thing as a library of software for this old guy ?


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TMR
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Re: The C16 - a Ferrari with no tires ?

Post by TMR »

eslapion wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 10:12 am
No wonder this machine met with miserable sales.
Most of the problem with the C16 was that, despite Commodore insisting this wasn't the case, it had to compete with the C64; it was around half the price if memory serves but offering a quarter of the RAM, no hardware sprites or SID sound.

Personally, I like the 264 series but it is harder to code for than theBreadbin.
eslapion wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 10:12 am
Is there such a thing as a library of software for this old guy ?
Yup, Plus/4 World is the place to look; that link is for games but they carry pretty much everything that's around to be archived.
Disclaimer: a message board post from this person shouldn't be seen as any kind of indication that a project has been started or is ongoing because as a programmer he has the attention span of... oh look, a squirrel!

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Re: The C16 - a Ferrari with no tires ?

Post by eslapion »

TMR wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 5:58 pm
Most of the problem with the C16 was that, despite Commodore insisting this wasn't the case, it had to compete with the C64; it was around half the price if memory serves but offering a quarter of the RAM, no hardware sprites or SID sound.
Hey thanks for the information!

IMHO, back in late 1984, when I saw this machine on store shelves, I didn't know what to make of the C16 because it was halfway between the VIC-20 and the C64 both in terms of functionality and price but it was software compatible with neither and the connectors for the datasette and joystick were intentionally (needlessly) different.

Question: If you upgrade the RAM to 64k, is there any reason why you'd want to disable it ?
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Re: The C16 - a Ferrari with no tires ?

Post by eslapion »

I am presently developing a 64k RAM expansion for the C16 which installs under the TED but the socket for the TED installed in all C16 I have seen is truly miserable.

Special thinner pins are required but a solution has been found.
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Re: The C16 - a Ferrari with no tires ?

Post by Gyro Gearloose »

eslapion wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 10:12 am
For the first time in my life, I am the proud owner of a fully functional Commodore 16.
That's pretty cool. I have a plus/4 myself, I like the true 6551 UART on this machine. I guess some people don't like the keyboard but I don't mind it.

I would like a 1551 but it's not that important. My 1581 does the job!
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Re: The C16 - a Ferrari with no tires ?

Post by eslapion »

Gyro Gearloose wrote:
Sun Nov 03, 2019 4:35 am
That's pretty cool. I have a plus/4 myself, I like the true 6551 UART on this machine. I guess some people don't like the keyboard but I don't mind it.
I didn't even know that. I just got an e-mail from a guy asking if it's possible to put a 6551 in a C16. These chips aren't exactly rare these days as Mouser carries the W65C51 in stock.
I would like a 1551 but it's not that important. My 1581 does the job!
The 1551 can be fast if you can have the cartridge adapter but the Plus/4, C16 and 1581 can be equipped with JiffyDOS.

Using the 1581 on the VIC-20 with JiffyDOS, it was funny to load a 16k program in 3 seconds while I was used to have load times of a few minutes for the same program size as a kid on the datassette.
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Re: The C16 - a Ferrari with no tires ?

Post by Gyro Gearloose »

eslapion wrote:
Sun Nov 03, 2019 12:57 pm
I didn't even know that. I just got an e-mail from a guy asking if it's possible to put a 6551 in a C16. These chips aren't exactly rare these days as Mouser carries the W65C51 in stock.
I suppose it's possible and probably the C16 must have the same KERNAL and BASIC as the plus/4? How else to access the 6551 serial port?

I haven't even gotten to the point of using the serial port yet. But how would the C16 output the serial port? There's no user port on there and no hole in the case either.
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Re: The C16 - a Ferrari with no tires ?

Post by eslapion »

Gyro Gearloose wrote:
Sun Nov 03, 2019 7:07 pm
I suppose it's possible and probably the C16 must have the same KERNAL and BASIC as the plus/4? How else to access the 6551 serial port?

I haven't even gotten to the point of using the serial port yet. But how would the C16 output the serial port? There's no user port on there and no hole in the case either.
I did study the possibility of implementing a user port onto a C16 but I consider it to be a massively unpleasant venture. My initial positive prognostic coming from the fact the left 20% of the C16's case is empty was quickly revised to a very somber one.

The Plus/4 user port, in order to operate properly, requires another 6529 IO port chip and a source of 9Vac. The 6551 itself requires access to a pin on the PLA which is normally NC as well as the databus which isn't available on the PLA socket.

Very complicated, very few potential customers...
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Re: The C16 - a Ferrari with no tires ?

Post by Gyro Gearloose »

I didn't realize the differences the C16 has. If there's no user port there's no need for 9VAC at all in the C16.

I didn't know either that the C16 has a simple DC barrel for the power supply, another cost savings I suppose.

It does make the C16 much more interesting than I realized since you can just power it with a modern DC wall wart with the correct polarity. No need to rely on wonky C= power bricks with non-standard square power jacks...

Once boosted to 64K you get a plus/4 for all practical purposes. No one cares about the built-in plus/4 applications and the user port has little use for most people....

I only ever viewed the C16 as a source for keycaps to make custom 64 keyboards... :D
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Re: The C16 - a Ferrari with no tires ?

Post by eslapion »

Gyro Gearloose wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 12:29 am
... you can just power it with a modern DC wall wart with the correct polarity. No need to rely on wonky C= power bricks with non-standard square power jacks...

Once boosted to 64K you get a plus/4 for all practical purposes. No one cares about the built-in plus/4 applications and the user port has little use for most people....
Yup, extra RAM and a JiffyDOS and the C16 becomes a pretty interesting machine. Since the TED supports both PAL and NTSC, it's easy to have a multimode machine with switchable kernal and oscillator.
I only ever viewed the C16 as a source for keycaps to make custom 64 keyboards... :D
I still have a VIC-20 with a 'bi-color' keyboard...
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