Lyonsden Blog

Category - Commodore 64

Freeze 64 Issue 32 Fanzine is out now

Freeze 64 Issue 32

With the uncanny knack of being able to arrive in time for the weekend, Freeze 64 Issue 32 has materialised on my doormat. Sadly this is the last mag we’ll get in 2019 so we won’t get to see a special Christmas themed issue this year. Of course it will be returning in the new year though.

In the meantime subscribers have been told we can expect a special mini Christmas issue via email with some sort of surprise contained within it! Can’t wait 🙂

 

Freeze 64 Issue 32

Freeze 64 Issue 32 comes with a neat ‘Nodes of Yesod’ cheat card (no. 27) and a gift subscription order form.

 

Issue #32’s featured game and interview is CJ’s Elephant Antics and its’ developers Ashley Hogg and Jonathan Temples. There’s also some great cheats and pokes for Keystone Kapers. Crawling out of the Mouldy Cupboard in this issue is Ratsplat which dates back to 1985. Regular sections Zzapback!, Secret Squirrel and My C64 Heaven are all present and correct and this this time around there’s even a hardware review of the Tapuino Reloaded!

 

Freeze 64 Issue 32

Quick peek at the contents of this issue.

 

If you fancy your own copy then head over to the Freeze64 website and show your support by purchasing this issue.

Here’s a link to my previews of several earlier editions of Freeze64 if you’d like to check out what you’ve been missing!

A look at the new Zzap! 64 2020 Annual

Zzap! 64 2020 Annual

Who’d have thought back in the 80’s that in the far off future of 2020 we’d be getting a new Zzap! 64 annual for Christmas? But that’s exactly what’s happening here as I’ve just received my brand new Zzap 64 2020 Annual through the post following another successful Kickstarter campaign.

 

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This time around (they released a Zzap! 64 annual last year too) there were plenty of stretch goals that has resulted in a lot of extra goodies to enjoy besides just the annual.

 

Zzap 64 2020 Annual

Zzap 64 2020 Annual Goodies

 

Along with the Annual, for £22 I also received an A3 Tir Na Nog map/poster, an A5 50 page Fusion 64 magazine & collectors card, a Zzap! 64 keyring plus a Zzap! 64 2020 calendar. Didn’t he do well as Bruce Forsyth would have said.

 

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Below is a little peek at the contents page so you can get an idea of exactly what’s inside the annual this year.

 

Zzap! 64 2020 Annual

Zzap! 64 2020 Annual Contents Page

 

As you can see it covers a broad range of C64 topics from past to present including Perifractics ‘Brixty-Four’ off his youtube channel and none other than Vinny Mainolfi creator of the extremely awesome Freeze 64 magazine.

 

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If you’d like to get hold of your own copy (and if you like the C64 then you really should) you can buy the annual directly from the Fusion Retro Books website for £15. Please bear in mind that you won’t get all the extras described above as these were only for those who backed the Kickstarter campaign.

Moonmist by Infocom – Classic C64 Purchase

Infocom Moonmist

My Infocom collection continues to grow and this time it’s thanks to the greybox release of ‘Moonmist’. It’s a lovely addition to my collection and has been well looked after by its previous owner. It came complete with all the extra ‘feelies’ and paperwork inside the box.

 

Infocom Moonmist

Infocom Moonmist back cover

 

Infocom have classified this particular release as being of an ‘Introductory Level’ which basically means it’s one of their easier titles. Not that I’m expecting it to be any kind of a walk in the park. As I’ve come to expect now, the disk still loads just fine, despite it’s advancing age.

 

Infocom Moonmist

Infocom Moonmist running on my Commodore 64

 

 

Moonmist ‘Feelies’

As always with Infocom games, a big part of their appeal is the extras (feelies) tucked inside the box, all of which came as standard.

 

Infocom Moonmist

Infocom Moonmist box contents

 

Moonmist is no exception here with lots of extra goodies inside the box. First we have the ‘Legendary Ghosts of Cornwall’ book which forms part of the front inside cover. This sets the scene for our spooky adventure and also gives a few tips on how to play the game.

 

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Then we have two letters sent to you from you friend Tamara which also help set the scene. Next up is the Tresyllian Castle Visitor Guide which includes a handy map of the castle. There’s also an Infocom Passport (which is basically a product catalogue), disk loading instructions, registration card and of course the game itself on a 5.25″ floppy.

 

 

Infocom Moonmist

Infocom Moonmist Goodies

 

Oh and one other thing too – an iron on transfer of the Moonmist logo! I bet when they were putting that in the box they never envisaged someone excitedly opening it up 35 years later. Needless to say I won’t be putting an iron anywhere near it!

If you enjoyed looking at this page then here’s a look at some of the other Infocom games in my collection that I’ve posted about.

Retro Gamer Magazine #200 with Turrican CD!

Another absolutely brilliant couple of freebies with this months Retro Gamer magazine. First off there’s the A2 colour poster which contains the full image used on the front cover of this special 200th issue of the magazine. It’s like ‘Where’s Wally?’ only for retro geeks! I challenge you to find the C64 and Amiga 500 hidden in the poster!

 

Retro Gamer Turrican

Retro Gamer Issue 200 Cover

 

Secondly there’s an amazing Turrican soundtrack CD included, featuring 14 music tracks from the game.

 

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But these aren’t straight rips from the game, oh no. The first 8 tracks have been performed by a full orchestra and sound phenomenal. The final 6 tracks are remixed studio versions of the game tracks which sound terrific too. I’ve listened to this CD twice already now it’s that good. In fact I’d say the CD is worth the price of the magazine alone!

 

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There’s loads of great content in this months issue but I especially enjoyed the trip through the decades of gaming starting in the 70’s passing through the 80’s and ending in the 90’s. Plenty of coverage of both 8 and 16-bit Commodore machines too. I’d say this months edition is definitely worth a buy, even if it’s just for that epic poster and the Turrican CD!

More Commodore Magazines (on DVD in PDF format)

I posted about these magazine ‘compilations’ a while ago when I bought this bunch of Amiga ones off eBay. Well I was browsing again a few days ago and noticed the seller is selling some different Commodore magazines now so I bought a bunch more. Here they are:

 

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Here’s a look at the very first edition cover for each of the 5 magazines.

 

First Edition Covers!

 

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As with the last batch I bought, the presentation of these discs is first rate with nicely designed colour prints on the front of each DVD.

Unfortunately I discovered a few problems with two of the collections this time around. The first and least problematic was the source quality of the magazines used for the Zzap!64 collection. The pages were grubby and full of creases as you can clearly see in the Zzap! cover shown above. It’s a shame they weren’t able to procure better condition magazines for scanning. However the pages were still readable and given how old the source material is I can overlook some ropey quality issues here and there.

However with the Amiga Power collection there was a much bigger and unforgivable issue. Basically the magazine pages have been scanned at far too low a resolution. In some cases an entire magazine has been crammed into a 2mb PDF! This has rendered text unreadable on many of the pages as you can see with the excerpt of a Rainbow Islands review below.

 

Lousy scan quality – review text is unreadable!

 

As you can see the quality is simply unacceptable. Give the seller his due, he refunded me within minutes of contacting him about the issue and pledged to look into the problem and try to locate some better scans.

I’d definitely avoid the Amiga Power collection then but the rest are all recommended if you want to add these classic magazines to your collection.

The seller’s name is ‘another-world-games‘ if you fancy having a look at what they offer for yourself.

Retro Acrylic LED Signs

Retro Acrylic LED Signs

So I was indulging in one of my favourite pastimes recently… idly browsing through retro stuff on eBay (or junk as my wife calls it). I came across these cool looking retro acrylic LED signs that I thought would look great in my man cave. The seller offers a wide range of designs to choose from. After much oohing and aahing I settled on a really geeky and detailed C64 Circuit board design and a fairly plain Amiga one.

 

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There’s a range of colours to choose from including white, green, blue and red. The colours are fixed and do not change although that would be a great feature if it was offered. I opted for blue and red. The signs arrived a couple of days later with each comprising three separate components which you assemble yourself.

 

Sign Components…

 

Firstly there’s the acrylic sign itself which is 210mm long, 148mm tall and about 4mm thick. It’s basically the same size as an A5 piece of paper. Then there’s the wooden base with the LED’s in it which is a little longer in length and about 50mm wide. The sign simply slots into it and can easily be removed if necessary. Finally there’s a USB power cable which is about 1m long and has a round male plug one end and a standard USB connection at the other.

The base of the sign is constructed from two pine wood strips glued together. They’ve been well finished with nice rounded corners and edges so no danger of getting splinters. Personally I would have preferred the option of a hardwood base but that’s just nit-picking.

 

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USB Power Cable

 

There’s some kind of circuitry within the USB adapter which makes the plug quite long and the plastic casing feels a little flimsy as a result. I’ve had no issues with it but I’d imagine you need to be careful not to put any sideways pressure on it or it may damage the solder joints. The signs are advertised as being 12v so I’m assuming the circuitry is required to step up the voltage from USB’s normal 5V.

 

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The signs illuminate pretty well even in a well lit room. The LED lights shine up through the acrylic plate and refract through the etched design very effectively.

 

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However dim the lights or use them in a dark room and they really come into their own. Both colours offer a significant glow around them in addition to illuminating the design. The blue is noticeably brighter than the red as you might expect with the latter being much more subdued. I actually found the blue to be too bright to use in a dark room if it was anywhere in my field of vision. However the red was easy on the eyes and created a nice warm glow.

 

Signs in a room with lights dimmed…

 

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Signs in darkened room…

 

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As I mentioned earlier you can remove the signs from their base easily. So, if you’ve bought more than one you can swap them around to see which sign looks best with which colour. Fingerprints become very visible on the surface of the plates though so it’s best to use gloves or handle them from the edges only.

 

In conclusion…

 

These retro acrylic LED signs cost £23 including postage within the UK and are available from this seller. All things considered I think this is a fair price considering what you’re getting. They do look a little ‘functional’ in daylight but once the lights go down they look amazing and really add an interesting focal point to your man cave/office/study/games room.

I do have reservations about the robustness of the USB plug but hopefully it will be fine. I have them plugged into Alexa controlled sockets so they shouldn’t really see much wear and tear. However if anything untoward happens to them I will update this article.

Freeze 64 Issue 31 Fanzine is out now

Freeze 64 Issue 31

It’s amazing how time appears to move faster the older you get. I remember waiting for the next issue of Zzap! 64 to appear in my local newsagent as a teenager and it felt like an eternity! Yet here I am sitting down with Freeze 64 Issue 31 but it only feels like a week ago I was reading issue 30!

 

Freeze 64 Issue 31

Freeze 64 Issue 31 comes with a cool Zybex sticker and a gift subscription order form to give to your significant other.

 

This issue does away with the usual collectors card in favour of a sticker instead. I love stickers so this is a good thing in my book. I’d be more than happy for this to continue in the future. Even though I’ve got an existing subscription to the mag I’ll still put that gift subscription leaflet to good use too. 😉

 

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So what’s in this months issue then?  Well the featured game and interview is Zybex and its’ programmers Kevin Franklin and Adam Gilmore. There’s also some cool level skipping cheats and pokes for a whole host of C64 games. A suitably icky sounding game, MaggotMania features in the Mouldy Cupboard section. Regular sections Zzapback!, Secret Squirrel and My C64 Heaven are all present and correct too. It’s probably no longer a surprise that Badlands is the featured game in the ‘The Diary of…’ series…

 

Freeze 64 Issue 31

Here’s a peek at the contents page of this issue.

 

If you fancy your own copy then head over to the Freeze64 website and show your support by purchasing this issue.

Here’s a link to my previews of several earlier editions of Freeze64 if you’d like to check out what you’ve been missing!

Cassette Deck Maintenance: Demagnetising a Tape Head

Binatone Data Recorder - Demagnetising Tape head

In addition to regular cleaning another vital part of keeping your cassette deck running smoothly is demagnetising the tape head. This applies to both computer cassette decks and Hi-Fi ones. Over time a residual magnetic field can build up on the head. Not only can this adversely affect playback (more noise and loss of high end response) but it can also degrade the quality of any tape passing over it.

A cassette tape is basically a strip of thin plastic coated with a ferrous material. Music (or data in the case of a computer tape) is recorded onto it by using an electro-magnet to magnetise the tape surface to varying degrees. A tape can be erased by placing a strong magnet near it so even a weakly magnetised head will, over time, slowly erase any recordings passing over it. The more you play a tape on a deck with a magnetised head, the greater the cumulative effect will be.

TDK HD-01 Tape Head Demagnetiser

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So what can you do about it? Well thankfully there are a number of different ways you can demagnetise tape heads. Popular methods include a mains powered electro-magnetic wand and those cheap cleaning cassettes that contain a rotating magnet on a little disc. In the past I relied on an the latter; an old Maxell cleaner/demagnetising cassette. However just recently I stumbled across this TDK one advertised as ‘New Old Stock’. I’ve always trusted TDK as a brand, they make good quality products and know their stuff. It was a little on the expensive side due to me needing to pay shipping and import taxes from the US but I felt it was worth it.

 

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Although the box it came in was very tatty, the contents were like new. Inside there was a small instruction manual and the demagnetiser itself. The device is powered by a small 1.5V lithium battery which should be good for 500 uses according to the instructions.

Naturally I had to install a new battery before I could get it to work. The rear of the instruction manual is stamped with the year 1978 so this little gadget is now over 40 years old! Thankfully it takes a standard size A76/LR44 button cell battery that is still readily available.

 

How does it work? – Demagnetising the tape heads

So how do you use it? Well it really couldn’t be any simpler. You basically pop it into your cassette player and press play! There’s a small plastic micro-switch above the play head that is activated by the motion of play head moving upwards when you press the play button. A red LED illuminates at the centre of the cassette to demonstrate that it’s working and that’s it, job done! When activated the circuitry inside the demagnetiser generates a pulse signal which demagnetises the play head in a matter of seconds.

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There’s a little more to the process than that if you are using the device in a cassette deck that doesn’t have a mechanical play button. The device won’t work until the play button is pressed so if you have a deck that won’t allow you to press play whilst powered off then you need to take a few precautions. This is because of the strong signal it outputs which can damage amplifiers and headphones if you don’t make sure to fully turn down any volume controls first. My Hi-Fi has a fully electronic transport mechanism so I have to be careful when using it on that device for example.

 

Commodore C2N - Demagnetising Tape head

Commodore C2N – Demagnetising the tape head in progress!

 

Thankfully most older devices have fully manual play buttons and need no such precautions. With devices like the Commodore C2N Datasette I can simply pop the cassette in, press play and the get the job done in seconds. I would imagine virtually all Walkmans would be equally simple to work with.

The manual recommends demagnetising your tape head every 30 hours of playing time. Therefore, how often you need to do this will depend on what sort of tapes you are playing and how often you play them. For my Hi-Fi deck regularly playing C60 and C90 tapes this could be as often as once a fortnight. For my computer decks playing relatively short C15 tapes much less frequently, once every 6 months would be more appropriate.

Despite the cost I think the device is totally worth my time and money. Given how precious some of my old cassette tapes and games are to me, anything I can do to help prolong their lifespan is worth doing in my book.

The Witness by Infocom – Classic C64 Purchase

The Witness by Infocom

I was only saying in a recent post that it had been a while since I last came across an Infocom adventure. Then I stumbled onto this little beauty just a week later. It’s Infocom’s ‘The Witness’ in a ‘greybox’ release. It’s in amazing condition for it’s age and just like the last purchase, all the extra ‘feelies’ and paperwork are present and correct.

 

Infocom's The Witness Back Cover

Infocom The Witness Back Cover

 

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Not surprisingly, I’ve never had the pleasure of playing through this game before. I just couldn’t afford these sort of games back when they were originally released. As is often the case, this will be joining my ever growing retro game backlog. Definitely looking forward to playing this during a rainy Sunday afternoon soon though.

 

Infocom's The Witness running on my Commodore 64.

Infocom’s The Witness running on my Commodore 64.

 

The disk still loads just fine which is pretty amazing considering it’s about 36 years old! 5.25″ floppy disks just seem to be so much more reliable than the more modern 3.5″ ones that the Amiga used. Needless to say the loading time was pretty slow but it’s a text adventure so speed isn’t really an issue.

 

The Witness ‘Feelies’

As always with Infocom games, a big part of their appeal is the extras (feelies) tucked inside the box. These weren’t special ‘collectors edition’ versions at inflated prices either, this was the standard release.

 

The Witness box contents

The Witness box contents

 

 

There’s loads of stuff included with The Witness. First we have the ‘Detective Gazette’ which forms part of the front inside cover. There’s also a suicide note, Western Union Telegram and a huge A3 double-sided newspaper called ‘The Register’.

 

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The coolest extra of all though has to be the book of matches with a name and number scribbled on the inside. A classic clue from many a detective film. Not sure if they are real, but they sure look like the real deal, not that I have any intention of using them!

 

The Witness book of matches

A book of matches with a name and number written inside…

 

Rounding off the contents we have an Infocom brochure and of course the 5.25″ floppy disk, instruction manual and even the original registration card. A far cry from a DVD in an empty clamshell case that passes as a physical game release these days!

 

The Witness game box contents

Just look at all that swag!

If you enjoyed looking at this page then here’s a look at some of the other Infocom games in my collection that I’ve posted about.

Planetfall by Infocom – Classic C64 Purchase

Planetfall Infocom

It’s been a while since I last came across an Infocom adventure that I don’t already own. Consequently when I spotted Planetfall a couple of weeks ago I snapped it up straight away. It’s in terrific condition for a 36 year old game and it looks like all the extra bits and bobs are present and correct.

 

Infocom Planetfall

Infocom Planetfall Back Cover

 

A place for everything and everything in its place!

 

This is yet another game I’ve never had the pleasure of playing through before. As a result it will be joining my ever growing list of retro titles that I’m looking forward to completing at some point in the (hopefully) not too distant future!

 

Infocom Planetfall

Infocom Planetfall running on my Commodore 64.

 

Planetfall’s Extra Goodies

An Infocom game just wouldn’t be complete without a bunch of extra physical content included in the box. Planetfall is no exception. Tucked away in the two top pockets there’s a small book, “Today’s Stellar Control”, some intergalactic post cards, an instruction booklet and a some hand-written journal entries. Then in the two slots lower down there’s a plastic Stellar Patrol ID badge and the most important item of all, a floppy disk containing the game.

 

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Here’s a look at some of the other Infocom games in my collection, well the ones I’ve posted about anyway.

Retrokomp Issue 2 (1) Out Now!

Issue two of the multi-format retro magazine has finally been released and I received my copy a few days ago. Just to confuse things slightly this magazine is actually named Retrokomp Issue 1. That’s because the first issue was in fact numbered ‘0’. This is a slightly odd numbering convention that can be found on their other magazines such as Amiga User too.

 

Retrokomp Issue 1

Retrokomp Issue 1 Cover

 

This issue is packed with even more Commodore content that the previous one and arrives with a hefty count of 76 thick glossy pages.

 

A welcome bias towards Commodore in this issues contents

 

As I mentioned in my look at the very first issue, this is definitely a magazine aimed at the more serious user. There’s a big emphasis on productivity and creative software rather than gaming. This is no bad thing though as there are plenty of magazines offering gaming news and reviews now. That’s not to say the Retrokomp doesn’t dabble with games though. This issue has the first part of really interesting series of articles delving into MicroProse F-19 Stealth Fighter, possibly their finest flight simulation ever in my opinion.

 

F-19 Stealth Fightrer

F-19 Stealth Fighter on the C64

 

Rocket Smash EX Review

Rocket Smash EX Review

 

Of course there’s no shortage of interesting articles to expand your retro computing knowledge either. I particularly enjoyed the LHArchie GUI guide that shows how to install a GUI for the previously shell only LHA archive utility.

 

LHArchie GUI

LHArchie GUI

 

Other stand-out articles for me were the Ray-tracing and Brilliance articles for the Amiga.

 

Amiga Ray-tracing

Amiga Ray-tracing

 

Brilliance

Everyone remembers Deluxe Paint on the Amiga but who remembers Brilliance?

 

A quick run-down of the Commodore-centric articles in Retrokomp Issue 1:

  • F-19 Stealth Fighter
  • Data compression methods on the PET
  • Truths and myths about the Commodore 64
  • Rocket Smash EX Review
  • Black Box cartridge: Assembler support
  • My personal games set for Plus/4
  • Raytracing on the Amia 500 with 1MB RAM
  • Amiga Vision
  • (True) Brilliance: 24-bit on Amiga chipset
  • Get to know AmigaOS: programs and processes
  • PowerPC software tips
  • LHArchie GUI

 

 

Plus/4 Gaming

Plus/4 Gaming

 

If you’ve never come across Retrokomp magazine before you might like to read through my preview of the first issue here.

Alternatively if you’d like to purchase a copy of Retrokomp Issue 1 for yourself then visit the publishers website here and show your support.

Freeze 64 Issue 30 Fanzine is out now

Freeze 64 Issue 30

Anyone who subscribes to Freeze 64 will know exactly what this envelope contains without even opening it… Of course it can only be the very latest Freeze 64 Issue 30!

 

Freeze 64 Issue 30 Envelope

Freeze 64 Issue 30 Envelope

 

Not only is this issue 30 but the fanzine has now been going for three whole years! To celebrate there’s a little retrospective article looking back at some of the stand-out moments from the previous 30 issues.

 

Freeze 64 Issue 29Freeze 64 Issue 30

Freeze 64 Issue 30 pictured with limited edition collectors trading card.

 

This issue’s featured game and interview is Comic Bakery and its’ programmer, Colin Gresty. There’s also some much needed cheats for the recent ‘Mancave’ game as well as ‘Doctster’s Digger’ and ‘Run Demon Run’. Naturally the regular features like the Mouldy Cupboard, Zzapback! and Secret Squirrel can be found inside too.

Badlands is still the featured game in part 5 of the ‘The Diary of…’ series. ‘Bruce Lee: Return of Fury’ is also under the spotlight for this issues ‘The Making of…’ article.

 

Freeze 64 Issue 29 Contents

Here’s a peek at the contents page of this issue.

 

If you fancy your own copy then head over to the Freeze64 website and show your support by purchasing this issue.

Here’s a link to my previews of several earlier editions of Freeze64 if you’d like to check out what you’ve been missing!