Lyonsden Blog

Vic-20 Attic Find – Reacquainting myself with an old friend


Whilst rummaging around in the attic looking for a box of lights during the Christmas 2018 period I stumbled upon something amazing. It looked innocuous enough, a really dusty brown box tucked away under the eaves.  A box that I’d completely forgotten about. A box that hadn’t seen the light of day since I moved into our house 24 years ago. The contents had probably in that box for years before that too. What am I rambling on about? Only my Commodore VIC-20 that’s what. The very first computer I ever owned or indeed used! Not an eBay re-acquisition but the actual machine that my parents bought me for Christmas when I was 12 years old!



Peering inside the box my VIC-20, C2N, Zipstick and PSU were all visible


The box was chock full of goodies, some in better condition than others. My VIC-20 had held up quite well albeit slightly yellowed. Unfortunately the sockets on the underside of some of the keys had become brittle and broken apart. When I removed the faux leather cover several simply fell away. The space bar had come off too but fortunately that just clipped straight back on.



VIC-20 Keyboard looking a little worse for wear.


Besides the VIC, a lot of my old software was in the box too including all my old cartridge games. There was also a vintage cassette case containing most of my old tape games too. I used to have a load ‘school playground’ acquisitions as well but they where nowhere to be found sadly.



A whole bunch of cartridge games…



My VIC-20 cassette games


Thankfully all of my more esoteric accessories were present and correct. My Adman Speech synthesizer, Vixen switchable 16K RAM pack and my Stack 4 slot cartridge expander



RAM pack, cartridge port expander on top of a stack of cartridge games 🙂



A better look at all the cartridges and accessories


Once I’d made sure that pretty much everything I remembered from my childhood was present and correct I naturally wanted to see if it still worked! To be safe I decided to open up the case and check that nothing had fell inside that might cause a short circuit. I also checked that none of the capacitors had degraded or leaked onto the motherboard. Happily, besides looking a little dusty the old girl looked to be in good condition!



A look at the VIC-20’s motherboard.


The original PSU still worked but as they can be notoriously bad for your Commodore’s health if they fail I didn’t want to take any chances. To protect my VIC-20 I used my SAV64 between the VIC-20 and PSU which would prevent any errant voltages reaching the motherboard.  Suitably protected I plugged everything in and turned on the power. I have to admit I was fearing the worst so I was relieved when I was greeted by a lovely glowing red LED! A very good start.



She’s alive!


Next I needed to hook it up to my TV. Although the modulator was in the box there was no way I was going to try and use that, the picture quality would have been appalling. I grabbed my C64 video cable to see if it would fit but unfortunately it didn’t. The VIC-20 uses a 5 pin DIN socket whereas my C64 uses an 8 pin one (for the extra chroma & luma info presumably).



The 5 pin video DIN port


Not to be deterred I rummaged through my boxes of old cables. Eventually I found a suitable composite cable that I used to use for my C64 before upgrading. I plugged it in, switched everything on and with some trepidation, switched the TV over to its’ AV input channel. I couldn’t have been happier when I was greeted with that familiar white and cyan screen. That message saying ‘**** CBM BASIC V2 **** 3583 BYTES FREE almost brought a tear to my eye.



A dear old friend says ‘hello’


Buoyed by this success I quickly dug out one of my favourite old game cartridges, Omega Race. Everything worked perfectly, the joystick, the sound, just as it had done the last time I played it about 30 years ago. Incredible!



Omega Race


In the coming months I will be trying to restore it to it’s former glory, cleaning up the insides, adding heat sinks to some of the chips to prolong their life and possibly retrobriting the case. I will also be looking into the current VIC-20 scene and expanding my game collection, trying to get hold of games that I previously only owned copies of. Not only that but I will be scanning my whole VIC-20 game collection and putting them on this site as 3D models for everyone to enjoy.

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Gamer, gadget lover, retro Commodore computer fan and general all round geek.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hi Steven,
    I know it’s been a few years since this article, but I love finding ‘gold’ like this on the web 😉
    I have just acquired a Vic-20 in good condition, but yet to power it up.
    2 concerns….
    1 – should I just power it up using the PSU? I see that the SAV64 surge devices are no longer being produced.
    2 – You didn’t use the original modulator/5-pin socket for your monitor. Do you know any way to hook the VIC20 up to a modern monitor with HDMI?
    I’d appreciate any advice, thanks!

    • For the monitor you could get something like this that I used for my C64 before I got a CRT: I don’t think Amazon stock that video cable or HDMI converter any more but if you search you will find similar converters and the cables can still be found on eBay. My Vic20 PSU is still going strong and the SAV64 has never had to kick but YMMV… if you are good with a multi-meter you could test the power output of your PSU to make sure it’s within acceptable range (5V DC & 9V AC). Alternatively you can get new PSU’s on eBay – search for ‘Keelog PSU’ or ‘Electroware PSU’ they both make terrific, safe, PSU’s for the Vic/64.

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