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Commodore Vic-20

Discussion in 'Computers, Hardware, and Operating Systems' started by KI4AX, Nov 22, 2018.

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  1. KI4AX

    KI4AX Ham Member QRZ Page

    And now, for something completely different...

    I have a Commodore Vic-20 that I have had since it was new. I used it +/- 30 years ago for Teletype operation.

    About a year ago I pulled it out of the closet, plugged it in, and turned it on. It worked, but the video output was pretty nasty and I could hardly see what it was displaying. I boxed it back up and put it back in the closet. Cosmetically the thing is in very good condition.

    As of right now I am 'in-between' radio projects and I am looking for something to do. I have been thinking about pulling the Vic out, opening it up, and going through it to make it work 'like new' again.

    Not too sure what I would do with it once I got it going good... But, it would give me something to 'tinker' with in my free time.

    Or, I am just krazy?

    Anyone ever mess around with the guts of a Commodore Vic-20? Advice? Suggestions? Hints? Kinks?

    I know I will most likely get some "throw it in the dumpster" comments. Which is fine. I may very well decide to do just that. But, I want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly before I make any decision. All comments are welcome...

    Dan KI4AX
    KC9YGN likes this.
  2. W9GB

    W9GB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Europeans have a number of Commodore revival projects
    (new PC boards, 3D printed parts, new motherboards, RasPi conversions)



    Ultimate 64, coming in 2019
    This board is a hardware implementation (FPGA) of the entire C64,
    and it includes the Ultimate-II+ as well.

    Denmark currently producing “batches” of mechanical keyboards for C64 (mechboard64)
    Dallas Moore started this revival in 2015, via Kickstarter,
    when some original Commodore molds were found in Texas.

    The Germans purchased these plastic injection molds, and require re-work due to age, and now offers C64C cases (Pixel Wizard).
    W7UUU likes this.
  3. KC4UMO

    KC4UMO Ham Member QRZ Page

    At first thought leaky capacitors would be the first guess. These units were bad for that problem.
    Also failing ram chips can cause video issues. There are plenty of online documentation for these and most can be repaired with a DMM and logic probe.
    Look the board over and see if you see discoloration and corrosion around any of the capacitors.

    Working on these old classics can really be fun and enhance your troubleshooting skills, It deserves a chance to live again.
    W9FTV likes this.
  4. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I had a Commode Door once. I guess they're real popular again with the steam punk crowd
  5. KC9YGN

    KC9YGN Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'd say do it :) I never worked very much with Commodore equipment but I did a lot of work on TRS-80/Radio Shack computers like the Color Computer, and some with the Atari 400/800. The fun thing with those old computers is they were still simple enough that a hobbyist could work on them without requiring special equipment. I did a lot of upgrades and repairs on those early computers back in the 80s. Made a few bucks making replacement power supplies for Atari and Commodore computers when the companies started to fill the power bricks with epoxy so they couldn't be repaired and charged an arm and a leg for replacements.

    And as KC4UMO said, working on those old beasts can definitely enhance your skills. One of the pluses of working on Commodores is that there is a lot of information out there about them and a lot of people are still tinkering with them so you can still find parts, schematics, enhancements, etc.
  6. K8ERV

    K8ERV Ham Member QRZ Page

  7. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

  8. K6CLS

    K6CLS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I had a VIC 20 back in... 81? 82? 5k RAM wasn't enough, even then. But the ROM cartridges made up for it.

    Remember the 1541 disk, that was slower than the serial port!?!?? Sheesh.

    I bet the video output is ok. Make sure the wires, ch. 3 modulator, and your old TV are in good shape.

    If you have an oscilloscope, look at the video output of the VIC 20, I bet it's clean.

    Best wishes and tell us how you do with this!
  9. W9GB

    W9GB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Individual Computers (Germany) : Retro Upgrades*
    C64 Reloaded Mk2

    The FPGA board (Ultimate64) is interesting, using HDMI output.
    For a long time, Fair Radio sales had surplus Commodore C-16 keyboards.

    These were originally for the Commodore C-16 computer, a short-lived transition computer between the VIC and C64. Popular in Eastern Europe and Central America.
    Radio-Shack featured these in their stores during 1990.
    Switch a few wires, and it will work with VIC-20. 5 x 15 x 1.5; 3 lbs sh. (S2X)

    Commodore restorers found them ... and looks like they cleaned Fair Radio out.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
  10. KI4AX

    KI4AX Ham Member QRZ Page

    I kinda figured I would have to replace all the old caps. I don't think I could trust any of the existing ones.

    And, I agree totally that it 'deserves a chance to live again. I hate see stuff not working. I've pulled a few radios back from the jaws of the recycler and got them working again. But never a computer. It will be interesting project.

    Thanks to everyone who has replied to my post and for all of the links you have provided. I'm sure I will have a few questions as I go and it is good to know there is a place where I can consult with others who are knowledgeable on this subject.

    Dan KI4AX
    KC4UMO likes this.

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