Soon after setting up the Commodore 128 my mother-in-law is letting me play with, I went online and searched for ways to transfer files (read as games) I download on my Mac onto the C128. I soon came across this forum thread on Atari Age discussing “Getting c64 games on 5 1/4 floppies.” This reply from user Fratzengeballer sent me over to the RetroInnovations site to check out the ZoomFloopy.
It’s basically a device that you connect to your Commodore’s disk drive (mine is an internal 1571) via an IEC serial cable which, in turn, connects to your computer via Mini-USB. In other words, the ZoomFloppy is a bridge between generations of computing hardware—a reach back into the glory of 1980s computer gaming! Many use this piece of hardware to archive floppy discs to their current machine, or copy Commodore files onto a floppy disc. It’s pretty cool to see a small, committed community of hardware hackers keeping the legacy of 1980s computer culture alive and well. And on that note, one of the things that struck me upon opening the package was that the only documentation they included was a printout of the GNU General Public License.
The software that powers this hardware is all open source, and a quick reminder about freedom and software is just an added bonus. If you want to actually get the ZoomFloopy up and running, however, the GNU license is not all that helpful. For that you should start at the ZoomFloppy Manual. That manual is pretty much all you need if you are running Windows. If you’re using a Mac, like me, then you need to read the extremely well done HowTo post on Lallafa’s blog about installing OpenCBM on the Mac. Essentially, you need to install MacPorts and the XCode Development Environment to get OpenCBM working properly in terminal on your Mac—which will be how you communicate with your Commodore via the ZoomFloopy. I would say more, but there is no way I can match the clarity and precision of Lallafa’s post on the process.
Once you have got OpenCBM working, you can connect your Commodore computer to your Mac—so awesome. With the C128 I found that when I was in C64 mode the ZoomFloppy device could not write to or copy from the disk drive. So whenever copying files to a floppy (or vice versa), I recommend getting out of C64 mode. After that, it was all gravy! The commands are pretty simple. To copy from my Documents/C128 folder it would look like this:
> d64copy /Documents/C128/myimage.d64 8
To copy the contents of a floppy disk to my Mac it would look like this:
> d64copy 8 /Documents/C128/disk.d64
The rest is just fun and games 🙂 I immediately tried out Donkey Kong, and it worked a treat!
I then tried out this crazy disk image site I found the other day called Retro Computer Scene. It’s amazing. They have collections of entire floppy disk images that folks have shared, and you can copy them to a floppy disk if , like me, you have a ZoomFloppy. I am finding there are innumerable sites for just these kind of goodness, and the stuff you find is wild. Take for example this disc filled with synth versions of 80s songs like Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean,” Survivor‘s “Eye of the Tiger,” Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl,” and even Howard Jones’s “New Song”!
Far out, right?! I downloaded this .d64 file to my hard drive and then copied it over to my floppy disk via terminal and the songs play on my C128. One of the characters behind these genius synth arrangements was The Mighty Bogg; s/he was responsible for my personal favorite, an 8-bit synth version of Depeche Mode’s “Shake the Disease.” In fact, I made a video of it for my dear friend GNA Garcia cause only she would understand how awesome this is.
That was last night, today I moved on to getting Conan: Hall of Volta running on the C128, and that took a bit of time because the files at Retro Computer Scene weren’t working. I then found this site with the goods, and downloaded the d64 image file and loaded it as before and disco!
This image also gives you a sense of my new office space. I moved upstairs to a room with more space so I can start tinkering with this stuff a bit. My new computer setup featured my Mac sitting atop the C128 chassis alongside the early 90s Sony Trinitron TV/monitor. And while the TV is a stand-in for the time being, I really like the image quality, and it’s a big, fat CRT which keeps the aesthetic alive!
I have to give a huge thanks to the folks who run RETRO Innovations. They shipped my order internationally in no time at all, and everything was delivered as promised. I also got another piece of hardware for the C128 from them: the uIEC/SD drive that integrates with the C128 and allows you to pull files from an SD card. I am still working on that one, but I’ll post more when it’s fully operational.
By the way, blogging about this stuff is so much fun.