VIC-20: Walking Before It Runs

Through my ongoing research into getting my used Commodore VIC-20 working, I have made some progress towards getting it running while spending as little money on it as possible. My $20 VIC-20 came with only the “breadbox” computer and the manual, meaning that in order to fire it up, I need to obtain an AV cable, a monitor/TV, and a power supply. If I want to load any software on it, I will also need a disk drive or a tape deck or a cartridge. As of today I have the following…

Power Supply
– A 9v AC adaptor (from a Linksys router) to use in the creation of a power supply. Despite reading the specs on every “wall wart” AC adaptor in the house, I wasn’t able to find one that outputs 5v at the minimum of 1.5A (I have several at 1 amp, but that’s not really enough to run the VIC-20). Looks like I will need to buy a 7 pin DIN connector and a 5v adaptor so I can wire them together to form a modern, inexpensive power supply.

Monitor
– I setup the video input on my KWorld PC150-U TV Tuner to work with the TVTime software and tested the composite input using a busted DVD player. This should allow me to run the VIC-20 in a window on my main PC monitor! This is probably not an ideal setup, but it does have the advantages of already being paid for and not taking up more room on in my limited desk area. I haven’t used the video inputs on the tuner for years, so it’s nice to know it still works (I generally just use the RCA inputs for audio recording).


Next Steps
– Obtain a 5 pin and a 7 pin DIN connector, as well as a 5v DC 2A adaptor so I can assembly a power supply and a video cable.
– Open up the case to make sure everything is OK before powering it up for the first time in forever. The previous owner stated that it did work the last time it was tested, but I don’t know how many years ago that was.

The Bigger Picture
– I’ll be re-learning Commodore BASIC and the assembly language for the C64, using the VICE emulator, thanks to these great books!
– When I start an actual programming project (a game, of course, some time after I finish RocketTux), I will be writing the BASIC code in Linux and converting it to a native c64 program using C64List, because this will allow me to use Git/GitHub version control system (on the plain text BASIC file). This is ideal from a workflow perspective, but it’s not really what I would consider “retro computing”. Ideally, I would like to get a Commodore 128 or a Commodore 64C, a disk drive, and something that allows me to share data with the PC.
– I have decided that I want to keep my VIC-20 in its natural state, but I would like to get some extra stuff for it, such as a RAM expansion cartridge and a few cartridge games. I might “retrobrite” it, because it has inconsistently yellowed over time, but it’s not super high on my list of priorities.

Well, that’s where I am at right now. Actually, this…

is where I am at right now – my refurbished desk area! Why purple? We had 2/3 of a can left over from when we painted our kid’s room years ago, so I figured what the heck – it wasn’t going to be used for anything else and I like purple more than ratty old beige. I’m thinking it would be fun to make some clear plastic shelves for the right side, complete with a breadboard Arduino LED system, because why not! 🙂