• BroBryce64

  • by BroBryce

My name is Bryce L. Tomlinson. Back in the 80's I became "almost famous" by writing a little program to make keyboard graphics on the Commodore 64 for all of the Color 64 BBS services that were popping up all over Portland Oregon and the USA. Today I'm a filmmaker and social media expert, but my memories haunt me, and I long to bring the fun and adventure of the C64 back to my living room. Join me in my quest, and I'll try to share what happens as I rebuild my 8-bit past in the 21st century.


Getting Back in Action... Sort of

Being out of the C64 scene for almost 20 years has a price. And most of it is paid in arthritis.

   Welcome to my first post.

   For a while, my garage was totally full.   I had bought an old house, and moved all my stuff in, emptied my storage, and moved all of that stuff in, only to find out that my carpeting had been destroyed by dog urine.  So I had to move everything back out of the house and into the garage, and anything that wasn't immediately critical had to sit in "waterproof" totes on the back deck, while I lived in the kitchen on an inflateable mattress in a tarped off "clean room" as I cut laminate flooring and slowly refloored my entire house.

   Some of the things that I considered not-so-critical were my old C64 and Amiga things.  I had a tote that had an original "breadbox" 64, one of the C= 1541's that used to be for one of the local Portland BBSs (I think The Cop Shop).   I had a 1750 RAM expansion unit that I had painted blue (at one point I painted all my stuff, because I was tired of looking at grey all the time), an aprospand, Wico Command Control joysticks, several Super Snapshot 5.22 cartridges, an Action Replay, a couple of Final Cartridge 3s, an ergostick, countless Amiga and C64 magazines, newsletters and games, and a 1581 3.5" disk drive.  Really the list could go on, but I don't remember all that was there.   Suffice it to say that it was in these "waterproof" totes.  You know, the kind you get from Wal-mart.   They're really only waterproof in the sense that they're plastic, and they sorta close.  

  After those totes had been out there on the deck for about a year and a half, I had made room inside my house for my things, having refloored my entire house and remodeled my bathroom (long story).   So I dug back into them.  Of course, there's the obligatory walk down memory lane.   But here in my home town of Portland, Oregon, I hadn't seen a user group meeting or pizza party in almost 20 years.   BBSs were something that most of my geek friends barely remembered anymore.   I started listing the "less important" things on eBay and craigslist.   A few of the items sold for really great prices.  I was pleasantly surprised, so I kept listing them.  To my dismay, many of the items did not sell at all, no matter how I listed them.   Since I was not able to get what I really wanted for them, I began giving them away.   On the curb.   I sorted through much of what remained, decided what I absolutely wanted to keep and/or sell, and put the rest in totes right on the side of the street.   Stacks of magazines, disks, whole totes of nothing but software.   If you knew what was in there, you'd probably want to stone me right out in front of my house.

   Fast forward 7 years.

   My wife goes to Reno once every couple of months.  She doesn't gamble.   Neither of us believe in that.  She has family there that she loves to visit.  Sometimes I go, too, but usually she goes alone, for a variety of reasons.  

   The last time she went, I was sitting at home, feeling impulsive, so I googled "portland commodore user group" and came across PDXCUG.   It seemed they were actually active, by the looks of the site.   And it seemed they actually had meetings.  In fact, one was happening RIGHT THEN.   It was about 8pm, so I didn't really hope to catch the meeting while it was still going, since I live near Clackamas Town Center and had to drive clear across town to near Tanasbourne.  But I figured it was something fun to do, and if I had to just turn around, at least it was a nice drive on a beautiful summer night.   Not knowing what to expect, and not having gotten any of my C64 stuff out of the garage for 7 years, I just took my laptop, a camera, and a couple of camera gadgets (more on that later). 

   When I got there, I was surprised to see a few people still going at it.  I met a few people, we talked, reminisced a little.   We went out for snacks at the bowling alley down the street.   I'm terrible with names, so I only remembered about half of the people who were there, just barely.   But I remembered the faces.   I remember that what I felt all those years ago was itching to come back.

   I remember driving home, pretty happy that I'd done something fairly impulsive and it had actually worked out.  

   Over the course of the next few days I started trying to reconnect to a few people, to reach out.   I also started trying to formulate a game plan for how to get my Commodore back in action and hooked up.   I live in a tiny tiny house.   I know what you're thinking, but you really need to think smaller than that.   Smaller than most of the apartments I have lived in.   Smaller than many hotel rooms.   So we really don't have a place to set up the kind of urban sprawl required for a full-on Commy setup.   I decided I would work my way toward using virtual discs or SD cards or something, and keep the 1541 around (in the garage) for those times when I needed to scan an old disk (of which I have NONE).  I started to scan eBay and Amazon for accessories that would make connecting the setup to my current entertainment system easier.   Since I have an 8-pin video connector on my C64, I opted to get an S-Video cable for it, and an HDMI converter box.  After digging around, I found I had at least 4 joysticks that were working, all of them Epyx 500XJ (look it up if you don't know what they are, they're pretty sweet), two of them Sega Master System models my friends and I hacked back in the 80s so that we could have autofire circuits (which we also hacked to adjust the speed) on the C64, and that I painted blue.   I think I remember selling off the previous two 500XJs that I had from my friend.   Ken had hacked 'em to include a bank of dip switches countersunk into the rear panel, connecting a row of capacitors to add delay incrementally to the autofire.  Pretty sweet.   I also had a Centipede Cartridge to test this stuff out on, since I didn't have any disks.

   I'm pretty happy about reviving this old part of me.   I know that many of the people in the group don't really seem to just be in it for the retro aspect, as I mainly am.  But I'm happy to have found a group of people who really do real stuff with the Commodore.   Maybe I'll get back into programming.  Who knows?   Most of the time, I wrote programs because nobody had made something that I wanted or needed.   Back in my day, the avid interest I had in computers was rare, outside of those who got them for games.   There wasn't much practical use for my skills.   Today, there's a PC in every household, a laptop in every other, a smartphone in 80% of pockets.   Pretty much, if you can think of it, someone's already written a program to do it.   So I feel that my programming skills kinda went to sleep.   

   What will it take to wake it all back up?

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HowlinAl 8/9/2013

Great first post! Welcome back!

Goog 8/10/2013

Really nice having you back - and at the PDXCUG.org meetings, too! How awesome that we had a meeting that you went to at that very moment of your curiosity!

Pinacolada 8/12/2013

It was great meeting you, and I've actually used Kaleidoscope a small bit! Thanks for the manual, I will try to learn more about it since I do actually tinker with BBSes still. :)

jwhoag 8/12/2013

It was great to meet you the other night, Bryce!