C64 & 128
Aside from its styling, the old 1541 disk drive has never really been upgraded. Nor has it been successfully emulated, either. Finally, though, it's about to be replaced.
The Commodore 1541-2, due to ship soon, is styled along the lines of the Commodore 128's 1571 drive, but beyond the cosmetics, it contains several significant features. First, unlike most drives that have tried to emulate the 1541, it's fully compatible with the 1541. Secondly, the 1541's infamous bugs, particularly the save-with-replace bug, have been fixed. Finally, its external power supply will keep the unit cooler.
Unfortunately, nothing has been done to speed things up. The 1541-2, like the 1541, plods along its merry way, depending on software-driven turbo drivers to make its speed palatable. Fortunately, turbo drivers are showing up on most commercial software now, and there are various cartridges and magazine programs available to improve the drive's speed as well.
Meanwhile, sales of the 128D are outstripping those of the 128. Schools, in particular, like the 128D's enclosed design. Other buyers include those tired of seeing the wires that connect components together.
When Amiga's 64With all the enhancements offered to the 64 by both Commodore and third-party developers, upgrading from the 64 to a more powerful computer is less attractive now than it was two years ago.
For those who do decide to upgrade, however, there's the problem of what to do with the older machine. Selling it is a possibility, of course, but the 64's software base (which probably cost a small fortune) goes with it. Keeping it is another option, but most people have limited space. The third possibility may be the most attractive-emulation.
The problem is, emulation is difficult. The Amiga will perform like an MS-DOS machine, but only with expensive hardware additions (Sidecar for the 1000, the Bridge card for the 2000). A few years ago, a Vancouver company sold an Apple II hardware emulator for the 64, but it cost too much to be completely saleable.
Software emulation is worse. Amiga owners have already seen one software emulator, the Transformer, fall on its face. Now, though there are a series of products that turn the Amiga into a Commodore 64, the Amiga community is naturally skeptical.
The best Commodore 64 emulator is a Commodore 64. Anything else will probably be second-best, but for the record, here's what's available:
• Go-64!, Software Insight Systems, 16E International Drive, East Granby, Connecticut 06026;(203)653-4589; $69.95-a full emulation package.
• The 64 Emulator, ReadySoft, P.O. Box 1222, Lewiston, New York 14092; (416) 731-4175; $59.95 with complete interface-a full emulation package.
• Access-64, Dynamic Software Technologies, 9420 Reseda Blvd., Suite 410, Northridge, California 91324; (818) 360-2995; $79.95-makes use of 1541 or 1571 drives to transfer files from 64/128 to Amiga text programs; allows 1541/1572 to be used as an Amiga storage drive (only).
• Disk-2-Disk, Central Coast Software, 268 Bowie Drive, Los Osos, California 93402; (805) 528-4906; $49.95-allows transfer of text files from 64/128 programs to Amiga programs; converts PET ASCII to Amiga ASCII and vice versa.
• C- View, C Ltd., 723 East Skinner, Wichita, Kansas 67211;(316)267-6321; $49.95-a cable that lets an Amiga use a 1702 monitor (eliminates the need to buy an Amiga monitor).
RTC Multi-LinkRTC Multi-Link(RTC MultiLink Inc., 110 Riviera Drive, Unit 10, Unionville, Ontario, Canada L3R 5M1) is a combined hardware/software networking system for Commodore 64 and 128 computers. Designed for educational use, it allows as many as 40 machines to be linked through a hard disk drive that's included in the package. The price tag is high, about $3,000 for a ten-station system, but it includes a 20-megabyte hard drive, individual station modules, the Central Control Board, and the software. Its usefulness in the classroom should substantially offset the cost.
The idea is that the teacher will run the control unit, a 64 or 128 with the controlling software. Each additional computer can run either as a terminal or as a stand-alone unit, a selection made by the control software. Terminal mode allows students and teacher to communicate with each other, again subject to the desires of the teacher/controller. The Control Board can restrict access between any two individual terminals, or it can open things up to a fully interactive environment.
For schools with a number of 64 or 128 machines already on hand, Multi-Link should provide a fruitful learning environment.
GEOS ContestBerkeley Softworks, COMPUTE!'s Gazette, and Quantum Computer Services are sponsoring a GEOS programming contest with cash and prizes valued at over $25,000. Prizes will be awarded for the best desk accessories and applications in categories of entertainment, education, productivity, and open programming.
For more information, see the March issue of COMPUTE!'s Gazette or call Berkeley Softworks at (415) 644-0883.
New GamesThe 64's huge installed base continues to attract developers of game, creativity, and entertainment software. Electronic Arts has translated Instant Music to the 64/128 from the Amiga and Apple IIGS, a must for would-be composers who have no time to learn music notation. Electronic Arts' Bard's Tale III should be released by the time you read this, yet another improvement in this extremely popular fantasy role-playing series. Skate or Die revs up violent skateboarding, while Strike Fleet (from Lucasfilm Games) gives you control over 20 types of modern ships.
Meanwhile, Accolade has released Test Drive, which puts you on a mountain road behind the wheel of a Porsche, a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, a Lotus, or (for the miserly) a Corvette. Fourth and Inches is a menu-driven (à la HardBall!), graphics-based football simulation, while Mini-Putt is surely the first computerized miniature golf simulation.
And Infocom has taken Zork out of the realm of the pure text adventure. Beyond Zork gives your character a number of role-playing style statistics, and it provides an onscreen map as well. A long-awaited graphics improvement to an already successful series of products, Beyond Zork should introduce Infocom's brand of interactive fiction to an entirely new group of players. It's available for the 128 only.
- Neil Randall