A timeless time machine
In the picture below you see my first
love computer: the Schneider CPC 464. It had a built-in tape deck and was sold with either a green or a color monitor. It was never as popular as its rival, the C64, but that didn’t matter to me. I got the brownish monolith in ’85 as a Christmas present and 35 years later it still looks timeless, I think.
Sure, the screen is a bit small (size and resolution wise) for today’s standard, 64k RAM is not too great, and music tapes are not a popular storage medium anymore – but it can still play the game heroes of my childhood: Elite, Gauntlet, and Saboteur.
That’s why I decided a while ago to re-buy my first computer since I sold mine in my late teens to get money for a newer one.
I found this one on eBay, bought it, and took it apart to fix its little age-related problems, like replacing the belt of the tape drive, cleaning the tape head, removing dust and gunk, and soldering a new resistor in (the CPC 464 usually has no capacitor problems – take that Amiga crowd!). After that, it was as good as new.
But then the interesting problem arose: how do I get the games of my childhood on the CPC. You can find a lot of games for it online but they come as files and as tapes, and as I mentioned, tapes are kind of unpopular these days.
Some people use an adapter tape (remember these tapes with a cable sticking out of the side) to playback programs to the CPC but that’s just awful: you have to keep the lid open, the cable is bulky and it looks like you trying to short wire the computer. So I decided to mod the CPC a bit and add an audio jack that connects to the tape head contacts.
That worked fine, but you still have to wait forever (read: 5-15 minutes) to load a game. Plus, converting tape files to .wav was also quite annoying.
So I had to look for a better solution. After a bit of searching online (there is still quite the community of CPC nerds online) I found a pretty nifty device called DDI-3, which tells the CPC it is a floppy disk drive but it feeds the CPC disk images from a USB stick. Pure awesomeness.
After I learned that there are now adapters available that allow me to connect two Joysticks to CPC, I ordered one and now two Competition Pros (another relic from the past) are ready to rock. One came with the computer and the other is actually brand new – there now exists a new four-button version for USB. I removed the USB cable, cut a D-SUB 9 extension cable apart, and soldered the wires to the switches. Now it is better than before.
The Schneider sits on my desk, next to my home office set up, and every time I look over it makes me smile. It’s just a great timeless time machine.
(I might post some more technical stuff about the Schneider since quite a few things are not that well documented and I collected quite a few notes along the way.)