It’s a rare day that gets us here at SD Times talking about hardware. But it looks like the next five days are shaping up to make this whole week something special. The next five days, you see, will see the continuation and then ending of a new auction on eBay. An auction for a Commodore 65.
What madness is this? The Commodore only came in flavors of 16, 64 and 128, right? Commercially, you’d be correct. You could even be forgiven for throwing the number 20 in there to represent the VIC-20. But that number 65 just never made it to market.
The Commodore 65, you see, was a prototype. It was whipped up in 1990, and included many features designed to improve upon the 64. This included a 3.5-inch built-in floppy drive, and a suite of 6502 variants for CPU and interface control.
A moment about that floppy drive. If you already owned a C64, you know this and can skip ahead a few paragraphs. The original 1541 5.25-inch floppy drives for the Commodore 64 and VIC-20 were terrible pieces of hardware, but they were also incredibly unique in the hacked-together way they worked.
You see, the 1541 was quite an advanced piece of hardware when it was introduced. So advanced, in fact, that each floppy drive also includes a 6502 processor to handle the actions of the drive. Each floppy also runs its own operating system. Essentially, when you plug a 1541 into your C64, you’re plugging a second computer into the thing.
Weird, huh? But that’s just the beginning. The 1541’s drivers were so bad that they resulted in extremely long load times for almost every use case. If you had a C64, you know it can sometimes take five to 10 minutes for an application to load from disk. It’s nuts!
The solution was just as crazy. Instead of Commodore patching these faulty drivers, every third-party software maker for the platform just included their own floppy drivers on their disks. When you load just about any piece of software for the C64 (including Habitat, that project I mentioned here months ago), that piece of software starts its run by replacing the on-board floppy drivers.