2003 C64 Melbourne Expo

Held on Sunday, 28th December 2003. Organised and part-sponsored by 64HDD. Notes and pics by Nicholas Coplin.


In the spirit of other great retro gatherings, an Australian Commodore C64 Expo was organised for the holiday season.

Melbourne was selected as the location since I was visiting family there. I also expected the userbase to be greatest there based on the number of 64HDD registrations. The event attracted over twenty C64 enthusiasts, plus myself, helpers and an assortment of spouses and children.

Expo Highlights:

Duncan's demo: - Duncan, the youngest C64 fan there, started the demo's with a review / demo of the Retro-Replay cartridge and the ethernet adaptor. He's lucky enough to have a Ethernet LAN at home which allows connection of the C64 to the net using the Contiki OS. Duncan felt the Contiki system still had a little way yet before it offered a "seemless" integration of the various functions (surf, download, etc) but it was impressive to know that each could be manually initiated.
Mike's demo: - Mike brought along his heavily modified SX64. This unit had been Mike's main machine since the late 1980's and had over the time been fitted out with a number of customisations. The key chips such as PLA, SID, VIC had been heat sinked to provide improved thermal protection. Switches allowed for rerouting of an external video signal to the internal monitor or for the internal monitor to be switched off when an external monitor was used. The SX64 also featured ROM and JiffyDOS switches, etc. Mike also brought along his "pride and joy" CMD hardware - a RAMLink and HD. Mike went through the various advantages and disadvantages of the various mass storage alternatives including the CMDs, IDE64 and 64HDD (Mike has them all, so certainly knows his stuff).
64HDD demo: - I did a demo of 64HDD covering both the basic and advanced setups. For some attendees this was their first intro into the world of cross-platform transfers. For experienced users, I also did a demo of the Pwr-Load system for 64HDD to show the speed-up possible and did also an overview the upgrade ROMs available.
Stacey's Demo: - Stacey who came up all the way from Geelong had a C16 to show off (unfortunately not working) as well as his C64 connected to a PC running the freeware version of 64HDD. Stacey showed the ease with which he could load up from D64s and demo'ed a few Jeff Minter classics. A bit of discussion followed about the game scene in general.
Ian's demo: - Ian (or some of you may better know him as THE VORTEX or QUACKER) brought along a couple of things to demonstrate. Firstly, there was his "tower" a C64 in a tower case with integrated CMD HD and RAMLink. Though there are pictures of the beastie on his website (look for "spacetaxi"), nothing beats having a first hand look inside the case to see all the details. The main demo was that of an alternative Commodore to PC (and vice versa) copier called F-COPY. The system relies on software on both the C64 and the PC, and a specialised cable connecting the machines. It certainly seems a very fast way to transfer images and Ian is very pleased with the reliability of the transfers. More details also on Ian's website. The alternatives are programs like TRANS64 and StarCommander, which may be more familiar to those with X cables. The final demo by Ian was of his C64 based "appliance controller" and a hilarious recount of his antics of when he first started building this userport controlled box all those years ago.
Bruce's SX64: - In contrast to Mike's modified unit, Bruce had brought along a very mint SX64 specimen. A bit of a pop-quiz on the SX's history surrounded this little demo.
George's demo: - George brought along a rather neat collection of magazine articles, flyers and Commodore brochures. Many of these items of memorabilia were in mint condition and of great interest. Made us all wonder why we didn't collect and keep all those Commodore promotional items....
Edward and group demo: - Edward demonstrated his most recent acquistion - a *working* Plus/4. Seeing a working specimen of this machine was certainly a treat for many viewers. Following this Edward, Grant, Jaymz and Bill demonstrated some of the stuff they have been working on with regard to sound techniques on the C64. The guys had a MIDI cart, some software in development and ultimately hope to release an alternative modern day synthesizer application. The guys recounted stories of where and how they jam with their Commodore, and are also big '80 Casio keyboard fans/collectors. Most of the lads are local to Melbourne, whilst Ed still lives in Bendigo.
Megacart demo: - I followed up with a brief demonstration of the "megacart" - a 64-in-1 cartridge for the C64, something which is a bit of a "world first for the C64". I demonstrated requested classics such as "Wizards of Wor" and Gyruss. So far have built four of these, and hope to finalise a new design (easier to build) early in 2004.

Wrap-up, Prizes, George's market and Free table:

Door prizes were frequently drawn with items such as software, books and PwrROMs given away. Unfortunately with so many great demos, there was no time available for the programming competition or for viewing highlights of the 2003 SWRAP Expo video. After the formal demo's were finished, George got out the Commodore gear that he had for sale. Money and parts were changing hands fiercly with George under clear instructions that he wasn't going to be taking anything home! Consequently, there were some great last minute bargains to be had. The free table was also a success with everything quickly gone, including an orphan 8088 Ericsson PC "laptop". A late arrival was a tortured Apple IIe which showed some significant scaring after its encounter with the pavement (second storey "freefall" test I'm told.....) but even this was not a complete loss as it was quickly salvaged for its 65xx components. A few gathered around to see the diagnostic testing conducted on a "dead" C64 - the Expo unfortunately did have its casualty with Edward's C64 suffering a RAM failure (at least it wasn't a PLA....).

Based on the success of this year's event the attendees were keen to repeat the showing in the future. With myself being based in Perth though, it would be easier for someone based locally to support it. If Commodore users in Perth are interested in doing something similar , just get in touch! Special thanks go to those who helped promote the Melbourne event, those that worked behind the scenes on the day, and to those who kicked in a few bucks towards covering the costs of the venue, etc.

Group Pics:

Australian Expo Survey Only:

Please complete and submit this form if you would like to comment on the Melbourne C64 expo held on 28Dec2003 or about future such events (* required field)

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C64 C16 Plus4 C128 Vic 20 SuperCPU C65

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Emulators Disk Transfers 64HDD None yet

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