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Surf the Web on your Commodore 64

One of the things that usually keeps old machines from being useful in today's world is the fact that modern necessities like network and Internet connection are missing. Not with a 1980's Commodore 64 however. Here's how you can surf the Web with a C64.

One of the things that usually keeps old machines from being useful in today's world is the fact that modern necessities like network and Internet connection are missing. Not with a 1980's Commodore 64 however. Here's how you can surf the Web with a C64.

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I've mentioned before how I wanted to try some experiments to run some classic technology and make it viable in the twenty-first century. My last attempt at that was when I tried to use Windows 3.1, but that wound up being a relative failure.

What usually prevents old technology from not making the grade today is that the most basic things necessary for success in the twenty-first century, like network and Internet connectivity, don't exist on old machines. Obviously that's because in the 80s we didn't have such needs, but today it all has to come as standard equipment.

This lack of basics is what makes my old Tandy 200 collect dust. I can still do word processing and basic spreadsheets on it, but to transfer the files, you have to use a null-modem and a serial port. No e-mail or direct file transferring there.

However, digging around the Internet, I recently found a way to bring at least one old dinosaur closer to the twenty-first century. The dinosaur in question is the Commodore 64. And the way is by using a Web browser and connecting it to the Internet.

A Web browser?? For a C64?!

Yeah. That was pretty much my reaction too. But indeed there is one. Actually, surprisingly enough, there is more than one.

The first browser I found for the Commodore 64 is called Hyperlink 2.5e. It works with both the Commodore 64 and the follow-on, the Commodore 128. Supposedly it will display JPG, GIF, and TIFF images as well as standard HTML 1.0 forms and colors. The Web site has some screenshots showing the C64 connected to such sites as Slashdot.

To make it work, you need a device that connects to the C64's serial port to convert Ethernet to serial communications. This is achieved using a Lantronix USD-10. This device has full TCP/IP support and can be administered through a Web browser on a remote machine. There's a newer version of it called the UDS1100, which supports speeds up to 100Mbps. It will set you back about $125 depending on where you purchase it. Another way to connect to the Internet using a C64 is by using Contiki. Contiki is an operating system for the C64 and other machines that allows you to get modern features such as the Internet on old 8-bit machines. In addition to the C64, some of the other machines Contiki supports include:

  • Apple II
  • Atari ST
  • Sharp Wizard
  • Sega Dreamcast
  • Nintendo Gameboy

Forget simple Web browsing. Using Contiki, you can even turn your Commodore 64 into a Web server as well. The Commodore 64 Web V2.1 site claims to run on a 1982 Commodore 64.

Author's Note: I severely doubt it will take all four million TR members connecting at the same time, so don't everyone hit it at once.

Kicking the tires

I haven't had a chance to actually try surfing the Web on a C64 yet. Our poor Commodore here at TR is still recovering from surgery after its Cracking Open gallery. However, after finding these resources, it might be worth blowing the dust off of it and connecting up to a TV. It might be interesting to see how TechRepublic renders on a 26-year-old computer!
18 comments
goldenpirate
goldenpirate

Was there a Commodore Color 4 (or something similar?)? From memory I think this was the first full color commodore console. Other than that I'll have to dig it out of the boxes in my garage (but not at 1:45 am). Be interesting, though, to see if it would cope with an internet connection (if it were possible) Hey, if it works - why not!!!!

fredkelly
fredkelly

The Commodore C64 was a fantastic computer, we used to specialise in repairing them but now fix laptops. Recently, 4-5 years ago we disposed of the last C64s we had; after reading the article I wish we had kept them. It looks like we will have to continue repairing laptop motherboards http://www.trilogicuk.co.uk/links.html

MGP2
MGP2

My second computer was a C64. My first was some no-name brand that actually had a cassette drive and the OS was on a cassette. Anyway, QLink was my first online exposure and I thought it was excellent. There were chat rooms and I remember being able to play interactive games with people elsewhere in the country (maybe outisde the US, but I don't recall). Ahhhh, those were the days (circa 1986).

Wally Bahny
Wally Bahny

Can we assume that if you get it working (heck, if you try it at all) that there will be a follow-up article? I used to have a C64 when I was a kid, but if it still exists, it's somewhere in my parents' house and probably does not work. I'd be interested in your findings.

mslizny
mslizny

I was very glad to have my Commodore 64 connected to what is now the Internet in the hours after the Challenger disaster in 1986. I did not know many people then who realized that what happened to this Space Shuttle would affect the possibility that any civilians would be able to go to space in our lifetime - except in the discussion boards.

rb
rb

Wow that is a blast from the past. I still remember exactly where I was when I got my first reply on Qlink... and the rush I felt knowing that someone else was inside my C64.

andrewrfisher
andrewrfisher

QLink morphed into America Online which became AOL... There is a revival of QLink as a web-based BBS called Quantum Link Reloaded. The page even gives tips on how to connect using a real C64 - http://www.quantumlink.tk/

The_King_Working
The_King_Working

If I remember right my handle on QLink was TheKing or something like that.

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

Still in the box with the cassette and everything. I take it out every now and then, hook it up and reminisce.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Yup! I've already talked to Bill about securing one of the UDS1100s and when we get one of those, assuming our C64 still works, I'd like to get it online. When I do, I'll be sure to post the findings and screenshots on here. If nothing else, I'll at least post the problems I discover with it like I did with Windows 3.1

goldenpirate
goldenpirate

unfortunately I trashed the two dozen or so C64s I had sometime ago. I might have to haunt the local garage sales to see if i can pick up some more C64s.

The_King_Working
The_King_Working

I have 4 C64's, (they all worked 20 yrs ago) and I still have a 128. I would like to see this work for the 128.

goldenpirate
goldenpirate

na, just was glad to get them out of my garage - initially picked them up as junk anyway.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

We're in the middle of some construction in the offices right now, but when the time comes, if I can't get our C64 working, I'll have to hit you up for one. Thanks!