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.
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!