A 1980's night in - Retro Sim fun on the Commodore 64.

in #technology2 months ago

It hasn't been the greatest few weeks. I had my flu and COVID jabs the weekend before last which made me feel quite unwell for a few days. Then the youngest daughter had a stomach bug, then the wife. After all that was done, I managed to get me a rather hefty cold which has taken me out of action for the past 4 days. This is such a healthy household!

After a while of not doing much, I fancied a change of scenery so broke out the old Commodore 64. I grabbed it on eBay a few years back with a whole load of games. I've not tried many of them. As a fan driving simulators, I had an itch to scratch when I noticed Formula1 Sim amongst the cassettes. Do you remember cassettes?

Would you look at that! A whole computer game for £1.50! I think that's in the region of £4 in today's coinage.


So, after finding my poison I set everything up on my desk. It starts to get a little cramped in my study as it's both my professional workspace and where I do my own computing "thing". I got everything pushed out the way and broke out the BEAST.


Now, many from the '80's will remember what a lottery loading games from cassette can be. To be honest I had little hope loading a game from 1985, yes that's a cassette that's nearly 40 years old. I crossed everything, hit SHIFT and RUN STOP and sad a little prayer to the BASIC Gods.

Would you believe it, all looked to be working OK!


Not getting to a loading screen isn't a sure thing - it's still a bit of a squeaky stage, but certainly means something positive is happening ... somewhere. It doesn't do the nerves any good as it can take a good long while for games to load. Thankfully in this instance it was only 4 to 5 minutes.

The whole thing sprung into live with true 1980's realism. I was delighted to find that my joystick even worked! Unfortunately, I don't have a suitable capture card so couldn't take any actual factual in game footage, and the need to use two hands playing made it all a little tricky. You would have been mightily impressed with my crazy skills though.

The controls consisted of forward to accelerate, back to brake, left right as you'd expect and the fire button to go up/down the gear. Yes, there were two gears in racing simulators back in 1985. It really was jolly good fun.


In my early excitement I missed the fact you could even change tracks! I tried a few of them but to be hones they all seemed to be roughly the same.


Something I did work out after a while of playing was the car in the left lane was always yellow, centre purple and right blue. This certainly helped skip them after I got used to it all.

37 years is a long time generally, but certainly a lifetime in technology terms. However, these early games triggered the inspiration of engineers and developers which has very much led us where we are today! So, where are we today in the world of driving on computers? Well, here's my little comparison playing Assetto Corsa Competizione on my PC.

For reference my PC in in 2019 cost around £1,200 and the comparable price of the Commodore 64 was around £964. Not a million miles away from each other!

I did try a few other games after, but it seems that time may have taken its toll on their magnetic tape. One thing is for sure, I'll enjoy slowly testing them out and may even try some BASIC programming.


Oh man, that box alone brings back memories! That company used a similar design for all their games. Anyway, I loved this game. Till my cousin gave me a floppy with the c64 port of Pole Position, anyway, which instantly became my racing game of choice.

Yes, the Mastertronic art was quite distinctive, and I seem to recall some box art on Sega games being similar. They were merged with Virgin and then acquired by Sega which might explain it.

I just about remember Pole Position from the Arcades but not sure I every played it on a home computer.

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Blimey, that's pretty amazing - what a lot of fun for £1.99!

It's impressive that it still worked. I've not loaded anything off cassette in many years. I did get to play with some old consoles a while back. Things have really developed over 40 years, but then you would hope so. I think there was a racing game on the BBC Micro that just used black and white line graphics, but I don't think I had that one. Developers were pushing what the hardware could do. Elite was the ultimate on the Beeb.

Did your kids take a look? I guess they wouldn't be impressed. I think there's a C64 hardware emulator that comes with games on ROM. I have seen a BBC Micro emulator that runs in a browser and I think it can run the games.


The kids have showed some interest, but I've not found a game that they really fancy yet. I've got some BASIC manuals so will see if there are any simple programs they can try. Their attention span is about as good as mine!

I remember Elite from primary school. We had hit running on a Acorn Electron if I remember correctly. To be honest I didn't really get computers back then so was a bit "meh" about them. Would have been nice to have got an interest back then ... but I'm guessing I was 7 or 8 so Action Man was still a massive deal!

I've looked at, but not tried an emulator called VICE which looks pretty good. It covers many of the Commadore platforms and there are loads of games available. It's on my Saturday morning "to do" list when the wife takes the girls out to gymnastics. I'll have to be double quick with the lawnmower!

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