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NCUG Magazine (1984-1989)

NCUG Magazine (1984-1989)

©2013 by Dallas Denny

In 1981 I bought my first computer, a Commodore VIC-20. I took to it like a duck takes to water.

I was a founding member and an officer of the Nashville VIC-Users Group, which merged around 1983 with the Nashville C-64 Users Group to form the Nashville Commodore Users Group. NCUG flourished throughout the decade, having at one time more than 500 members and meetings every week.

With an exception, my contributions to the club’s magazine and newsletter follow. My columns as “Reggie Ramloose” are collected in a separate post. Click the button below to view Reggie’s notorious work or the tabs to read my other articles and columns.


The Brief But Illustrious Career of Reggie Ramloose


Click the Tabs to Open

The Nashville Commodore Users Group

In the 1980s Nashville had a vibrant community of computer enthusiasts. Arguably the largest user group was the one with which I was affiliated—the Nashville Commodore Users Group. At its height there were more than 450 active members and meetings every week. There was a monthly newsletter, for which I was often editor. I was also keeper of NCUG’s mailbox.

Personal computers—called home computers then, as even the most optimistic manufacturers couldn’t imagine a day when just about every American would have at least one computer of his or her own—were a developing market, and entrepreneurs were scrambling to provide material to computer users: program, magazines, accessories, gadgets.

As the custodian of the mailbox, I was the first to see the flyers and advertisements for new products, and even the occasional product. I would pass the goodies on to other NCUG members for review and summarize the new products in an article in the monthly magazine.

I was editor for some issues, and did layout for those same issues. You can browse those issues in their entirety.

Editing and Layout

My other contributions are interspersed with the NCUG Mailbox entries. See also my posts of columns I wrote as the fictional character Reggie Ramloose.

The Brief but Illustrious Career of Reggie Ramloose

Highlights of May Executive Committee Meeting (June, 1984)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1984 and 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1984, June). Highlights of the May Executive Committee Meeting. Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, V. 2, No. 1, p. 13.


Highlights of May Executive Committee Meeting

 By Dallas Denny


The session at Bonanza Restaurant on Murfreesboro Road on May 31 was a lively one, with fifteen present. President Dave Rushing began by commending David Hughes for his work as Treasurer. David has been using Lotus 1-2-3, a powerful electronic spreadsheet, to manage club finances, and will continue to assist new Treasurer Carl Manka during the upcoming year.

Major topics discussed were 1) what to charge far-distant individuals who wish to join NCUG; 2) a mid-summer Jamboree and Jam; 3) new dues structure; and 4) publication issues.

It was decided that since the majority of our direct costs are for publications, that remote membership must cost the same as for those who live nearby. They will miss out on benefits like classes, the Cumberland Museum meetings, and Saturday Jams, but will be able to receive library diskettes through the mail for a small fee.

Sometime this summer, there will be a Jamboree and Jam; the particulars have not yet been worked out, but expect good food, good company, good computing, and a good time. Look for notices in upcoming club publications.

Due to the new fiscal year, with everybody’s membership expiring, we are faced with the possibility of a considerable reduction in numbers as everybody’s membership runs out on June.

It was decided that the dues-pro-rating structure would be done away with. Beginning now, membership expires one year from the date joined. (Remember—it’s time to rejoin, if you haven’t already.)

Starting this month, the newsletter and magazine will be merged. The new publication, as yet still unnamed, will be mailed; look for it in a new format. Next month’s will be a special printer issue, and will feature fonts of a number of types of printers. Remember that the contest to name the magazine is ongoing, and send your entries in.

Peeks & Pokes: Protected Software (June, 1984)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1984, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1984, June). Peeks & Pokes: Protected software. Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, V. 2, No. 1, pp. 8-9.


Peeks & Pokes

Protected Software

By Dallas Denny



It is illegal to copy or distribute copyrighted software, and this column should not be taken as an attempt to justify such. However, you do have a right to make legitimate backup copies of software yon have purchased. To do this, you must sometimes figure out and circumvent “copy-protection” schemes of the software companies. The copy protection does not void your right to sake backup copies.


There are many ways to protect software, and even more ways of defeating the protection. I daresay that most commercial packages have been successfully copied. Some of this has been by pirates, those scourges of the software seas, and some by legitimate purchasers for backup purposes. As with the Apple II series of computers, commercial locksmith programs are available.

Methods of Protection

1. Cartridges. Most cartridges autostart. That is, you turn on the computer, and control is surrendered to the cartridge—— SEA WOLF or OMEGA RACE appears, and RUN-STOP/RESTORE keys have no effect. The cartridges autostart because upon power-up. The VIC and C—64 look at a specific memory address, and if it is occupied, pass control to that address.

To copy programs on cartridge, I have seen folks turn their computers on and then plug in cartridges. That is a good way to trash your computer. The way to copy cartridges it to purchase or make a mother—board with on—off switches. Then you plug the cartridge into a slot on the mother board, plug the board into the computer, and, with the slot switched off, turn on the computer. The slot can then be switched on, and the cartridge saved with a machine language monitor such as MICROMON.

2. Non-loading files. Some files, for instance, USR files, sequential files, random files, relative files, end some program files do not LOAD into the computer upon command. Most can, however, be copied with various file copy programs which are in the library. Or, the entire disk can be backed up.

3. Hidden blocks on disk. Sometimes information is directly written to blocks on the disk. This data does not show up in the BAM or on the directory, and many copy programs, which copy only those blocks which BAM indicates are used, will result in bad copies. To circumvent this, the 1541 backup should be used in direct backup mode (or use the new 4-minute backup program). After the disk is copied, do not attempt to put other programs on it, or you will overwrite your data.

4. Checking disk name and/or ID. Most copy programs require disk name end ID different from the original disk. Some programs check the disk header for name and ID; if they do not find the correct name and ID, then—crash! There are programs in the NCUG library that will change the name and ID of the disk.

5. Directory won’t load. This protection scheme involves putting a loop in the directory so that it won’t load. If a disk like this won’t back up, use the CHECK TRACK AND BLOCK program on the TEST/DEMO disk which came with your drive to find the file names, and then copy them with a file copy program (the directory is on Track 18, Block 1.

6. Deliberate errors on disk. One of the most popular protection schemes involves checking for errors on the diskette. If the “correct” errors (which are produced on the disk in the factory) are not found, the program crashes. Programs which cause your drive to chatter and click, or which make the error light on the drive blink, are checking for errors.


Most of the early disks using this scheme had errors written on Track 1 (the outside track). Some folks in Alabama found that if you backed up the disk, then entered a command to reformat the disk (with the same header name and ID), and then turned the drive OFF after several seconds, that you could mess up track I and the program would run. That technique, however, didn’t work for errors on inside tracks.

Enter commercial protection programs. The first was a package called THE CLONE MACHINE and UNGUARD. UNGUARD analyzes the disk for errors and then allows you to recreate them on the copy. Other programs are now available, and seem to work pretty well. The 4—minute copy program writes many errors.

I have by no means provided an exhaustive listing of protection schemes. However, I hope that the above will help you make legitimate backups of your disks.

NCUG Mailbox (June, 1984)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1984, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1984, June). NCUG mailbox. Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, V. 2, No. 1, p. 5.



By Dallas Denny


ISI Video of New York, NY, is producing a weekly Commodore Computer User Group television program. They have asked for our assistance in contacting the local cablevision system and in soliciting advertisers. They claim that “about 80% of a typical program will consist of Commodore computer-generated screen displays and sounds with voiceovers.’

Several months ago I mentioned that the Sanyo computer seemed to be a good buy. J. Powell and Associates, 401 N. Main Street, Bloomington, IL 61701 (309-827-4318 sells the Sanyo MBC-550 16 bit computer with 128k, MS-DOS operating system, an 80-column :monitor, a disk drive, Wordstar, and Calcstar, for $995.00.

Novelty Office Products, P.O. Box 3654, Peoria, IL 61614, would like to sell you a quartz digital clock shaped like a computer terminal for $9.98 plus $2.00 shipping and handling.

Another bulletin board to report. WESTAR is operated by Art Collier of Rt. 2, Box 128-B, Big Sandy, TN 38221. The board is free and is open from 9 PM to 5 AM. Unfortunately, old Art forgot to include his telephone number. It sounds like he’s using his home phone, so directory assistance might help in obtaining the number.

TOTL Software has sent a number of coupons for $10.00 off their software. The coupons will be available at Saturday sessions. Hurry— there is only a limited supply.

PAINTPIC and PRINTPIC are new offerings from Kiwisoft Programs, 18003-L Skypark South, Irvine, CA 92714 [Phone: (714) 261—51141. PAINTPIC ($39.95 on disk, S35.00 on cassette) is a multi-color bitmap drawing, painting, and drafting program for the C-64. PRINTPIC ($44.95 on disk) is a printing program. It prints out PAINTPIC pictures on dot matrix printers. Kiwisoft also sells prints and disks of original C-64 art, and puzzles on disk.

Wondering what to do when your goodies go down? TRIAD computers of 3068 Trenwest Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27103 [Telephone: (919) 765—0433] will repair your Commodore products. Turnaround time is 24-48 tours. They will include a coupon for a reset switch or $25.00 off the next service.

Apple has introduced the II-C computer. It is essentially a portable II-E with a built-in disk drive. Look for the ads on TV.

NCUG Mailbox (July, 1984)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1984, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1984, July). NCUG Mailbox. Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, V. 2, No. 2, p. 4.



By Dallas Denny


A word on periodicals—As you know, there are a number of Commodore journals, with Compute!, Compute’s Gazette, Run, and Ahoy being perhaps the best known. Here’s another worthwhile magazine— it is a quarterly called Info 64, with graphics and text produced entirely on a Star Gemini 10 printer. Info 64 provides an exhaustive list of available software, plus reviews in each issue.

If you’ve had your computer a while, you have probably realized most magazines have monthly features and articles about computers and computing, but most of the articles aren’t worth reading. Substance, alas, is usually lacking. So I was pleased to find an excellent article, “The Mind of a New Machine,” by Lee Gomes, in the April ‘84 issue of Playboy magazine. The article alone is worth the price of the issue. You might also take a look at the recent special issue of Newsweek, which looks at the glamorous high tech industry.

OXFORD PASCAL, a complete implementation of PASCAL, is available for the C-64 for $49.95/disk—$29.95 tape; buy it from Limbic Systems, Inc., 560 San Antonio Rd. #202, Palo Alto, CA 94305. “With the Oxford extensions to PASCAL, you can really exploit the graphics and sound on the 64.”

Need to get your Commodore fixed? CSI Distributors, Inc., 33 Murray Hill, Drive, Spring Valley, NY 10977 operates a Board Repair Service Center for Commodore Dealers. You must call Jim Stiller or Dale Keahon at 914-425-2177 before shipping your computer or drive. Turnaround time is 24-48 hours. Price for 1541 repair is $45.00 for board only, $45.00 for Drive Mechanism only, or $75.00 for the entire unit.

Because of “phenomenal demand” for their dual drive, MSD, Inc. has announced that it is discontinuing its line of VIC-20 peripheral products. They are selling IEEE interfaces, RAM memory expansion cartridges, terminal emulator cartridges, expansion boards, and the “Mobile Attack” game at close-out prices. Call MSD toll-free at 1-800-527-5285.

CHF, Inc. sells a “Computer Check Carrier”—personal or business checks are inserted in a plastic film which positions the checks in your tractor-feed printer. The price is $11.95 from The CHF Company, P.O. Box 185, Oberlin, OH 44074 [Phone 216—775—7338]. CHF also sells tractor-feed envelopes, Rolodex cards, etc.

The Micro Illustrator, a light pen driven graphics program, is now available for the C-64. Pen and software sells for $69.95. Call Ben Scolovino at 800-526-2514.

Satellite Technology, 4955 Monterey Drive, Arcata, CA, 95521, sells programs which are typed in from national publications such as Run. They sent a stack of circulars, which travel with the library, and are available until they run out… I wonder if the programs actually RUN?

The Column Without a Name (July, 1984)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1984, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1984, July). The column without a name. Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, V. 2, No. 2, p. 21.


The Column Without a Name

 By Dallas Denny


I have been calling this column Peeks and Pokes, but it seems that many others are using that name, so until I think of something better, this will be THE COLUMN WITHOUT A NAME.

When I first started writing programs, I would save multiple versions of the same program on a disk. The directory would end up looking like this:

15   DEMO V4.7 PRG

17 DEMO V4.9  PRG

15 DEMO V4.8  PRG

22 DEMO V5.5  PRG






Eventually I began using the following routine (typing in immediate mode GOTO 60000), which would scratch the old file and save the new one with the same name:

59999 STOP

60000 OPENl5,8,15,”S:DEMO”2CL0SE15~SAVE’DEMO”,8:STOP

That worked much better, but upon occasion I would somehow mess up a program, and wish that I had retained the previous version. Following is a routine which will save a program and retain the previous version as a backup.






The first couple of tines you save the program with the routine, the error light will blink. Disregard this: the drive is looking for files which do not yet exist.

I hope that you will find the routine useful.


Next month’s Topic: String Arrays

NCUG Mailbox (August, 1984)

NCUG Magazine

©1984, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1984, August). NCUG Mailbox. Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, V. 2, No. 3, pp. 5-6.

NCUG Mailbox

By Dallas Denny



Because you asked—Liquidators, 105 S. Main Street, Greer, SC [Phone (901) 877-98281 is selling (new) 5 MB Shugart 8″ hard disk drives for $269.00. Digital’s WD1001 controller boards $331.00. Interfaces and software for cost popular computers are available. I don’t know if the C-64 is among the elite.

The SMART CABLE from IQ Technologies, 11811 N. E. 1st Street, Suite 308, Bellevue, WA98005 [Phone (206) 451-0232] may be just what you need to solve your RS232C woes. The SMART CABLE ‘looks” at your computer and “looks” at the peripheral device and its built-in Logic module cakes the Proper connections. This solves the need for custom cables for different RS232 peripherals (for instance modems, printers, and speech synthesizers). Richard and Chris Shores have a SMART CABLE, and it worked admirably in hooking up a Smith-Corona TP-1 printer which otherwise required a special cable. The SMART CABLE retails for $89.95. Note: you will still need the Commodore VIC 1011A RS232-C interface, which is primarily a voltage conversion device.

And speaking of interfaces, the Laser Emporium, 3755 NE 34th, Salem, OR 97303 [Phone (503) 363-42451 sells the LE232M (male) and LE232F (female) interfaces for the user ports of the Vic-20 and C-64. Priced at $29.95 plus $2.00 for shipping, the interfaces are cheaper substitutes for Commodore’s RS232-C interface. The LE232 comes with its own power supply and a built-in 6-foot cable. Be the first one in town to have one.

TOTL. Software has announced a new version of TOTL.SPELLER which works with Easyscript, Quick Brown Fox, Hes Writer, Bank Street Writer, the Word Machine, and Totl.’s own word processor. Owners of the old version can return their old program disk with S10.00 for an upgrade. TOTL.SPELLER comes with a 15,000 word vocabulary, expandable to 20,000, and retails for $34.95.

Sussex Computers, 202 Wills Avenue, Stanhope, NJ37874, is a mail order firm dedicated to marketing British software in the U.S. So if, in reading Commodore User or one of the other magazines from the UK, you have come across a product you would rather not live without, just drop Sussex a Line.

Home Health Software , P.O. Box 57935, New Orleans, LA70157, specializes in health and fitness programs. They distribute “The Lean Machine” $39.95), a diet program, and “Know Your Body” ($39.95), a program which will help with family planning.

A Touch Can Kill (or so Static Systems Technology, 4441 Utica Street, Denver, CO 80212 tells us). Static Systems sells the “Static Potential Equalizer” for $39.95. They tell us the SPE can fix your static electricity problems, and sent us a two-for-the-price-of-one coupon (see me if you are interested).

User Group Supply, 4201 Norwalk Dr., San Jose, CA 951291 is selling single-sided, double-density diskettes for $1.10 each in lots of 250 or more. The diskettes are made in the U.S. by Janus, Ultra Magnetics, BASF, Nashua, and others. UGS sells the same diskettes with the brand names on for $17.95 a box, again with a minimum order of $17.95. To order, call (800) 538-8157, ext. 995.

Names of Commodore Computer Groups (August, 1984)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1984, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1984, August). Names of Commodore Computer Groups. Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, V. 2, No. 3, p. 18.


Names of Commodore Computer Groups

By Dallas Denny


Commodore users around the world are getting together in record numbers. A listing in the July/August issue of Commodore magazine reflects this fact. A quick perusal showed some very creative and picturesque names and acronyms. Here are some of the best:



SCUG (Schenectady Commodore Users Group)

44-Bug (Boise Users Group)

Amateurs and Artesians Computing

Arva Hackers

Berkshire Home for Little PET Lovers

Bits & Bytes

Blue Tusk

CC & Me

CCCC (Commodore Canada Computer Club)

CHUG (Commodore Houston Users Group)

C.L.U.B. 84

COOL (Commodore Owners of Lafayette)



The Commodore Advantage

The Commodore Connection

Commodore Masters

Commodore Users of Blue Chip


The Compucats’ Commodore Computer Club

C.P.U. Connection

The Cursor Club


DAP Computer Club


El Shift OH

HACKS (Huntsville Area Commodore Komputer Society)

Hello Central!

House of Commodore

HUG (Hagerstown Users Group

Jumpers 1064s

Jurupa Wizards

The Kankankee Hackers

LIVE (Long Island VIC Enthusiasts)

LIVICS (Long Island VIC Society

LOGIKS Commodore Computer Club

Long Lines Computer Club

LUCKY (Louisville Users of Commodore Kentucky)

Manhattan 64

Mountain Computer Society


PALS (Pet Around)

PET on the Air

PETS and Friends


SCUG (Schenectady Commodore Users Group)

SE Cleveland Commodore Cranes

SEM 64


Sixty Fourum

Software 64



TBH Vic-Nics

Tiger Byte E. Alabama CBM 64

The Ultimate 64 Experience

UGLL (Users Groups of Lower Idaho)


VIC Connection

VIC for Business

VIC Infonet

VIC Interface Club


Vicdor Users Group

VICIMPET Users Group

The VIClic





Your Commodore Users Group

Whither the VIC? (September, 1984)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1984, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1984, August). Whither the VIC? Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, V. 2, No. 3, pp. 15-16.

Whither the VIC?

By Dallas Denny


When it was introduced about three years ago, the VIC-20 was billed as “the first color computer for under $300.00.” At the time of its introduction there was no Lisa. There were no Macintoshes, Apple IICs, C-64s, TRS-80 Model 1OOs, TRS-80 Model 4s, IBM-PCs, Kaypros, or PC Juniors. The dominant microcomputers were the Apple II ($1300), the TRS-80 Model III ($1500), and the Atari 400 ($400) and Atari 800 ($850). Texas Instruments sold the TI 99/4 for nearly a thousand dollars, and a Britisher named Clive Sinclair was selling a tiny little computer called the ZX-80 by mail for $300.00. The Commodore PET sold well in Europe, Canada, and the northern United States.

More than a few NCUG members own or have owned VICs, and most of them were purchased at or near the original price of $295.00. We watched as the price of the little white machine plummeted to as little as $69.00. We loved our VICs, and there was considerable reluctance to give them up in favor of the C-64. I myself was given a 64, and it sat unused on the shelf for months. Now my VICs (both of them) are on the shelf, and I’ve not seen the familiar “3583 BYTES FREE” for months now.

The VIC is not a toy computer. It is an inexpensive, reliable, powerful machine. Its BASIC is the same as that of the C-64, and fully expanded it has nearly as much usable RAM. Its expansion capabilities are essentially the same as the C-64; it can support up to four disk drives, IEEE interface, printer, modem, speech synthesizer, 80-column card, ROM expansion cartridges, etc. If you can picture a C-64 with a white case, a 22-column display, no sprites, and no SID chip but a darn good music chip anyway, then in your mind’s eye you have a VIC-20.

Nearly 2 million VIC-20s were sold, but after considerable early activity, software support has decreased. These days, nobody is seriously considering authoring a first-rate word processor or spreadsheet for the VIC. Rumors of the VIC’s demise have abounded during the past year, end now, according to Compute! magazine, Commodore Business Machines has discontinued production of the VIC.

What happened to the VIC-20? What went wrong? I have thought about that a lot. Obviously, the C-64 stole a lot of the VIC’s thunder. But that’s not the whole story. For a long time I felt the primary reason was this—because the VIC was sold with but 5k of RAM, software was written to run in 5k of RAM. Well, you can do a whole lot with 3583 bytes, but it does not compare with what you can do with 64k. And most VIC software was written for the basic, unexpanded machine. If the VIC had been introduced in a 16k package, it might have fared better.

I recently found out another thing seems to have happened—a panic reaction by software firms and retailers. The following paragraph by Chuck Palmer McCartney appeared in a recent newsletter from TOTL. Software:

(Last fall.) The VIC market suddenly seemed to dry up. We all knew that there were 2 million of them out there, but the retailers lost confidence, returned boxcars full of software, and refused to touch the product anymore. This put some companies out of business, and made others wary. Now we can only sell VIC software direct, and not a whole lot of it that way, it seems. Sometimes I wonder if the 2 million VICs didn’t turn into 1.9 million doorstops.

Other factors which doubtless contributed to the VIC’s demise were its 22-column display, its relocatable color and screen memory (those of you who have added 8k to your VIC will know about that), and its undeserved reputation as “just a game-playing machine.” The C-64 suffers somewhat from the latter, also. Both computers have been extremely underappreciated by the American public, educational system, and businesses. This is not the case in Canada and Europe, where both machines are used extensively by schools and businesses. After all, it takes one heck of a computer to play games adequately.

… but not to preach. I don’t think VIC owners should panic. There is a lot of good software available—adequate word processors and spreadsheets, excellent database managers and games, and a wide variety of public domain software and specialty programs (you can, for instance, use your VIC to help you design new quilting patterns). Hardware has never been cheaper. Commodore continues to service the machine. Most of what you learn with and about the VIC will apply directly to the C-64. And if you get tired of it, I suppose you can always use it for a doorstop.

NCUG Mailbox (September, 1984)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1984, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1984, September). NCUG Mailbox. NCUG Magazine, 2(4), p.10.



by Dallas Denny


Disk is “the magazine with the disk inside.” According to the publisher, you should expect to see the premier issue in September. Included in the first issue will be: an 80 column software conversion program, several machine language games, utilities, educational programs, etc. The magazine will be published six times a year. The newstand price “will be under $3.99.” Year subscriptions will be $21.00.

Meninges Publishing (P.O. Box 1385, Pittsfield, MA 01202) announces Oddball Magazine. Oddball will feature special purpose software of all types. “Oddball programs are written seriously by people knowledgeable in their own fields for their own purposes but which have wider applications….” Subscriptions are $15.00/year (six issues). If you subscribe before September 1, there is a 20% discount (making it $12.00).

This is a good month for buying disks. B A Pargh Co., here in town, is having a disk sale. TDK SS/DD diskettes (my favorites) are $14.44/box. Also, BCD Electro, P.O. Box 830119, Richardson, TX, 75083—0119 [Phone (214) 690—1102] sells unlabeled SS/DD diskettes for $98.35/100. Yes, less than a dollar each, no labels, no sleeves. Add $3.00 for shipping.

The B******S have us now! Hello America, Inc. is selling a SX-64-based WARGAMES dialer which will allow every fool with $1000.00 to call you and give you a tape—recorded sales pitch (and record your response, if you stay on that long). I’m sure you’ve received at least one. Boo! Hiss!

Micromechanisms, Inc., P.O. Box 1150, 112 Maple Avenue, Dublin, PA 18917 [(215) 249—0331] is now selling the KPM for $21.00 (regularly $29.95). What is a KPM? Glad you asked. The KPM (Keyboard Program Module) turns your VIC-20 into an ASCII-encoded keyboard

String Arrays (September, 1984)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1984, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1984, September). The column without a name: This month, string arrays. NCUG Magazine, 2(4), pp. 11, 12.


 The Column Without a Name

This Month: String Arrays

 By Dallas Denny


Suppose you want to write a BASIC program to match states and capitals. The most efficient way to write the program would utilize a string array.

A string is a variable which can be composed of up to 255 letters and/or numbers. For instance, if you type in direct mode A$ = “ALABAMA” and hit RETURN, and then type PRINT A$, your computer will print—you guessed it—ALABAMA. Well, string arrays are like rows of boxes, each with a string in it. I won’t elaborate on this, as string arrays are topics for frequent discussion in books on programming. What I will do is give you several techniques for working with string arrays.

For demonstration purposes we will create a two—dimensional array of states and capitals. To start we must make room in memory for an array that big. So we type line 10:

10 DIM A$(50,2

That was easy, wasn’t it? Now let’s create a routine to fill the array up with states and capitals. Let’s do 10 for a start:


110 FOR K = 1 TO 10


130 INPUT A$(K,1)


150 INPUT A$(K,2)

160 NEXT

But what if you make a mistake in data entry? Let’s add an error checking routine:

132 PRINT”IS “A$(K,l)” CORRECT?”

133 GETZ$:IFZ$=””THEN133

134 IFZ$ “Y”THEN12O

152 PRINT”IS “A$(K,2)” CORRECT?”

153 GETZ$:IFZ$=””THEN133

154 IFZ$ “Y”THEN14O

Now to look at the array. As soon as you finish running the program, type in direct mode:


 There they are!

An alternate method of getting the array into memory would be to read them in as data statements. A routine to do that would look like this:

10 DIM A$(50,2)

100 FOR K = 1 TO 5O

110 FOR J = 1 TO 2

120 READ A$(K,J)

130 NEXT

140 NEXT


50010 DATA ETC., ETC.




You may wonder why we did the direct entry method, when the data reading method seems so much simpler. Answers—next month, when we learn to write arrays to disk and read them back.

NCUG Mailbox (October, 1984)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1984, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1984, October). NCUG Mailbox. Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, V. 2, No. 5, pp. 9-10.


 NCUG Mailbox

 By Dallas Denny


TEACHER’S HELPER, 922 Attwood Drive, Lansing, MI 48910 [Phone (517) 882-5343] sells THE C-64 GRADEBOOK PACKAGE. This is a comprehensive gradebook database program package. It sells for $29.95, with discounts available for members of users groups.

SOLAS PRODUCTS has announced VIDEO TUNE-UP for the C-64 and SX-64. The program converts the computer into a low-cost full-function video analyzer. If you order before October 30, a program called BAR SWEEP 64 will be included. VIDEO TUNE-UP sells for $23.95. Order it from Solas Products, Box 655, Spring House, PA 19477.

The Mother Board is a BBS which allows subscribers to participate in over 25 SIGS (Special Interest Groups). You can also order over 5000 hardware and software products. Subscription is $10.00/year (300/1200 baud). The address is The Mother Board, P.O. Box 157, Deridder, LA 70634. Phone is (318) 462-3545.

You can use your computer to send cards this Christmas. On orders of $60.00 or more, there is a discount of 30% if you tell ’em “NCUG sent me.” Prices (don’t forget to computer the discount) are $9.95 for 20 cards and envelopes, $45.00/100, or $130.00/300. There are eight designs to choose from. Compugreet, P.O. Box 3357, Reston, VA 22090 [Phone (703) 476-0044].

“PCDEX is a convenient and versatile reference tool, providing direct access to articles, program listings, columns, letters, and reviews.” PCDEX is like the Reader’s Guide to Personal Computers. Material from magazines like Byte, Commodore Magazine, Run, and Microcomputing is indexed. Updates will be quarterly. You’ll be able to find this one at the bookstore, or PCDEX can be purchased at a user’s group discount of $12.91 plus $2.00 for shipping and handling. See me for details.

Commander Disk Drives are available for $250.00 each from R.E, Dingwall and Associates, 5832 Raphael Drive, Huntington Beach, CA 92649. There is a ten percent discount on orders of ten units.

Machine language programmers might appreciate CODEFAX, a machine code development program that “actually makes it fun to code in machine language.” The price is $59.00 from Gloucester Computer, Inc., One Blackburn Center, Gloucester, MA 10930.

So you’ve had your 64 for a year now, and are still totally baffled? A good book for beginners is Everything You Can Do (And How to Do It) With Your Commodore 64 by Richard G. Peddicord. The publishers is Alfred Publishing Company, Inc., Sherman Oaks, CA.

A good book for more advanced users is The Best of the Torpet. This is the best of that illustrious magazine. It is filled with how-to’s, technical and programming hints, cartoons, photographs, opinions, and program reviews. Publisher is Coop Clark Pitman Ltd., Toronto.

FAMILY ROOTS is “the most comprehensive genealogy program available for microcomputers today” (Surely you realize that they all say that). ROOTS costs $175.00, and is available from INNDECO, 133-A W. Chapman Avenue, Fullerton, CA 92632. Me, I’ll leave my family skeletons in the closet.

NCUG Mailbox (November, 1984)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1984, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1984, November). NCUG Mailbox. NCUG Magazine, 2(6), pp. 5-6.


NCUG Mailbox

 By Dallas Denny


The NCUG mail comes to my private box. That means that when I go in the morning to Acklen Station to check my mail, there are almost always a couple of envelopes marked:

Nashville Commodore Users Group

ATTN: Dave Rushing

Occasionally there is a letter from some lost soul who wonders what we can help him do with his Commodore computer. But most of the mail is bulk-rate commercial mail—better known as junk mail. Lots of it is junk. But occasionally something catches my fancy and I put it in this column. A year or so ago, when I began writing the column, hardware and software support for the C-64 was sparse. The past year has blessed us with an abundance (almost an overabundance) of both. There are now more than a half-dozen Commodore magazines, and software is advertised in non-Commodore journals like Personal Computing and Byte. Considering this, and considering that I have never gotten ANY feedback on this column, either ‘fer’ or ‘agin,’ I have decided to discontinue it. This issue marks its last appearance.

C.C. Systems, 250 Quintard Avenue, Ste. 85, Chula Vista, CA 92011-4924 [Phone (619) 420-5887] would like to sell you personalized kernals and character generators for the Commodore 64 and SX-64. These are kernal and character ROM that are altered. For instance, your own message will appear when you turn on your computer. Instead of:




in the old blue on blue on power-up, your 64 might display:




with red border, white screen, and green letters. With the Kernal in place, your 64 will default to disk. If you are willing to sacrifice your cassette routines, DOS 5.1 (the infamous Commodore wedge) will always be in your computer, in a location where it can’t conflict with programs. The version of the Kernal is the latest (#3). The Restore key is reprogrammed to bring back programs after you reset, or if you type new. If you want, the kernal will reprogram your keyboard into a Dvorak keyboard. All this costs only $24.96 + tax.

A Spanish, Greek, or Mathematical character set is available, or you can have your own special set burned in at no extra cost. If you have “Sparkle,” it will disappear when you replace the character set.

Some good news is that G.C. Systems sells devices which will let you have both kernals or character sets (theirs and your original) in place, and select them with a switch. The character set (two character set version) is $29.95 + tax. The two kernals version is $49.95 + tax. Warranty is one year.

Eng Manufacturing, Inc., 4304 W. Saturn Way, Chandler, AZ 85224 [Phone (602) 961-0165] sells the Chirpee for $179.95. The Chirpee is a speech recognition module for the C-64. With Chirpee, the computer can recognize and respond to your voice. Sounds nice, but typically, units like this will respond to only 10-20 words. The Eng people do not mention how many words Chirpee can be trained to understand, but I suspect not many.

Digital Options, 526 Weddell Dr., Ste. 1, Sunnydale, CA 94089 [Phone: (408) 734-3672]. The Uchida SWX-305 Qume-compatible daisy-wheel printer. 18 cps, letter-quality, and only $250.00. Tractor feed is $75.00 additional.

A Good Time Was Had By All (November, 1984)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1984, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1984, November). A Good Time Was Had By All. NCUG Magazine, 2(6), p. 8.


A Good Time Was Had By All

By Dallas Denny


On Saturday, October 20, representatives of Commodore Users Groups from Huntsville, Clarkesville, Knoxville (two clubs), Tullahoma, and Jackson met with NCUG representatives at Hillwood Presbyterian Church in Nashville. The occasion was the “October Jamboree.” About 80 people attended the jam , which lasted from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.

There were a number of activities. There was a “swap” counter. Drinks and snacks were served, courtesy of NCUG. Mike Beutjer, the author of the KOALAPRINTER program which you will soon see on the shelves at your friendly neighborhood computer store, demonstrated his program and the Okimate color printer. John Lyda demonstrated FLEXIDRAW, a very good light pen drawing program, and Dallas Denny demonstrated the TRS-80 Model 100 portable computer.

A door prize, a copy of The Sentinel, was won by Lorena Welch of Metro Knoxville Users Group. Chris Shores, who has “a big, big heart,” donated his personal copy of Zaxxon as a second door prize—it was won by Phillina Russell, a new NCUG member. A games contest was held, in which copies of the following programs were given to those who scored highest on them:

  • Tommy Norman        NCUG      SLAM BALL
  • Dawn Featherling    NCUG      DRELBS
  • Steve Kretschmar    NCUG      Ft. Apocalypse
  • Rob Baker           NCUG      BLUE MAX

Devin Rushing wrote programs for registering for the door prizes, and to randomly select and announce the winners. Shame on Steve Kretschmar, who registered four times. Did you really think we wouldn’t find out, Steve? Hey—we have computers!

Serious business began at about 3:00, when the various clubs got together to discuss the formation of a coalition of users groups in the Southeast. Topics discussed included:

  •  Future meetings
  •  Publication of a communal newsletter/directory
  •  Group purchasing

In addition, there was considerable discussion of administrative topics—namely, how to best serve the club members, and how to increase participation of those “vacuum-cleaner” members who take, but never seem to give.

Although nothing much was resolved, it was decided to continue to move in the direction of a coalition.

A good time was had by all (at least, nobody complained).

Note: A special thank-you to Gary Moore, who coordinated the meeting.

Industry Watch (January-February, 1985)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1985, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1985, January February). Industry Watch. Nashville Commodore Users Group Newsletter, V. 2, No. 7, pp. 7, 13.


Industry Watch

By Dallas Denny


It is a new year, and what of the computer market? On the low end, mass merchandisers have plenty of C-64s, 1541 drives, and Commodore monitors in stock, and there are even some Commodore 16s and Plus 4s. This year, there are no Timex Sinclairs or Texas Instruments 99 4/As, and while those ugly dolls continue to sell, Coleco’s Adam remains a slow-seller. Jack Tramiel, the founder of Commodore, who bought the Atari Corporation earlier this year, recently shook things up on the low end by announcing “Computer people are greedy,” and promptly lowered the prices of Atari computers. This move might put some pizazz back in the market and cause Commodore to lower prices. Expect announcements of some new products from both Atari and Commodore early next year—hopefully, there will be an improved C-64.

On the middle end, Apple, Radio Shack Model IV, and Kaypro computers continue to sell, and prices may decrease further, but manufacturers do not seem to be actively pursuing this market. Almost everybody is making and pushing MS-DOS computers. Expect somebody, probably Atari or Commodore, to fill the gap in the next year or so with a MS-DOS computer in the $300-$500 price range.

Truly portable (lap-size) computers have been getting more and more expensive and less and less portable. The truly portable Radio Shack Model 100 is selling for as little as $395.00 ($350.00 if you buy it from Decker Electronics in Smyrna). The newest “portables” are MS-DOS machines with large fold-up keyboards—not exactly the kind of machine you can use on the bus.

There are, of course, a plethora of IBM-compatible machines. Some companies (call them Type 1), for instance, Compaq, make it by producing a better product cheaper; other companies (call them Type 2), for instance Texas Instruments, make it by selling computers which are inherently faster and in other ways superior to IBM-PCs. Both Type 1 and Type 2 companies recently got a kick in the teeth when IBM announced a new machine, the AT (for Advanced Technology). The AT, which sells for perhaps $9000 complete, does not run all PC software, but is much faster.

The future of true 16 and 32 bit computers may rest with the Macintosh. Software has been slow to develop for the Mac, and nobody knows if it will sink or swim.

The upshot of all this is that the market continues to be in an extreme state of flux. Many now familiar companies will be going bye-bye in the next few years, and some relatively unknown ones will be heard from. However, until things change significantly, I’ll adore my 64

News From Other Clubs (July-August, 1985)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1985, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1985, July-August). News from other clubs. Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, V. 2, No. 9, p. 9.


News from Other Clubs

By Dallas Denny


NCUG regularly exchanges newsletters with other user groups around the country, and there is sometimes some pretty interesting stuff in them. The clubs, like their newsletters, come in all forms, shapes, and sizes. Here are some of the groups with whom we have been corresponding:

HACKS: NCUG has had a particularly rewarding ongoing correspondence with the Huntsville Alabama Commodore Computer Society. These guys really know their machines.

Jackson Commodore User’s Group, Inc.: This is one of two Commodore groups in the Jackson area. The other is the Old Hickory Commodore Users Group.

Calgary Alberta (Canada) Commodore Users Group: Our northernmost correspondent.

Golden Islands (Georgia) Vic Users Group: Our southernmost correspondent. I once sent these folks a file transfer utility program because it was apparent they did not have one.

Victims `85 (Atlanta, Georgia): Victims is but one of the Commodore groups in Atlanta.

Memphis Commodore Users Club: MCUG has a particularly fine-looking publication.

Metro Knoxville Commodore Users Group: There is another group in K’town, but we haven’t been in correspondence with them.

Citiigroup (New York City): The User Friendly User Group: These folks were lately added to our list.

Tullahoma Commodore Users Group: Haven’t heard from you guys lately. What’s up?

We have gotten other newsletters, but the above have been the most regular. Unfortunately, the newsletters have gotten-scattered and lost as they were passed from hand to hand, and it will probably not be practical to retrieve them. From now on, whenever an article catches my eye, I’ll notify Richard Shores, our Publications Editor, and maybe he’ll see fit to reprint it.

By the way, Wendy McAmis’ articles, which first appeared in the pages of this magazine, have become famous (infamous?). They have been reprinted by scores of groups around the country, and even in Canada.

Here’s a brief excerpt tram Citiigroup’s November magazine:

Meeting Report 9/26

There was no main speaker at Marymount this time. Microware canceled out on its promise to come talk to us. We all sat there staring at the walls, bored and helpless until someone got the idea of cracking Super Clone in retaliation. So that’s what we did, sat down at the computers (we had two) and broke my copy wide open!

And one from HACKS Newsletter, February (downloaded from Compuserve):

I had a chance for some long talks with engineers at the Commodore booth at (the January Consumers Electronics Show in Las Vegas), and they were very cooperative about answering any technical questions I had about the 128. Most of the items I have seen have been lists of specs, which are tantalizing, but don’t really tell the story. Here’s a more narrative form.

The C128 has all at the hardware at the 64, plus an extra memory management chip… the CRT controller has its own 16k at memory in addition to the 128k for the CPU’s (8502—like 6510 and Z80). Portwise, everything is the same as the 64 except the RGB output for the 80-column screen, and a reset button like on the Plus 4. The case is low, but goes very far back (can maybe put a monitor on the backplane). The keyboard contains many extra keys, such as TAB, ESC, AT, and even a numeric keypad, and a separate HELP key. These keys are scanned with an extra port added onto the VIC chip, and CANNOT be read when in 64 mode.

When the machine powers up, it comes on in 128 mode (with a message that says 122,000 and some odd bytes free). Unlike all previous Commodore machines, the system checks the disk drive on power up, and can actually autoboot disks (possibly either CP/M or 128 disks). The new BASIC is 7.0, which is mostly like BASIC 3.5 in the Plus 4 with some sprite commands and the rest of BASIC 4 disk commands, along with a few new structured commands…. The RUN command can be used to load and run a program, like RUN “PROGRAM.” Like the Plus 4, the 128 has a built-in machine language monitor. This one supports 5 digits, though.

Our Trip to Pennsylvania (September-October, 1985)

NCUG Magazine Pages (PDF)

©1985, 2013 by Dallas Denny, Joe Fetherling, Peyton Manning, & Bob Smith

Source: Dallas Denny, Joe Fetherling, Peyton Manning, & Bob Smith. (1985, September-October). Our trip to Pennsylvania. Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, p. 9.


Our Trip to Pennsylvania

By Joe, Bob, Manning, and Dallas


“Right. I’m sure we’re supposed to go right here.”

“No! Go left! You got to go left!”

“I think we should have turned about four miles ago, mate.. We’ve got to go back the way we came. I told you we should have asked the bloody way.”

“I still don’t see what was wrong with Mickey Rooney’s motel.”

Imagine being lost somewhere in rural Pennsylvania on bad roads on a dark, rainy night. The sidewalks were rolled up hours ago. You have the weariness that comes from ten hours or more of traveling by automobile, and the determination to find just the “right” motel. You haven’t seen a motel of any description for the past three hours. You have just passed an intersection for the fourth time. Each time was from a different direction. Imagine being lost in Yankee territory with a carload of good old boys from Tennessee. Now, finally, imagine that the good old boys are computer hackers. That means they never go the same way twice—they would rather find a new way to do something.

“Does your TV work?”

“No. Does yours?”

“No. The blinking thing won’t even get a picture.”

“You’ve not seen anything. Wait ‘till you try to take a shower.”

We finally found a motel—an almost RAMADA INN. That means that it used to be a RAMADA. It was about twenty miles from the M.A.R.C.A. Fair. The motel was in a state of construction—or seige. It looked like pictures of war-torn Lebanon. Rooms were $55.00 a night. They were no bargain. Two of us slept on hide-a-beds. The ice machines were empty. The lights didn’t work. The bathrooms were built for midgets. The construction crew started up their electric saws at 6:00 AM. We later found out that we could have stayed in the Sheraton at the Convention Center for the same price.

There were other problems. Manning had a bad cold, and spent Saturday in bed at the motel with no TV. When we ate at McDonalds, the lights went out. It rained. We got lost a lot. But there were no broken bones, stolen wallets, arrests, or hijackings. We all got back OK. And we met lots of people, saw lots of things, talked about computers a lot. We had a good time. It was worth it.

The Amiga and C-128 Computers

The Amiga and C-128 Computers (PDF)

©1985 and 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1985, September-October). The Amiga and C-128 Computers. Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, p. 10.


The Amiga and C128 Computers

By Dallas Denny


The C-12E exists. I saw one with my own eyes at the M.A.R.C.A. Fair in Pennsylvania. I touched it. I saw it run lots of programs in C-64 mode. I saw a very impressive picture of the spinning earth that was done using the RAM disk.

According to Commodore representative Pete Baczor, the reason the C-128 isn’t at your local K—Mart store is that FCC clearance has not yet been obtained. I know. That’s’ true. The C-128 works. It’s ready, and Commodore is not taking any money with the computers sitting in the warehouse. Expect the C-128 sometime in September.

The debut of the AMIGA in New York last week was apparently very impressive. The computer is fast enough to digitize pictures from a television camera as the camera is panned, and a picture can be saved to disk at any time by pressing a key. Reportedly, a ballerina danced. Three giant screens showed am AMIGA-generated ballerina doing the exact same steps—the whole thing was accompanied by AMIGA-generated music (the AMIGA has stereo sound capabilities). Nice, huh? This computer is so fast that an IBM mode has been developed via software.

Lotus 1-2-3 and similar programs will run on the AMIGA. An AMIGA was present at the M.A.R.C.A. Fair at King of Prussiabut was hidden under a plywood box. The video display was of rotating star-shaped objects, and the resolution was so good that I wondered if there wasn’t perhaps a videotape machine under the box.

Commodore hopes to position the AMIGA so it is sold from specialty computer stores. But the large chains are reportedly showing very little interest. Don’t be surprised if the AMIGA winds up at Target.

Hey, I’m buying a 128. But watch my tracks when the AMIGA comes out!

The 1985 M.A.R.C.A. Fair

The 1985 M.A.R.C.A. Fair (PDF)

©1985, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1985, September-October). The 1985 M.A.R.C.A. Fair. Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, p. 11.


The 1985 M.A.R.C.A. Fair

By Dallas Denny


Part I: A Journalistic Interpretation

The M.A.R.C.A. Middle Atlantic Regional Commodore Association) Fair for Commodore Users was held at the Valley Forge Convention and Exhibit Center at King of Prussia, Pennsylvania on July 26, 27, and 28, 1985. Thousands of Commodore computerists from all over the Eastern United States and Canada attended. Hundreds of vendors displayed their (hard and soft) wares, and Commodore’s booth featured several dozen C-128 computers running C-64 programs. Yes, Virginia, the C-128 is indeed 100% compatible with the C-64). There were seminars by Jim Butterfield (the #1 Commodore user of all time), Ryo Kawasaki (of the Incredible Kawasaki Musical Keyboard fame), Louis Sander (author of RUN magazine’s MAGIC column), Barge Christensen and Len Lindsay (respectively, the inventor and chief American guru of COMAL), Steve Punter (author of WORDPRO 3 and WORDPRO 64, Thomas Templeton (author of the first fast copy program for the 1541 drive), and other greats and not-so-greats. Company reps Pete Baczor and Jim Gracely answered questions about the Commodore product line (“Hey! Where’s the C-128?” “Hey! Where’s the LCD computer?” “Hey! Where’s the Amiga?” “Hey! Where’s the 1571 drive?” “Hey! Did you know EASY SCRIPT plays music?” “Hey! I’ve written this neat program…”).

The fair was opened by the president of Commodore, but the highlight was a concert by Ryo Kawasaki and the Satellites on Saturday night. A C-64 hooked up to an array of synthesizers via a MIDI interface was as good as having a couple of extra members in the band.

Part II: A Personal Interpretation

Commodore heaven! Making my way down four crowded rows of vendors was like walking through the narrow streets of Hong Kong. “Pssst! Buddy! You look like you could use a good copy program—for archival purposes, of course…”). “Yas, yas, yas. Good day, my boy! How can I help you, yas, yas. Don’t touch the merchandise! Today only, my boy, you can have it for the low price of eighty-five dollars, yas, yas. Go away, son, you bother me!” “I stayed up every night for three weeks to get Copy Hi-Jinx Buster Version 456.3 ready for this show… I really meant for it to do that!” Well, despite the Chapter II proceedings, we’re still doing fine.” “Take it! Its free! Take it, I say! Take it or I’ll kill you!”

The seminars were good, too. “A chalkboard! I simply cannot function without a chalkboard!” “My name is Howard K. Jawarski and I’m interested in multiple regression and the structural analysis of Moebius strips.” “My name is Howard K. Jawarski and I’m interested in multiple regression and the structural analysis of Moebius strips.” “Will the real Howard K. Jawarski please stand up?” “So, after buying and trying Easywrite, Quikrite, Poor Man’s Pen, Write On!, and Zoomwriter, I realized I would need a computer.”

I came home with two big plastic bags packed with pamphlets, spec sheets, Quick Brown Fox cartridges ($2 each), COMAL flyswatters, balloons, pens, a PLAYNET diskette, magazines, product announcements, hastily scribbled phone numbers, and handouts from the seminars. If I can get this stuff sorted out before the M.A.R.C.A. Fair next year, I’m going back!











NCUG Mailbox (November-December, 1985)

NCUG Mailbox (PDF)

©1985, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1985, November-December). NCUG Mailbox. Nashville Commodore Users Group Newsletter, p. 5. 


NCUG Mailbox

By Dallas Denny


I’ve been out of town this summer, and Joe Fetherling has been picking up the mail at the old NCUG Mailbox. It’s amazing the stuff we get. Junk, a lot of it. But some of it is interesting.

ESP Corporation, 7900 Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34243 (813/355-6797) has a NLQ (Near Letter Quality) kit for your Gemini 1oX, Gemini 15X, Delta 10 or Delta 15 printer. The price is $57.50, postage and handling included. There is a money-back guarantee. Installing the kit requires replacement of two IC chips.

Wiggins-Rowan Design, 121 West 17th Street, 7A, New York, NY 10014 sells “Dinosaur Parts” . . . core memory planes from old IBM computers. The cores are displayed in a hand-finished oak frame, and range in price from $35.00 to $225.00.

The first shipment of C-128 computers has come and gone from Target and Service Merchandise. The first shipment of Amiga computers were reportedly in the stores (Software First) in early October. We should start getting flyers and circulars about these two machines, and I’ll include them in this column.

The 21-Second Backup is available from Universal Dist., 475 Main Street, Farmingdale, NY 11735 (516/753-0110). This hardware/software combination costs $79.95. Universal says that there is automatic error analysis and reproduction, and that the hardware becomes transparent when the copier is not in use.

Activision has announced a Hacker contest. The first person to solve their game, Hacker, and mail them the printout you get when you solve the mystery and the black-and-white sticker on the bottom right corner on the back of the package, will win $250.000 cash. There will be an east coast winner and a west coast winner.

Looking for cheap disks? How does 49 cents for SSDD and 58 cents for DSDD grab you? That’s the price from Uni-Tech, 20 Hurley Street, Cambridge, MA 02141. Minimum order is $20.00. You can call toll-free at 1-800-343-0472.

I Won GEOS—Big Deal (June, 1986)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)


The July issue of NCUG Magazine saw two glowing reviews of GEOS. Clearly, others weren’t as fond of the command line interface as I was.


©1986, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1986, June). I won GEOS—Big deal. Nashville Commodore Users Group Newsletter, p. 10.


I Won GEOS—Big Deal

By Dallas Denny


GEOS (Graphics Environment Operating System) is a new product for the C-64 which provides a Macintosh-like desktop (see the June issue of Compute’s Gazette for a thorough review). The program is new and hard to find, and enough people expressed envy that I work a preliminary version at the CASE show that I thought I have better do a short review for the newsletter.

Briefly, I’m not impressed. Not that the program doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, and well enough at that, hut I already have a desktop. I have an entire desk, for that matter—double-tier, walnut finish, three drawers and a filing cabinet. And I took great pains to put a computer on my desktop. To turn the computer back into a desktop seems redundant. I touch-type, and having to remove my hands from the computer keyboard in order to move some symbol around on the screen just doesn’t do much for me. The folks at Berkeley Systems, who wrote GEOS, would have had my undying respect if they’d bothered to support the cursor keys and the CLR/HOME key. I find GEOS slow and klunky because of the desktop concept. It’s easier to type SCRATCH “FILENAME” than to move the joystick to an icon, click the button to select it, click the button again to pick it up, and drag it to an icon of a garbage can and click the button a third time. Yet perhaps fifty percent of you reading this will love doing it. So why don’t I quit griping and tell you how well the program works?

GEOS loads in about thirty seconds. It speeds up disk loads considerably. The disk contains a “WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET” word processor and a graphics program which is similar to MACPAINT. Materials can be easily exchanged between the two programs. And at any time, you can open a window and display a calculator, a clock, or a notepad without disturbing the data in your program. It works well, and is surprisingly fast. It was easy to draft a letter with large type in several fonts and styles and send it to the printer. The version I have doesn’t support color, but I sent in the card, so I should get the color version when it becomes available. Berkeley is promising a mouse driver, too, which should make the program easier to work.

Well, that’s GEOS. I’m selling my copy For $29.95, if anyone wants it. You get the new version when it comes in the mail. I’m sticking with EasyScript.

Parting Shots... (August, 1986)

NCUG Pages (PDF)

©1986, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1986, August). Parting Shots…. Nashville Commodore Users Group Newsletter, V. 4, No. 3, p. 3.


In Editorium

Parting Shots

By Dallas Denny

Well, folks, by the time you read this, I will have left for the wilds of East Tennessee; this will also be my parting editorial shot. I have been feeling an urge to lash out at Commodore, so please bear in mind that these words are mine and mine alone, and do not reflect the opinion of the Nashville Commodore Users Group.

Those of you who had the opportunity to hear Phil Gainer’s presentation on the history of Commodore will know that the company was founded in the late 1950s and was run until a couple of years ago by Jack Tramiel, a colorful and controversial Polish immigrant. Under his heavy-handed (and jowled) guidance, Commodore flourished for many years; eventually, all of the myriad of companies with low-priced computers had become insolvent or withdrawn from the marketplace with as much dignity as they could manage. Commodore’s future looked rosy Then, in a corporate takeover that probably looked a lot like a Saturday-morning Kung-Fu movie, Tramiel was cast from power. He then proceeded to buy Atari, a once-promising company that Warner Communications had been happy to get rid of after a year or two of heavy losses. Atari was badly in debt. The skeptics at Infoworld said it was too late, and that Tramiel couldn’t save the company. Exit Jack Tramiel.

Commodore’s moves since Tramiel’s departure have been a comedy of errors. Consider: the company promptly presented us with those twin marvels, the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 computers. Nobody seems willing to claim responsibility for those machines, but I have a theory. It was immediately apparent to two million Commodore users that the C-16 and Plus/4 had no real advantages over the VIC-20 and Commodore 64. I think Jack Tramiel saw that too, and didn’t want to market them. I think the executives who were responsible for the C-16 and Plus/4 made their big move and got rid of Jack so they could market their babies. Let’s face it; those machines were colossal blunders. They should have remained buried away someplace in a vault in West Chester. And there have been more errors. I attribute most of the errors to the grandiosity a lot of computer executives get—they want to go after the high-end home user and the small business user, rather than sticking to the low-priced market.

If Commodore had played its cards right, most C-64 users would have purchased C-128 computers. After all, most VIC-20 users purchased 64s. We were ready. But it was a case of one fine computer that arrived too late. If the C-128 had been given the priority instead of the Plus/4, it would have been on the market a year or more earlier. It would have certainly been out when it was supposed to be. The C-128 generated tremendous enthusiasm when it was announced, and then didn’t show up until the Amiga was on the shelves. Suddenly there were two fine computers to buy. I wonder how many people like myself solved their dilemma by buying neither.

Now Commodore has re-released the C-64. It is the same old C-64, but in a new package. The C-64C is packaged with GEOS, an operating system in software that almost certainly poses no great threat to the Macintosh (see past issues for the ongoing GEOS controversy). Notice that Commodore took the opportunity to raise the price $50 or more. Wrong! Commodore, what you should have done is discontinue sales of the C-64, produce only 128 computers, and DROP THE PRICE. Your costs would have been lower because you would have had to produce only one computer, and eventually there would have been so many C-128 computers out there that a software deluge would have occurred. Let’s face it, fellas—you strangled the C-128.

That leaves the Amiga. One fine, fine machine. Everybody loves it. But instead of trying to sell it to me and the other members of the Nashville Commodore Users Group, you are positioning it for a market that has never been proven to exist—the high-end home user. Let’s face it—people aren’t going to throw away their IBMs for Amigas, no matter how great the Amigas are. And with PC clones selling for as little as $800, you’ve got some serious competition (not to mention the other 68000 machines).

Come on, Commodore! What are you going to do with the Amiga? You’ve run the company into the ground. The company has lost big money for at least three consecutive quarters. The stock is at $5 ¼ (remember when it was $100, all you guys with profit-sharing?), you’ve had to close several plants, lay off a quarter or more of your workforce, and renegotiate all of your bank loans. Somehow, you didn’t even make money at Christmas, although there were no other computers in the Target stores! According to Infoworld, all of the Amiga engineers have jumped ship. Both Byte and Infoworld are seriously questioning your ability to support the Amiga, or even to call yourself a high-tech company.

Frankly, I think things have gone too far. Commodore, I am predicting that you are not going to make it. That’s right; into the dumpster. And when you are gone, remember: you did it to yourself. You did it despite a loyal base of users. You did it despite a number of excellent machines.

Re-enter Jack Tramiel. Meanwhile, back at Atari, Tramiel managed to pay off most of the debts and somehow got the company back on its feet. He redesigned the 8-bit machines so the functions of several chips could be done by one. This made them cheaper to produce, so he lowered the price. The machines sold modestly, but steadily. And then there was the 520 ST and now the 1 megabyte Atari machines. Admittedly neither the 520 ST nor the 1 meg machine approaches the perfection of the Amiga, but sales of the 520 have been good, and I have heard estimates that there are three to four times the amount of software for the 520 as there is for the Amiga. And the 520 ST is being placed in department stores at a lower price (probably $399). Tramiel is sticking it to the Atari dealers, just as he stuck it to Commodore dealers before his fall from grace. But he is making money and will continue to make money for Atari. Infoworld and Byte are now saying that not only has Tramiel saved Atari, but that Atari is again a major force to be reckoned with.

If I had founded a company and then been fired by it, I would be rankling to get even. So Commodore, when you fall, as fall you must, you can bet that Jack Tramiel will be there with the sharks and other opportunists. And wouldn’t it just be something if he manages to acquire Commodore and Amiga? If he does, at least I’m sure he will be able to make the company money again, and make something of the Amiga.

Review of Kracker Jax (July, 1986)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1986, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1986, July). Review of Kracker Jax. NCUG Magazine, 4(2), p. 15.



by Dallas Denny


What the heck! It only cost a stamp. I’m talking about a letter NCUG received from Kracker Jax, P.O. Box 6216, Vancouver, WA 98668. They said they would send us KRACKER JAX disk #1 for one 22-cent stamp. They said the KRACKER JAX disks contained parameters which would remove copy protection from more than twenty commercial programs. Disk #1, they said, contained parameters for: Stealth, Elite, The Hobbit, Baker Street, Matchboxes, Nine Princes in Amber, Perry Mason, Caves of Time, The Newsroom, Mickey’s Space Adventure, Donald’s Playground, Below the Float, Sky Travel, Bank Street Filer, Sargon III Chess, and Buckaroo Banzai. And they said the KRACKER JAX disk would let you make an unprotected backup of any of those programs. All you needed to do was to do a straight backup of the original (no errors), then insert the KRACKER JAX disk; it would read the parameters for your disk and write to the disk so it was no longer protected. They said there would be a new KRACKER JAX disk every month and it would cost only $12.50 per disk. They said the KRACKER JAX disk itself was unprotected, and that it was OK to buy one copy for the group and make as many copies as we wanted.

KRACKER JAX #1 came promptly. I made a backup for myself. It sat unused for about a month, and then one day, when Sky Travel was being particularly obnoxious about loading, I KRACKER JAXed it. Well, folks, it worked. Now Sky Travel loads without knocking. Now I can put a Fastloader on it and maybe it will be less of a pain to use.

KRACKER JAX #2 has been released. It has parameters for:Better Working Utilities, Borrowed Time, Treasure Island, Micro Cookbook, Crossword Magic, Shadowfire, Kwic Calc, Typing-Sticky Bear, Kwik Pad, The Luscher Profile, Impossible Mission, Creative Writer, Little Computer People, Championship Boxing, Music Studio, Advantage French Tutor, Bank Street Mailer, Road Rally USA, USAF, Reader Rabbit, Way of the Exploding Fist, Firebird Flippies, Sticks of Death, and The Halley Project. KRACKER JAX #3 is due and has parameters For: The Music System, Advanced Music System, Spare Change, The Manager, Word Pro 3+ & Spellright, Creative Contraptions, Fontmaster 1.0, Gate Submarine Simulation, the entire Homework Helper series from Spinnaker, and more.

Editorial: Hello and Goodbye (July, 1986)

NCUG Magazine Pages

©1986, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1986, July). Editorial: Hello and goodbye. NCUG Magazine, 4(2), p. 4.



Hello and Goodbye


Shortly after writing the following, I made a decision to take a job in East Tennessee starting August 1. I thought I would print the editorial anyway.

 In 1983, when our group was young and none of us knew anything at all about computers, I inherited from Dave Rushing a two—page typed newsletter. I was determined to utilize the computer in the publishing process, but I had little idea how to go about it. For the better part of a year, I managed to put together every month both The NCUG Newsletter AND The NCUG Magazine on my VIC-20. At first I used a program called VIC TYPEWRITER. Later, I used THE QUICK BROWN FOX. Poor as they were, they were the best available at the time. At work, I made smudgy unauthorized Xerox copies and hoped I didn’t get caught. The publications weren’t much to look at, but they were legible, and they were fun to read.

Now, in mid-1986, I am again the editor. Things should be a little different now. For one thing, the software has arrived. There are any number of word processors, printing programs, and other aids for the C—64. For another, the club has enough money to pay printing costs. And third, even if there is a dry month, there are any number of newsletters from other clubs which can provide us with filler.

I’m actually looking forward to it.

Dallas Denny, Editor

Connections (1987)

©1987, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (ca 1987). Connections NCUG Magazine.



By Dallas Denny


During the past several years the cross-connections between my stereo and audio systems and my computer have gotten more complicated. It all started out simply enough— I connected the sound output of my computer to my stereo (there’s nothing like playing Beachhead or Raid Over Moscow through the speakers of your stereo; the subsonics will make the very walls shake). Next, I connected the sound output from my television to my stereo system. Things became more complicated when I purchased new components. First I bought a VCR. Then, when my television set bit the big one, I bought a separate monitor and stereo television tuner. Last summer, I sold my old VCR and bought a stereo VCR. By that point, connecting the various components had become somewhat of a nightmare, and the back of my stereo system looked like a mass of multicolored spaghetti.

This is the way things now stand: I am cross-connecting a cable television box, FM radio and VHF and UHF television antennas, an amplifier, a pre-amplifier, an FM tuner, a compact disk player, a reel-to-reel tape deck, two cassette decks, a turntable, a graphic equalizer, four speakers, a stereo television tuner, a color television monitor, a stereo VCR, a stereo video disk machine, my C-64 computer, and a 1702 monitor.

I have managed to wire things up so I can turn the entire system on and off, adjust the volume, change channels, watch the same or different channels on my television and computer monitor, display my computer screen on my television monitor, and record the sound and video output from my computer on videotape (Whew!) I do all of this by remote control. But the real work is done by about 15 miles of wires and cables.

You can imagine what fun I had trying to connect all of those components to each other, If my system had not gradually evolved—if I had been faced with the prospect of connecting everything at one time— I could never have done it.

Chances are some of you have faced a similar problem. Well, you need not despair! At Wal-Mart, I found a giveaway brochure which explains with words and diagrams how to connect all sorts of components to each other, and what equipment you will need in order to do so. The brochure was courtesy of Gemini Industries, Inc., 215 Entin Road, Clifton, NJ 07014. As far as I am concerned, it is the best thing to come out of New Jersey since Bruce Springsteen. I highly recommend it. After reading it, you will know what signal splitters, signal amplifiers, co-axial cable, twin-lead antenna wire, A-B switches, and matching transformers are and how to use them to hook together whatever it is you are wanting to hook together.

I found the life-saving brochure in the section of Wal-Mart where the connecting devices are found. If you don’t shop at Wal-Mart, or if your friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart doesn’t have the brochure, then write to the company and ask for a copy, or check with your newsletter editors, Bill and Betsy Alderson—I have sent them several copies of the brochure.

Having a Computer Makes for Strange Experiences (1987)

©1987 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1987. Having a computer makes for strange experiences. Nashville Commodore Users Group Newsletter.


Having a Computer Makes for Strange Experiences


By Dallas Denny


The inspiration for this article came when my computer did something strange a few minutes ago. There was a glitch in the power line (happens often in the Hinterlands, folks), and my printer hiccupped at the same time as my C-64 crashed. In idle curiosity, I looked at what the printer had done, expecting to see gibberish. What I saw was:

 (C) Copyright 1983 CARDCO INC.

Jackie, This one’s for you! -Breck

This happening (caused by my Cardco printer interface) led me to reflect on all the bizarre things computers have done to me and for me. The weirdness didn’t take long to start—about 10 minutes, as I recall. Way back in 1982 or so, my first computer, a VIC-20, was delivered to my door by a smiling UPS driver. I unpacked “The Friendly Computer” eagerly and hooked it up to my Sony Triniton television. I had no software whatsoever, so there was nothing I could do with it but open the instruction book and begin learning BASIC. I typed in 10 PRINT “DALLAS DENNY,” just like the book said. typed LIST, just like the book said. There was line 10! Yipee! I typed RUN (yep, just like the book said). There was my name on the screen! Marvelous! I typed NEW. Surprise! Line 10 was gone! Then I typed:


20 GOTO 10

When I typed RUN, the screen filled with “I LOVE WENDY”s. Great stuff! I just sat there with Wendy and watched it run. Science was wonderful for about five minutes. Then there was a knock on my door. It was Earl Doyle, my landlord. “Dallas,” he asked, “Do you have any idea why my television says ‘I LOVE WENDY’?”

To make a long story short, my television, and Earl’s were tied to the same antenna. For some reason the signal from my Vie fed back to his television. I’m glad it happened when it did. I had been planning to do my first screen edit (I was anxious to have my computer curse). I wonder what Earl would have said about that?

Hardly a day goes by without a similar surprise from my computer. Some of them, like the message from my Cardco interface, are caused by hardware. There was the time my 1702 monitor had a big orange-and-green circle in the upper right—hand corner of the screen. I just knew I had expensive problems (it turned out that I had hung a speaker on the wall behind the monitor and the magnet was distorting the picture). Many more surprises are caused by software you think you know. One day EasyScript suddenly started playing “Pomp and Circumstance.” And once my 1541 disk drive started chirping out “Daisy, Daisy.”

I tell you, I love my C-64, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it started talking right now.

Which Computer (If Any) Should I Buy? (May, 1987)

NCUG Magazine

©1987 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1987, May). Which computer (if any) should I buy? Nashville Commodore Users Group Newsletter, V . 4, No. 5, p. 6.


Which Computer (if any) Should I Buy?…

By Dallas Denny

It’s 68000 wars out there. There are a bunch of 32-bit machines vying for my computer bucks: the Apple Macin­tosh, Macintosh XL and GS, the Atari 512K and 1024K STs, and the Amiga 500 (with two more models reportedly waiting in the wings). And there are, of course, the eight (Commo­dore 128) and 8/16 bit (IBM PC and its army of clones and compatibles) machines. Many of these computers have been on the market for more than a year. Yet I am sitting here typing this on my Commodore 64. Why?

I have asked myself this many times. I like to make lists:

  •  Most advanced machine: Amiga.
  • Largest software base: MS-DOS.
  • Most bytes per buck: Atari 1024 ST.
  • Least expensive machine: C128.

I tell myself: (1) I’m going to get an Amiga. The software will materialize; (2) There’s no use resisting the tide any longer. I’m going to MS-DOS; (3) I’m going to get a C-128 so I can program in BASIC 7.0 and still run all my C-64 software; (4) I’m going to get a Macintosh and get heavy into desktop pub­lishing; (5) I’m going with Atari because Commodore is in fin­ancial trouble and it would serve them right for getting rid of Jack Tramiel. And then I realize (1) How can I think about getting an Amiga when there’s not even a decent word pro­cessor for it and Commodore is headed straight for Chapter 11; (2) MS-DOS machines have TERRIBLE sound and graphics, and I can’t stand the slow response time to my keystrokes; (3) If I get a C-128, I’ll have to eventually buy a 1571 drive and RGB monitor, and for that much money, I may as well go ahead and get an Amiga; (4) I will never get a Macintosh, because there is no alternative to using that !—&S)@#%!! mouse, and besides, I can’t afford a laser printer, so I might as well forget about desktop publishing; and (5) I can’t bring myself to buy an Atari when the Amiga is so much more advanced.

And so I sit here. With my C-64. I want a new compu­ter, but I’m waiting. I don’t know what I am waiting for, but I hope I’ll know it when I see it.

(Watch for the upcoming series “Computing in the Hinterlands” by Dallas Denny, appearing in two parts. The first installment will appear in the next issue of NCUG Magazine.)

Computing in the Hinterlands, Pt. 1 (September, 1987)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1987 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1987, September). Computing in the hinterlands, Pt. 1: There are no yuppies in Greeneville. Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, V. 4, No, 9, p. 4.


Computing in the Hinterlands

Part I: There are no Yuppies in Greeneville

 By Dallas Denny

When I left Nashville to go to work in a small town in East Tennessee, I knew that I’d be leaving a lot behind. But I didn’t realize I would be stepping about 10 years backwards in the computer age. Here’s my sad plight:

I live in Greeneville, a small town about 75 miles northeast of Knoxville. Andrew Johnson, the man who became President of the United States after Lincoln was shot, was born here. Greeneville has a population of about 13,000. There are several industries here, the largest one being Magnavox, but jobs are scarce, and tobacco farming is still the livelihood of much of the population. The countryside is beautiful, with the Smoky Mountains looming only a few miles to the east. The summers are pleasant, with temperatures rarely reaching the nineties. The nearest cities are Knoxville and Asheville, NC. Both are about two hours away by car. There are two large towns (30000+) within forty miles (Johnson City and Kingsport). Gatlinburg is about an hour and fifteen minutes away.

Greeneville is what you might call “a good place to live” (you go right ahead and call it that—I won’t, because it doesn’t happen to be for me). It has been described to me as a “married people’s town.” There is no liquor by the drink. Food prices, land prices and taxes are low, the air is pure, and the pace is slow. The people here are for the most part down-to-earth, hard-working, honest, God-fearing Christian people. Most of them are also at least ten years behind the times and dumber than doornails (I’ve figured that out by watching the way they drive and dress—the dyed-black bouffant hairdo is not yet dead). Bad-taste is a by-word here, and that’s what causes my problem.

Logically, Greeneville is big enough to supply my needs. For example, there are three large department stores: Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Howard Brothers (although Howard’s is going out of business, and I call the K-Mart store “K-Mart Junior,” since it has no deli, restaurant, automobile shop, or computer center). There are also two computer stores, and there is (or was) a computer club in Greeneville (it maxed out at about six members, most of whom had Commodore computers).

Despite all of the resources Greeneville has to offer, I have an extremely hard time finding almost anything I might want or need. The majority of the inhabitants can find their heart’s desire at the K-Mart Junior, but I no longer even bother to look. The K-Mart Junior stocks Red Man chewing tobacco, tool boxes for pickup trucks, UT sweatshirts, water-filled compasses for the dashboard, Conway Twitty albums, ghetto blasters, Budweiser caps on blue-light special, Harlequin Romances, 8-track tapes, Brylcreme, knee-high pantyhose, and OnSat magazine. But does it have olive drab velcro? Does it have New York Seltzer? Does it have black-and-white 35 mm film? Graph paper? A disk doubler? Form-feed Rolodex cards? A ribbon for my Panasonic printer? Noooooooo.

I have to face it. I live in a town without croissants. Without Haagen-Daaz ice cream. Without Wall Street Journal vending machines. Without Bonus diskettes. Without a decent bookstore. It’s not that the town is too small for me; Aspen, Colorado is a lot smaller, and I was able to find olive drab velcro THERE. No, I’m an alien here. I don’t belong. I’m different. The things I want and need are not the things the other people here want and need. I am seriously out of step with the rest of the population.

NEXT TIME: Part II: How to Get Everything You Need Through the Mail.

Computing in the Hinterlands, Pt. 2 (October, 1987)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1987 by Dallas Denny

 Source: Dallas Denny. (1987, October). Computing in the Hinterlands: Part II. How to Get Anything You Need Through the Mail. Nashville Commodore Users Group Magazine, V. 4, No. 10, p. 4.


Computing in the Hinterlands

Part II: How to Get Anything You Need Through the Mail

By Dallas Denny


I live in a location in which it is difficult to obtain computer equipment and supplies. And even if I do manage to locate some­thing I need, it will almost certainly be expensive. There are no Ser­vice Merchandise or Target stores near (they are 40 and 80 miles away, respective­ly). Occasionally, I will bite the bullet and go to a computer specialty store, where I will pay top price for something I am in dire need of—perhaps a printer ribbon when my last surviving ribbon unexpect­edly jams up, or a container of form-feed paper when my printer beeps to tell me it has just spat out the last sheet. But I am, in general, too cheap to pay top prices. I buy things as cheaply as possible. Sometimes I stock up on diskettes or form-feed Rolodex cards when I travel to Nashville. But I have found the most inex­pensive and convenient way to get computer equipment and sup­plies in remote locations is to order them through the mail.

Many people don’t like mail order. I too, have had some bad ex­periences through the mail, but I have ordered hundreds and hun­dreds of things, and I have never been ripped off. I fill out my order and send it in, and between two and four weeks later, a package comes in the mail or is delivered by UPS. It’s always a little bit like Christmas when a package comes. Usually, I have two or three things on order, so I’m never sure what has arrived until I get the package open.

Most things about mail order are commonsense. For example, the first thing you must have is price and ordering information. You can get this from the catalog or flyer of the company you are ordering from, or by a phone call. Many companies have toll-free phone numbers for ordering.

How do you get the catalog? Simple. Just telephone or write away and ask for it. You may need to send a dollar or two for some catalogs, but this amount is usually deductible from the first order. And the catalogs are often colorful and pleasant to browse through.

How do you get the address in order to send away for the cata­logue? Equally simple. Magazines are loaded with ads. I have found Computer Shopper is worth the cover price for the advertise­ments alone. Many magazines have reader service cards in the back, and you can get information from advertisers just by checking the numbers of the products or firms you are interested in.

Mail-order houses are competitive, so their prices are often low. Shop around for the lowest price. There will usually be a shipping and handling fee for the merchandise you order, but unless the mail order company is in Tennessee (and most aren’t), you won’t have to pay sales tax. Most items will generally be less expensive than if you bought them locally at a discount. And the more you order, the more you will save and the less the shipping will be per item. Some firms waive the postage and handling fee for large orders. I’ve found it is generally cheaper to buy through the mail than it is to buy locally.

There are some tricks you should learn about mail ordering. Read ads carefully. Never send cash. Send a personal check, a cashier’s check, a money order, or charge the purchase to your credit card. If you need your order in a hurry, send a money order instead of a check. Most firms wait for your check to clear before they send your merchandise. If you are in even more of a hurry, phone in your order and pay by charge card. Many people don’t like to do this because they’re afraid of fraud, but if you order from legitimate companies, the risk is no greater than if you purchase something locally with your card.

Watch out for fly-by-nights. Unless you can get a better price elsewhere, use established companies. But don’t be afraid of small companies. Most magazines are responsive to complaints from customers. They don’t carry ads from companies that rip people off. If a firm advertises month after month in one magazine, it’s a good sign it’s reputable. If you are unsure of a company, check with the Better Business Bureau in that company’s home town.

Some mail-order firms (and this is especially true in the volatile computer industry) will tell you they have a product in stock when they are in fact hoping it’ll soon arrive in the warehouse. This can tie your order up for weeks. “Vaporware” may be adver­tised (I’ve seen an ad for the new Commodore portable LCD computer which doesn’t seem to actually exist). If a product is unavailable in your home town, chances are the mail-order firm doesn’t actually have that product in their warehouse. On the other hand, mail-order companies are apt to get a large shipment when the product finally does arrive, and will then speedily fill their back orders.

Most mail-order companies are responsive when you have a problem. Occasionally, I run into a small company that is reluc­tant to give me satisfaction. If I can’t get results after two or three rounds of correspondence, I tell those companies my plan of action. After I tell a firm that I plan to report them (1) to the post office, for mail fraud; (2) to the Better Business Bureau; and (3) to the Chamber of Commerce in both their town and mine, I usually get what I want. I’ve found computer industries are especially responsive when I’ve threatened to post notices on bulletin boards around the country, write a bad review for my user group’s newsletter, send flyers to user groups around the country, and use my computer with a War Games dialer to play a short, taped message giving my opinion of their company to every phone owner in the area.

If all else fails, you can write Mail Order Action Line, D.M.A., Six East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017, but you probably won’t find it necessary to seek outside help. I never have. I’ve always been able to settle my disputes with the firm. Just the threat of outside intervention will usually do the trick.

Mail order requires a fair amount of letter writing, or at least the filling out of order forms. Using a word processor can take a lot of work out of correspondence. If you hate to write, maybe mail order isn’t for you. But for me, it’s a lot of fun!

Dissatisfied? (April, 1989)

NCUG Magazine (PDF)

©1989, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1989, April). Dissatisfied? Bad Experience at Computer Hardware Services. Nashville Commodore Users Group Newsletter, p. 9.


By 1989 computer users groups across the world were in decline. The NCUG magazine had been degraded to a newsletter, and whoever did layout used a Sharpie for titles.



Bad Experience at Computer Hardware Services

By Dallas Denny


There’s a place right here in Nashville which fixes computers and peripherals. I used to like doing business with them. I have taken a good deal of equipment to them, from a good half-dozen people who had computer problems. But I will not patronize them any more, and I forthwith cancel my recommendations. I had a bad experience with them, and chances are that if you do business with them, you will too.

It happened this way. Because of a bad power pack, my old-style C-64 bought the farm. Like I had done before, I packed it up and carried it to Computer Hardware Services.

About a week later, I received a phone call. A lady at Computer Hardware Services told me that many chips had been burned out and the board of the computer would need to be replaced. She said more than likely, the machine had a bad power pack. I sent her $ 100.00—95.00 for repair and $5.00 for shipping. At the same time, I ordered a power pack from an ad in a computer magazine.

The computer arrived a week after that. I straight­away discovered a peculiar problem with it. To test the computer, I happened to choose a music program. Only two of the three voices worked! I called Computer Hardware Services and explained that the computer was still defective. I sent the computer back to them, and while I was in Nashville for the Thanksgiving holidays, I picked it up. A technician “checked it out” before I picked it up. It only took him a minute, so I assume that he just made sure the blue screen came up. I took the machine back to East Tennessee and plugged it in. It played the music program fine. But the firs time I sat down to use the word processor (a day or two later), I discovered that the “N” key wouldn’t work with the right shift button. I called Computer Hardware Services right away and told them that I felt that with the rather subtle problems the new board was having, they should give me an entirely new one. After all, I had paid nearly the price of a new C64C, hadn’t I? And at least two of the chips on the new board were defective. How many more were?

I sent the C-64 back to them for repair. It came back fixed, so far as I have been able to tell, but it came back C.O.D. for nearly $40.00. I wrote Computer Hardware Services telling them that I didn’t think their charge was fair because they have never returned a fully functioning computer to me—and I had in essence bought a brand new computer, since it had a new board, and they not were only replacing what was defective in the old board. I told them I wanted the C.O.D. charge back. Three months later, I still haven’t heard from Computer Hardware Services. But you, NCUG fellow club member, are hearing from me. If this company does not honor its warranty, they have no business with our business. Caveat emptor. If you have problems with your C-64 or other Commodore equipment, I recommend that you do NOT take it to Computer Hardware Services. Buy a new computer for $129.00 at Toys-R-Us or take your old one elsewhere for repair—have it worked on by someone HONORABLE.

I’ve not finished with Computer Hardware Services. By the time I’m through complaining to the Better Business Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, the parts supplier, Commodore Business Machines, the parts supplier, UPS, the consumer protection agency, the sales tax commission, and everyone else I can think of; by the time I’ve posted this column on every computer bulletin board and users group newsletter within 500 miles; by the time I’ve asked everyone I know not to patronize them; by the time I’ve referred a dozen people elsewhere, I will have cost them well over the $40.00 or so they gypped me out of.

Letter to the Editor (June, 1989)

The Hard Copy (PDF)

©1989 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1989, June). Letter to the editor. The Hard Copy (Nashville Commodore Users Group Newsletter), p. 5.

By 1989 NCUG was in decline. The magazine had been downgraded to a newsletter.


Dallas Denny

P.O. Box 115

Afton, TN 37616


26 May, 1989


Nashville Commodore Users Group

Box 121282

Nasvhille, TN 37212


ATTN: Harold Fogle, Editor


Dear Harold:


I’m sorry to hear of the resignation of so many members of the executive committee. If the club can get through this, it will make it.

I noticed that the club is interested in computer applications with persons who have handicaps. That is one of my special interests. I have done much work in this area; in fact, I adapted the old 3-D maze game for use with the joystick—actually, somebody had already done the hard work—I just fixed it up so that the user need never use the keyboard. That disk should be in the NCUG library. If not, I”d be happy to send a copy to the P.O. Box.

I would be happy to assist with any projects the xlub has in this area. I am knowledgeable about various hardware devices such as speech synthesizers and environmental control devices, and am an accomplished BASIC programmer.

One gentleman here at Greene Valley, the facility where I work, is so physically handicapped that he cannot speak understandably and cannot use a keyboard, even with an adaptive device like a mouth pointer. He communicates by using a C-64 runging a software program I wrote especially for him. The program uses a single switch for input, and allows him to construct messages and route them to a speech synthesizer or printer. He has written speeches with the C-64 which were presented via the computer to the national meeting of the Association for Retarded Citizens and the Civitan Clubs of America. Come to think of it, his story might make a good article for the newsletter.

I would appreciate it if you would pass on my interests in this area to any member of the club you think might be interested.