Online "mini-FAQ"

All of the answers to the vast majority of the most often asked questions can be found right here....

My (random hardware item) needs repair. Please help me.

"Where can I sell the VIC-20 stuff I no longer want?"

"What is (random Vic20 item) worth?"

"Where can I buy more VIC-20 stuff?"

"How do I hook up my Vic20 computer system?"

"I have a game cartridge that does not work. How do I fix it?"

"Can I make my modern day computer play VIC-20 games?"

"How do I use the Internet's game programs on a real Vic20?"

Question "It seems like there is something wrong with my (insert random hardware item here). What is wrong with it? Why is it acting this way? How can I get it fixed?"
Answer First off, please understand that I am not interested in personally helping you to diagnose or repair your hardware items for free... especially not via e-mail, since that is nearly impossible even under the best circumstances. Nor would it be helpful for you to offer to pay me some token fee to do the work. As I tell just about everyone outside my family when they try to get me to fix a modern PC for them for free... "If you can't afford to take it in to a regular repair shop, you can't afford my hourly labor rates either."

However, there are some useful options still open to you. One of them is  comp.sys.cbm  on Usenet. If you first read their FAQs, peruse their current messages, and still don't find the answer to your repair question, post your question there. You may get lucky and have some kind soul (with time on their hands) offer you free repair advice. You may also be completely ignored or get bad advice; I have no control over that. You may also want to do something like a Google search on past Usenet postings.

Worst case deal, if you feel your hardware item is really "dead" then consider buying another one.

Question "Where can I buy more VIC-20 stuff?"
Answer Where other people are selling it, of course! (See the next question for a list of "for sale" places.)

And before some of you ask... "No, I do not wish to sell my personal VIC-20 collection to you."

If you are looking for items on a continuing basis, and you don't mind the time and effort it takes to scrounge for used items, the main places that most collectors find things locally is at thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales. Any places likely to have the contents of an attic or basement for sale is a potential hunting ground for "classic video game" items.

Question "Where can I sell the VIC-20 stuff that I no longer want?"
Answer Many people would like to just dump their whole system on me in exchange for cash. ("He's stupid, let's see if he'll buy this old junk!") Simply put, I do not want it. You're going to have to sell it to someone else. I have more than enough stuff already. Bottomline, you are going to have to put some effort into it.

You may want to check out this site's links section; "eBay" in particular. If you have access to Usenet newsgroups, two good ones for selling Vic20 items are  comp.sys.cbm  or; you may want to post a "for sale" message there. (You may also want to research old postings on Usenet using Google.) At most of these places you can "lurk" around to view other items for sale. In so doing, you can get an idea of what sells, where or how others sell it, and what prices items an currently gets.

Question "What is (random Vic20 item) worth?"
Answer Whatever someone will pay for it. Not more. Not less.

The "market" for items like this is literally as varied as the individuals that make it up. What one person would pay for something may not even be close to the price that another individual would pay for it.

Remember that items vary widely. For instance, one game cartridge may get a certain price while another will fetch a totally different price. Same with tapes and hardware. This is common for all of the other "retrogaming" system's cartridge collections. It usually is a reflection of the perceived "rarity" of the item, in the case of games. I ought to know: I write the VIC-20 section of the "Digital Press Collectors Guide". (Which only covers prices of game cartridges, and nothing else... no tapes, no hardware, nothing. Read it for yourself if you want to know the contents of the book.) In the guide, you will see these same basic comments there. Even price guides do not consider themselves to be the last word on the subject... its a guide, not the gospel. If someone wants to pay a different price, that's entirely their prerogative.

Bottomline, it will take some research effort on your part. Besides price guides, you can go to places that sell things and to look at what a similar item went for recently, when someone else sold it. For instance, the popular auction site "eBay" has a helpful link to sales in the last thirty days, once you've chosen the items you want to see. To make the most of what you have to offer, find out what the "hot" items are among your offerings, and try to sell (or trade?) those seperately if you can.

Whenever you are selling items that you are going to ship to another location, be aware of postal prices before you quote somebody a sale price. For instance, if you sell a VIC-20 computer system, even from State to State within the US, shipping alone on that relatively heavy item may cost you $15 or $20 out of pocket. If you sold the system to someone for a $20 flat fee then essentially you would be giving it away. A buyer may not be willing to pay $40 total for what they perceive to be a $20 item. That's just life.

Question "How do I hook up my Vic20 computer system?"
Answer This info was so frequently requested that I copied some of the pages out of the original Vic20 "owner's guide" and posted them online. Click here to see that.

The most common hook-up problem is that you need either special video cables to hook a Vic20 to a monitor or an "RF adapter" for TV hook-up. (If you are buying a system, triple check up front to insure that ALL such items are included, as they may be rather difficult to find after the fact.)

If you plan to use a TV set for your screen, be aware that the Vic20 "RF adapter" is NOT the same thing as a generic TV "game / computer" switch box. That type of box, when hooked up to a TV set, simply allows you to use the TV with two different sources; the TV antenna or the computer. The RF adapter supplied with the original VIC-20 system actually converts the VIC-20's (monitor only) video output to work with a television. Without it, TV output simply is NOT possible!
Question "Can I make my modern-day computer play VIC-20 games?"
Answer Yes, but only if you're willing to put the time in to get past the perhaps steep learning curve involved.

There are "software emulators" that allow you to do that. A handful of them can be found via the links section of this web site. There are some free (legal) games in the Starter Kit section of this web site, too.

There are a number of good emulators out there. You may want to try more than one, to see which one you like best, and that runs the best on your system. (My early personal favorite was "PC Vic" but "MESS" and others are good, too.) I have no intention of suggesting one over another... I don't keep track of them all, I have no idea what PC you have, what plug-in cards you are running on it, and so on.

Be aware that this is considered an advanced topic, not a beginner one. It will take work on your part to find an emulator that will work on your particular system, to get it all downloaded, un-zipped, and in full working order. If you have any questions about anything you download, read the instructions that come with the emulator... do not sent your emulator-related questions to me. I will not answer them.

Question "How do I use the Internet's game programs on a real Vic20?"
Answer You have to be able to transfer program files between the modern computer you use as a web browser and your Commodore home computers. To do this you need both a special cable -- there are several styles possible, but the generic name "X-1541" is what you're looking for -- and some special software.

The best place I've found on the net for this type of thing is the "Star Commander" home page. They have the special software you need; it can be downloaded for free. They also have lots of helpful technical instructions on what cable your particular system will need, and how to build that particular cable once you know what you need. (If you can't build such a cable by yourself, try asking about buying one on the comp.sys.cbm Usenet newsgroup or see the question on buying things.)
Question "I have a game cartridge that does not work. How do I fix it?"
Answer In the vast majority of cases, all that is usually wrong with it is that it needs to be cleaned. Dirty "edge connectors" don't allow good electrical contact. This is true for every game system ever made that uses software on cartridges. It is considered routine maintenance to keep all the contacts or fingers cleaned.

Look at the cartridge. Where it plugs into the computer there are some stripes of metal. (These are called "card edge connectors" or simply "contacts".) The computer has metal "fingers" that touch these contacts. If either of these metal surfaces are corroded or dirty, electricity will not be able to pass from the fingers to the contacts, at least not like it should be able to, so the cart / system will not work well.

To clean a game cartridge's contacts, carefully wipe the contacts using a Q-tip dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Be gentle and take your time. Use lots of Q-tips if you have to. Getting years of grunge off will take some work. (This method is how some video game stores clean off their game rental cartridges, by the way.) Be absolutely sure all the fluids have evaporated, before plugging a cart  in! Any fluid that gets into the computer creates a danger of hurting the computer system, and/or of attracting more dirt again.

If none of your cartridges work, clean the computer's cartridge port as well. If some carts do work, but others do not, clean the contacts on the individual cartridges that do not work.

All but a tiny percentage of cartridges can be brought back to life this way. There are more extreme methods -- such as mild abrasion with "grade 0000" style "carpenter's wool" after carefully opening the cartridge's outer plastic case -- but this method will get 90% of all cartridges working.

Still have questions? You may also want to download the complete VIC-20 Frequently Asked Questions guide. It includes sections on... how to load software from carts, tapes and disks... what hardware you will need to own to have a "real" VIC-20 starter system... where to find more resources.  And much more!

Last but not least, here is my e-mail address... and here are my thoughts on receiving certain types of e-mail.

Be aware that this e-mail address link is NOT here as an invitation to gleefully fill up my personal mail box with rude, irrelevant or ill-thought-out questions. Nor it is located here to invite people to ask me to repeat myself, or to tell me that they want some common bit of info but are not willing to do what I've said (above) to get that info. That's tough; don't be lazy. If it is not worth your time to read and follow the helpful advice I've already given you, above and in other places, then do not expect to get any personalized help from me.

If I continue to get problematic e-mails I will simply delete any and every e-mail link from this web site.