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Commodore C64 Survives Over 25 Years Balancing Drive Shafts In Auto Repair Shop (hothardware.com) 290

MojoKid writes: One common gripe in the twenty-first century is that nothing is built to last anymore. Even complex, expensive computers seem to have a relatively short shelf-life nowadays. However, one computer in a small auto repair shop in Gdansk, Poland has survived for the last twenty-five years against all odds. The computer in question here is a Commodore C64 that has been balancing driveshafts non-stop for a quarter of a century. The C64C looks like it would fit right in with a scene from Fallout 4 and has even survived a nasty flood. This Commodore 64 contains a few homemade aspects, however. The old computer uses a sinusoidal waveform generator and piezo vibration sensor in order to measure changes in pressure, acceleration, temperature, strain or force by converting them to an electrical charge. The C64C interprets these signals to help balance the driveshafts in vehicles. The Commodore 64 (also known as the C64, C-64, C= 64) was released in January 1982 and still holds the title for being the best-selling computer of all time.
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Commodore C64 Survives Over 25 Years Balancing Drive Shafts In Auto Repair Shop

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  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @03:05AM (#52981949) Journal
    I don't know how the disks are still readable with all that dust.
    • Re:dust (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @03:06AM (#52981953) Homepage Journal

      Disks? It probably uses cassettes!

      • There's a 1541-II right there on the desk with it. Newer model Commodore 64-C. I can still smell it.
        • The 1541-II was (is) surprisingly rugged. It didn't have the overheat and head alignment issues that plagued the original 1541.

          • by pahles ( 701275 )
            I still remember glueing the axel that moved the head with some super glue and having the casing open in order to let the heat out... :)
          • by pahles ( 701275 )
            Not axel of course, but axle... :(
          • The 1541-II was (is) surprisingly rugged. It didn't have the overheat and head alignment issues that plagued the original 1541.

            The disks themselves spin inside a cleaning cloth (the inside of a floppy sleeve). There's no fan to suck dirt in, so...plausible.

            I'm more surprised that the monitor still works.

        • Re:dust (Score:5, Funny)

          by nicomede ( 1228020 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @03:40AM (#52982051)

          I still have the pinch I used to make these floppies double sided cutting the notch on the side. When I explained my daughters what this was for, they looked at me like if I just explained them how I squashed rocks to make fire...

          • Re:dust (Score:5, Funny)

            by Lisandro ( 799651 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @04:39AM (#52982187)

            Hell, i've recently explained the concept of "dial up" to a millennial. Got the exact same reaction in response.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward

              I think most millennials would have had dial-up if they had internet in their household when they were growing up. We really need a different term for the folks born post 1990. I figure by the strict definition that I'm a millennial but I started with 28.8 and later 36.6k and playing the 3 Stooges Game on a Commodore Amiga and reader rabbit off 5.25" floppy disks on a 486 system.

            • Hehehe, yeah, taking that concept back a few years to 1999, my (at the time) 11 year old son and I were playing the game Driver that had just come out.
              I got the same reaction from him during a cutscene that showed Tanner using a rotary phone. I had to explain what he was doing as my son had never seen one before.
              After that I'm certain he believes we made fire with sticks and wrote on clay tablets in school.
        • by Dins ( 2538550 )
          I can still smell what my power supply smelled like when it blew. Was not a pleasant smell.
    • I repaired a PC that was primarily used in an automotive repair facility. That's not dust. It's soot from the exhaust. Unsurprisingly, the CD-ROM drive in the machine that I was repairing was nonfunctional because the lens was dirty.

      You're right, though. I have no idea how that floppy drive is still operational after 30+ years.
      • Re:dust (Score:5, Informative)

        by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashikiNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday September 29, 2016 @05:02AM (#52982231) Homepage

        That likely wasn't soot from exhaust, it was brake dust. Automotive exhaust unless it's diesel has a very low soot footprint, you're talking 20 PPM or less in counts even back in the 90's. I was an apprentice in the 90's when the switch over from non-metallic aka full asbestos to semi-metallic happened. And you'd find that shit everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. The vic20 we used for alignments was full of it, it would get into tool cabinets, into air lines if they'd been hug for a while, it would even clog your compressor air-intake. Exhaust was almost always vented outside(or with the doors opens) since you have a CO hazard in enclosed spaces.

        Until the real dangers of asbestos were known, simply knocking the brakes loose was the standard practice even into the late 90's. Meaning when you broke them loose you were kicking asbestos and other particulate into the air, and of course breathing it in. Then we started spraying down the drums and rotors to mitigate the dust problem. I go for chest x-rays every 3-4 years to check for mesothelioma and for good reasons.

      • I repaired a PC that was primarily used in an automotive repair facility. That's not dust. It's soot from the exhaust. Unsurprisingly, the CD-ROM drive in the machine that I was repairing was nonfunctional because the lens was dirty.

        You're right, though. I have no idea how that floppy drive is still operational after 30+ years.

        I used to work for an oil company. It takes less than a year for a computer to go from shiny new to looking like this. Even less time in a garage. The biggest problem isn't brake dust or exhaust but the combination of those plus oil and grease from mechanics. The grease and oil gets on the case and then everything else just sticks and builds up layers.

    • Because it is a very low density magnetic storage. I wouldn't expect it to be as sensible to dust as modern drives - specially when everything is optical these days.

      • Re:dust (Score:5, Informative)

        by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @03:25AM (#52982007) Journal
        The 1541 floppies were definitely not as sensitive as later 3 1/2 floppies (which got corrupted if you looked at them funny), but they weren't invincible, dust and fingerprints could still cause problems.
        • Looks like the disk in that drive hasn't been removed in 25 years as well. If that's the case it wouldn't really surprise me why it still works.

          The only thing, in my experience, that would reliably kill 5 1/4 floppies were magnets, even small ones. You could bend them and, as long as they wouldn't crease they would still work fine.

    • by pahles ( 701275 )
      Since the handle of the disk drive is open, the question is, is it used at all? I guess it does since there is no cassette player in the picture, but still...
      • well it only have to be used once per boot and who sais that this machine has ever been turned off?
        • by sjbe ( 173966 )

          well it only have to be used once per boot and who sais that this machine has ever been turned off?

          How probable do you think it is that they haven't had a power outage in 25 years?

        • I noticed that as well but I figured it was just for the photo-shoot. The handle isn't clean enough for it to be raised/lowered very often and they have to be loading the BASIC from somewhere.

    • I guess today it would be quite cheap to build your own ROM cartridge. It would be a nice experiment, apart from the fact that you should convert the program to assembly (or maybe you can put a basic program in the cartridge?)
      • The internal layout of those ROM cartridges is really simple. I knew a guy back in the 90's who would whip up embedded systems by burning a 27256 EPROM chip (the ones with windows on them so you can erase with UV light) and popping it into a DIP socket. The way I remember it, the BASIC interpreter is available in C=64 assembly language, but the BASIC ROM uses up some of the address space (blocking access to some RAM), so most programs bank-switch it off. My guess is you would have to have a stub of assemb
    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      With a fixed program like driveshaft balancing: you could have programmed it to a PROM chip, and put it on a board to load through the C64's ROM cartridge slot

    • Perhaps it not used (and may not work).

      It's possible it's running from cartridge (remember those!!) and the 1541 is just sitting collecting dust.

      • Hmm, actually looking at the picture there's no way a cartridge could be there (drive is in the way).

        But you can also see that the 1541 drive door is not closed (it's the twist down type).. Is someone pulling some shenanigans on this one?

  • by Lisandro ( 799651 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @03:17AM (#52981975)

    ...when things were built to last. I tried my C64 about two months ago, which had been collecting dust on a bin for over 20 years and it worked just like the day my parents got it for me. Including the datasette and 1541 disk drive.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The 1541 disk drives were quite unreliable, even when they were new. If yours is still working you are very lucky.

      • Agreed. Mine was a brown box 1541, but i have to say the later generations (like the 1541-II) were much more reliable.

      • by JMZero ( 449047 )

        The first thing I usually saw fail was the power supply (or at very least it would need some after-market cooling, like a tiny fan).

        But yeah, the core processor stuff was crazy durable. I guess that makes sense when you imagine what it looks like compared to a modern processor - with oceans of empty space between every gargantuan wire and transistor.

  • Commodore engineers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The management of Commodore was pretty incompetent in the later years, but they always had top notch engineers. The C64 and the Amiga have lived far beyond many of the other computers from their eras, which is a testament to the engineers. The MOS 6581 (MOS was owned by Commodore) is still in high demand today because of its unique sound quality. As I understand it, the MOS 6581 was an unfinished product and was being designed to have far greater capability than what it ended up with. There's no substitute

    • That's what spelled death for Commodore, their engineers were too good. They built stuff that didn't break and hence you only sold once.

      • by F.Ultra ( 1673484 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @04:58AM (#52982223)
        No that was not why they died. The whole management was corrupt and Irving Gould used the company as his personal check book.
        • by Shinobi ( 19308 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @05:20AM (#52982275)

          Not just Irving Gould. Ali Mehdi was just as greedy personally, and penny-pinching in running the company. When engineers proposed the A3000 with a 68030, he personally called them up to ask whether the 68030 was truly necessary, if there weren't cheaper components that could be used

          • by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @07:44AM (#52982589) Journal
            Irving Gould and Mehdi Ali can both rot in h*ll as far as I am concerned. I will NEVER forget those names. They took a company that had a successful product and great engineers and squeezed it for every last penny purposely skimping on re-investment and new products for the express purpose of greed.
            • by dave420 ( 699308 )

              I like how you put the asterisk in "hell", but then proceeded to judge the ever-loving shit out of some people, including knowing their inner motivation. You're terrible at this.

              • Did you own a commodore product at the time? I judge by their actions and by the interviews of former employees and by what they said.
      • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @07:25AM (#52982501) Homepage Journal

        That works/worked* in the car industry where a car that's twenty five years old isn't typically much less advanced than one twenty years old. But in our industry?

        Commodore's problem was more that they took an age to substantially improve the Amiga and make those improvements available. The A500 was more or less an A1000 in a keyboard case and was still being sold as one of TWO Amiga models five years later. And the A2000, the other model, wasn't more powerful than the A1000 (or A500), it was just more expandable. In the same year they finally relented and released the A3000, a 32 bit Amiga, but priced it way out of consideration for most people.

        None of this was the engineers' fault it should be pointed out. While it took a while to come up with a better base chipset to replace OCS/ECS, the engineers were still belting out some fantastic designs, most of which were squished by upper management. Commodore Management's response to the increasing obsolescence of their low end model wasn't to replace it with something better, it was to replace it, at the same price, with the A600, a machine that was worse in almost every respect (well, it did have an IDE interface...), and which had been designed as a replacement for the Commodore 64.

        Had the A3000 replaced the A2000 in 1990, with a similar upgrade given to the A500, I think Commodore might have stood a chance.

        * OK, there's a reason I put 20 years there and "worked" - the car industry is genuinely going through a development phase which is nice to see.

        • The A500 was more or less an A1000 in a keyboard case and was still being sold as one of TWO Amiga models five years later.

          Twice the RAM, twice the RAM expansion, kickstarter in ROM... At least it had meaningful differences.

          And the A2000, the other model, wasn't more powerful than the A1000 (or A500), it was just more expandable.

          Now that's true. The A500 really is just an A2000 with a video connector and more slots.

        • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

          While it took a while to come up with a better base chipset to replace OCS/ECS, the engineers were still belting out some fantastic designs, most of which were squished by upper management.

          The above was a really good case study in business ecosystem dynamics.

          When the Amiga 1000 came out, it was alien technology -- probably 10 years ahead of its time. The Amiga OCS chipset's graphics and sound hardware of its contemporary competitors look like historical artifacts, and it's OS was an actual pre-emptive multitasking operating system, not just a glorified disk loader.

          However, any company in the world could design, build, and sell a new PC sound card or a new PC graphics card, any many of them d

      • That's what spelled death for Commodore, their engineers were too good. They built stuff that didn't break and hence you only sold once.

        What spelled death for Commodore was Jack Tramiel.

    • Jay Miner was one of my idols.
  • But maybe not the oldest one [forrestbrown.co.uk]!
  • Anybody remembers the TV ad song? I just came through my mind, it went like:

    "I adore my sixty-four, my Commodore sixty-four"

    Heck, I just googled for it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 29, 2016 @03:26AM (#52982013)

    youth like it's a museum piece? Please?

  • by ctrl-alt-canc ( 977108 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @03:35AM (#52982039)
    ...was managing the inventary of a bookstore here in Italy. I saw it about five years ago, and the bookstore was specialized in ancient books.
    It was a really inspiring vision to see on the same desk a C64 surrounded by some in-folio [wikipedia.org] books. Too bad that the store was shut down recently, don't know what happened to the C64.
  • Sure it didn't last so long because well maintained.
    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      It would be a bad idea to clean it now -- at this point the dirt is its primary structural element.

  • by Yenya ( 12004 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @04:57AM (#52982221) Homepage Journal

    I highly doubt C64 is the best-selling computer of all time. Wikipedia estimates 10M-17M C64s were sold. It of course depends on what is a computer: for example, many smartphones have CPU(s), memory, storage, and even display. According to this page, in 2011 Apple sold 72M iPhones: https://www.statista.com/stati... [statista.com] . Also, 10M Raspberry Pi computers were sold till 2016: https://www.raspberrypi.org/bl... [raspberrypi.org]. I guess Arduinos have similar numbers, but they are hard to track because of clones.

    • There are 80 millions of PlayStation 3 in the world:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • I'm surprised that it was that few. I remember seeing them for £50 in Argos about a decade after they were first released. They were incredibly popular as games machines and a load of shops had a row of C64 game tapes for around 50p each (NES games were around £10, if I remember correctly, at the same time).
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Our local school has an Amiga running the HVAC in 9 schools

    http://woodtv.com/2015/06/11/1980s-computer-controls-grps-heat-and-ac/

  • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @07:54AM (#52982623)

    The worst part is you couldn't program C++ on the C65.

  • They can all thank this hard working machine.
  • I love how the three most battered/worn keys are "R" "U" and "N"

  • "Commodore C64 Survives Over 25 Years Balancing Drive Shafts In Auto Repair Shop"

    I completely misunderstood this headline and thought it was literally balancing drive shafts, as in they were missing a cinder block that day, stuck a C64 under them instead, and they'd been sitting like that in the back for 25 years.

    Still impressive I guess :)

  • My Amstrad CPC6128 was way better than the C=64 !!

    ;-)
  • by Not-a-Neg ( 743469 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @10:05AM (#52983289)

    Is the quality of the balancing compared to the modern equivalent device shops use. Is it still accurate after 25 years? Was it ever accurate or as accurate as a modern device can calculate?

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