The VIC-20 and Twitter March 20th, 2010 by b-knox

On Feb 20th, 2010, Syd Bolton and friends presented the first tweet posted by a Commodore VIC-20 at the Personal Computer Mueseum in Ontario, Canada.  The video of this event isn’t the greatest, the VIC’s screen absolutely illegible and the enthusiasm overtly academic.  But, for a moment in time, some level of history was made.  Not only did computer technology separated by generations of innovation effectively communicate, but a non-profit, niche museum had it’s 15 minutes of fame on a national scale.

I don’t know whats more amazing : the 30 year old VIC-20 on television or a newscaster that can program his sign-off on a Commodore 64!

Syd Bolton’s sentimental decision for this particular machine, as it was his first machine, caught me up in my own romances.  It was my first machine too.  Tweeting had already been done on the Commdore 64, and the VIC offers a new height of challenge with it’s limited 3.5kb RAM for loading/writing software.  Bolton even choose a datasette peripheral device for storing the tweeting program.  But how does it really work?

top tweetVer running on VIC-20
bottom tweetVer source code is written in BASIC
Photos by Leif Bloomquist

The VIC-20 is connected to a modern PC via it’s RS-232 interface.  With this port and protocol, a Commodore computer is capable of communicating with various hardware including hobbyist electronics.  The modern PC software is titled tweetVer and is supposed to be public soon and supporting multiple 8bit platforms.  TweetVer, I am guessing, is the hub between 8bit and interwebs, doing the actual posting.  This is where some controversy begins, the VIC-20 vicariously attached to the web rather than directly.

The application of the experiment is a complete novelty, but the experiment itself is an awesome example of geek gadgetry and exploration.  At first glance,  I was hoping the VIC-20 negotiated an ISP and was directly utilizing the Twitter API.  From what I gathered through some comments, this method is actually possible, though you’d have to find a person willing to waste hours upon hours developing a complete novelty.

Some net trolls have garnered this epic event as nothing more than a publicity stunt.  It doesn’t help matters when a self-proclaimed VIC-20 lover poops out a generic press release for their first post on a community forum. But taking a cynical approach against a non-profit computer museum falls daft. The ends, exposing the masses to an antique machine stull usabel today, justifies the means.

All in all, afterall,  it is a nifty idea.

Filed under — Speculation
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