Peripherals

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VIC peripherals.jpg


Introduction to Peripherals for the VIC-20

A large part of the success of the VIC-20 can be attributed to the peripherals (as differentiated from accessories) that were sold separately for use with it. Because of the VIC's many connector ports, a whole range of devices could be attached to the computer. This allowed the VIC-20 to expand its abilities and far beyond that of the basic stock model. Compared to a contemporaneous video-game console (i.e. Atari 2600 VCS), the VIC's ability to use peripherals "sold" many buyers on the machine by showing that it could do more than just play games. Many obvious and necessary peripherals were developed and sold by Commodore and third-party companies (printers, modems, tape drives) while other, more esoteric devices stretched the VIC's usefulness further than even its designers had envisioned.

VIC-20 expansion schematic

Storage Devices

The Datasette - an external storage device for the VIC-20.

During the early 1980s, external storage devices for the VIC-20 were mostly based on magnetic media. The most popular (and cheapest) was the Compact Cassette based tape drive (datasette). The 5.25-inch floppy disk drive was a faster, although more expensive, option.


The VIC-20 is also compatible with other storage devices designed for the Commodore 64 and 128 which appeared after it was no longer in production.

  • CMD FD-2000 and FD-4000
  • CMD HD
  • Commodore 1571
  • Commodore 1581
  • Jim Brain's uIEC family of solid state storage adapters
  • Gideon Zweijtzer's 1541 Ultimate and 1541 Ultimate Plus

Although not a storage device in itself, 64HDD is a software created by Nick Coplin that allows the use of a DOS based PC as a form of storage device for the VIC-20, 64 or 128.

Tape & Disk accelerators

Because the data transfer rate of tape storage devices like the datasette was rather slow, a few companies developed solutions to accelerate the speed at which software and data files could be loaded and saved.

Disk acceleration solutions for the VIC-20 mostly appeared long after it disappeared from the marketplace.

Tape accelerators:

  • Eastern House Software The Rabbit
  • Compute's Gazette Turbotape

Disk drive accelerators:

  • Compute's Gazette Turbodisk (compatible with the 1541, and NTSC VIC only)
  • Hypra-System (released in 1986 by Markt&Technik; works with 1541, and 1571; PAL only)
  • Nicola Batista's Easy Load+ (released in 2007)
  • CMD JiffyDOS for the VIC-20 (released in 2006)

Memory Expansion

An 8K RAM expander: the VIC-1110 8K RAM Cartridge
A 32K RAM expander by Darktronic

Next to the Datasette, memory expansion was another very popular peripheral upgrade for Vic 20 owners. Many people ran into limits with 3.5k of memory rather quickly; while it was sufficient for simple games and terminal emulators, more sophisticated programs required more memory. Memory expansion was achieved by plugging a RAM cartridge into the Vic 20's cartridge port. With the exception of the 3k expansion solutions, most memory expansion came in 8k blocks and changed the Vic 20's memory map. For memory expansion needs, the 8k RAM cartridge was one of the more popular solutions.

List of Memory expansion devices for the VIC-20:

  • VIC-1110 8K RAM Cartridge
  • VIC-1111 16K RAM Cartridge
  • VIC-1210 3K RAM Cartridge
  • VIC-1211A Super Expander (3K RAM expander + BASIC extension)
  • Adman 16K RAM Pack
  • Microtek VIM-1 8/16K Memory Expansion Module
  • Data-20 16K RAM cartridge (One of two known RAM expansion for the VIC-20 that uses DRAM chips)
  • Xetec 32K RAM Card (One of two known RAM expansion for the VIC-20 that uses DRAM chips)
  • Stonechip V2016 16K RAM
  • Stonechip Vixen (Switchable between 16K and 8+3K)
  • Downsway 16K Cartridge (Switchable between 16K, 8K and 3K)
  • Stack Storeboard (Sockets for 24K + 3K RAM & 4K ROM expansion with a passthrough cartridge slot)
  • Apropos RAMAX (24K + 3K RAM expansion with 2 cartridge slots)
  • Eslapion's 32K RAM + 32K ROM Ultimate Expander (released in 2006, production stopped in 2013, 50 units were produced)
  • 6502dude's 32K + 3K RAM with 2 x 8 MBit ROM Mega-Cart (released in 2009)
  • VIC-2009 Final Expansion, 512K RAM, 512K Flash EEPROM, SD2IEC, and RTC (released in 2009 as kit)
  • 64K

Printers

The Seikosha GP-100VC dot matrix printer was a clone of the popular VIC-1525.

Printers allowed the output of programs, BASIC listings and documents created in a word processor to be output to paper "hard copy". Most VIC-20 printers used either daisy-wheel or dot-matrix pin printing technology. These early printers were often slow and noisy. Even so, the fact that electronic printing technology was finally small and cheap enough to be available to the home/hobbyist user was an important milestone in home computing technology.

Modems

The VIC-20 is also compatible with many other modems designed for the Commodore 64 and 128 which appeared after it was no longer in production. This includes the Commodore Modem/1200 model 1670.

Monitors

Input Devices

Cartridge Slot Expanders

  • VIC-1010 Slot Expander
  • Cardco Cardboard/6 and 3s
  • VIC-1020 expansion chassis
  • HESCard 20 (5 slot expander)
  • Apropos RAMAX (24k + 3k RAM expansion with 2 slot expander)
  • Stonechip Vixen Motherboard (4 slot expander with 24 pin EPROM socket)
  • Dataspan-50 (5 slot expander)
  • Arfon Micro VIC-20 Expansion Chassis (7 slot expander with power supply)
  • Maplin VIC 20 Extendiboard GB41U (3 slot expander with 3K RAM expansion)

Display Boards

Speech Modules

AdmanSpeechSynthesizer.jpg

Numeric Keypads

  • Cardkey Numeric Keypad

Printer Interfaces

  • Card? +G/G-Wiz/Super-G Printer Interface
  • Cardco G-Wiz
  • Cardco Super-G
  • Xetec Super Graphix Jr.

Power Supplies

Data Interfaces

Data interfaces are peripherals which allow the VIC-20 to communicate and control external devices that do not use one of the VIC-20's native connectors or communications protocols. In a sense, they act as intermediaries, or translators, between the VIC-20 and the external foreign device.


An advertisement by Commodore touting peripherals for the VIC-20.