Storage is a problematic thing with the C-64 and most other 8-bitters. Floppies are great, but drives are heavy. That’s why I got the 1541U last year and my whole body was satisfied with it. But at 130 euros, it’s a bit pricey. The uIEC is roughly half price and lets you browse the memory card just like with a floppy disk. It was developed by Jim Brain, one of the titans of the Commodore world. Although it doesn’t work with all software, it’s still a great substitute for a disk drive.
The uIEC comes with no documentation whatsoever, which is kind of nice, but there’s actually not so much info online either. For the hardcore nerds that’s not a problem of course. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably insert it upside down. Like I did. But bloggers like Ilesj are helpful, and I wanted to do something similar. Please comment if you find any mistakes or have suggestions.
tl;dr. /// GOOD: cheap, doesn’t require d64-files, good-looking. /// BAD: tricky interface, no casing, no manual. /// TRICKS: buy with daughter card, update the firmware, use with Final Cartridge. /// I THINK it’s a good gadget for gigs – just put all your stuff on a memory card and avoid all that D64-confusion on stage.
The speed. The uIEC is just as slow as a normal disk drive, unless you use its built-in JiffyDOS fastloader. You can use it either by installing a piece of hardware in your C-64, or use e.g the SJLOAD-software. When you have it on the memory card, simply add a !* before the filename (LOAD”!*PROGRAM”,10,1). It loads very fast. However, SJLOAD doesn’t support shortcuts to enter directories, copy files, etc. To enter a D64-file for example, you have to write OPEN1,8,15,”CD//:ACIDBURGER.D64″:CLOSE1. So we need more interface.
The interface. I’m a bit lost with this, admittedly. Would be great with a simple support for short commands, but not sure if it exists. With programs like FB64 you can move around the memory card and load files from directories and D64-files. Also, the SJLOAD stays active if you loaded FB64 with it. Also, there’s software like CBM-Command to transfer files between D64/floppy/cards, etc. If you like that Norton Commander thing.
The loaders. The uIEC generally doesn’t work with software that tries to run code on the drive. So games and demos with many files and custom fastloaders probably won’t work. I noticed that SJLOAD caused some problems – like not being able to load files in the music software I use. So hopefully something better than SJLOAD will appear (or did it already?). There are a few fastloaders supported, such as Final Cartridge (couldn’t find mine to test with though). Also, plenty of the tools I use didn’t work until I updated the firmware.
The firmware. I had to update the firmware to be able to run software from folders or D64:s. No big deal though, just put the files on the memory card and it manages on its own.
Btw, good to know:
- The uIEC is device 10 by default. To show the directory you write LOAD”$”,10 instead of the normal LOAD”$”,8.
- If you buy the uIEC with daughterboard, you don’t have to fix your own power supply. Then it uses the cassette port for power.
- You can build an uIEC into a nice external box if you want to. Check out this one by Rik Magers for example: