Whether you’re new to the CoCo, catching up on it, or actively involved, there’s a lot going on and a lot to keep track of, this page will serve as a “cheat sheet” on some of the basic things to know about owning and operating a Color Computer in the 21st century.
- The CoCo Crew Podcast
- The Color Computer Facebook Group
- The CoCoTALK! live talk show and podcast
- The Color Computer mailing list
- The most bang for your buck will be to get a 64K CoCo 2 on eBay, you should be able to get on for an average of $60 U.S. and if you can get a bundle including software or accessories, even better. A 64K CoCo 2 will run 100% of all software developed for the Color Computer 1 and 2 systems.
- A CoCo 3 is a great thing to have, they are less common these days, on average they go for around $150 on eBay, but bidding wars have gone up to $300. A CoCo 3 will run 99% of all CoCo 1/2 software, some “semi-graphic” modes don’t display on it, though. Most CoCo 3 machines are the stock 128K which, will probably run 80-90% of all CoCo 3 exclusive software including OS9 and games, however newer and higher end games, and a more functional experience in NitrOS9 require 512K. Upgrading the CPU in the CoCo 3 from the Motorola 6809 to the Hitachi 6309 gives a performance boost to NitrOS9 and some newer programs.
- CoCo 3 RAM upgrades are available from Cloud 9 and Retro Innovations, CPU upgrades can be performed by Cloud 9 and Boyson technologies
- Be prepared to spend roughly $300 to get a “fully loaded” CoCo 3 with the Hitachi CPU and 512K or more of RAM, based on current auction prices, if you can get one for less, god bless
- The single “must have” hardware device for any CoCo is the CoCoSDC controller, which is a floppy emulator that mounts disk images off an SD card. The CoCoSDC was designed by Darrin Atkins and is currently being produced, sold and shipped by Ed Snider AKA the Zipster. Ed makes the boards, John Strong of Strongware makes the 3D printed cases for them
- Software to run on the CoCoSDC can be obtained from the Color Computer archive, either as individual disk images, and there is the “Ultimate SDC” image which contains just about everything a person would want to run.
- VCC – the Virtual Color Computer 3 emulator, the most user friendly to launch, great user interface, fairly compatible with most CoCo 1/2 programs and a majority of CoCo 3 ones. If you want to hit the ground running with the least effort and technical involvement, this is the way to go. The down side to this emulator, is that it’s Windows based, it’s not directly compatible with Mac or Linux, though WINE wrappers and other things have been done to make it run native, and there are some specific hardware emulation issues that may not effect what you do, but for some obscure OS9 related things, and some games, things either won’t work, or wont’ work right. Also the color “artifacts” which appeared on US color TVs that generated orange and blue colors and were used in the majority of games look “off” the Orange is a dark red, the sky blue color is more navy blue. Not the end of the world, but not accurate. The project has not been updated in a few years, and there is no clear indication it will be any time soon. The current version is 2.something, and it still works out of the box, as is, barring the aforementioned issues.
- XROAR – 6809 emulation for US and EU versions of the Dragon 32/64 machines, and PAL and NTSC Color Computer 1/2 machines. probably one of the most rock solid emulators at a hardware level for the aforementioned machines, and hands down, the best color artifact emulation out there. It does offer a highly functional user interface/menu system and isn’t hard to use, the only “challenge” with this emulator, is it doesn’t include the ROM files needed for the versions of BASIC you want to run on your particular machine. This is to respect copyright, and those ROMS can be obtained from the Color Computer Archive separately and manually copied into the program folder. Xroar is developed by one person, Ciarian Anscomb, and as issues are discovered, if reported, they are addressed right away, so you have a single source to deal with updates, and he’s very responsive.
- MAME which is now also merged with MESS – MAME is the multiple arcade machine emulator, it’s been around for over 15 years, MESS is the Multi Emulation Super System, MAME was focused on arcade machine emulation, MESS was focused on home computers and game consoles, those two projects are now one, and this one program can run just about anything. If you are not familiar with running MAME, there is a steep curve upon entry to get up to speed with setting up and navigating the software. Like Xroar, ROM files need to be copied into a ROMS folder, there is a menu, but it’s far from elegant. On the plus side, it’s the most versitle emulator because it’s managed by hundreds+ people around the world, it’s based on modular technology which each component of a given system is emulated in a way where the same component “should” work on any other system that uses it, and you can emulate anything you want. The downside is, as things are changed, there’s often a ripple effect where one change “breaks” something, and this cat-and-mouse break/fix cycle will continue. Best advice, find a version set that works, and stick with that. The current version of MAME as of this writing is 0.192 and it will run a CoCo 1/2/3 with a variety of hardware options, it will also run a Dragon 32/64, MC-10, you name it, you’ll need the ROMS, and the ability to become familiar with not only how to launch the machine, but then how to pull up the in-emulation menu to load software into the machine. This has been simplified a bit with a Windows add-on called MAME UI or MESS UI which add a top menu bar for faster access to features. MAME is by far the most complex, but also one of the most compatible, and it’s the only emulator that currently emulates the speech and sound cartridge.
Legacy software, for the most part can all be obtained from the Color Computer Archive, for free, the legality, morality and copyright status of doing so on 30+ year old software is best explained by either a lawyer or the copyright holder, but, in all reality, most people are downloading all sorts of old software for both emulators and real machines. This web site doesn’t serve as legal advice, please consult legal council if you desire such advice. That being said there is no legitimate way to purchase “old software” whatever you get on eBay is going to benefit the seller, and not the original author or copyright holder of that program. Purchasing physical copies of tape, floppy, and cartridge based software is great for collecting, but not a requirement to run the software.
There are dozens of new software programs and projects going on, it’s never been a more exciting time to be a Color Computer owner and user! Many projects are being provided free from the developers, and there are many more that are for sales. It’s highly encouraged to support developers of new software, show your appreciation, actually pay for and purchase these products to keep the spirit of new software going, here’s a list, which is in no way complete.
- Mark McDougal has a ton of translated programs from Arcade machines to other systems like the ZX-Spectrum and Appple II that run a CoCo 3, check out his site in the projects section
- Glenn Hewlett has recently translated the original Pac-Man arcade game to run directly on the CoCo 3 with 512K RAM, this is a free download.
- Ciaran Anscomb, author of Xroar has released a port of the game Dunjunz from the BBC Micro to run on the Coco/Dragon
- There are a variety of software projects and ports going on in the Dragon community, many of which make their way to the CoCo, all of which can be run on Xroar
- Lee Patterson released Bouncy Ball in 2016 based on an iPhone game, it was provided as free software with a voluntary donation
- The original Donkey Kong, and an updated Donkey Kong Remix were translated, and created to run on the CoCo 3 by John Kowalski aka Sock Master, they are free, look under downloads
- John Strong of Strongware has a variety of games available on disk image, and on ROM cartridge, his latest offering was Bomb Threat, a Minesweep clone on a cartridge, this is a new brew game which is still available and can be purchased from John Strong directly, check in the buy/sell/trade section.
- John W. Linville has a variety of new CoCo games on new CoCo cartridges, they range in the $20-$40 price range for a sealed cartridge in the box with instruction card
- Rick Adams has released a brand new game Bomb Threat available on ROM cartridge and CD-ROM/Disk image, check buy/sell/trade
- Nick Marentes who’s released TRS-80 Model 1/3 games and few CoCo games through Tandy, and several more on his own released a new game Pop*Star Pilot in 2016 which can be purchased on a CD-ROM including a library of over a dozen other games, that can then be copied to run on the CoCoSDC, an emulator, or copied to physical floppies.
- Bruce Moore has released his latest game Forest of Doom, which is a DND RPG style adventure game, it’s sold by purchasing a printed strategy guide/cheat book, which give you the link to download the disk image and sound track
- Paul Thayer and Tim Thayer the CoCo Brothers have a variety of software available, Paul’s latest game Timber Man, for the 128K CoCo 3 can be obtained in a free digital version, a digital version with digital manual for $5, or a physical version on a custom printed label SD card, and a glossy, full-color manual and instruction guide for $20, look under downloads for more info
This list is by no way complete, but it’s what’s fresh in my mind, please join the Facebook group, and listen to the CoCo Crew and CoCoTALK! to stay on top of what continues to happen in the community, I hope this helps! Check for these things in the projects, downloads, and buy/sell/trade sections.
Hardware/Software Emulator Alternatives:
There are two current hardware emulation projects going on to create a new CoCo 3+ machine using FPGA based hardware emulation combined with real components, the 3rd option is a software based emulation solution.
- The first, and original project is the CoCoFPGA project by Gary Becker
- The second is Roger Taylor’s CoCo on a Chip project based on a DEC NANO FPGA solution
- The 3rd option, which is very compelling is the CoCoPi project, which is a downloadable disk image you can burn to a microSD card and run on a RaspberryPi3 machine, it’s based on MAME, but is menu driven, easy to launch and use, and comes with a ton of software already on the disk that’s fairly easy to load and run.
- Check for these links in the projects and downloads sections.
Real CoCos, software based emulators and hardware based CoCo alternatives all run the same software the same way, get the disk image, mount it, and run it like it’s a real floppy or hard drive.There is no real “need” to have a floppy drive, unless you have software that only exists on floppy disks that you need to get into the CoCo, and at that point, you can convert the physical floppy disk to a disk image. To manage a real floppy drive, combined with the CoCoSDC you’ll need a multi-pack interface, the original Tandy MPI devices are quite rare, but Ed Snider also makes a new “Mini MPI” which is about $80 and will let you run 2 devices, however, the type of floppy controller you can use will need to not require more than 5volts, so the old 12v FD500 controllers won’t work in it. Another option, without using an MPI, would be to use DriveWire to get the software onto a disk image on your computer.
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