James Matson explores the mysterious sorcery of the SD2IEC floppy emulator for the Commodore 64, a device which promises to reverse the aging process and give everlasting life to your favorite C64 games.
If you’re a reasonably regular reader of RD, you’ll know we bang on a bit about how entropy is the enemy of the vintage gamer. It’s not so bad if you’re a console nut, because cartridges have stood the test of time pretty well encased in their protective plastic shells. For those with a penchant for classic computers however, things are a little tougher and for Commodore 64 fans, even tougher still.
Cassette tapes are just about a lost cause, and even if you find C64 tape games that are in good nick chances are your C64 tape drive is just waiting – greedily – to chomp them into bite sized pieces of magnetic tape at a moments notice. That leaves you with 5.25″ floppy based games which – with their ability to accumulate mold or be bent out of shape – are only more reliable by the slimmest of margins. You could go the emulator route and forget about hardware altogether, but that feels like you’re losing connection with the whole point of vintage computing. There’s something much more tangible about gaming on the system itself, especially the iconic Commodore 64.
That’s where the SD2IEC comes in.
You might have read our review on the HxC Floppy emulator for the Amiga, and the SD2IEC works on a similar principle. Leveraging off the storage potential of the common SD card, the SD2IEC contains components allowing it to completely emulate an original Commodore 64 floppy drive. This allows you to store .D64 images (C64 floppy images) commonly used with C64 emulators on an SD card, insert it into the SD2IEC and then run the games on original Commodore hardware as a flawless reproduction of the original.
While there may be multiple sources to obtain the SD2IEC, we found plenty of listings on eBay to satisfy the avid buyer, with a variety of cosmetic flavours (clear case, 1541 style colors etc) as the only real difference. You can expect to pay between $75 – $80 AUD and another $7 postage to get it from the UK to your lap, but after spending a week with the SD2IEC we can say it’s totally worth the investment. For your hard earned coin you’ll get the SD2IEC device itself (which neatly plugs into both the serial port of your C64 for communication and the tape port for 5v power) and a set of printed instructions which tell you where to go to get the menu software (essential to allow you to navigate through your list of D64 images) and how to configure your SD2IEC.
The process of set up is easy enough, and within a few minutes you’ll have a fully functioning SD card drive ready to accept C64 games. The menu system is simple and clear with joystick or keyboard navigation possible. After set up, the sky really is the limit as the internet seems to have no shortage of places to download individual D64 files or entire sets of games (in the case of the famous TOSEC libraries).
The unanimous feeling here at RD is that the SD2IEC breathes new life into the Commodore 64, and is well worth the money considering the ease of setup and solid build quality. If you have any specific questions about the SD2IEC, HxC floppy emulator or any other type of vintage computer SD interface feel free to drop us a line on our facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/RetroDomination