Commodore Telbbsing With Retropie

Introduction: Commodore Telbbsing With Retropie

Close your eyes.. It's 1985....

Wham! plays on the radio....

It's time to relax at the computer to catch up with friends...

There is no Internet, no Facebook, no Google...

It's you and your Commodore 64 and a dial-up modem.

This Instructable will take some of you back to the fond memories of BBSing in the 80s. It'll teach others what it was like to use the popular communication systems of the era. -- The Bulletin Board System, or BBS.

The really neat part is that there are many Commodore BBS systems still alive and running today. Instead of using telephone lines and modems, they are connected to the Internet You can "dial up" using the VICE Commodore emulator included in the Raspberry Pi's Retropie.

What you'll need:

  • A Raspberry Pi 2 or 3
  • The Retropie Distribution running on the Raspberry Pi
  • A few easily installed "apt-get" programs.
  • The Internet Connection you are using right now.
  • A Commodore Terminal Program (ccgms71.d64)

Ready to learn that Retropie is more than playing NES and Playstation games?

Read on Adventurer...

Step 1: Setting the Scene...

We'll use Retropie for this because it comes loaded with a ready-to-use version of VICE, the Commodore 64 emulator. Almost every Raspberry Pi hobbyist has a Retropie image already created in their library for playing old video games roms, but it's capable of so much more..

Step 1:

Once booted to the "Emulation Station" of Retropie, exit by clicking on START and Quit Emulation Station.

This will place you at bash command prompt.

Don't worry if you haven't used bash before. Grab your keyboard and I'll take you step-by-step.

at the pi@retropie:~ $ prompt type the following commands:

sudo apt-get install netcat

sudo apt-get install tcpser

Answer [Y] to each prompt to install these two programs. These will provide our virtual 2400 baud modem.

Step 2:

Once they are installed, type the following commands: (As pictured)


tcpser -v 25232 -s 2400 -p 6400 -l 4

This will launch the virtual modem TCPSER. You will need to do this step each time you get ready to dial up.

Step 2: Configure the VICE Commodore Emulator

UNIX/Linux systems are wonderful, multi-user, mult-session devices.

This means that we can leave the Virtual modem software running on the screen we have it, and simply change screens to start an additional session on our Raspberry Pi.


This will switch us from session one to a second session on the Raspberry Pi. Log into the Raspberry Pi again.

at the pi@retropie:~ $ prompt type the following command:


This will launch the VICE Commodore 64 Emulator.

Don't worry if it doesn't go full screen, that can be adjusted later.

Step 3: Teaching VICE to See the Virtual 2400 Baud Modem

Let's dig below that bright blue screen into the VICE settings.

Press F12.

Use the cursor keys to arrow down to "Machine Settings" and then arrow right.

Cursor down to "RS232 Settings" and then arrow right.

Arrow down to "Userport RS232 emulation" and press ENTER to activate. It'll display an asterisk *

Arrow down to "Userport RS232 host device" and select 4. (Use left arrow to go back)

Arrow down to "Userport RS232 baud rate" and select 2400. (Use left arrow to go back)

Arrow down to "Device 4 baud rate" and select 2400. (Use left arrow to go back)

Now, here's the very touchy part.

Arrow down to "Device 4 ... " and press ENTER.

Carefully delete the entire line EXCEPT for the British Pound Sign, then add

nc 25232

Compare all of your changes with image 3 in this step.

Once your screen looks like mine, use the left arrow to go back to the first menu, go down to "Settings Management" and save your settings. You shouldn't have to do this again.

Settings Saved? Use "Quit Emulator" to go back to the Raspberry Pi pi@retropie:~ $ prompt.

Step 4: Commodore Terminal Program: CCGMS

When you surf the web, you use a web browser. Surfing BBSes, you use a Terminal Program.

I included a link to the terminal program I use on the first page of this Instructable.

It's a free program called, CCGMS.

Download the .zip file, extract it and copy it to your /home/pi folder on your Raspberry Pi.

at the pi@retropie:~ $ prompt type the following command:

/opt/retropie/emulators/vice/bin/./x64 /home/pi/ccgms71.d64

This time the VICE Commodore Emulator launches, loading the CCGMS terminal program.

Keep in mind that we still have our Virtual 2400 baud modem running in session 1. Right?

At the main screen, let's test the modem with a Hayes commands.


ATH and press ENTER

You should see an OK

If you don't get an OK, press F7 and make sure you are set for 2400 Baud in the terminal program.


You are ready to do some TelBBSing!

Step 5: Dialing BBS Systems With CCGMS

Back in the day, when you called a BBS using a real modem, the dial command looked like this:

ATDT areacode-phone number

Using the Internet with a Virtual modem works like this:

ATDT domain-name:port#

For example, if I want to dial Eagle Wing BBS, I'll use ATDT

The wonderful part of CCGMS that that it doesn't care if the field has a phone number or domain name.

I've included a bunch of great systems in my copy of CCGMS.

Need some more? Try: for more great dial systems.

Step 6: Some Advance Configuration

Dialing BBS systems in a fun, relaxing way to meet people who enjoy old computers.

Want to make things easy for next time?

At the pi@retropie:~ $ prompt type the following command:

pico /home/pi/.bashrc

Cursor down to the alias section (as shown in the image)

Add the following lines:

alias c64='/opt/retropie/emulators/vice/bin/./x64 /home/pi/ccgms71.d64'

nc 25232

alias modem='tcpser -v 25232 -s 2400 -p6400 -l 4'

Next time, you start the Raspberry Pi, exit Emulation station, type modem, CTRL-ALT-F2, login and type c64.

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    3 Discussions


    1 year ago

    No British pound sign in Device 4. Reads |lpr