Jan 26 2021

Streaming on Zoom from an Apple //e or a Commodore 64

Last week I participated in a virtual tour of the Media Archaeology Lab. Amy and I are financial supporters, I gave them my vintage computer collection several years ago, and we’ve underwritten their acquisition of several collections. I believe the Media Archaeology Lab is now one of the largest collections of working vintage computers.

“Working” is an important part of the phrase. The team at the Media Archaeology Lab, including Dr. Lori Emerson and Dr. libi rose striegl are magicians who, along with many student volunteers, loving take care of, well, everything.

When most people who had an Apple ][ or Apple //e think of Zoom, they think of Zoom Telephonics or WGBH-TV’s Zoom.

When I saw bpNichol’s Computer Poems streaming on Zoom, I responded with, “Holy shit, this is awesome.” Yeah, that wasn’t very poetic of me.

Lori Emerson and an Apple //e being streamed by Zoom

A few minutes later, we saw Super Mario Bros. running on a Commodore 64. We talked about the history of Nintendo not liking this and their subsequent DMCA takedown notice. Some companies have no sense of nostalgia.

Here’s how you stream from an Apple //e to Zoom.

  • The Apple //e has an RCA jack for the monitor, so all you need to stream is an RCA cable and an AV to USB adapter.
  • Run the RCA cable from the Apple to the converter.
  • Plug the USB into your computer.
  • When you open your preferred video streaming software (Zoom, OBS, Twitch), the converter will show up as one of your camera options. 
  • Audio with the Apple //e is a little more complicated. You need an upgrade to the sound card, such as a ReActiveMicro Mockingboard v2.2, to get an audio line out. The Mockingboard has a 3.5mm audio jack, so you need a 3.5mm – RCA splitter from that to the AV converter.

Here’s how you stream from a Commodore 64 to Zoom

  • The Commodore 64 has an RF jack on the back that carries both image and sound, requiring something that can convert that signal to split audio and video channels.
  • A VCR is faster, easier, and more reliable than any other converter, but you can also use an RF modulator.
  • The RF cable runs from the back of the Commodore to the Coax-IN on the VCR via an RF-Coax converter.
  • Then connect RCA cables from the AV-OUT on the VCR to the AV-USB converter.
  • As with an Apple, when it is all set, the AV-USB converter shows up as a camera in your camera menu on any streaming software

If you want to see the full poem by bpNichol, here it is on Youtube.

If this is interesting to you, please consider making a cash donation to support the Media Archaeology Lab‘s operations. If you have vintage computers you’d like to donate, drop me an email.