LoadStar Magazine for the Commodore 64

There once existed a very popular digital publisher for the Commodore 64 known as LoadStar. They were under the management of a company called Softdisk Publishing. As I learned recently they produced a magazine in the early 80’s. I can still remember picking up a Commodore Run magazine and seeing the advertisement for LoadStar inside. That was how I first learned about them and made my first purchase. At that time in my life, it was around 1992 and I was really into my Commodore 64 and giving my Atari computer a backseat then.

So with my purchase came two packaged 5 1/4 floppy disks in the mail each month. They contained their own covers for protection. The disks were dual density, which meant that programs were copied on both sides of the floppy disks. Each issue came included with a start up menu that launched a fancy title screen for LoadStar. The normal also was seeing a new picture that would preload before the main menu appeared. The floppies at that time contained their own labels and were printed in a purple color. The diskettes also had the programs listed on them and also you could see what was on Side 2 in a separate panel.

Packed with Programs

The cool thing about receiving those disks and still owning them to this day is that they included tons of Commodore 64 software programs. One of the first disk subscriptions I received from them was #97. Once the menu loaded I was greeted instantly with a fanfare music. This can be turned off by pressing the S key. In the main menu on this disk, I have the following categories:

  • GEOSware
  • Brainware
  • Grafixware
  • Helpware
  • Funware
  • Utilityware

When you clicked on a menu at the top that said ‘The Loadstar Files’ you often received access to several listed categories, such as Diskovery, Table of Contents, New Users, Subscriptions, LOADSTAR Forum, and much more. These allowed you to keep up to date with current news in the industry regarding Commodore in general and each month I could read messages from the editor Fender Tucker and often Jeff Jones chimed in. Those were great times!

Anyway I have been wanting to share this with my readers for the longest time, but got too focused on other projects. Also because I don’t use my Commodore 64 personal computer so much, I didn’t bother talking about the hundreds of disks I already own from this amazing company. I am happy to finally be sharing this with you. I decided enough was enough and I really need to sit down and write a good article about this disk publisher because they changed my life in so many ways. I also spent over a year working on a text adventure program many issues later and after some prodding they accepted my submission, had me add some disk I/O procedures to it, and much later it appeared on issue #136. My game was called Quest for the Mad Bomber.

LoadStar All Disk Issues

Several years ago I was in communication with Fender Tucker and wanted to see if he still had access to the LoadStar software. It turned out he did, and soon I ordered a CD that contained every issue printed to date. This CD tracked everything from issue 1-199 (something like that), including some extra surprises. I have misplaced the CD, but made several copies of the issues on my hard drive during that time. My goal is to start sharing with you some of the amazing ‘secrets’ that are packaged within. You can learn everything about the Commodore 64, the best tools used during that time, news gallore, and tons of software (utilities, games, art, assembly language tips, etc.). I have decided to include a link to their website at Ramblehouse.

The CD is called Loadstar Complete. It includes everything listed below:

  • All 199 issues of LOADSTAR in .d64 and .d81 format
  • All 42 issues of LOADSTAR 128 in .d64 format
  • TXT files of all of the text on the issues for fast searching on your PC
  • All 21 issues of UpTime (a rival disk magazine that LOADSTAR soundly defeated and bought)
  • JPGs of all of the color covers of the issues when LOADSTAR was sold in stores
  • PDFs of all 73 issues of The LOADSTAR Letter, Jeff Jones’ excellent newsletter companion to LOADSTAR
  • MP3s of selected Knees Calhoon songs
  • .d64 files of every LOADSTAR product published separately from the monthly issues: the Compleat Bible, the Compleat Programmer, all five LOADSTAR Extras, Barbara Schulak’s puzzles, etc.
  • All of Dave Marquis’ SID and MIDI music
  • All of Walt Harned’s artwork — Walt is the most prolific artist ever for the Commodore computer
  • and whatever else I could find from the historic LOADSTAR archives.

I already mentioned the art software that came with various issues. One of the most interesting things was the contributors that helped sustain LoadStar for the longest time. I can still remember his name after all these years. The name of the artist was Walt Harned. He took full advantage of the art software available during that era and made some pretty amazing art and often a month subscription included his slideshows. Those were my favorite as they often told or story, a poem, or even hinted at reality.

One of the disk issues had a picture of a tower that loaded up before the main menu appeared. It was a massive tower standing above a city. The company was located at that time in Shreveport, Louisiana. I was too engrossed in the games and didn’t pay much attention to the pun they were throwing at us. The truth is that LoadStar was not a fancy building skyscraper, but rather a very small office within the town districts. I have attached a picture I found online. Still even for a small building they managed to entertain their hundreds of subscribers each month with amazing software!

User Contributions

In order to stay afloat and keep the disk issues pumping out, LoadStar often promoted the ability to become a contributor. This meant they were searching for new programs and ideas they could publish in an upcoming issue. I kept this in mind for the longest time, but procrastinated in the beginning when I first thought about writing a game. Much later, I committed myself to it and began working on the text adventure game I mentioned earlier. I think at that time I was driven by the dream of receiving a paycheck for my work. I wasn’t making much working in a pizza kitchen during that time, so any extra money I could earn kept me motivated toward that goal.

LoadStar stayed C64 focused

LoadStar had an uphill tug later as more powerful computers, such as IBM began to flood and saturate the market. This competition made it harder to capture the 8-bit glory days since by the time I received their diskettes, 16-bit software could be found anywhere. However, I give them full credit for staying the course during that rough time and still delivering issues each month to my mailbox. Even after Commodore liquidated they kept going. There is an issue where they discussed those perils during that time. I’m just grateful they stayed around as long as they could as those were the best times of my life.

I hope to eventually dig through my files and start sharing some of the many amazing programs they produced. For my assembly language readers, they had an issue where a new editor was created and they wrote a review on it. Also there were many issues packed with assembly language tips. So much gold is hidden in those disks and it is about time I get my shovel out and start pulling out those treasures.