Updated - The quest for a working Commodore monitor.
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
So you might of guessed I am a fan of the Commodore computer and furthermore an avid collector of Amiga computers and parts. Originally I was already in possession of a couple of Amiga 500 systems. I had purchased a VGA converter box to be able to connect it to my VGA monitor and that worked pretty darn well. I was able to play all my original games in enhanced flatscreen glory but something was wrong. My inner child grabbed a hold of me and made me take it a step further. I needed a vintage monitor to play these games on so they would be as I had remembered them. Easy enough, eBay to the rescue.
I began my online shopping search scouring through the aging and increasingly limited selection of vintage Commodore merchandise. I feel that vintage monitors are the hardest to find in good working order as these items are definitely susceptible to wear from long hours of use and being banged around over the years. Needless to say the majority of these auction listings come with the dreaded "As Is" in the terms of the buying agreement. With a price tag of anywhere from $50 to $300 depending on cosmetic condition and if the seller made any attempt to test the item functionality this can be a very unnerving purchase in an effort to just satisfy my nostalgic itch. So my first auction find was a Commodore 1902 monitor described "Like New" for $35 plus an additional $30 for shipping. The monitor was in pristine cosmetic condition, no yellowing and came with the original box. I thought I had hit the jackpot. The item was DOA when I tested it upon arrival. Luckily I was able to return it for a full refund with the help of eBay. I must say eBay has a great return policy and if the seller misrepresents the item in any way they will usually judge a refund in the buyers favor, Kudos eBay. Second find on eBay was Commodore 1084 monitor which was in good cosmetic condition but listed as "Untested and As-Is" and for $110 and $25 shipping. It was a gamble but considering the first monitor was DOA what were the odds of the second one being so I purchased it Buy it Now. Upon testing the unit on arrival it was not producing a video image. The monitor would power up but thats about it. I attempted to get a full refund from the seller but he refused and I ultimately settled for half the purchase price of the monitor and I got to keep the non-working monitor in addition. Ultimately I found a complete Amiga 500 system with a tested working monitor and a ton of extras on eBay for about $200. Ok, so I have a complete Amiga 500 system with an original Amiga monitor but I still have this non-working Commodore monitor sitting in the corner. This is where my quest really gets fun.
So the challenge I have ahead of me is finding a repair shop that would attempt to diagnose and fix my 25+ year old RGB monitor. After calling a number of computer stores they all forwarded me to the local TV repair man. The first shop I went to I was asked to leave the monitor there for a few days so the "master technician / owner" who might I add supposedly had master degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering would be able to analyze and fix the problem because "If anyone could fix it he could". Let me add something about electronic repair shops these days if you have been to one you have been to them all. These places are the bottom of the barrel for technical expertise and customer service and excel at selling snake oil and black magic. After two weeks of supposed "diagnosing" which I would wager was plugging in the monitor and determining that yes there was no video signal I received a call saying that the monitor could not be fixed and I could pick it up. I picked up a monitor and went home disheartened by the experience thinking I would be forever stuck with a broken vintage monitor. Lo and behold later that day I received another call from the same repair shop explaining to me to call him back in a few weeks as he was busy and would attempt to further diagnose the monitor. A few weeks later....... I called Mr. Wizard and hold him to his loose strand of hope that he fed me a few weeks earlier. He began to tell me "I could look at it but the chances of fixing the monitor would be slim at none", the whole time I am thinking to myself did he not tell me to call him back or is he now trying to discourage me from seeking his self-proclaimed elite repair services. I slowly realized the type of person I was dealing with and concluded our conversation with a light hearted "thanks anyway for your time".
Soon after I luckily was able to locate a second TV repair shop. The owners again initially very inviting to tackle the issue with my item uncommon to the times. I dropped the monitor off and was given my repair ticket and I left the shop smiling hoping that this was the place going to resolve my problem. Weeks passed without any communication. I called up three weeks after first contact and they informed me that they would have someone take a look at it today. Which pretty much tells me they did nothing with it for the whole length of time they had it. They called back later that day informing me in a hard to understand accent that it was the power switch and they would need to order it. Eureka I thought we have a winner. I called back two weeks later and they then informed me it was now something else. My first concern at this point was money. How much was this going to cost because if it is expensive I am not interested. A mumbled voice on the other end muttered "not expensive". This sequence of events has been repeating itself for about 3 months now. I currently am awaiting to hear from them in a couple of day regarding another part being replaced in an attempt to fix the issue. At this point I am ready to let them just keep the monitor though they keep emphasizing this will not be expensive. I guess on completion of work day we will find out. I will be providing an update upon the conclusion of my quest and hope you enjoyed it as much as I did telling it.
Oct. 19th 2016
So after months of waiting and being told I would be called back with an update I decided to make a surprise visit to the adept TV repairman. Interestingly enough the monitor was opened up and being worked on. I asked the repairman "How's it going?" and he basically told me with his limited English speaking ability "OK". My main concern was how much he was expecting to be paid for this being he had it in his possession for months with no indication or evidence on how much he actually worked on it. He mumbled out a dollar amount of "$200" with a smirk. I explained to him if it were to cost that much to stop working and I would give him the initial diagnosis fee agreed upon and I would take back my still non-functioning monitor. I then tried to explain to him in the simplest terms I was not looking to pay over $100 to repair the monitor which I had explained to him for months over the phone. He told me again "OK" and to come back tomorrow.
Next day... I decided to give the repairman a heads up I was coming to pick up the monitor fixed or not being I was done waiting for it to be repaired. I arrived at the shop 20 minutes later eagerly in anticipation that this saga was nearing a close. The monitor was surprisingly waiting with a service ticket taped to it. I asked if he had fixed it and me answered "Partially, the power switch is not functioning". I asked if the video was working and he explained to me he was unable to test it due to not having the appropriate video cable which was totally not true being the monitor has a standard composite video input. He plugged the monitor in and it did power up which was more than it did before. From my perspective though if I can't validate it is working how can I put a price on it, no video, power switch doesn't work. I asked the golden question being "How much?", the repairman replied "Don't know, a lot of work". I explained to him since nothing was repaired the most I would pay is $40 which is more than the initial diagnosis fee of $25. I then said if this was not acceptable I would just abandon the monitor in his custody and pay nothing. He begrudgingly agreed. I also demanded a receipt which he was not going to give me in case he would try to bill me for more being he had my name and address.
Upon arriving home I was curious to test the monitor being it now powers up. Amazingly I plugged in the video and power cable and I now get full vibrant video from my Amiga computer. It took months to get it back but for $40 I couldn't be happier. The repairman bypassed my power switch though so I now have to actually plug the power cable into the monitor to turn it on. My next challenge is to find a compatible power switch for the monitor which will be difficult being they are no longer in production. If I do find the switch I will probably be doing the work myself as I would never enlist the help of a mom and pop TV repair shop again. There is just no accountability or expectation they seem to adhere to. Hope you enjoyed this story, this is the Ragingeek signing out.