How to Retrieve Deleted Files on the Commodore C64 in 1987

When I was a sophomore in high school, from 1987 to 1988, my friend Paul and I had Commodore C64 computers. There was a new graphical user interface called GEOS that had transformed the way we interacted with our computers. We used the C64 to play games but also write papers for school.

One day Paul called me. He was clearly troubled. He had somehow dragged his newly completed term paper into the trash bin instead of the printer. If I recall correctly, back then they were right next to each other (although the screen shot above shows them separate).

Paul asked if I knew any tricks that could retrieve his paper. There was no undelete function in GEOS.

I subscribed to a magazine called Compute’s Gazette, for Commodore owners. I remembered seeing an article in the magazine that included code for undeleting files dropped in the GEOS “Waste Basket.” All I had to do was type it in by hand, save it to a 5 1/4 inch floppy, drive to Paul’s house, and see if the program would recover his paper. Thankfully it all worked out, and we did recover his work!

Almost 37 years later, I found that issue of Compute’s Gazette in the fabulous Internet Archive. It’s in issue 54, dated December 1987.

I had to find it by manually looking at covers. The index doesn’t list it by name.

Here is the article explaining the reason for the program.

It’s interesting to think that the C64 handled deleted files the same way later operating systems did, enabling digital drive forensics.

Here’s the entire program, in BASIC:

The magazine offered tips on entering programs manually.

There’s even a “proofreader” to check syntax. Of course, you have to enter that in yourself too!

These days you can download the program from the Internet.

I was really pleased to find this program after so many years. It appears the magazine published an update version in a later issue, but I’m pretty sure I did not use that one.

Incidentally, I sold my entire Commodore collection on eBay several years ago, so these are only memories.

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