Commodore 64

Me at my Commodore 64My first computer was a Commodore 64. My family got it when I was eight years old (see picture at right), and was probably the single most important event to shape my eventual career.

At the time, the Commodore 64 was the best computer of its class. You could use a TV set as a monitor, it had tape drives and disk drives, 64k of RAM, you could use a 2400 baud modem with it, it could display 16 colors, had superb sound from a 3-channel SID chip, a cartridge and expansion port, joysticks, BASIC was integrated into the operating system, and it cost less than $200 (at least when we got it).

My old Commodore 64Sometimes I’ll get nostalgic about my old C64. When I was a kid aspiring to be a programmer, I dreamed of being able to develop my own games. Immediately after the computer was set up, my head was buried in the technical manuals and programming guide that came with it. Sadly, long past are the days when a single programmer can develop a modern breakthrough computer game. Back then, one person could program Pac Man or Centipede or some similar action game and create a hit virtually overnight. Will Wright originally wrote Sim City on the Commodore 64, which later went on to be one of the most popular computer games ever designed. And before writing Sim City, Wright first wrote Raid Over Bungling Bay, a game I spent countless hours playing as a kid.

Thanks to emulation, it is easy to experience the old Commodore 64 on almost any modern computer. If you’re looking to download C64 games, just do a Google search. The emulator I find to work best is VICE, and it is available for Windows, Mac, MS-DOS, and more. C64 emulators are even available for Pocket PCs. If you are like many others who have emailed me, and are looking for a real Commodore 64, just try Ebay.

At the bottom of this page is a short review I wrote of The Home Computer Wars by Michael S. Tomczyk, an insider’s detail of Commodore from 1980 to 1984, and the creation of the VIC-20 (the predecessor to the C64).

I’m moving my 8-bit and Commodore stuff to a new web site.

My Commodore 64…

My C64 is customized a bit…

And another modification project:

Commodore 64 Nostalgia

Below are some screen shots of old C64 games I used to play. These were taken by running the games in an emulator.


Uridium


Into the Eagle’s Nest


Impossible Mission

I’m moving my 8-bit and Commodore stuff to a new web site.

Commodore Related Books

 

On The Edge
The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore

by Brian Bagnall
Variant Press, 2005
ISBN 0973864907
Buy on Amazon.com

This is as thorough a history of Commodore as you’ll likely ever see or want. It’s a fascinating read covering the beginnings of Commodore as a computer company, each major product it released, the termoil, lawsuits, etc., and its ultimate downfall.

This book supplants Tomczyk’s book (reviewed below a year before On The Edge was published) as the de-facto History of Commodore.

The Home Computer Wars
An Insider’s Account of Commodore and Jack Tramiel

by Michael S. Tomczyk
1984, Compute! Publications, Inc.
ISBN 0-94238675-2
Buy on Amazon.com

Review by Brandon Staggs, Sept. 2004.

If you are 1., a computer industry history enthusiast, and 2., ever owned a Commodore computer such as the PET, VIC-20, or Commodore 64, then you should try to find a copy of The Home Computer Wars by Michael S. Tomczyk. Most computer history books I have read seem to only mention Commodore as a footnote, never seeming to give it its proper dues or recognizing how it impacted the industry. As far as I know, this book is the most detailed available when it comes to Commodore’s role in the history of computing.

The Home Computer Wars is subtitled “An Insider’s Account of Commodore and Jack Tramiel.” And that it is. This book is short on technical detail but heavy on the inside information on what went on in Commodore from 1980 to 1984. From the perspective of a fanatical Commodore user from the 80s (like yours truly), the most interesting aspect of this book is Tomczyk’s chronicle of the creation and marketing of the VIC-20. The VIC-20 was the predecessor to the C64, and it could be argued (as Tomczyk does) that the VIC-20 was the first real home computer “for the masses.”

This book is as much about Jack Tramiel as it is about computers. Tramiel was Commodore, and his method of management and goals for the company were called “the Commodore Religion,” and the insiders of Commodore who believed in his vision were called “Commodorians” by Tomczyk. Tramiel was a holocaust survivor that rebuilt a small calculator company into the first computer company to have over a billion dollars of revenue in a year.

It’s quite educational to read a home computer “history” book that was written long before the world decided on the “PC clones” that most of us use now. 1984 was still an era where the computer industry was barely beginning to emerge from a technological dark age of competing and incompatible platforms. In keeping with the theme of the title, Tomczyk writes as if he were a soldier in the trenches of a protracted land war. It’s a great read if you have the interest in the subject matter. Get a copy if you can. As of this writing, the author of the book is selling original first editions from his personal stock on Amazon (click here) .

My Commodore 128…

Commodore Keyboard

 

7 thoughts on “Commodore 64”

  1. I’m a 76yr. retired teacher. I did a search for CIS and saw you had written about them. When I got on your website “Commodore 64″ caught my eye. I was taking a programming class (Basic, & a little Cobol & Pascal). The day before the class ended, a local computer shop opened and ran an ad for the Commodore-$149.95. I went straight to the shop and bought one after class next day and spent the rest of the day working with it. I returned the next day and bought the drive – same price and began hunting for a printer. I had to travel 40 mi. to get a Star Micronics printer and paid over $400 for it. The first program I wrote was one to manage my students grades. We formed a users group. It was there,I learned of a little spring that would prevent the knocking in the drive, and I installed one. I also learned of a magazine “Transactor”, printed in Canada. I had just sent a check to renew for 3 yrs., when an English Co. took over. That was the last I heard of my money or the magazine. I still have the copies that I had received up ’til then – along with many other computer magazines. Those computer magazines had a habit of going out of buisness and leaving me holding the bag.
    The school began using Apple IIe computers, and I got an Apple clone made by Franklin, who makes spellcheckers, etc.
    It was far superior to the Apple, but Apple sued and out them out of the computer buisness. That is another interesting story in computer history.
    I’ll be looking into the book to see if it mentions the Commodore calculator.

  2. Thanks for the entry. I remember using C64 and the modem, to program, play games (mostly bootlegged) sorry I was young! and to log onto BBS, some of which were connected to the Internet. I really didn’t have the understanding of what it was at that time.

  3. Great article. In grade 8 (1982) I signed up for our school computer club, which consisted of about 6 people, which worked out perfectly because we had 6 Commodore PETs in our lab. When all my friends went to play sports after school I’d go to the lab and geek out. Those days were awesome! Got my Vic-20 in 1983, then Commodore 64 in ’84 or ’85. The 64 changed my life. As soon as I got my own phone line I set up my own Commodore 64 BBS, and being the only BBS in my small town, my phone line was occupied non-stop. At all hours of the night my phone would ring, I’d excitedly get out of bed and turn on my monitor to see who was logging in and what they were doing. We were all sending e-mails to each other long before the Internet. Those days were magical. The C64 will always be much more than a machine to me.

  4. Thanks for the info, especially about the book Home Computer Wars. Its nice to meet another “fanatical Commodore user”. I was like that. I was 32 when I got my first C128 in 1986 and I was hooked. It was love. I taught myself basic programming on this machine, writing a detailed, custom financial management package which I used until 1992. One time, I hacked my work’s “telemail” system with my C128 to voice my dissatisfaction which created quite a scandal. Ahh, the good old days. Nowadays, I program Visual Basic macros in Excel. I still have alot of C128 equipment, some of which is I display in my home. Its a curiousity for visitors. I still marvel at how intelligent and well done the engineering was on the C128.

  5. In 6th grade I laid my hand on a c64 for the first time and for the next 6 years never looked back. So much computer for 400$ (900$ in todays money).
    It was a high watermark for what could be delivered in technology and done at such a thin margin that it was wildly successful.
    It was not intuitive (Remember Peek and Poke?). Had no GUI to speak of and no hard drive (till the 1 MB Lt Kernel) but it was an inexpensive gateway to an idea.
    It was writing a few small BASIC programs that taught kids to structure their ideas. Think Rationally and systematically. Break down big ideas and problems into small ideas and problems. And of course, play some of the most compelling and interesting games EVER.
    Impossible Mission
    Airborne Ranger
    The Bard’s Tale
    Racing Construction Set
    Mail Order Monsters
    Archon

    The list is almost endless…and I still miss Touchterm as a modem client :)

  6. I swapped my SH101 synth for a Commodore 64 back in 1984 the moment that I saw a program called Electrokit which allowed you to create and sequence whole tracks of music just like in the games like Commando.
    My Commodore took all sorts of electrical flac as I insisted on trying to connect various bits of equipment to the parallel ports etc and eventually I blew up my 2nd PIO chip, but surprisingly the computer still ran.
    I did loads of music with it up until the 90’s when I got to use expensive recording equipment at music college that sounded great but all the sequencing principles I learned on the 64 helped immensely. Amazing computer – I used to sync it with my spectrum using the specdrum software/DAC which meant big drum sounds etc.
    Great days.

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