The commodore 64 is, along with the Apple II and the Atari XL computers, the most famous home computer. According to the 2001 edition of Guinness book of records, the C64 was the most "prolific computing device ever manufactured". During its production run from 1982 to... 1993, about 30 million (!) units were sold. To put this number in perspective, that's more than all the Macintoshes in the world.
The C64 was an up-market version of the VIC-20. A wide range of software packages, games and programming languages was available for this machine which was itself available practically anywhere from a toyshop to a business supplier.
Superficially, the C64 closely resembled the VIC-20. It had the same casing, an identical keyboard configuration and virtually the same interfaces and sockets. But the apparent similarity belies some fundamental differences: a MOS 6510 processor and 64 KB of RAM which was quite unusually large at the time for a model of this price range. The C64 also had the ability to recognise user-established priorities by which 'sprites' (or movable blocks) could move independently of displayed text/graphics, enabling the creation of graphics with up to 8 layers.
Music synthesis was performed by a special sound interface chip. Sound envelope could be controlled on all three voices on a full nine octave of each.
It was one of the first computers to offer both a high quality sound chip and graphic resolution with many colors and sprites.
A great range of peripherals was developed for this computer and it can also use several of the Vic 20 peripherals.
Several versions of the Commodore 64 were launched :
The first one, C64-1, used the VIC 20 case and was to be quickly replaced with the C64-2 (pictured) which used the famous brown case, and later by the C64-3 with small cosmetic changes in the keyboard.
A special version called Educator 64 or PET64 or CBM 4064 was proposed for schools and uses the PET case.
Commodore produced the first generation of C64s until May 1986, then it was discontinued and they introduced the C64C. According to the 64'er magazine, this version has been planned since the Hannover Fair in 1985, but as the old version sold so well during Christmas '85, its release date was delayed.
Then appeared the C64 "Aldi" (1987, only in Germany) and the C64G (1989). They were virtually same machines, this time with the new, short motherboard. So, although the case might look the same and the label says "Commodore 64", the boards may be completely different.
Finally, the C64GS game console was released in 1990. Basically it was a re-boxed C64, without a keyboard or any other interfaces, except for the cartridge slot on top.
Bob Van Sickle reports:
The C 64 was originally developed as a video game machine engine to be used in video arcades. The idea was to have a basic machine which could be programmed for a different game when the previous one became out-of-favor, and one would not have to trash the machine. Hence the good sound and graphics capabilities. What happened? The market here in the states for game arcades collapsed, and Commodore attempted to recoup their investment. This well documented in an article published by the IEEE "Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineering" which I read, but cannot recall the year.
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This was the first ever computer we have at home when we we''re just teens back then. My big brother was the owner. He used it to practice BASIC programming and to do projects for high school and at the University. He collected a huge quantity of games developed for this machine, like Mission Impossible (my favorite), Maniac Mansion and more. These games came in 5.24" floppy discs. We no longer own these machine. Years later, my husband downloaded an emulator and now I can play my games like old times.
Well, I got the C64 after I had the AFP IM-1. I had to suffer over a year with no storage. That was rough. Then my dad bought a 1540 from some guy that said it would work. I didn't know. How utterly frustrating. Finally got a 1541. I have done so much with it. I used it live on stage with the MusicPort keyboard attached, I have used it as a MIDI sequencer, sampler / drum machine (Datel Sampler 64 hardware), database (The Consultant), editor for posters for my band (Tech Sketch lightpen and Wico trackball), & telecommunications. Of course the most important use was prgramming for games. I actually found my old disks of my unfinished project and they're readable. I had reprogrammed the character set and made about 20 animated sprites. Hardware: I later sold the C64 and !%$! when I had acquired an SX-64, which I still have. It doen't boot. Drive light stays on, nothing happens. I have also recently acquired two 1541s, two 1702 monitors, and a 1983 C64 off eBay. Check out the 25th C64 anniversary with Jack Tramiel and Steve Wozniak: http://www.computerhistory.org/events/index.php?id=1193702785
Well, this was my second computer which I got in1988, after my parents bought a VIC-20 in late 1984.Yes, I have been waiting four years for a C64 to be mine and even in 1988, when Amigas and STs began to sell in large quantities, this machine was still a "big name" amongst computer hobbyists here in germany (and possibly around the world).
Today, I have a very, very small collection of old Commodore computers. It's my personal contribution to those machines, since I had such a good time with them. My collections includes an Amiga 1200 (running OS 3.5 and NetBSD 3.1 and connected to my LAN), an Amiga 500 (with an external MIDI interface), a C128D (european version) and two C64s. I even have a "RetroReplay" and a "MMC64" cartridge for the C64/C128 systems along with the RRNet ethernet adapter, so I can do some simple telnet and very, very limited web browsing (utilizing ContikiOS by Adam Dunkels). Especially the fact that after more than 20 years beyond its initial release there is (amongst other cool hardware add-ons) something like an ethernet adapter available for the good ol' "breadbin", makes this machine a real legend!
I know that Speccy, Apple II and BBC users do feel the same towards "their" machines, but for me Commodore and most of their systems (execpt, maybe, the infamous C16/116/Plus 4 computers - sorry Mr. Herd) still count as the #1 computer company / computer products of all times.
P.S.: I *still* pitty the end of Commodore and their last yet most advanced computer system: the Amiga - how happy the world would be, if those babies had only won the competition and their marketing department had been less destructive.