back to article The Commodore 64 is 30

Commodore took the wraps off the Commodore 64, one of two immediate follow-ups to its popular Vic-20 home computer, 30 years ago this week. The 64 made its public debut at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), though it wouldn't go into production until later in the year before going on sale in the US market in August. It didn' …

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  1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    Ah, the C65, and a minor mistake

    I believe there are a couple or few fully-built C65s floating around out there, some that work. They look like really neat machines, could have been to the C64 what the IIgs was to the Apple. I made my jump from the Commodore 64 (actually the 128D) to the Amiga. A great move, IMHO. Though I still look back on my 128 from time-to-time.

    I also recall lugging around the SX-64 I bought in high school. Can't remember what I paid for it, but $250 sounds about right. I have two now just waiting to be fixed and modded with smaller internal parts and LCD screen. If I ever get around to that at all *sigh*

    One minor mistake in the article. BASIC was not copied into main memory: it was actually bank-switched in to the 6510 address space when the computer was in "BASIC mode." Address $00 and $01 were special ports on the 6510 (direction and data) which were used for bank-switching segments of BASIC and KERNAL ROM and I/O space in and out of RAM (not solely for this purpose, mind you.) In the correct configuration, one could map all 64k of RAM into the 6510's address space for reading (writes always went to RAM under ROM, irrespective of the bank setting.) I believe GEOS did this, and I know I used to map out the ROMs in my ML programs when I needed more memory space.

    Man I loved programming the 6510.

    Paris, writes always go to RAM.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. DJV Silver badge
        Happy

        @Oliver Jones / BASIC into RAM

        My nefarious use was to copy the BASIC into RAM in places like Debenhams and add a few POKEs to change the "syntax error" message to something rude. Then I'd sidle off to wait for unsuspecting kiddies to bash the keyboard a few times before asking their mothers what *THAT* meant!

        Those were the days...

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Windows

          That reminds me of the time I sweated hell after running POKE all through the memory (then my parents threw me out of the room and I couldn't continue "work"). I was unsure during the whole of the next day whether I had destroyed the machine ... noob along several dimensions, me.

      2. Alan W. Rateliff, II
        Paris Hilton

        20k ROM in multiple chips...

        Nice catch. I was so stuck on the "copy" thing I completely missed that bit.

        Paris, I completely missed that bit.

  2. Robert Heffernan
    Angel

    Happy 30th!

    To this day I have fond memories of my many Commodore 64's from over the years. By todays standards the games were blocky, small, and unsophisticated but they were so original and fun.

    Games today are a pale shadow in comparison, sure they have massive budgets, design teams, gigabytes of graphics resources but for all that they are still just clones of previous games, just a different situation or weapon set, the same soulless drivel just jazzed up, tweaked and repackaged.

    It was on the C64 and other machines of the time that the games industry was born. Guys in their garages with extremely limited resources worked miracles with the hardware and came out with something fun and unique.

    It's only fitting that to this day the Commodore 64 is the best selling computer of all time, and with the progress of technology these days with models lasting 6 months at best, it will never be outsold.

    Happy Birthday Commodore 64. Thanks for the memories.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "It's only fitting that to this day the Commodore 64 is the best selling computer of all time"

      In the years it was around it sold around 16 million units.

      30 million iPads were sold in 2011.

      Is the iPad not a computer?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Fuck off with your iPad

        n/t

      2. LuMan
        Mushroom

        Listing..

        10 PRINT "AC - 09:48 is a dickhead";

        20 GOTO 10

        run

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No, the iPad is a glorified Digital Photo Frame.

    2. Jim 59

      Good times

      For those of us of a certain age, they were good times. Home computers let you play games, learn to program and do some busines stuff like word processing. They had a charm, a fascination and immediacy which is difficult to imagine unless you lived through it.

      And in one way they were much faster than your modern PC: boot time 1 second.

      1. Thomas 4

        Well well.....

        I never knew that Commodore made a foray into the console market. I know that Amstrad did with the CPC464+ and 6128+ (I even have one of the old GX4000 consoles floating around at home somewhere!). Needless to say, the GX tanked horribly (although the Pluses had a minor modicum of success) - it's just nice to know that COMMODORE USING SCUM (sorry) also made the same mistakes.

        /Amstrad Fanboi

  3. Nev Silver badge

    Ahh, Good ol' C64...

    The model that did more than any to bring computers into the reach of normal folk.

    Just look at the price differentials!

    Memories of games by the cassette-box full and my 'O' Level Computer Science project, including linked lists and some natty 6510/6502 assembly language routines.....

    1. Sweaty Hambeast

      Oh puhlease...

      > The model that did more than any to bring computers into the reach of normal folk.

      Commodore's problem was that they overpriced their machines. No, don't argue with me. I'd have happily had a Commodore but I couldn't afford one. From the PET (for which I still have a soft spot) to the Vic-20, there were other machines that I could afford that would do what I wanted (and I've got a computing degree from the days when these things were worth something). They always brought their new machine out at one price class higher than it should have been.

      That said, I've still got my Amiga 400 and the games and they still work and they still knock spots off the crap that's produced these days.

      1. Monty Burns

        Amiga 400?

        I'm going to assume that thats a typo rather than you blowing all your own argument into the water.

        *IF* they were so "overpriced" how comes the Amiga wiped the floor with the ST then? IIRC the ST was at one point £100 cheaper (and I still bought an A500 and then a 1200).

      2. Nev Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        "No, don't argue with me. "

        I'll bow to your parochial, UK-centric world viewpoint then.

      3. Homer 1
        Thumb Up

        Re: Oh puhlease...

        The C=64 was the biggest selling single-model computer of all time, so I'd say it definitely "did more than any to bring computers into the reach of normal folk" ... worldwide.

        In the UK they weren't as common as Beebs and Speccies though (I had the latter, and a ZX81 before it, and a ZX80 kit before that, and a Sinclair Radionic calculator kit before that! Yes, I'm a total geek). I recall seeing a VIC-20 once (I could be wrong, since my memory's very hazy on the event), but I can honestly say I never saw a C=64 in the wild, until many years later (as a retro machine in a collection). I also recall seeing a Dragon32, and quite a few other 8-bits that I never identified (probably Orics and suchlike). Our school had Apple IIe machines, but I never saw an Apple outside the classroom, and TBH I've never seen another one outside a shop, even to this day. No, seriously. They're they're just not that common over here.

        Like you I made the quantum leap from 8-bit to Amiga, a 500 Plus (unexpectedly, since they replaced the 500 without warning just before Christmas). Now I own a fleet of them, and an A4000T, and about every peripheral ever made for the Amiga, including quite a few that I don't even know what they do (yes, I became a collector nut).

        What happened to Commodore was a travesty (Irving Gould and Mehdi Ali should've been shot), but I was more sorry to see the death (several deaths, in fact) of the Amiga than the C=64, since it never really appeared on my radar.

        Most of all I was sorry to see the death of the Golden Age, mostly thanks to the Wintel consumerisation of computing. With any luck the Raspberry Pi might bring back some of the magic of those days.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Mushroom

          BBC Micro more common than the C64 in the UK?

          Seriously? You having a laugh? The BBC Micro shifted 1.5 million worldwide and still cost 400 quid when the C64 was retailing for £130 from any high street shop that sold electrical goods. Tandy, Dixons, Comet, Currys, Rumbelows, Argos, etc. Even Boots, WH Smiths and John Menzies were flogging 64's all through the 80's and early 90's.

          You only need to look at the games sales in the late 80's to see how the UK market was split. From memory of an article I read about a year ago in an old issue of Computing With The Amstrad (1988) they published the breakdown of games software in the UK and put the Spectrum around 36% of the market, the C64 at around 30% of the market and the Amstrad at 20% of the market. Leaving the rest of the formats including the Atari 8 bit, the BBC, and the fledgling Amiga and ST squabbling over the remaining 14%

          There is a lot of love for the BBC on this site (quite rightly) but we can't just rewrite history. The biggest selling 8 bit machines in the UK were the Speccy, the C64 and then the Amstrad. That's in both hardware sales and the software sold audited by Gallup (remember them?).

          1. Homer 1
            Headmaster

            Games are not machines

            Whoever was buying whatever games, the C=64 itself was just not very common in the UK. I didn't even see a VIC-20 until after I'd already seen an Amiga, and I don't even recall reading about the C=64 at the time (perhaps I did, but it never registered), even though I was heavily involved in the scene and travelled around quite a bit. I don't ever remember it being featured on any of the (rather lame) TV shows at the time either. I'm sure there were some, somewhere, but I never saw any. Maybe it's a regional thing.

            As for the Beeb, yes it was a more expensive machine for "posh" kids only, but also bear in mind that Acorn claimed something like 85% of the education market, so even the rest of us got exposure to the Beeb at some point (in my case it was "posh" friends).

            Credit where it's due though. The C=64 remains the most significant computer of the 8-bit era (globally), and the one that (in the US) really kick-started the personal computer revolution. Over here though it was definitely the Speccy (and the Beeb, mostly in schools).

            1. Nev Silver badge
              Joke

              "and I don't even recall reading about the C=64 at the time"

              Not only were there specific Commodore mags but also C64 specific titles too.

              Many a day spent typing in programs from the backs of such magazines.

              You must have been looking at shelves in your local WH Smiths other than the ones with the computer magazines on them....

    2. Mr Jolly

      "The model that did more than any to bring computers into the reach of normal folk." - No, that'd be the Spectrum 48K.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
        Paris Hilton

        "The model that did more than any to bring computers into the reach of normal folk." - No, that'd be the Spectrum 48K.

        Only in the UK. Here I'd be inclined to say that it was about 45% each of the C64 and the BBC micro, with the other 10% Dragons and Atari’s.

        Re: programming the C64

        Interestingly there was a 12 year old kid who lived across the road from me who used to crack games by hijacking the reboot vector to point to a simple relocatable machine code monitor and forcing a NMI, and write the entire memory out to disk. He now works with open source and wrote a piece of software that I'm sure a lot of people here have heard about, but I'm not going to tell you what it is to protect my anonymity :-)

        The C64 wasn’t particularly overpriced, but if you decided to add a 1701 disk drive, a printer and a Commode monitor then the total bill came out at over £1,200, which was an awful lot of money in the early 80's.

        Paris, gets POKEd at lot, just like the C64.

        1. Tom 13

          You're right about the price, I forgot about the monitor.

          We never bought that component, just hooked it to the tv. But you couldn't do that with other PCs, so for us, the price was right.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
            Paris Hilton

            That bloody guy who cut the serial

            According to Bagnall's book, and other sources I've read (not gonna Google it for ya,) and from memory, the fast serial port for peripherals was lost due to a "miscommunication" between Commodore East and Commodore West. IIRC, when East sent the designs out to West for fabrication, someone noticed what seemed to be an errant trace running to the serial port and removed it -- this was the line responsible for fast handshaking. By the time West found out, it was too late to change the fabrications (either too many units were produced or the deadline was looming, as Jack Tramiel was very fond of short deadlines.) So the Kernal had to be changed to accommodate the hardware foul up. Additionally, due to its VIC-II video chip, the timing of the 64 is different than the VIC-20, thus disk drive serial access is actually slower on the 64 than the VIC-20.

            Another thing ISTR is that the serial port (user port) was also supposed to have a hardware serial interface similar to the 6551 UART. However, a bug exists in the 6526 CIA shift register so the Kernal had to be modified to emulate the 6551 in software and bit-bang rather than byte-bang serial communications out the user port. Supposedly the user port was not supposed to produce anything over 1200 bps, but several programs are capable of running 2400 using optimized serial routines (Transactor magazine published a great set of routines dubbed "CBAT" in the article "Toward 2400,") and the 128 can run 9600.

            Okay, the above is from memory. I believe them to be accurate, and I wholly expect someone to correct me if I am wrong. In the meantime, after some rest, I'll pull up my docs on the matter to fact-check myself. But for now, these stand as either fact or rumors eternally etched into Internet lore.

            Paris, eternal Internet lore.

            (Another lament I have is back in the mid-90s, Grapevine Group had a number of C65 systems they were blowing out. The price was too high for me at the time. Had I known they would be collectible, and really damn cool, I might have grabbed one. Hind sight is 20/200.)

      2. Tom 13

        The what?

        No, Nev is correct, at least on this side of the pond. The C64 was competing with the TRS80-Model III and the Apple. I asked for the TRS-80 Model I for Christmas one year, my parents couldn't afford it, and the odd jobs a kid can do wouldn't earn me that much either. Instead we got a Magnavox something or other. I kept asking for the TRS until the C64 came out. That year my brother and I were rewarded with a C64. You can complain about the price point, but it was the right one: enough profit margin to sustain the company, cheap enough so most middle class families could afford it.

    3. MR Felix

      The Commodore 64 had the biggest marketing scam of any computer. The machine was announced as the first 64K computer under $600 when it was impossible to make that machine for that price. They made enough to send one to each store so that stores could collect payments for pre-orders even though the machine could not be produced for that price. As the costs of components came down and the costs of other computers came down, people who had already paid out their money sat and waited. Eventually the costs came down so that a 64K computer could be sold for under $600 by Commodore or other companies. But Commodore had locked up the sales by allowing computer stores to take customers money in advance. .

  4. Christian Berger Silver badge

    different freqencies

    The different clock frequencies probably come from the different line frequencies of the 625 and the 525 line standards.

    625 line standards have 15.625 kHz, while 525 line standards have 15.750kHz for monochrome pictures and 15.734265734265734265734265734265734265.... kHz for colour. On 525 line standards monochrome and colour are not fully compatible.

    Since you want to have the same number of pixels per line in both standards, you simply run your graphics chip at a multiple of that line frequency. Since you share your memory between your graphics chip and your CPU, it can only access memory when the CPU doesn't. Therefore you run your CPU at a fraction of the clock frequency.

    The more interesting question is, what can we learn from those times. If you look at it, a C64 had considerably less resources than a modern computer. However you could just turn it on and program it to do whatever you want. You had a "shell" which was nearly as powerful as modern unixoid shells.

  5. Torben Mogensen

    C16 and Plus/4

    The Plus/4 was not a cut-down C64. It was a more advanced machine with a much improved BASIC interpreter and better graphics (121 different colours, IIRC). A "smaller brother", the C16 was supposed to replace the Vic20. I won a C16 at a competition at a computer fair, but since I already had a BBC B, it saw little use and was loaned out to a cousin and eventually sold.

    Neither were very successful, partly due to lack of software compared to C64 and partly because they did not represent sufficient advance over the C64. 121 colours is all very well, but not enough to compensate for the lack of software. It would take something like the Amiga to do so.

    1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

      C16

      I remember the C16 - a relative bought one. In the UK it went down about as well as tickets for the Titanic. It was well made, but for the price, under powered and lacking in choice (in the UK, the Sinclair Spectrum had the cheaper end pretty much monopolised).

    2. DJV Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      @Torben Mogensen

      121 colours is correct - there were 16 shades of each of the 16 main colours, but all the shades of black were also black which is why they couldn't say it had 128!

      However, the TED chip that replaced the VIC II/SID chips didn't have sprites and the sound wasn't anywhere near as versatile (later on some people built synthesisers out of SID chips).

      I used to work for a small company that built a 64K memory upgrade for the C16 to bring it up to almost the same capability as the Plus/4 (but minus the built in office software). Unfortunately, there were a few deluded souls who thought that the 64K upgrade meant the C16 could also run the C64 games/programs.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Plus/4" family wasn't even meant to compete with the C64 originally

      You're right when you say that the Plus/4 *wasn't* a cut-down C64- as the article wrongly states. It wasn't even compatible with the C64, but was part of a new family built around a new chipset (the Plus/4, C16 and C116 which were mutually compatible).

      However, while its BASIC may have been more advanced than the C64's (generally considered poor and dated even at the time), its hardware- as DJV suggests- wasn't. Despite the improved palette, it was still generally considered inferior both graphics and sound-wise.

      So why did Commodore bother? If Wikipedia's articles on the C16 and Plus/4 are to be belived the chipset *was* originally meant for an ultra-low-end machine (far cheaper than the C64). This was meant to compete with existing rivals and see off what Tramiel feared would be a Japanese invasion of the low-end market.

      In fact, the ultra-cheap Commodore 116 (a C16, but with a rubber keyboard and "mini Plus/4" style case, only ever sold in parts of Europe) was apparently the first designed, and closest to this original vision.

      By the time it was ready, most of their low-end rivals had cut their losses and left the market, the Japanese invasion hadn't been the threat expected and Tramiel had left Commodore. The new management supposedly didn't know what to do with the chipset. Hence stupid moves like selling the technically inferior and incompatible Plus/4 at a comparable price to the C64.

      The Commodore 64 was *already* effectively the low-end of choice in the US as it was being sold so cheaply there, and (e.g.) here in the UK the Spectrum was already well-established. Apparently the Plus/4, C16 and C116 *did* do quite well in some countries where they were dumped and sold off very cheaply.

      BTW, a friend had a Plus/4, and I remember the hyped integrated software as being very simplistic.

      1. Alex King
        Thumb Up

        Ahh, the C16

        I had one of those, and spent many a happy hour with Kickstart, Punchy and various other games that I've long-since forgotten the names of. Perfectly good machine, even if it did suffer by comparison with the C64...

        Can't have been that bad - I graduated to an Amiga A500, then the A1200, before Commodore became a total, misguided basket case. Ah, good days.

        Still have that A1200 somewhere - hasn't been switched on in over a decade. Wonder if it still works?...

    4. John 48

      Better graphics, is a bit questionable. The TED chip gave you more colours, but the things you lost (hardware sprites, and the audio prowess of the SID chip) meant that animation and sound was never close to what the C64/128 could achieve, and that killed it for games players. The bundled apps of the plus/4 were at best "token" and not of any real value other than as a marketing hook.

      1. Tibbs
        Thumb Up

        I had a +4, I remember we got it in Debenhams before Christmas.

        One of the best things about it was the fact that it came with a load of games to play right from the off. Fire Ant was my mum's favourite, and Treasure Island actually made me cry when I got to Long John Silver for the first time...

        Give me a break, I was only 6!

  6. Baudwalk

    Slightly rushed article?

    Apart from the factual errors, it seemed a little thin compared to your BBC Micro 30th anniversary article. IMHO, of course.

    Still, I can help feeing a burst of rose-tinted nostalgia whenever the C-64 comes up. Love(d) mine to bits.

    The things you could do to kit in those days. Soldering a pause button into the system to stop the CPU by pulling the Address Enable Control low, only to find you needed to add a flip-flop to sync it with the Ø2 clock, or the CPU would crash more often than not. (Hey, I was just a teenager learning the ropes of the electronics trade. Greener than corroded copper wires, I was.)

  7. Peter Gordon
    Thumb Up

    some examples of what this 1982 vintage hardware can do

    (all these run on unexpanded c64s)

    Edge of Disgrace (parts 1 & 2):

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=yFdjWSaDlIo

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=0b4uGv-9xpw

    Andropolis:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLP-poYbfos

    Deus Ex Machina:

    http://capped.tv/crest_oxyron-deus_ex_machina

    Many more here:

    http://www.pouet.net/prodlist.php?platform[]=Commodore%2064&order=thumbed

    1. Peter Gordon

      Sorry... messed up that last link

      Use this one instead:

      http://www.pouet.net/prodlist.php?platform[]=Commodore%2064&order=thumbup

    2. Vin
      Thumb Up

      SYS64738

      Just sat here mesmerised by the Deus Ex Machina demo, just as I used to be back in the day.... I probably had more disks of megademos than anything else.... same goes for the Amiga when I got one.

      Incredible what those guys could get out of the hardware.

      Thanks for that, that really took me back. My original C64 is still set up here, with the 1541 still clunking away, I think I may have to take it out for a spin later.

      Thanks for the memories.

    3. ChrisM
      Happy

      Amazing, took me back to 1990 and crowded round my mates amiga watching demo's.

      Also sent me looking for the truly awesome Jesus on E's and the epic Jesus on Cheese

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Real C64s

      Seriously? As in an actual C64 box, not emulated on some PC with modern processing power?

      really?

      1. Peter Gordon

        Yes. Really.

        All of the demos featured in the videos above run perfectly on stock, unmodified, unexpanded C64 computers with 1541 disk drives.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @ Peter

          Awesome, that's actually made me cheerful.

  8. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    the only

    thing I remember about the C64 is an old friend had 1 and it had a utterly s**t BASIC on it

    Eg some computers at the time had a sound comand that consisted of channel number, pitch and volume.

    C64 was Poke 45322, peek(56473)+abs(peek 9856/peek7683), Poke 45323, peek(56211)+32768, Poke 12345,peek(78234634525422) + current lunar distance/SQR(pi)

    A brilliant well built machine spoilt by the entire budget being spent on the hardware leaving 3 cents for the software

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sound in basic?

      Basic was just that: basic. For more serious stuff you had assembly.

    2. DJV Silver badge

      C64 Software

      Yep, that's because Jack Tramiel was a hardware person (he started by repairing typewriters) and basically didn't understand what software was! The Plus/4 and C128 did rectify those shortcomings to a large degree.

    3. Munchausen By Taxi

      ...wait a minute...

      The C64 could function as a three channel synthesizer. Not 'beep' or 'make sound', but oscillators (triangle, saw, pulse and noise), filters and amps. It wasn't a Jupiter 8, but you could get more variety of sound out of it than a BBC or Spectrum.

      1. Giles Jones Gold badge

        Exactly

        Multiple waveforms including pulse width modulation. You could even combine waves.

        Envelopes, essential for mimicking real instruments as a piano doesn't start and stop abruptly, there's an attack and release at the very lease.

        Multi-mode analogue filter, which was flawed and they knew it but there wasn't time to fix it. But it was better than nothing.

        Ring modulation (an effect famously used to create the Dalek and Cybermen voice sounds).

        To get a keyboard with such synth features in 1982 would have cost you quite a bit. Okay, it was a bit rough and there's crosstalk and bugs (the 6581 never fully closes its envelope generator) but you have to remember that it would have been heard through a TV set.

        It's influence on some people is indicated by the fact you could get the sound chip in a MIDI module (I have one myself, quite a rare item), check out the owner list, you might recognise a few of them (especially Depeche Mode):

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elektron_SidStation#Bands_that_use_SidStations

        But of course, some ignorant comparer or specs will point out the BBC Micro has 4 sound channel compared to the C64 SID's 3 channels :) completely ignoring the fact that the beeb can only produce boring tones.

        1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

          The Basic in the C64 was, well, basic. The was a plug-in ROM called Simon's Basic that expanded the set of basic commands to give access to graphics and sound capabilities of the C64.

          If I remember it correctly, Gribbly's Day Out had a great sound track (was one of the tracks OMD’s Enola Gay???)

          There was also a piano "keyboard" that sat over the C64 and pressed the QWERTY keys and when the matching software was loaded you could use the C64 as a synth!!!

    4. Munchausen By Taxi

      ...wait a minute...

      The C64 could function as a three channel synthesizer. Not 'beep' or 'make sound', but oscillators (triangle, saw, pulse and noise), filters and amps. It wasn't a Jupiter 8, but you could get more variety of sound out of it than a BBC or Spectrum. That meant that programming sounds could be a bit more of a slog, but it was worth it for the results.

    5. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Basic was terrible, but the fact that it was forced so many people into programming ASM and ultimately proper software.

      Rob Hubbard (who should need no introduction) recalled that one of the first things he wrote was a program to move a square across the screen in basic. He then wrote it in machine code and it moved across the screen a hell of a lot faster.

      C64 was the best all round machine IMHO (I'm biased), it had decent graphics, amazing music/sound (nothing beats it in that generation of machine, guaranteed).

      Sure it had some rather annoying features like the poor BASIC and lack of a disk operating system meaning the external drives were computers in their own right. But for the price there was just very little competition.

      The 6502 was slower than the Z80 in the speccy, but the speccy needed more CPU grunt due to more primitive graphics hardware. The speccy was better for vector games due to this fact.

      I have a small collection of C64s and games as it was my first real computer (one of those pong games doesn't really count) and they all work. Even a Vic 20 I got from a car boot sale works. Every spectrum I've bought was dead except one I bought on ebay (advertised as working) that crackles now and then. Says a lot for British engineering and manufacturing.

  9. big_D Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Commodore 700

    I went to a show, where the new Commodores were launched in '82 and the two I really wanted were the 500 and the 700 series.

    The 500 was basically a 64 with 128KB RAM, "proper" case and a much more professional look to it, including removing such "frivolities" as the VIC II chip! Unfortunately, it wasn't compatible with the C64 and didn't sell well.

    The 700 was supposed to be a replacement for the PET line and included a 12", 80 column monitor and a detachable keyboard, with the option of dual 5.25" floppy drives.

    As it was, I missed out on the C64. I ended up buying a Memotech MTX500, which had an optional SSD storage system, something which is only now becoming mainstream!

    There is nothing new in computing! :-D

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Commodore 500

      The C-500 was never officially released (I did own one for a while as several hundred escaped a few years later). It got "re-engineered" into the C-600 using the same case and a cut down version of the 700's innards.

      More here: http://www.davidviner.com/cbm.php

  10. Terry Barnes

    Umm

    Best-selling 8-bit micro? Yes, but more importantly, the best selling computer, ever. No single machine has sold more than the Commodore 64.

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Sorry, not true

      I hate to have to invoke the example, but if you really want to broaden the category as far as possible then e.g. Apple has sold more than 20m IPad 2s (based on conservative figures) - and I've no idea about the other iOS devices. They're computers both per the dictionary and in any objective terms, I think, due to the existence of an aftermarket in software that includes home and business productivity software alongside entertainment and games.

      Commenters around here being what they are: I thought to check Apple's numbers because they are a modern anomaly in throwing everything behind just one model for a lengthy period. I'm explicitly not trying to say anything about the relative worth of Apple's devices.

      1. Absent
        IT Angle

        Personally I wouldn't classify the iPad as a computer, more closer to a console. Obviously that's not a textbook definition, just my own personal opinion.

        1. ThomH Silver badge

          @Absent

          I'd class it as a computer with some significant caveats — and in a hugely different category from the C64 — but a computer nonetheless. Besides matching the dictionary definition of a computer, it also satisfies all the criteria for being a personal computer per the Wikipedia, which I'm taking as a reasonable approximation of what an average Internet user thinks a personal computer is.

          I'd distinguish it from a console based on its demographics, especially its penetration into business use, and the software people are buying for it. E.g. Pages, Apple's word processor, remains the top grossing iPad application and rarely drops from the top ten applications sold by volume.

          So while I agree that the C64 is the best selling device of all time in an extremely broad category, I don't think it's still the best selling computer.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            iPad

            An iPad isn't a proper computer, it's more like a smart phone, an appliance if you will, like a TV or washing machine.

            It's as close as you can get, but still not.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Peripherals

    I'm missing out on 2 things in the article; mention of the later slim version of the C64 (which also used a different SID chip) as well as the awesome 1541 disk drives. A single-sided diskdrive using 5.25" floppies which you could use double-sided. By simply cutting a small section section out of the disk so that the drive would also pick up the other side as "read/write" (conveniently a non-cut disk would be marked as RO). Although 1571 3.5" disk drives existed I never had one of those.

    But what was so awesome about the disk drives was that you could program these yourself as well. So in the good old "copy parties" we usually paired up 2 devices, programmed them for copy purposes after which you could easily /remove/ the C64. As soon as someone put 2 disks into each drive it would automatically copy from top to bottom and that's it. That was awesome, that code (which wasn't mine) eventually also found its way into well known copy programs (Fast Hack'em for example).

    C64 + Final Cartridge (its assembler was awesome and very easy to use, even gave 1541 access) was the winning combination for me.

    Anyone remember GEOS? I actually used that (GeoWrite) to write letters in those days. Fortunately for me I had 2 diskdrives back then :-)

    1. DJV Silver badge

      1571 drive

      I had a C-128 with a cut down 1571 in it. It was a nightmare! It regularaly decided the drive wasn't there when you attempted to use the relative file commands. Also, it lacked RAM buffers and would often screw up data. It only ever really worked in CP/M mode! For a long time Commodore denied that the errors existed but the final ROM that was released did sort of fix most of the bugs.

    2. Giles Jones Gold badge

      The original breadbin C64 had a 1541 too, they were just completely unobtainable for a while. Hence all the clone drives appearing, I had an Accelerator drive and it loaded a damn sight faster than the 1541. Hence the upgrade kits for the 1541 such as dolphin DOS that replaced the firmware of the disk drive.

      The 1541 drives were file serving computers sending files over to the C64 via serial link. It has its own processor and OS. This was obviously a workaround for the fact that the computer didn't have disc drive control in the OS. But it makes retrieving data off them pretty easy with the right cable :)

  12. Steve Evans

    Ah the fond memories...

    ...of when a US cost to UK pricing translation consisted of a bit more than just changing the $ to a £.

    Happy birthday 64... Although I was (am) a Beeb owner, I still had great respect for the 64. The older brother, the PET was the first computer I ever programmed - it now lives in my attic.

  13. Peter Gordon

    Also, if you're interested in computer history

    this book is an excellent read:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Commodore-Company-Edge-Brian-Bagnall/dp/0973864966/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325507806&sr=1-8

  14. Richard Lloyd
    FAIL

    Commodore 64 - some nice hardware, but OS and BASIC were terrible

    The Commodore 64 had a nice keyboard, nice sound and a fairly decent sprite system. It was such a shame that the rest of the machine was a huge let-down. The operating system was pretty dismal (not much of an API, so most developers had to restort to direct hardware access) and the BASIC was even worse (slow and lacking so many features compared the best BASIC at the time [BBC BASIC]).

    The tape system was a complete joke - many software companies were so appalled by it, they ended up writing their own "turbo loaders" to gain half-decent loading time. As for the disk system, "a disgrace" would have been kind to it. It was so slow that the tape turbo loaders were actually quicker than it!

    I had the misfortune to experience some assembler development on the Commodore 64 and even with an assembler cartridge to avoid tape/disk loading times, it was still tortuously painful to develop on. I still say that the BBC Micro was the best 8-bit micro ever to develop code on and Commodore's machines weren't in the same league for that.

    1. Paul Shirley

      hated programming for it

      Developing on a C64 was never fun, even with an accelerated disc drive. To lessen the pain I wrote a fat macro file and essentially emulated a Z80 in the assembler. Managed to use about 90% of source lines unchanged from the CPC464 originals. What speed the emulation lost the graphics hardware gave back.

      Couldn't do that for my own tape turbo loader ;)

      TBH the 64 was never my favourite machine, great to play arcade games on but bloody useless for anything else. Suppose I should get my arse in gear and load the emulator onto my phone ;)

      1. DaveK

        I built my own dev system.

        Developing and testing code on the same machine was never a good way to work back in the old days before memory-protected processes. Too much saving and reloading around the inevitable crashes. (At least rebooting was quick!)

        I built a crude homebrew dev system by plugging two C-64s into the same 1541 disk drive, and running some software on the target C-64 that monitored the IEEE serial lines and pretended to be a second drive. I wrote code on the other C-64, and when I told my assembler to assemble directly to file on disk drive #9 rather than #8, it would be loaded straight to target memory by the stub on the second machine and executed. Combined with an Action Replay on the target for debugging and stepping, development was really pretty smooth.

        - Ubik.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Gimp

        Spindizzy

        If anyone doesn't recognise the name of the poster above, they should. He wrote the superb Spindizzy which is still one of my favourite Amstrad CPC games.

        I didn't realise Paul had done the C64 version himself. I'm now going to make sure I take a look at that version. Will be interesting to see how well the emulated code runs.

        Thanks for some great gaming Paul!

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      If I recall, didn't the disk drive have a complete additional 6502 all of its own? So not only could you write your own turbo loaders there too, but I think the time to read a whole floppy could be reduced from the something-like-ten-minutes of Commodore's code to a very reasonable less than twenty seconds?

    3. Peter Gordon

      The story of the ridiculously slow disk drive is quite interesting

      The old disk drives for the Commodore PET used an IEEE parallel cable, the supplier of which went bust, and Commodore found it difficult to source them elsewhere, so when they developed the VIC-20, they decided to create a simple serial bus with cables that anyone could produce.

      The VIC-20, like the PET before, had a 6522 VIA, which could shift in 8 serial bits independently of the CPU, and raise an IRQ to say that a byte was available. In theory this should lead to fast serial transfers with very little CPU overhead. Unfortunately, as all PET fans knew, the 6522 had a bug with this mode, but the VIC-20 team didn't know this, and didn't find out until the hardware was finalised and it would have been too expensive to fix properly, so the software was rewritten.

      Instead of bits being read in automatically without CPU intervention, the disk software was rewritten to constantly poll for bits, requiring the entire attention of the CPU, and slowing down the whole thing by around 12 times!

      When the C64 was being developed, the bug was fixed, and the drives could have been much, much faster, but backward compatibility with the VIC-20 disk drives was deemed too important (not necessarily a stupid decision; the disk drives cost as much as a whole computer, and if someone already had a VIC-20 with disk drive, being able to still use the drive is a big incentive to stick with Commodore when the time comes to upgrade).

      The end result is that the C64 disk drive system was around 12 times slower than it needed to be, and significantly more CPU hogging.

      Luckily, the 1541 disk drive was a 6502 computer system in its own right, and it is entirely possible to send a small turbo loader to the drive, and load your actual application at the full speed, and a lot of commercial software did this.

      Later, people sold third party ROM chips (JiffyDOS) which you put into the drive and the C64, and enabled the full speed mode by default.

      1. Steve Evans

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the commodore disk drives also completely ignore the indexing hole in the disk and purely rely on reading the disk to work out where they were?

        IIRC the commodore owners never had to cut a new hole (just a write protect notch in the side) if they chose to flip their disks and use the second side, whereas us beeb owners had to extract the floppy bit, cut a matching indexing hole in the case, then put the magnetic floppy bit back in again.

        Ah fond memories, squeezing 400K out of a floppy.

        1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

          @Steve Evans

          "Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the commodore disk drives also completely ignore the indexing hole in the disk and purely rely on reading the disk to work out where they were?"

          I think so, 5 x’FF’ bytes were a block separator, some “protected” disks had killer tracks on that that consisted entirely of x’FF’ bytes, as a result the drive would spin forever looking for a block of data, the simple way to defeat this was to slightly unseat the disk in the drive!

          The disk hardware supported a 40 track 5¼” disk, however the commodore software only used 38 tracks, leaving 2 tracks free for other purposes like putting the real disk catalog on the 2 extra tracks.

          400K on a floppy?? How? 170K per side was the limit making then 340K floppies

    4. hazydave

      Most of the C64 complaints

      .,. were a product of the times. The cassette derived from the PET, the serial bus was compatible with the VICs, stuck with the low speed work-arounds that got the VIC-20 working. The development team and schedule, like most at Commodore, were able to do great things with a small team. But not everything.

      The kernal did what it always did in Commodore machines -- basic I/O. There was no idea that a machine of this scale should provide software abstractions (eg, API) for higher level functions like graphics and animation.

      We fixed most of the weaknesses on the C128, but after all, that was three hardware guys, three software guys, and three chip guys all on the same project (see SYS 32800,123,45,6 if you have a C128)... a big team, with some experienced together on the Plus/4.

  15. JeffyPooh Silver badge
    Pint

    The Radio Shack TRS-80 Colo(u)r Computer was waaay better

    Just sayin'...

    1. Anonymous Prime
      WTF?

      I wish

      Pfft-- I had a CoCo 2 and 3, and while the 6809 was a superior 8-bit CPU (it was able to do some 16-bit ops), it was entirely on its own. No sprite chip-- I taught myself assembly to create a screaming fast (compared to the stock CoCo3 BASIC HGET/HPUT ) blitter. It could do transparency, even. "Audio" meant plugging values into a particular address (linked to a 6-bit DAC) at regular intervals (no DMA here), so forget about playing any sound more complex than blips and clicks if you want to do anything else at the same time.

  16. Mike Richards Silver badge

    A great machine, but responsible for a lot of problems that befell the industry. Commodore's cut-throat pricing killed off a lot of promising companies that didn't have the resources to last through a price war, they nearly destroyed Atari and left the company with no choice but to break up and sell off the fragments (including ironically to Tramiel). And finally Commodore killed Commodore - bargain basement prices meant that money was always short when it came to developing the next generation of computers.

    But that said, it did give us Boulderdash. And Dropzone. And Paradroid. And Uridium...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I want an Atari 64 Model B!

      Not quite- the C64 didn't give us Dropzone. That one came out on the Atari 800 first, and the Atari version is considered (by the author himself!) to be faster and superior.

      That said, the C64 was superior in other areas, and was undoubtedly a very nice machine in many respects. A hybrid combining the best hardware and OS features of the C64, Atari 800 and BBC Micro would have been an absolutely outstanding machine!

    2. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Tramiel's quote said it all "We made computers for the masses, not the classes". Too many computers were being made for people with plenty of money.

      Commodore reduced costs by buying MOS, but this was forced on them by the price of chips Texas Instruments were selling them. It was their only way to keep costs under control.

      You have MOS to thank for the 6502, a very low cost CPU that is found in masses of computers and arcade machines at the time.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bah

      Uridium really wasn't that good. It just showed off Andrew Braybrook's fantastic smooth scrolling code. It seemed from previews that it should have had power-ups but it didn't. Paradroid on the other hand, is a classic. (I also loved Gribbly's but mine kept crashing.)

      Boulderdash was on the Atari first. On the C64 it didn't scroll fast enough on a busy screen and you could walk off screen. My dad loved that game and played it over and over long after I was bored with it.

  17. Ian 16
    Boffin

    Regarding quantities sold I found this interesting

    http://www.pagetable.com/?p=547

  18. Aqua Marina
    Happy

    Heresy!!!!

    According to my school playground arguments, the ZX spectrum was the most sucessful 8 bit computer, and I won't hear anything said otherwise!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Holmes

      Speccy sales

      The Speccy sold 7 million units which isn't a bad figure considering it never sold in it's original form in the USA and other NTSC countries.

      The Speccy hardware was also very easy to pirate so there were umpteen clones floating around behind the iron curtain (Wikipedia lists a staggering 48 unofficial "clones" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ZX_Spectrum_clones ). So for the Speccy we'll never know just how many "compatible" units were out there.

      1. Steve Evans

        Hardly surprising, it really didn't have any hardware! The Z80 did pretty much everything!

        The likes of the 64, BBC Micro etc had many dedicated chips, which improved their performance and features, but would have made sourcing components more expensive and maybe impossible. Acorn had enough problems sourcing the Intel 8271 disk controller themselves and they weren't behind a technology embargo.

    2. Ilgaz

      Guess what?

      Just back in 2009, we found ourselves arguing which was better, zx or Atari 800 or c64. That is definition of holy war I think. If you manage to troll Linus, you can still make him defend his own 8 bit. I am sure.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But the C64

      had browner graphics

      than the Speccy.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Holy Shit!!!

    It's been 30 fucking years?!?!??!??

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh dear...

      Guess you're really feeling old now eh? ;-)

  20. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Sprites...

    Ah, it's all coming back to me now. Just the sheer level of hackery that was possible through doing dastardly things to the sprite control registers. Getting the damn things to be 24x24 rather than 24x21 was one trick - albeit IIRC at the sacrifice of the number of sprites possible... but the multi colour mode was a pain as well due to the limitations of this. Other than this, the fun with the collision detection (remarkably good but had its flaws), the hassle of moving past the 1 byte horizontal register maximum (screen width was wider than 255 pixels) that meant many games used the right hand side as game information instead.

    The fun with the SID chip was good as well, fondly remember when I first got the algorithm working for polyphonic playback of sound. OK, with only 3 channels it wasn't great in the poly-department but a lot better than the previous situation where a subsequent note cut the trailing portion of the prior note stone dead. ADSR anyone?

    The processor was a "real" one though, not pathetic like the Z80 with all its stack shenanigans to due the most simple tasks (x86 is just as bad in some ways) and only *girls* had CPUs that could multiply or divide. I can almost remember the machine code decimal values for starting the most commonly used interrupt register callbacks :)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    1989?

    The C64 wasn't discontinued until early 1994 as it was still selling well all over the former Eastern Bloc (there was a huge demand for cheap home computers and Amstrad had discontinued the Spectrum in 1991). Although the C64 had all but vanished from UK stores by 1992 (I picked up one very cheap end of line from John Menzies Summer 1992).

    In 1991 New Computer Express reported that Commodore was to stop bundling a tape recorder with the C64 because the cost of producing the tape recorder hadn't dropped whereas the C64 itself now cost so little to make that they could sell it without the tape recorder for around £50.

    1. Ilgaz

      It is no co incidence

      That most of advanced mobile software and some insanely optimized desktop software such as core player comes from those areas and Russia.

      You had no choice but hack. Can you believe that they still code for msx?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Gimp

    Mayhem In Monsterland

    I wanted to post a link from Youtube of one of the final commercial releases for the C64, Mayhem in Monsterland.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vADKoSDqhdk

    A fitting end to the C64's commercial life. Wonderful graphics and splendid gameplay. Most people probably won't have seen the game. On a proper TV set rather than Youtube it looks amazing.

    (if you want to see a more colourful level skip to 3 minutes in).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes!

      I had a C64 with a re-furb disk drive when Mayhem came out and I bought that game.

  23. brickoftheday
    Thumb Up

    Quick LEGO Interpretation!

    I grew up on a BBC Master 128, but felt compelled to throw together a quick LEGO tribute:

    http://twitter.com/#!/brickoftheday/status/153921625639755776

    :D

  24. Stefan 2

    Astonishing

    I had a relevant conversation with a young man a couple of weeks ago. The gist was my (small) obsession with retro computers. He couldn't understand it at all, but I had to remind him that computer nostalgia for me included varied systems, no GUI's, straight-to-BASIC boot, the early development of games and machines that you had to plug into a TV instead of a monitor.

    I pointed out that his nostalgia will merely be for past versions of Windows, which really isn't going to provoke anything approaching the same level of emotional response.

    I got a C16 (not the plus/4) for /this/ Christmas and I bought myself a still-working Commodore 128D only yesterday. Happiest purchase ever :)

  25. Baldy

    c64 recorder

    You missed one point. The C64 had a true digital, saturated-tape recorder. It may not have been an industry first, but was certainly the first on the home market. (With much work I was able to code a driver for a TRS-80 m1, and hit a reliable 2k baud.) The reliability and speed were far greater than any analog system of the time.

    1. Joefish
      Gimp

      No it wasn't - the baud rate was notoriously slow for the day,

      and that's compared to cheap audio tape players plugged into other 8-bits.

      What it was was some cash-generating product lock-in, just like Amstrad and his monitors.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Holmes

        Amstrad monitors

        They weren't a cash lock in. Sugar wanted to create an all in one solution that kept things simple. You'd buy a box and get everything you needed. Monitor, disk drive/tape recorder. A CPC 464 had one power cable and 2 cables from the monitor to the unit as well as a sharp picture on the monitor. A Speccy had 3 power cables (unit, TV and tape recorder), a joystick adaptor and a fuzzy UHF picture with yet more cables to the tape recorder.

        Believe me, as an Amstrad user in the 80's, Sugar did lots of things that infuriated users, but the monitor concept was conceived to make the unit "all in one" much as Amstrad had done with their cheap Hi-Fi systems.

        The PCW took it one step further and built the mainboard into the monitor itself. People wet themselves when Apple did it with the iMac 15 years later! Mine you the PCW could never be said to be attractive in any way shape or form. :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wiping tapes

      Wasn't too fast, but at least you didn't have to mess around with volumes to load programs.

      Also, it was great for wiping tapes if your stereo didn't turn off the microphone when recording. ;)

  26. I Like Heckling

    So many good times

    I sold my Atari 2600 and all my games to put the money towards a C64 for xmas, the folks chipped in the rest and on xmas morning I unwrapped it.

    I was 13yrs old... I set it up, plugged in the tape drive and opened the two games I had been bought. The Hobbit txt based adventure game (which came with the book too, and is my all time fave book) and Jeff Minters Hovver Bovver.

    We read the instructions, set it up, plugged in the joystick, switched it on and loaded Hovver Bovver... 5 mins later we discovered the joystick was faulty... this has been a tradition in my family for over 40yrs... something gadgety/electrical would always be broken in some way when opened on xmas day.

    So we loaded The Hobbit instead and aside from xmas dinner, the top of the pops special and a few movies... all 5 of us sat around playing the Hobbit.

    I tried programming on it, but wasn't very good at it... But I kept the C64 until 1990 and had hundreds of games for it.

    I discovered the joys of twin tape decks on my dads stereo, and me and friends would swap games, another friend got a cartridge (can't remember the name), load a game press a button on the back and record it back to tape or disk.

    I've lost count on the number of games that cemented my love of video games... that as a 42yr old is only just starting to wane (mainly due to stupid kids, so I stick to single player and RTS type games now)... but I broke more than a few joysticks on Daley Thompsons Decathlon, perfected my skills on Summer Games I/II, Winter Games & California Games, pursued the llamas in Jeff Minters timeless classics,... Uridium, Paradroid... oh the memories have brought a smile to my face on a cold winters night.

    I used to go to a computer club on a Monday night, and took my C64 with me... I saw kids with Atari 400's, Speccy 48k's and at the end of my time there a few speccy 128 and C128's.

    But every week a crowd would gather around my C64 (or one of the others... depends who got in early and bagged the biggest colour TV (normally me :) )) and play the latest games... or simply load up the voice emulator (something none of us had ever seen or used before) and get it to say the things a group of 12-14yr old boys would. :)

    I got an Atari ST 1080 in 1989 and had that for a couple of years, then got a couple of Amigas in the early 90's (one with the 1mb upgrade)... but they never held the same appeal as the C64 did, nor did my Megadrive, SNES... I guess it was my chipped playstation I got in 96 that reinvented console gaming and moved it back along to my age range (mid 20's by this time)... followed by my first CDRW in about 98.

    I had a PS2 and an Xbox... but I skipped the 360 and PS3 and just have a Wii for when friends visit as even my 69yr old disabled dad can play the bowling on that... it's the first time he's ever been truly interested in video games in my entire life... same goes for my sister and mother, and if my brother was still alive... he'd have loved it too.

    Strange... I'm not enjoying computer games much any more, as my eldery parents and older siblings were.

    Happy birthday C64... you gave me and my friends many, many years of fun.

  27. Adam Trickett
    Linux

    Fond memories

    I got my C64 about a year after my friends got their computers. At my school a few rich kids had Beebs and no significant software, most people had Speccies and a few of us had C64s. On balance we may not have had the number of friends to exchange ideas with, but we had the better mix of games and features.

    Later on I got a third part disk drive, and used GEOS on my C64. I even used GeoWrite in preference for Word for Windows when I wrote my final year report as an undergraduate.

    My C64 still works perfectly and lives in the loft. I just need to make up the right cable to use it on my TV, it' uses s-video which gives good picture quality but it uses an unusual large DIN sockets...

  28. Monty Burns

    Why no mention of the CDTV?

    Possibly one of the most "ahead of its time" bits of kit ever produced.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodore_CDTV

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why no mention of the CDTV:

      Because 1) it's an Amiga, not a C64 and 2) it's not 30 years old.

      1. Monty Burns

        Dear AC - 3;

        The article goes on to the C64 legacy (Amiga's) of with the CDTV is.

    2. Michael Strorm

      CDTV was Amiga 500 + CD-ROM in Hi-Fi case

      "Why no mention of the CDTV? Possibly one of the most "ahead of its time" bits of kit ever produced."

      I wouldn't say that. CDTV's CD-ROM drive itself may have been relatively new technology in early 1991, but the rest of the hardware was effectively an Amiga 500 in a hi-fi style case. The architecture and chipset was little changed since the original Amiga 1000 in 1985.

      Granted, *that* was fantastically ahead of the competition back then, so still held up respectably almost 6 years later, but it wasn't new. The original CDTV didn't even include the minor chipset enhancements nor the new OS of the A500 Plus that came out later that year.

      Ideally, it would have used something like the A1200 hardware (faster processor, more significantly improved graphics), which should have come out in early 1991 anyway, but that didn't hit until late '92, by which point CDTV had already flopped. (The later CD32 console *was* based on the A1200, but that was aimed at the games market and was more obviously a low-development-cost cash cow capitalising on the Amiga's existing fame and support).

      That said, though the CDTV's hardware was basically identical to the Amiga, it wasn't originally meant to be marketed as such. Commodore wanted to sell it as a multimedia machine and (at least in the UK) didn't even use the Amiga name at first.

      So judged in its own right, CDTV's fundamental problem was that it didn't have enough compelling software- and certainly no killer apps- to justify spending 500 quid (at 1991 prices!!). There was some minorly-enhanced Amiga software copied to CD and some reference things, but the Hutchison Encyclopedia disc (which I got with my Amiga CD-ROM drive) offered little (aside from a few low-res video clips and pictures) that couldn't have been done- and just as quickly- with the book version.

      Philips' competing CD-i lasted longer on the market, but that seems only to have been because they had the money (and the inclination) to keep trying to push it- ultimately unsuccessfully.

      1. Monty Burns

        Sorry Michael Strorm

        You misunderstand me as I wasn't very clear :)

        I mean ahead of its time in that it really was a first attempt to be a "proper" HTPC (although, honestly can't remember if it had a TV tuner) in the same way progs like XBMC later went on to be on the Xbox (and now PC).

        So, "ahead of its time" in concept imo rather than techinically.

        1. Michael Strorm

          CDTV wasn't really a full media centre in the modern sense...

          "I mean ahead of its time in that it really was a first attempt to be a "proper" HTPC (although, honestly can't remember if it had a TV tuner)"

          It's often been said in hindsight that the original Amiga 1000 was the world's first multimedia computer.

          However, CDTV itself definitely *didn't* have a TV tuner, nor could it record TV or video (to be fair, nothing else remotely in its class could have done the latter either back then- the processing power and storage to do this at near-broadcast-quality would have been massive by the standards of the time).

          CDTV's playback of pre-recorded video was limited to quarter-screen "CDXL" video clips; unlike CD-i, it never supported MPEG-1 playback (i.e. Video CD), though even CD-i only supported it with an optional add-on module (as did CDTV's successor, CD32).

          Essentially it was a CD-based multimedia device.

  29. Torben Mogensen

    Programming

    As other people have mentioned, the BASIC in C64 was terrible -- no real support for graphics or sound except through PEEK and POKE. Also, the way the screen memory was organised also made use of colour a bitch: The colour attributes were for blocks of 8x8 or 4x8 pixels instead of individual pixels. In contrast, the BBC Micro had an excellent BASIC with full graphics and sound support and you could set the colour properties of individual pixels. The latter meant that colour modes required more memory for similar screen resolutions, but the freedom of controlling individual pixels was liberating. And when you wanted to use assembler, there was no need to POKE the instruction codes into memory -- you could write in textual assembler with names labels etc. There was even a Pascal compiler written in BASIC that used this to compile to machine language. And while the BBC didn't have hardware sprites (except the cursor, which was used in some games as a sprite), the 6502 in the BBC was clocked at twice the speed of the 6510 in the C64, so things were pretty smooth anyway.

    1. Dinky Carter

      The colour attribute system wasn't much of a problem because the h/w sprites were totally unaffected by it. Hence you could construct a colourful and attractive backdrop and move hi-res sprites in different colours over it.

    2. Peter Gordon

      And yet...

      the BBC can't produce graphical effects and sounds anywhere near as good as the C64 demos I linked to in my previous comment.

      Don't get me wrong, the BBC's expandability, operating system, and CPU speed were all excellent for the time, but the C64 gave you more bang for the buck.

    3. Giles Jones Gold badge

      The Beeb used off the shelf parts mostly. The C64 used custom hardware designed by video game experts and in the case of the sound chip a musician and synthesizer enthusiast who went on to found Ensoniq. In his own words "I thought the sound chips on the market, including those in the Atari computers, were primitive and obviously had been designed by people who knew nothing about music.".

      4 channels of square waves and noise is not musical. I suggest you check out some C64 music to see how influential it was and how it isn't all bleeps. Have a look on youtube for "C64 Sanxion" for an example.

      The only thing the SID chip didn't really do well was drums, although tunes like Arkanoid and "Game Over" used a sample playback trick.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sorta agreed

      I'm geekish enough to own a BBC (Acorn Electron) as well the C64 (which I started out with) and although you're fully right when it comes to "out of the box" support I always got the feeling that it also made things a little too easy.

      Nothing negative here, in comparison the Electron was also awesome. I mean; you could actually intermingle assembly /in/ your basic program; something totally unheard of when looking at the C64. Also the several graphical modi on the Electron were quite handy and IMO ahead of its time.

      Still, the C64 was a little harder to program in comparison (to some extend anyway; once you grokked the peeks & pokes you were basically home free). But I think that barrier eventually brought out the best in a lot of people. Was basic limited? Yes, thus it somewhat forced you to utilize assembly; which turned out to be extremely flexible.

      Same applies to the system as a whole. It was a bit messy here and there, also the page swapping could sometimes create unwanted side effects. But once again; you worked around it.

      Hmm, I still recall actually /using/ the screen buffer to dump in asm routines after which you called them. It was fast, you could get yourself a little extra buffer space and as a side effect; many people actually considered all the gibberish flashes on the screen "cool".

  30. Dinky Carter

    Great Machine...

    In 1984 I wrote a shoot'em up in assembly on the 64 and had it published by Bubble Bus Ltd. It was a joy to see it on the shelves in WH Smiths :-) It still lives on among the 64 retro gaming community.

    First I had to write my own 6502 assembler in Basic, but that was half the fun. The C64's hardware was fantastic, and a joy to control from assembly. The first computer speech I ever heard was on a 64 (Impossible Mission.)

    As for the Basic, that was just a tweaked version of the Basic that Microsoft wrote for the PET in 1977. (Yes, Microsoft wrote the 64's Basic...) I didn't care that it was bare bones, because I wanted to completely bypass it anyway and drive the machine from assembly. And with the 64's excellent ROM banking system I could reclaim the space taken by Basic and use it for more useful purposes :-)

  31. stu 4
    Boffin

    macintosh vs amiga

    Just reading steve jobs biography just now, and am surprised how little mention is made of the amiga.

    It came out, what, 6 months after the mac and yet was lightyears ahead of it.

    It's funny how history recorded the mac as being the amazing game changer.

    It's a real pity jobs didn't buy into amiga before commodore - amiga hardware with nextstep (i.e. inin this alternate reality steve stayed at apple, macos was never written and the team did not leave apple, but created nextstep in apple)would have absolutely wiped the floor with x86. I think that combination would probably have been enough for IBM to stick to their original nextstep agreements

    It would probably have killed the 'PC' market dead, and have had 25 years of awesome OO software on amazing hardware rather than the crappy x86 platform and M$ shit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Headmaster

      Amiga

      Absolutely. People forget just how expensive and obscure the Mac was in the 80's. And even then most people only had the black and white models not the super expensive colour machines that only the art departments at magazines had (the Mac pretty much ruled DTP at that time).

      But Commodore messed it up anyway. Like so many companies of that era (Amstrad included) they completely failed to harness their huge user bases and invested too little money in new upgraded machines and far too late. The users just drifted off to the competition.

      Not forgetting Commodores tendency to invest in insane projects that ignored the machines that were making them money. In the USA Commodore chased the PC market using profits from the Amiga to no avail. They designed the CDTV, a machine with no merit that nobody wanted. The C16 was a disaster that saw inventory offloaded to Mexico and did anyone see a Plus 4 in the wild? The C128 had very low take-up as well (I never saw one for sale on the high street).

      While the A1200 upgrade was welcomed, it was too late and it later turned out that improvements to the sound chip were left on the drawing board to save money.

      Commodore bought about their own demise. Indeed it turned up that Commodore UK and Germanys profits from the Amiga had been propping up Commodore USA for quite some time before it collapsed.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
        Trollface

        Obligatory comment for the fanbois to downvote, that’s if they read anything about other hardware

        "People forget just how expensive and obscure the Mac was in the 80's"

        Some things never change, crApple stuff is still overpriced.

      2. Giles Jones Gold badge

        Commodore really stalled, the development of the new chipsets was delayed too long and stupid products like the CDTV and A600 didn't help.

        I think Tramiel leaving didn't help, although Atari didn't fare much better. He joked that his mission at Atari was to destroy them.

        I remember seeing the Mac in a comparison with the Amiga and Atari ST and thought why on earth would someone buy a black and white computer at twice the price? it was shocking how overpriced they were back then.

        Macs are around the same price now, if you take inflation into account the price of Macs now is quite a bargain. I have a few Macs but would rather still be on a Commodore if they had lasted.

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      The Mac was a game changer because...

      ... because it was a software platform almost from day one with no pretence of hardware compatibility from one machine to the next, and was lucky enough to become the best supported platform in the 80s and early 90s for high-profile, market leading productivity software like Photoshop and Pagemaker, at least partly because QuickDraw was very good software and a good functional match for Postscript.

      The Amiga was at least five years ahead of its time and is rarely given the amount of credit it deserves but I don't think you have to take away from Apple to give to Commodore.

      Incidentally, I've been reading 'Commodore: a Company on the Edge' since it was recommended by another commenter here and part of it seems to be West Coast bias. History has so far been written by Silicon Valley types; Commodore were based in Pennsylvania. I think it may also be US bias, since the Amiga was a much bigger success for Commodore internationally than domestically.

      (aside: your chronology is off. The Amiga 1000 launched in July 1985, a full year and a half after the Mac 128k, which launched in January 1984)

  32. Frank 2
    Joke

    What about the hand-carved C64?

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/06/30/419_plonker/

  33. Ravenger
    Thumb Up

    The C64 started my career

    i bought a C64 back in 1983, and the tape drives were in such short supply that I couldn't get one for weeks. I was limited to typing in basic programs and losing them when the machine was turned off!

    Once I'd got a tape drive, then later a disk drive I started to play with the machine properly. I bought a touch tablet called a Koala Pad I started drawing pictures, and managed to get some work doing loading screens. This led to a career in computer games, so the C64 is very special to me.

    I've still got that C64, and it's still working over 25 years later. (apart from a joystick fault it had before I put it in the attic) The disk drive no longer reads disks, which is disappointing, but my 1702 monitor works fine. They certainly built this stuff to last!

    So happy birthday C64! I wouldn't be where I am today without you, and for that I am extremely thankful.

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      I wish I had mine in 1983. I was playing on a friends Spectrum back then and was amazed by the likes of Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy, not to mention all the Ultimate games.

      In the end it was my brother who selected the C64 from the vast array of possible choices at the time (You think PS3 or XBox is a tough choice, there were about 8 or more choices then).

      While you didn't get a tape deck I did and it was obviously out of alignment as it wouldn't load many of the games. We had bought the C2N from Woolworths as Boots didn't have any. But we took it back to Boots to demonstrate the problem and they replaced the tape deck even though we had bought it elsewhere.

      Many a Saturday was spent in Boots and Woolies looking at all the games. Woolies had this huge long glass case with all the computer kit in it but Boots were more trusting and had them all on display in the open.

  34. RyokuMas Silver badge
    Trollface

    Obvious mistake by Commodore...

    "Room between the Games System and the Amiga" - they were the same thing, weren't they? Just one had a bit better graphics...

    *Grabs Atari STE and retreats to flame-proof bunker*

  35. Agnus
    Angel

    Has nobody spotted the post by a legend?

    HazyDave - Is it the real Dave Haynie on the Reg?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I did

      Good to see I'm not the only one. Glad to see him around here.

  36. JeffyPooh Silver badge

    "Sprites"

    = Dodo bird.

    ;-)

    PS: Just kiddin'...

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Ah - peek and poke...

    The Commodore 64 is what got me into programming (in basic and assembly) prior to owning an 8086 Intel.

    May an evening lost - it all started with writing the programs out of Zzap64. Spent ages writing a battleship one that dropped mines on submarines below.

    happy days.

  38. Alan Brown Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    C64 did amazing things

    In the mid 1980s they were being used to control automated radio stations (robot radio)

    I still recall walking into a studio full of racks of open reel machines all controlled by a PC in the corner stuff full of esoteric interface cards and being told it was worth several million dollars

    A couple of years later, in a studio across town, it was racks full of Video8 players (4 parallel soundtracks/tape + 3 hours tapes, 100 decks) and a C64 sitting on the desk doing all the legwork. This one cost less than 1/8 the rival station's setup and was _much_ more flexible (the playlist was 100 times larger for starters)

    The C64 did it much better, with the only drawback being that it was a NTSC model and locally sourced PAL units were incompatible as backup hardware - something that turned out to be a major disadvantage in the late 1990s/early 2ks as the original C64 became flakey after a couple of coffee spills.

  39. stu 4
    Thumb Down

    C64 killed 3 months of my work

    When I was 12 years old I was working on an educational platform game for the speccy.

    It was about 80% complete and I had a deal with a publishing company all ready, when I took it to a computer meet and had the misfortune of setting up near a C64 + tv.

    a few days later - the tape has been corrupted by the radiation coming off the C64. When I moaned about it, I found most of the grown ups there all new that it radiated tapes.

    arse. set me back more like 6 months as of course I didn't have a printout or anything, as I didn't have a printer :-(

    1. Peter Gordon

      Urmm... what?

      I had tapes near my C64 all the time without trouble.

      Mind you, the SX-64 had a disk storage slot that erased the disks because it was right in the middle of a magnetic field...

  40. Agnus
    Unhappy

    For those who blame Gould/Ali etc. for the fall of Commodore, it's not over yet (even after death):

    http://www.oakbridgeins.com/clients/blog/commodore.pdf

  41. LFM
    Pint

    Modems, C-NET and Lego...

    I spent hours dialling into C-NET with a cartridge based 1200/75 baud modem and downloading demos by the likes of Hagar and Razor. Also plenty of old BBS like "Plug'ole".

    One thing I remember most was writing a "security log" system on my C64 (for my GCSE Computer Studies) and wiring up a Lego house to the joystick port to illustrate the door open, window open logging. I wish I had patented it because Lego Mind-storms would have made me a fortune :-)

  42. Giles Jones Gold badge

    C64 vs BBC

    The videos of the games say it all:

    BBC, poor graphics, no music and cheesy sound:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RfDW-wuNIQ

    C64: pretty good graphics, classic music and sound (although the music sounds a little rough thanks to youtube compression):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExftoivJ_EU

    1. OldB0y

      The beeb did have good games - just not that many!

      I had the beeb which I really enjoyed, and still have, but I always wanted the c64 for the games! The beeb had major weak spots when it comes to games - a woeful 8 colour palette (16 if you included the flashing colours) a meagre 32k of RAM (which considering the price was a joke), and a sound chip that can best be described as not great although for some reason both the Amstrad cpc and Atari ST used the same one.

      The beeb did have one advantage - a slightly faster 1.2Mhz CPU, but the c64's graphics/sound chips usually more than made up for it. Some programmers managed wonders on the beeb though:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bxdd2_qrpg

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enEUt3BeiiY

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZT6ItqZ2xc

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sRFxCf5pIE

      Unfortunately these wonders were few and far between compared to what was available on the c64, and all of the above games eventually surfaced on the c64 anyway.

      1. Torben Mogensen

        The 6502 on the BBC was 2MHz, twice as fast as on the C64. The C64 could, of course, exploit the hardware sprites to overcome some of the speed difference, but 3D games like Elite and Sentinel (that don't use 2D sprites) ran more smoothly on the BBC than they did on the C64.

        While the BBC only had 32 KB compared to the 64 KB of the C64, all of this was easily accessible, unlike on the C64, where the BASIC ROM shadowed a large part of the 64 KB. Some extensions to the BBC added "shadow RAM" that shared logical address space with the ROM but could be used for, e.g., extra screen memory. No games exploited this, however, as not all machines had it.

        I agree that the C64 had better sound than the BBC, but you could still make fairly good music on it and someone even used it for speech synthesis.

        But the C64 had a much larger user base and, hence, more money and time was put into making good games, good music and good demos. This is helped by a still thriving fan community that continues to make new demos and even play C64 game music at concerts.

      2. ThomH Silver badge

        @OldB0y

        Pedant attack!

        If memory serves the BBC had a TI SN76489, which provides three square wave tone channels and one noise channel (which is still two level, but oscillating pseuso-randomly) for four total. The CPC, ST, 128k Spectrum, etc, have an AY-3-8910 which sounds nearly identical but is only three channels, any of which can be tone or noise, or the two mixed together. It's also got some volume envelopes, for a few simple effects without CPU intervention.

        Neither of them comes even close to Commodore's stuff, of course.

    2. Michael Strorm

      BBC and C64 both had strengths, but in clearly different areas

      It's undeniable that the C64 was far more graphically suited to games than the BBC (and the sound was definitely better), except- as Torben Mogensen said- for processor-heavy games like Elite.

      (Plus, despite the C64's limited palette, this doesn't seem to obviously limit the graphics as much as the somewhat garish primaries of the BBC or the Spectrum, even if it *would* have been better with the Atari 800's 128/256-colours).

      However, the BBC had nice crisp RGB graphics output and a 640 x 480 high-resolution mode (that AFAIK the C64 didn't) which made it more suited to serious use.

      It also had a far more impressive BASIC and powerful OS in general (cf. the crude C64 BASIC), a faster CPU (*), usable disk drives and better expandability, along with better design and potential for "serious" use. Shame about the lack of RAM on the BBC B though. (**)

      Basically, IMHO, both machines had clear strengths, but in distinctly different areas with little overlap.

      (*) I find it ironic that C= bought the maker of the 6502 and 6510, yet the C64 was equipped with a slower-clocked 6510 CPU than the BBC and Atari 8-bit's 6502s. (1 MHz versus 1.8 and 2 MHz respectively). I don't know how much the minor architectural improvements of the 6510 over the 6502 compensates, but AFAICT it still wasn't anywhere near enough to make up the difference.

      (**) I appreciate that RAM was expensive back when the BBC B- and even the C64!- was launched, but that 32K was notoriously limiting when hi-res graphics were in use, and a major constraint on its power. Given the BBC was already an expensive machine, the cost of the extra RAM would have been proportionately smaller and less of a big deal than it would have been on (e.g.) the Spectrum- even *that* was available in a 48K version! They should have upgraded the BBC B to 64K early on. (Apparently they briefly released a 64K "B+", shortly before it was replaced by the 128K Master line, but that was years later).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BBC and C64 both had strengths, but in clearly different areas

        "However, the BBC had nice crisp RGB graphics output and a 640 x 480 high-resolution mode (that AFAIK the C64 didn't) which made it more suited to serious use."

        It was 640x256, in fact, but was indeed the kind of 80 column display that didn't appear on the C64 range until the C128 came out, apparently.

        "I appreciate that RAM was expensive back when the BBC B- and even the C64!- was launched, but that 32K was notoriously limiting when hi-res graphics were in use, and a major constraint on its power. Given the BBC was already an expensive machine, the cost of the extra RAM would have been proportionately smaller and less of a big deal than it would have been on (e.g.) the Spectrum- even *that* was available in a 48K version!"

        Maybe Sinclair cut some corners with his RAM. Sinclair's machines seemed to take cost/corner-cutting to the level of an art form.

        "They should have upgraded the BBC B to 64K early on. (Apparently they briefly released a 64K "B+", shortly before it was replaced by the 128K Master line, but that was years later)."

        Agreed. Some of the price could readily be spent on more RAM in the case of the C64, but Acorn should have raised the base specification of the BBC Micro more frequently. I imagine that the company was distracted by the Acorn Business Computer concept, which did plan to introduce BBC-like machines with more memory, and then fell back to introducing stopgap machines when that fell through and the company was taken over by Olivetti. Of course, upgrades were available that gave more RAM, sometimes along with other capabilities.

        It's interesting that the expense of the Beeb is mentioned once more. No-one seems to mention that the C64 cost the same as the BBC B on introduction in the UK. Maybe everyone should start calling C64 owners "posh" just to even out the playground-level banter.

        1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: BBC and C64 both had strengths, but in clearly different areas

          IIRC, the BBC Model B was £399 at (near enough as makes no odds) launch, while the C64 was £299.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            From the Wikigods...

            "The C64 debuted at £399 in early 1983, while the Spectrum cost £175."

            I'm sure someone can pull up some brochures confirming this.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Found some adverts...

              ...here: http://www.binarydinosaurs.co.uk/Museum/Adverts/index.php

              The stated price (excluding VAT at 15%, if I recall correctly) is £299, which would make the inclusive price just north of £340. To be fair, the BBC B's revised price of £399 appears to include VAT. If owning a Beeb made you posh, that 50 or so quid would have to be the cheapest class upgrade ever.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: C64 vs BBC

      "The videos of the games say it all"

      Sheesh! You link to the Beeb port of The Last Ninja and think you're making a valid point (for the nth time in this discussion)? Clue up!

      As others point out, the Beeb had pretty reasonable sound capabilities, especially once people started to figure out the best ways of using them (for speech synthesis, for example, which if your opinion were to be believed would be impossible), and there were some pretty impressive synthesiser add-ons such as the Music 500 and 5000 which go well beyond the SID hardware.

  43. mads64738
    Pint

    Back to 7th January 1984...

    ... and the day my father returned home with a Commodore 64, 1541 disk drive and MPS 801 printer. Most of my youth was spent programming this beige bread-bin, and I have no doubt this led me on the path of my IT career (sorry school and your BBC Model Bs!).

    Great to see that the Commodore 64 is being celebrated! Pretty disgraceful that Commodore appears to be airbrushed from IT history. Even recently, Steve Wozniak was claiming that Apple had the first million selling computer...er no, that accolade goes to the VIC-20. History, as they say, is written by the winners...

    @Peter Gordon (slowness of the 1541 disk drive) - this appears to be more cock-up than conspiracy... Due to the decision to use the VIC-20 style of case , the production engineers *removed* the high speed lines on the PCB. When it was discovered, it was too late - the first batches of C64s had already been passed to the sales channel...

    Brian Bagnall's book "Commodore: A Company on the edge" is a must-read for any Commodore fan.

  44. Code
    Thumb Up

    Still have mine

    I originally got the later case white/thinner C64 ... 1541 drive .. 256kb memory expansion cart .. OkiData 20 dot matrix printer ...

    Anyone remember GEOS OS that had "windows" ?

    about 1987 I got an original brown case at a yard sale for $10 .. it works fine last time I checked it about 6 years ago with carts like Centipede

    Lords of Conquest was a great game .. Arctic Fox by Dynamix was good too .. I must have over 200 floppies for C64 .. would be a miracle if anyone of them is still good, even though I think my 1541 drive is probably still working ... guess I'll dig the C64 stuff out of storage and see if it still lights up some day soon ...

    for fun factor .. C64 was SO ahead of Apple IIc ...

  45. RAMChYLD
    Boffin

    Speed differences

    I'd assume that the speed differences were because the CPU was being used to refresh the framebuffer (as is the case of many consoles and computers that used the TV for display at the time). Remember that NTSC had a higher framerate compared to PAL or SECAM. Thus the framebuffer would need to be refreshed much more frequently to keep sync.

  46. IrkedOne
    Thumb Up

    C64 was an excellent tool for learning low level bit twiddling

    The lack of a powerful BASIC interpreter directed my attention to learning 6502 assembler so I could start writing 3D wire frame vector graphics. I learned how to write cycle accurate timing code to drive the VIC II to make side borders disappear and with raster interrupts to make the the top and bottom borders disappear too. I also wedged in my own BASIC tokenizer and interpreter to extend the BASIC to provide better structured programming (while/wend, procedures, repeat/until) and sound, graphics and disk support - all this taught me how to structure large projects in assembler and how to write compact and efficient code.

    I spent hours pouring over the disassembled C64 BASIC and Kernal ROMs and learned the art of reverse engineering from the object code. I figured out the tape format, analyzed the read/write characteristics of the tape drive head and re-wrote my own tape turbo loaders.

    With the aid of an annotated ROM disassembly of the 1541 floppy drive I figured out how to write disk turbos and I hacked up my own fast formatting tools and my own file system.

    By the time I was 17 I had acquired the the Super C Compiler and I learned how to write C on a system that had a 15 minute edit-compile-link-run turnaround cycle(!).

    All this 1MHz 8 bit goodness taught me valuable lessons in programming efficient code and the trade-off between compact code and fast code. I learned how to twiddle hardware, bit bang data down wires and push a system to squeeze a little more performance out of it.

    I was fortunate to have the time and energy and the right hardware available in my formative years, so I am grateful for Commodore for producing the quirky and hackable C64.

    http://smackerelofopinion.blogspot.com/2012/01/commodore-64-is-30.html

  47. terminator3
    Linux

    Commodore 64 The most popular and longest surving computer of all time.

    I'd say back in the day, in Europe it was mostly Commodore, Atari and then some Spectrum, Apple and Amstrad. Commodore was always looked up to as the "desirable" and "leader" personal computer due to its superior graphics and sound effects (6581/6582/8580). We got our machine sometime in 1985 and loaded most of the programs via tape deck (datasette). This was good as by then the ugly revision A mainboards where replaced by the B revisions. Furthermore, the problem back then was that the disk drive was almost as expensive as C64 so fewer people could afford one. This might not have been the case in the US. The 1541 was not the fastest 5.25" disk drive either. Nonetheless, this computer was in use from 1982-1994 and the most amazing part is the way the DEMO/CRACKING/HACKING SCENE evolved. Throughout the 80s Commodore had awesome magazine and community support which helped it stay in use, inspite of newer computers like Amiga being released. Those communities thrive even today, and not just through emulation.

    Even today, if you get Commodore 64 with JiffyDOS + 1581 (3.5" disk drive) with JiffyDOS, you can see that it's a pretty good machine for some programming and some addictive gaming. My only wish if one could teleport back, was to make the Amiga as popular as Commodore 64. If that was the case, without a doubt Amiga would be the computer in most places and Commodore Business Machines would be still in business. But then again, people who were inside Commodore like Dave Haynie would better know this. Afterall, they knew first hand how badly marketing and CEO/managers really mismanaged the Commodore and its many opportunities to be the #1 in Computers.

    Happy Birthday Commodore 64! It is still fun and pleasure to use today!

    Burt / terminator3 of Commodore Dungeon

  48. scub
    Thumb Up

    Yey!

    Ace,

    Shouldnt be long now til we get the "Amiga is 30" story.

    Pressure will be on to get that story/babble right, or they`ll never hear the end of it.

    ;o)

  49. Van

    Atari 800 32 years old

    The Atari 800 was the true predecessor to the Amiga and came 2 years earlier than the C64.

    It would probably be the more popular machine today, looking at how far the Mac books have come due to sturdier build quality and high price point. Something that crippled the original 800, certainly on the UK market. It also suffered quite a bit of media bias in the UK.

  50. Matthew Collier
    Unhappy

    So many C64 geeks in one place...

    ...so, who can tell me where I can get a "proper"*, Competition Pro joystick to replace my trusty old one? ;)

    In my school, almost everyone had a C64 (I previously was lucky enough to have also had a VIC20), a few had Speccies, and about one or two had BBCBs (I never did know *anyone*, with a BBCA!)

    *- none of that poor imitation/USB rubbish!

  51. Flat Phillip
    Happy

    Those were the days!

    The C=64 was my first computer, though I did use the Apple ][ at school. It was the one I learnt basic and then assembler/machine code (because you had to hand convert it yourself).

    The VIC and SID chips were awesome for their time.

    It was happy times; I never really minded the crappy tape or disk drive because for me it was all about playing around with the programming or trying to get things controlled with some hastily made up tangles of wires and diodes.

    Unlike now, I don't think anyone else ever used anything I wrote for the C64 but that didn't matter to me. Some people hated programming on it, but it was all new and I enjoyed it most of the time. Sure, gcc now warns me of stupid C things or the python interpreter does similar checking but back then it was just your wits and a blank screen when it all went to custard.

    That was 30 years ago? I feel so old now.

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