PCs

Dinosaur sightings: The Commodore 64

Control ports

The label says control port, but they are really just the holes you plug your joystick into.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

247 comments
GeoffDuke
GeoffDuke

I have the professional diagnostic chip-set and plug-ins for a C64 if anybody is interested - all in their original box. On the hierarchical list of dinosaurs there should have been the Lucas NASCOM (Zilog Z80 based machine that I built from kit having first to fault-find and resolve PCB faults first), the Commodore Vic 20 which was the ancestor of the C64, and the Commodore Plus-4 which had software preloaded and accessible by soft-key (and a better machine in my opinion but marketing of the C64 pushed this aside in preference of the gaming community). I built a modem and used a Commodore 64, in conjunction with a 145MHz transmitter, to connect to local BBS on the ham packet radio network in the early days. There was GEOS a 'Graphics Environment Operating System', extra (massive at the time) plug in half-meg RAM packs and early internet connectivity. There were also hard-drives and faster chip-sets available from the small but very valid team of die-hard Commodore supporters. Fun times - gonna go SYS65535 now :-)

jasondubose
jasondubose

The first PC I had was the grey TRS Color computer with the chicklet keyboard, hated that computer, then a couple years later I got a Commodor 64, Loved that computer. It was so cool. These picts bring back some great memories as a kid, having fun with the 64.

jjyar2
jjyar2

You can still play C64 games ....on PC, with the C64 emulater, found somewhere online + some of the games

kevin_flynn
kevin_flynn

It says "Commodore 6510 CPU" but it's really a Motorola... hmmm...

djriel
djriel

Me too... first my Vic20, then my old C64 Ahhhh... good times ... good times. Hours of Load Runner and Hard Hat Mac. And that Killer Sound Chip... Let's not even get me going about the Video Toaster. :) God I loved that machine

stdo57
stdo57

I have this computer with the tape drive and it works.

bradachin
bradachin

And man did I love to play my games on it !!!!!

Computer_User_1024
Computer_User_1024

Just think where we would be if we still had to access the internet with 300 baud modems. Back when we first had our very first taste of the internet, we tried CompuServe (very briefly) on a 300 baud modem. With 300 baud it is so slow you can read the text as it fills the screen; Nothing we do now on the internet would have been possible with 300baud speeds. I used to love dialing up to community bulletin boards and playing tradewars. I still remember when I first purchased a 14.4 modem, man that seemed fast at that time.

bsauer
bsauer

I beg to differ with you, but Atari and Apple had the same features the 64 had and well before the 64 was ever released. Also the Atari line sported some features that none of the others had until the IBM pcs came out. So Commodore was not the pioneer in my opinion. Please clarify what innovations were pioneered by Commodore. I owned an Atari 400, 800 and 540. I also serviced the Apple line for many years.

mikewkay
mikewkay

I was just married in the year of C64's release and despite other distractions(ahem), my wife and I developed a much stronger bond as she called out the listings of Basic code while I keyed it in. Miss-spellings were a true test of our love for each other and our newly arrived plastic baby! Later we developed a high respect for NOVALOGIC's protection as we "backed up" our tape games, using a stereo hi-fi system. Mono decks were hard to come by then. Getting the levels just right for the split signal became a fine art, but what a great challenge it was. Twenty years+ on and my two sons are now the inheritors of those magical years of evening entertainment. Thanks to Commodore/Amiga et al, for getting me involved at that early stage. It has given me a logical understanding like no other amongst my peers. I guess you guys and galls will know what I mean when I say that. LOOK HOW FAR WE HAVE COME! Mike.

loz1
loz1

Ahh, sorry Kiddies but, I started on an IBM 1401. You must be youngsters.

stevewauk
stevewauk

We had a very healthy Commodore club called the Springfield Pet Users Group (SPUG) in Springfield, IL, in the 80's. I remember we would have over 100 attendees at monthly meetings, with a general session that broke up into interest groups exploring various possible applications of this very versatile machine. Great people and good memories.

swheeler
swheeler

The sight of this computer made my eyes fill with extra saline. I don't know if it's in remembrance of the hours I spent trying to enter machine language code out of COMPUTE! magazine or from missing my very first home computer. I had joysticks from my Atari and a floppy disk drive. I can't imagine how much time I spent on that computer, and it would have been more if I had gotten a modem during high school to connect to my buddy's BBS. I loved Print Shop and my dot matrix printer, making my own greeting cards and signs. Oh, le sigh!!!

Lost In The Sauce
Lost In The Sauce

now thats Classic....text based video games 4 text colors...a BBS ... i'm feeling a little old ...and the new gen just don't understand how good they got it how far we have come

Todd.Cochrane
Todd.Cochrane

I was so upset when my Mother gave my C64 away to one of the neighbour's kids. Of course it had sat in the garage for around 10 years at the time but none-the-less I still had n't extracted all the value I could from my GEOS operating system plus assembler. Good memories? I did write project reports on it during my degree :-) ! Then it became my wife's word processor when she wrote her Master's thesis :-) !

Scott.Swenka
Scott.Swenka

Yes, it brings back memories...Commodore Vic 20, we bought the expansion cartridge to expand it to if I recall correctly 5k. Had the whole setup, tape deck, and Alphacom printer. I wrote my first progam on that computer. My parents gave me a choice as a young 5-6 year old, either the Vic 20 or a Atari Game machine... I think it was a 2600. After many years we gradated to a Radio Shack TRS-80 Coco 2. I account the Vic 20 being the item that got me started in computers and ultimatley where I am at in my career today 30 years later... I still have the Vic 20, and it works today also...

dlindnerjr
dlindnerjr

My first was a commodore Vic-20, then the 64. I wore the first one out gaming. Microleague baseball, Activision mindshadow, Alpine Encounter just to name a few. Then I purchased my second one and with it came the 5-1/4" floppy that changed my life. Q-link. I used to host and scorekeep music oldies trivia games when I wasn't on the message boards or playing in Club Caribe. I made lots of friends on that system and one very special one. I have been married for 14 years to that special friend that I met on the Q-link.

g0dFather
g0dFather

I still have all of my C64 hardware and software. I used it from 1983 all the way into 1997 until I purchased my first PC. I also used MAC and Atari ST during that time but they were primarily for music and lacked in other ways. In my opinion, the C64 truly was the first do-it-all computer. There are some incredible C64 emulators out there now for the PC (I use WinVICE), and just about any software you used can be found for download. So if your Commodore hardware/software is gone, grab an emulator and take a trip down memory lane!

techrepublic
techrepublic

This little system has got to be one of the best computers of all time - its popularity means that so many of us surely had one of these back in the day. The system was revolutionary for several reasons, however I think the biggest reason for its fame and continued following is down to its magnificent sound chip, the MOS Technology SID. It was so far ahead of its time that it was used by many as a sound synthesizer for music creation, and in fact it is still used to this day, even in commercial music. Whats more, a whole online scene has developed purely around the music written for the SID chip, even including a long running internet radio show called SLAYRadio which hosts a variety of shows including live remix performances of C64 music. I could go on, but instead I will stop here and simply provide a list of links for those of you interested in discovering how alive the C64 -really- is! Enjoy: C64 remix reviews - http://www.remix64.com C64 remix downloads - http://remix.kwed.org C64 Radio Show - http://www.slayradio.org C64 Record Label / Commercial Albums - http://www.c64audio.com C64 News Hub - http://www.c64.com 25th Anniversary of the C64 Celebrations hosted by the Computer History Museum and featuring CEOs from Commodore, IBM and Apple - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBvbsPNBIyk Fantastic example of a live remix being performed on the SLAYRadio "Sunday Service" show (from the game Green Beret) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8UBY8Yj9c0 Official trailer for an upcoming documentary about C64 Musicians / Remixers - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf7mwUVZzw0 Regards, BAM.

collings_simon
collings_simon

I missed the C64 by about a year (thankfully) and wend straight into an Amstrad C20 - no hard drive, booted off a 5.25 disc and it had a CGA monitor - I thought I was soo cool at the time.

rick.jury
rick.jury

did anyone else play nemesis the warlock?? that was my fav c64 game - the only game i have played where you progress to the next level by mounting up the corpses of your enemies.

dammkon
dammkon

oh i remember the first day that i buy my c64 in the first day i start to write my first basic program with a loop line that the c64 write my name in all the line an repeat it and i start my new life with computer ..... now i have that c64 today and protect my c64 on tp of my desk .

groovejets
groovejets

Wow this brings back a huge rush of nostalgia. I remember my poor mate who had ZX Spectrums, us guys with our trusty C64's were like BMW owners next to the poor old Spectrums. Great machine, great sound and many, many late, late nights playing games on my baby till just before time to leave for school. I slept through many a maths lesson as a result. Yeah the beginning of a life n computers for me ;) Thanks for a great article, I look foreward to the cracking it open session.

TCDood
TCDood

Great machine...my first intro to BBS and data communications. Wrote a 50 Page Senior Thesis, using Fleet Software, and a $300.00 typewriter/printer. Looked very professional...wrote it over a month...kept the unit on 24/7, and it just worked...Had a Hayes Smartmodem connected to it, to all we were missing was 80 columns, and hard Drive space. Used compuserve for downloads. Business/Games/Sound...Starting career in I.T. Thanks Jack!!!

TCDood
TCDood

In 1985, even though it was 3 years after the IBM PC was released, I had a C-64 that I wrote my Senior Thesis (req'd at College). I used a cheap word processor (Fleet Software, if I recall), and a $300.00 Daisy Wheel typewriter/printer. Using that, I wrote a 50 page double spaced report, that looked beautiful. It was much more than a game machine...Hooked a Hayes Smartmodem up, and it was a great Communications terminal. It took the idea of "INSTANT ON" to a whole new level. All we were missing were 80 columns, and Hard Drives. I still have 2 of them functional...found them at Good Will stores a few years back for $20.00.

djriel
djriel

my commodore 64 started it all for me sprites, 16bit sound ... hacked track 28 errors to crack loadrunner ahhhh the memories

admin
admin

I had a Commodore SX64. It had a 5" color screen, a built-in floppy drive and modem, and a keyboard that covered the whole shebang. It weighed a mere 23 pounds, and was touted as a transportable computer.

willm
willm

The C64 was not the first computer I programmed, nor the first computer I owned. But, in my opinion, it was the Best in terms of programmability, especially when one has the Programmers Reference Manual. The combination of the C64's hardware, like the SID chip, etc, and the manual's documentation made a clear, concise and rewarding development environment. 65xx assembly was awesome. Machine language monitors like Hesmon made debugging a snap. I even wrote BASIC programs that rendered wire-frame houses in 3D and printed them out on the paper-tape pen plotter. Koala Paint made graphics a snap. The sound of that dot matrix printer crawling along... sigh... good memories, to be sure. I still have a C64, though it isn't one that I originally bought, but rather one that I bought years later at a garage sale. When I retire I will look forward to diving back into 65xx assembly again for recreation. Any other FFD2 vector comments along this line, C64 fans? heh...

Craig_B
Craig_B

I started out with the C128 which was nice, of course almost all the games came in 64 mode, so hold the C= key on power up and you have a C64. I learned so many things and got my start in IT by using the Commodore, I used to repair them for my local computer club. I played all the games mentioned in the the previous posts and then some. I even ran a C-Net BBS (Bulletin Board Service). Ah, the good old days...

davem
davem

What about the APPLE 11+..... Great Machine. Still have mine and the Disk drives, Thermal printer. 48k on board and a 16k integer card and a Z80 card. Dealer said "You Will Never Use it All" Dave..

andrewrfisher
andrewrfisher

I still love the Commodore 64 - so much so I've written a book about the games. "The Commodore 64 Book 1982-19xx" covers the last twenty-five years of C64 gaming, with over 200 reviews in full colour. As well as giving you trivia on the people and companies behind the games, each chapter is introduced with a short history page about what was happening to Commodore and the games industry. The follow-up to Hiive's "The ZX Spectrum Book 1982-199x", books will be available from late February 2008. Order now at http://c64goldenyears.com

kush13
kush13

I have the GEOS system if anyone remembers. I have 2 disk drives and 2 c=64 systems. I had a network running as well. The GEOS os was what the commodore was to be originally before it was released to play game cartridges. I have the entire set of all components. It was a great time for us opening up a new pc business in 1981 in pompton lakes nj. We sold a few of the first ibm pc's to the public too. I enjoyed the business retired to sunny florida.

zoran_blazevski
zoran_blazevski

That was my first computer ! I programed in basic/assembler ! Graphisc & sound was something brilliant for that hime ! Now I have a lot of Pc/Notebooks/Servers byt nothing can compare with that filling in early '80 ! zoran_blazevski@yahoo.com

done
done

Let's see... my early computer history: Silent700 Thermal Terminal hooked into BellLabs network that hooked into Arpanet.. Timex Sinclair - I still suffer eye spasms when I think of it - and the awful keyboard.. Commodore - ummm... one before the 64 - not a pet, same - Ah, came to me VIC-20.. Then the 64 - which I eventually learned programming on, including using it for instrumentation control. Even had the aftermarket dual-floppy disk setup. The joystick input ports had 8 bit A to D coverters built in which allowed it to be used as a lab instrument (really!).. I avoided the Rainbow era - and moved to the IBM-PC shortly afterwards with DOS 1.1.. and never looked back, but I still have very fond memories of the C-64, and always wanted the breadbox color portable.

sarijoen
sarijoen

Still have mine there where 2 models. The old model had a better sound chip!!!!

bj2448l
bj2448l

I have 2 c-64's, 1SX-64 and a B-128 complete plus several shoe boxes of programs some never been opened and a Vic-20 complete. all in working order

lazettajr
lazettajr

Ohh, do I remember that nice computer. Moved up from the Vic 20, to the 64, and then to the 128, and the Amiga. The 64K systems running at 2Mhz, were at that time very nice indeed. lol Kinda wish I still had them to show my grand-kids.

kcs3295
kcs3295

I know this is not an appropriate posting but I can no longer store all this. I want someone to buy it that will appreciate having a large collection C64's & 128's - some in original boxes I bought new. About 5 systems and maybe 700 disks and a rare MSD dual drive. Must take all for best offer. kcs3295@bellsouth.net in Greenville, SC pickup only. You will need a truck or van. Thanks TechRepublic if this is allowed to post.

smprowse
smprowse

I had worked for Commodore Computers repairing Vic-20's and datasettes. Wow, that was a long time ago.

PSepulveda
PSepulveda

The 1401? I started on the IBM 1620 which was the scientific version of the 1401, or vice versa. By then it was an obsolete machine, but that is what we had in the Laboratory of Psychology at the Institute of Mental Health Bethesda MD (part of NIH).

dpcacker
dpcacker

doing anything in 7-0-70?? Some of the guys I worked with back in the 70's had an object deck from the 1401 and played music on the printer.

dpcacker
dpcacker

Are there any former NEOCUG (Cleveland Ohio)members out there??

groovejets
groovejets

Wow I am just amazed at how many responses state their hardware still works. I remember spilling Fanta Orange on my keyboard. I was a kid at the time, so instead of my dad finding out I opened up the machine and, WOW, it had a keyboard backing and a metal foil like protector about the motherboard. I cleaned it our with some solvent and ear buds, and except for one key that stuck a little the machine worked fine. That stuff was so well made man. On the down side, I had one of the newer floppy drives with the clip mechanism, that eventually broke so I used a ruler to keep it closed and it actually worked for a few months. Amazing little machines!

tronman
tronman

I've read over the years about the infamous 'Jack Attack' that could happen to you at any time if you worked at Commodore and Jack took a dislike to something you did. I don't know if 'Jack Attack' the game was programmed in-house at Commodore (though I seem to recall it being an actual Commodore game) and if it was, did the name/theme of the game (Jack squashing stuff beneath him) have anything to do with Commodore's mercurial founder? Just a curiosity.

jclarksprint
jclarksprint

I have a add on module that does 80 column. don't know if it works, been in a box for quite some time.

Presspop
Presspop

I loved GEOS. I had 2 C64s (still do) and I wrote a routine that let me run GEOS on one and use the other as an extra 64k memory, through the serial bus. Both of my 64s still run, but the floppy and tape drives bit the dust years ago so I'm stuck with entering programs by hand. I do have a c64 emulator on an old Pavilion running win98 so I can still play some of my favorites games from way back when. Still have all the programs and games I acquired during the 5 or so years the 64 was my primary computer, including things I got off the QLink bbs. I also have an old IBM desktop from the early 80's. This monster has the keyboard, monitor and dual floppys (lp sized) all in one case, as large as a desktop and weighs a ton. It has a printer that is hardwired to the computer, although someone cut the cable before I got it. Fired it up about 10 years ago, was able to boot up but it didn't want to read the floppys :( Been in storage since. I'll have to dig it out and take a pic to post.

Hazydave
Hazydave

I started learning to program around 1973, as a kid, on a TI Silent 700 terminal hooked into a CDC computer at Bell Labs (I grew up in Colts Neck, my Dad worked in Holmdel). No networking back then, though. My first extended personal computer experience was via a friend's PET 2001... he bought one of these back when you had to go to Manhattan for much of any computer sales; that was '77 or so. I bought an Exidy Sorcerer in '79, but got a C64 after college, in 1983... a few months later, I was working for Commodore in West Chester, PA... I suspect that didn't happen to everyone who bought a C64 that year...

jinxsm
jinxsm

Three Sorcerers comprised our Computer Science class at Misawa AB's Edgren HS. We got them in the '78-'79 school year. First assignment - 'draw' a picture! The next school year, they were replaced by the TRS-80's with tape drives. Teach had to melt a solder blob into the volume control knobs for stops - Too much volume meant too much noise for the computer to handle on loads!

Hazydave
Hazydave

The C64 ran at 1.02MHz. The C128 did also, unless you killed the VIC-III chip's display and stuck to the 8563 display, at which point it could run at 2.04MHz. Due to some of the CPU overhead for managing memory, we could honestly claim that, at the time, the C128 was the slowest AND the fastest 8-bit machine Commodore had ever done :-)