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Looking Back At the Commodore 64 263

An anonymous reader writes "It's the 30th anniversary of the Commodore 64 this week — news that has made more than a few gaming enthusiasts feel their age. This story looks back at some of the peculiarities that made the machine so special — a true mass-market computer well into the era where a computer in every home was a novelty idea, not a near reality."
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Looking Back At the Commodore 64

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:47AM (#38595110)

    It may be hard for kids today to believe, but there was a time when home computers were WAY out of the price range of anyone below the HIGH upper middle class. In the early 80's, I had a friend whose dad was a yuppie who actually had an Apple II. All the kids used to go over to his house and marvel at Zork and all the neat stuff it could do. But it was a $2000 computer, and that was in early-80's dollars too (that would be about $5000 today). As much as we marveled at it, we all knew that one of those amazing machines would never sit in our homes.

    So when the VIC-20 and Commodore 64 came out right about that time, it was like a godsend to those of us whose parents worked for a living. $200 for a computer that could do almost as much as that fancy $2000 Apple?!? Suddenly computers and programming didn't just seem like something for the yuppie kids, it was within reach of all of us. And the Commodores even came with BASIC built in (my Apple-user friend had to load his from a disc).

    And you could get free games by typing them in from magazines! You could learn to do you own graphics by learning peeks and pokes. It's because of my Commodore 64 that I first made the connection between programming and mathematics (wait, I can draw this line a lot easier using a simple equation!). It's how I learned the importance of an if...then conditional.

    10 Print " It's where I learned that even us nobodies could one day grow up to be computer programmers."
    20 Goto 10

    • I had to wait for the Amiga, by which time programming was somewhat deprecated. You didn't get a programming environment when you turned the computer on without media any more. I did have a C= 16 before that, but I had no storage device. Typical christmas present from my dad, at least it was a step up from a card with McDonald's gift certificates in it. What an idiot.

      • This doesn't totally seem true. Amiga 1500 had a shell I could write code on out of the box. I wrote many an obscene program at the K-Mart when I was younger and the NES was busy.

        • by Fulg ( 138866 )

          I was about to call you out on the model number but instead I learned of a new, UK-only Amiga model []. I did chuckle when reading that under the A1500 label is an A2000 label. :)

          Sure, if the workbench was loaded, you could start a shell and write a script (with that awful built-in line editor, uuugh), but it wasn't the same as the instant-on of the C64.

          I used to do similar things at Radio Shack; there was a POKE you could use to toggle the internal relay on/off much faster than you should (the BASIC command t

          • I used to do something similar with Apple ][ machines in stores, etc.

            ] CALL -151
            300:A9 xx 20 ED FD AD 30 C0 4C 00 03

            That's a loop which clicks the speak while filling the screen with random characters. The xx was a zero page location with a random (or randomish) contents. I don't remember the exact location anymore, sigh.

            I recall a couple of years back this came up on Slashdot before, and someone mentioned that apparently you could simply AD 30 C0 (LDA $C030) to both click the speaker and get a random

      • Well, if you turned on the Amiga without media, all you got was a screen saying to insert a disk. But if you did load workbench, you might have gotten a programming environment. Amiga's included Amiga Basic through Amiga OS 1.3, which was pretty equivalent to Mac Basic. I remember sharing programs with a friend who had a Mac. You're absolutely right that it was less discoverable than the C=64. You had to find it, it wasn't in your face.

        As of Amiga OS 2.0, Amiga Basic went away. ARexx was there, which was gr

        • by hitmark ( 640295 )

          Ugh, reminds me of how much i missed while toying around with the A500 as a kid. I did drool over AMOS ads and envisioned myself programming games on the thing. Never happened...

      • It's not like the Amiga didn't come with it. As a home computer, that was really innovative; business-class computers of the time booted from magnetic media, not ROM and so they were infinitely updatable. The 8-bit computers? Not so much.

        So you had to boot up your kickstart and workbench floppy and then you could program in AmigaBASIC or install your assembler of choice if you wished to program in assembly. It was a whole lot better than the C=64, the 8-bit Ataris, and so on; the OS was upgradable, somethin

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        I remember programming on my C64 the very first day I bought it. Within a few hours after initial bootup, we had a working higher/lower card game in basic, copied from some document and slowly expanding from there. If it weren't for basic coming pre-installed on the C64, I may have not learned programming at all, or atleast at a much slower pace.

        All computers should come with a simple programming language by default. Something like AutoIt3 but with a basic IDE; simple syntax and easy access to what you can

        • Every Windows computer comes with VBScript. You may not like it, but it's a powerful language, and you can probably do a lot more with it than most people think. As far as IDE goes, there isn't one. But once you're adept at programming enough to require an IDE, there's plenty of free IDEs available for other languages. Also, you can just create javascript + html webpages and store them in .html files and do all your programming that way. Open them up right in internet explorer. With HTML 5 features, yo
    • by danlip ( 737336 )

      The Apple IIe definitely had BASIC in ROM. I thought they all dd.

      • by mgscheue ( 21096 )

        The Apple IIe definitely had BASIC in ROM. I thought they all dd.

        The original Apple II had Integer Basic in ROM but floating point basic (Applesoft) had to be loaded from tape or diskette unless you had the optional Applesoft plug-in ROM card. The II+ had Applesoft in ROM.

      • My first computer (well my dad's) was an Apple ][e clone (Microcom). Woz's Floating Point BASIC was available if you booted with the system disk IIRC. If you upped the RAM to 64k with the Language Card, it had Integer BASIC in ROM. My C64 had BASIC built in, but those floppies were god awfully s-l-o-w, in a really painful way.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      I got one of the first that came out. The one thing I really feel Commodore screwed up on was the 1541.
      It was so slow.... Had the C64 had a faster floppy drive it might have done better with business users. Hey people ran businesses off of the Apple II.
      I also had a program that gave it a software 80 column display. It wasn't easy to read but it worked well enough with my terminal program on some of the CP/M based BBS that wanted 80 columns.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      You made me go all misty eyed there, old man. I remember disassembling mine so I could spray paint the case... soldered in a pulse switch on GND+RESET line so I could do a hard-reset by hitting that special button (lockups were common if you enjoyed machine language programming...).

      I remember sitting in school class pretending to read from a schoolbook all the while studying my copy of Commodore 64 Programmer's Guide (I still have it).

      I remember walking about 30km (return) as a 16yo to fetch my copies of

    • Don't forget that back then EVERYTHING was hackable and the companies would give you details on the entire system like you wouldn't believe! I remember writing to Commodore about my VIC and ended up with a manual that had every single opcode for the CPU, had all the pins listed for every single I/O on the board, the amount of detail they gave you was just unreal. I have a customer that had one of the old Commodore 128s back in the day and thanks to all the details they gave him on the graphics subsystem he

    • I found a large part of which 8bit machine you cut your teeth on was more about where you lived and what your friends had, than anything else. And of course what age you were when they came out.

      When you boil it down, even tho we all fought like cats and dogs 'ours was better', most of the machines of the same generation were pretty similar and ultimately it didn't matter if you had a Commodore, or an Atari, Apple, TRS-80 or a host of others.

  • a computer, EVER, was through the Commodore 64 for me. I suppose this is true for many thousands of us ?
    • by tgd ( 2822 ) a computer, EVER, was through the Commodore 64 for me. I suppose this is true for many thousands of us ?

      Probably millions, or tens of millions. It wasn't mine -- I had used a few others, particularly the older Atari systems that predated the C64, but in the mid 80's, the C64 was a VERY common computer for school computer labs. *That* is where most people at that time would've gotten their first experience with a computer.

      • Yes, indeed: at school, through our math teacher, gawd have his soul
      • Many schools had the Apple ][ series (particularly the e) because of the special pricing Apple gave schools. (And school teachers). That academic program (with it's vendor / software / learning curve buy in) is probably what kept them floating through a few different phases in their history. There were a number of years, to my childhood perspective, that the only time you had an apple was if you worked with the schools or did graphics (gs and early to mid macs).

        Did the Commodore ever have a similar progra

        • by tgd ( 2822 )

          No idea if Commodore had that sort of a program -- at those prices, it hardly mattered.

          Our school had a typing/computer lab with C64s, and a hand-ful of Apple II's on carts that classrooms could use.

          Always struck me as stupid to do typing classes on a Commodore 64 -- the keyboard was just stupidly high off the table.

        • We had a bunch of Commodore Pets at our school. We had a math teacher that started a programming class using those in the 1980-82 time frame.

    • Seconded. We had a single C64 in our third grade class room in 1984, and it was an amazing experience. We got classes on using BASIC, and had to write programs for it for homework (meaning, write it out with pencil and paper, then type it in the next day one student at a time into the one computer). We used C64s in school for several more years. In 7th grade, we had a computer lab and every student had one. Good times, good times.
    • by Nursie ( 632944 )

      Yup, my Dad brought one home in the early 80s, can't have been long after launch. It's one of my ealiest memories. We had Frogger and "Sprite-Man" a pacman ripoff.

      Thus started my long, slow descent to a life of software engineering.

    • a computer, EVER, was through the Commodore 64 for me. I suppose this is true for many thousands of us ?

      Yep, it launched my entire career. C64 handed down from my brother, wrote my first horrible games... then a Tandy 1000TL (XT286 clone from Radio Shack) handed down from my father, ran my first BBS... then Pascal in High School CS, and you know the rest. Wow. I wish I could shake the hands of the C64's designers.

      I still have mine, it's in the attic now, but it still works.

    • Definitely mine. Word up to the Flimbo's Quest posse.

    • by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:50AM (#38597010)

      Commodore PET in 1978.. It belonged to a friend's dad.. I was completely taken with it, and so wished I could have something like that..
      I had to wait 3 years for the release of the ZX81 before I persuaded my folks to buy a computer for me (and that was a used one). From there it was a VIC20 a few years after (sans cassette player, so I had no way to save what I wrote, so I ended up writing the games I wanted to play every time I wanted to play them!). Then came the BBC model B about a year afterwards (and that changed life! 32k ram,100k 5 1/4" floppy disk and ADC/DAC ports! Wow that really rocked my world back then). I still remember my folks being hesitant about buying it as they thought computing would be a 5 minute fad with me. So far, it's been nearly a 30 year fad since that point.
      Since the '90s, it's all been PCs.. I do still miss the days of the diversity of home computers (Sinclair spectrums, Dragon 32, Memotech MTX, C64, Amiga, Atari, Oric and so on!).

    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

      Not me. My first expirence was a home designed and built 8008 by a friends father. After being floored with it playing 'adventure', in about 6 months i had learned enough about electronics to build my own 8080 from scratch.

  • This made me feel so good I had to run downstairs and cut a notch into a single-sided floppy to make it a DS DD. And damn those disk-notchers. A pen knife is the tool of the true hardware hacker!
  • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:57AM (#38595240) Journal
    I loved the C64 because of its hackable nature. Unlike my dads Digital Group [] and TRS80, the C64 was very accessible from both software and hardware perspective, and easy to mess with for a highschooler like I was back then. I built tape copiers,font cartridges and light control modules for the thing, and later on I started modifying the machine itself. I picked up the C64 Reference Guide early on, it had a fold-out schematic of the complete machine in the back. How cool is that?

    Part of the charm was that it was not all that hard to know and understand the complete machine, yet with some outside-the-box tricks it could be made to do amazing stuff.
    • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @10:55AM (#38596006) Homepage

      One of the things I loved about the C64 (even more so in retrospect) is the fact that entire address space of it (including the ROM OS) was mapped and documented. The background color of the display could be read from this byte in RAM. The character set was bitmapped in that address space. You could generate a sound by poking values to these addresses. You could grok the whole damn machine, which is simply impossible for any human dealing with a 2012 desktop (or even pocket) computer.

      • Amen to that! And I remember I lived in mortal fear of someday poking the fatal address that could do (allegedly) actual damage to your C64 - it's amazing to me now that I no longer remember what that address is.

        God bless (and a big thanks) to the people who made and programmed the C64. I surely would have chosen a different path without it.

    • Part of the charm was that it was not all that hard to know and understand the complete machine, yet with some outside-the-box tricks it could be made to do amazing stuff.

      Ditto with the Atari machines of the era. I remember reading through an annotated listing of the ROM/OS of the Atari. Today's computers with their quad cores, multi-stream hyper threading, caches upon caches, GPUs, various north and south bridge chipsets, etc, you have almost no hope of understanding what's really going on inside your machine.

      • True for software too. In the old days, one passionate man could write a hit game, now it requires a big team to create something top-notch. Today each of us have to just specialize on some smaller part of the ensemble.
  • Man, the C64...does it bring back the memories. Load "*", 8 I got one when I was 6th grade, and I would spend hours messing around with it. Then in middle school, we started getting them set up on a network. It was really awesome! I also had a modem for it, where I would have to dial a number on the phone, the put the hand set on it to communicate. Nothing like getting on the boards at 16k.
    • I always used Load "*",8,1. First used a token ring (I think?) network on a C64, although my first computer was a Sinclair ZX-81 1kb with the 16kb expansion cartridge. Oh, the memories.
  • by will_die ( 586523 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @10:03AM (#38595298) Homepage
    For the FASTLOAD Cartridge!!!!!
    • by Empiric ( 675968 )

      Ah yes... what was it... six times faster than the baroque firmware of the 1541 drive?

      I still remember as one of my first exposures to programming, going through the Assembly for the particularly lovely serial data transfer routine... since the 1541 and C64 happened to have the same CPU running at the same clock speed, the code bypassed using the clock line for timing at all, and blasted the data across using both the data line -and- the clock line simultaneously. Over the several hundred lines of Assembl

      • Commodore put together probably the only system in history where the floppy drive had as much horsepower than the main computer, but they somehow managed to make the thing as slow as a cassette tape. I can't figure out what they were thinking.

        Surely it would have been faster and cheaper to control the floppy through a stripped-down controller chip connected to I/O signals from the main CPU the way the PC did it.

        • by Empiric ( 675968 )

          I actually picked up a book back then giving a disassembly of the 1541 code with some line-level commentary--though, apparently, even the author of this book which was -only about- the 1541 internals couldn't figure out what the code was doing for page after page after page in some cases.

          It was really horrific spaghetti code. I don't know what they were thinking either--unless it was some kind of "security through obscurity" notion that their IP would be protected by making the firmware 95% gratuitous non

  • The C64 was my 2nd computer (first was an Acorn Electron) and it's still my favourite computer of all time.

    I still have a C128 with several disk drives, cartridges and other peripherals. I've even got a couple of flashable carts and an SD-card based reader with an ethernet port, so I guess I'd be classed as a Commodore enthusiast :P

    Commodore were amazing. They should have remained on top, but a confluence of a factors drove them from the market.

    I strongly recommend this book [] for anyone with fond memories of

    • Updated second edition []. The one in the GP is out of print and rather expensive. May have to grab this.

    • Person 1 has a commodore 64 and a game cartridge. Person 2 has a the fastest pc with a ssd and 8 Gbytes of very fast ram memory and a game on the ssd. Now they both turn them on at the same time. Which one will be playing his game first? The answer is the commodore 64 and it won't even be close. So after 30 years the commodore 64 is still the most kid friendly computer. The commodore 64 will still introduce you to basic programming something most modern computer will not. I found a commodore 64 with di
  • by itsdapead ( 734413 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @10:15AM (#38595416)

    (Sneaks up to the C64 in Dixons)


    Oh, the biting wit of the 1980s teenager...

    • It was better, but it was also more expensive. I bought an old MTX-512 (now there's a rare 8-bit machine) second hand a few years ago, and it came with a load of magazines from that era. The C-64 was significantly cheaper than even the BBC Model A. And you needed a BBC Master to have as much RAM as the C64. The BBC had a (much!) better dialect of BASIC, better graphics, better sound, and far better I/O, but did not have a better price. Unless you were a school in the '80s, then the government would pay
      • And you needed a BBC Master to have as much RAM as the C64.

        That's probably why those lucky C64 users got "The Blue Danube" docking computer music and cute furry trumbles when they eventually got Elite... Not fair.

      • by sqldr ( 838964 )

        better sound

        It wasn't even close. 1 noise and 3 tone generators. The SID was fully programmable and had filters and all sorts of goodness, while the BBC just beeped.

  • by mseeger ( 40923 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @10:28AM (#38595590)

    My C64 (Serial #600) has a very strage bug: If you started a line at the end of the screen, entered more than 80 chars and backspaced into the previous line, it executed a "run" and the program would be non-interruptible. Used this to prevent my brother from stopping my programs and using the C64 for himself.

  • load"*",8,1 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lennier1 ( 264730 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @10:30AM (#38595630)

    I probably owe my career to one of those.

  • My dad's friends couldn't believe he was letting his CHILDREN touch a COMPUTER, he would tell them "this is the future, these are life skills now". I learned to load programs before I could write by hand. My older brother and I typed in a game from a magazine. The rest is history, I have been a hacker ever since, it's how I make my living and how I pass the time.

    I was very fortunate to be born at a time when computers were suddenly affordable.
  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @10:35AM (#38595708) Homepage Journal

    The number or programmers who cut their teeth on the C=64 is huge. The number of people who did hardware hacks is enormous.

    But what's most impressive about the Commodore 64 is the number of people who continue to use it, or pieces of it to this day. The SID chip is still used by electronic musicians, and the number of people who either emulate the machine on other hardware or create new hardware to expand it's original capabilities is simply astounding.

    While the exact number of C=64's sold is debatable (some say 33 million, others about 21 million), it's clearly the "Model T" (or Volkswagen Beetle) of computers, having sold MORE than any other single "PC" model, ever.

  • by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @10:43AM (#38595804) Homepage
    I was 20 when the C64 came on the scene, and was an apprentice electronics engineer, mostly in the analogue/RF field. Digital logic was something I understood, but microprocessors, as such, were not. I bought a C64 because I'd used a PET and thought BASIC would be something worth learning, with half a mind on a game idea I had. BASIC soon proved useless, so I turned to an assembler cartridge (bought rather expensively at the time) called MIKRO64. This unlocked the full available power of the machine, but more importantly, it made me understand how a microprocessor actually worked. Back then, the whole architecture was easily understood down to the last register, plus the 64 came with full schematics! This proved to be a most important eye-opener because in the industry I worked in, within a few years, nearly all designs had moved to having a processor at their heart, and programming replaced the old-school logic and analogue design I'd come up with. Without the 64, chances are I would not have been able to keep up in electronics, and eventually go into programming as a career.
  • by JoeCommodore ( 567479 ) <> on Thursday January 05, 2012 @10:43AM (#38595808) Homepage

    And the Commodore 64 community is still far from dead.

    There are several hardware projects in active development on the C64 - including a few forms of solid state and HD mass storage (IDE64, SD2IEC, 1541 Ultimate, MMC64, EasyFlash), Internet connectivity (The Final Ethernet/Retro Replay), Commodore in the cloud (, hardware accelerators/enhancements (Turbo Chameleon 64).

    Besides many of the mas storage mediums being cross-platform usable, there are a few conversion methods to get files to/from the C64 (ZoomFloppy, x1541 cables and utilities, and commodore server are two notable ones)

    Programming continues on the 64, including stock c64 demos (the demo coder are still amazing us with what they can crank out of a 1Mgz 64), GEOS related productivity, music, and most notably games. For the game users there are now popular 4 player adapters that games have been developed and a couple involving Playstation controls (the guitar heroish Shredz64 comes to mind)

    If developers want the luxury of a modern computer there are cross assemblers (i.e. xa 6502) and now also a textBASIC conversion utility: C64List

    Regional commodore gatherings are not uncommon in North America (Commodore Vegas Expo, C4 Commodore Expo, Emergency Chicagoland Commodore Convention, TPUG World of Commodore Expo) as well as Europe and other parts around the globe (someone comment with a list of those) which includes those cool demo scene parties

  • As many here have correctly pointed out, the C64 was a very accessible computer which could be a little challenging to program (all those chip bitwise register operations were dreadful) at least you could do cool things with it. And you could probably get instructions from a magazine on how to do it. And your school probably had several of them if your parents couldn't afford one. It continued the tradition of the Commodore PET - a fun little computer which was a great teaching tool.

    Apple at this time was

    • I TOTALLY agree with that! I think it was really the time period because this dealer phenomenon wasn't limited to Commodore machines. I had an Atari 800XL and I LOVED going to my local dealer. God bless my parents because the dealer was just far enough away where they had to drive me there. :-) But It was great for demos of new products, buying Atari specific magazines, and yes, meeting other enthusiasts. These dealers also sponsored local user groups. That's a thing that has continued to today and it's a
  • by art6217 ( 757847 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @10:52AM (#38595956)
    C64 had a quite large "border" or margin around the 320x200 frame, to avoid nonlinear distortion at CRT's edges and probably to make the resolution more manageable for a 64k machine. The programmers discovered a trick, though, of disabling the border -- when VIC was drawing the 25th text line, the mode was changed to 24 lines for a while, and a similar trick was performed with the number of columns. This made VIC never "see" the begin of either the "vertical" or the "side" border. And -- sprites everywhere, including the border! Add raster tracing for putting sprites just where a pixel is drawn on a CRT, and you have tens of sprites instead of the "factory" eight ones.
  • 0 poke 32788+p,65; p=p+peek(151)*2-1; print tab(rnd()*37),"###"; if (peek(32788+p)==32) goto

    ((Not sure of exact syntax and rnd() operation, it fit in the character limit using the short forms of the commands.

    p starts at zero of course. clear the screen. scroll to the bottom. RUN

    An "A" is your space ship. Starts in the middle of the top of the screen. It moves left or right depending on if shift is pressed or not. Update of P based on shift detected with the peek.
    A block "###" is put in a random location at

  • There is is still a very active user community centered around the Commodore 64 (and to a lesser extent, the VIC-20 and other Commodore machines). There are active user groups, vendors, new hardware and software under development, you name it. Yes, in 2012.

    Check out this link [] for a partial list of what's out there!

  • I miss my C64! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheJodster ( 212554 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:14AM (#38596360) Homepage

    This was my most prized possession. When I asked for a C64 for Christmas, I never thought I would actually get it. $200 does not grow on trees! Then the presents were placed under the tree and one of them was the size and shape of a boxed C64! Could it be? What was in that box? Christmas morning was one of the happiest days of my life. It was torture waiting for Christmas that year. It was just the C64... no tape or disk drive. I could care less. I had a stack of Compute! magazines ready to go. I typed in my own games out of the magazine. I would leave it turned on for days to enjoy the program because once I turned it off, it was gone.

    I once typed in a program for three days to see it generate a three dimensional donut on my TV. It took the program hours to calculate and display that donut. When I finally got a tape drive I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I didn't have to type in my game every time I wanted to play. I could save it and then mangle the code figuring out how to adjust the programming to create my own game without fear of screwing up the code so badly it wouldn't run anymore.

    I feel sorry for people who didn't get the opportunity to enjoy the early computers. Things were so simple and fun back then. Now when a kid gets a computer there is so much information to absorb in order to become an expert that one doesn't even know where to start. Back then, you just needed the Commodore 64 Reference book purchased from your local book store and everything you could ever want to know was at your fingertips.

  • I didn't have a C64 as a kid, moving straight from the whole Apple series and Atari, to 486 DX66 (a monster of gaming power at its inception). However, for those with C64 memories, Commodore isn't dead - check out [] - you can actually buy a perfect replica C64 keyboard/chassis in which to build a modern PC, or you can buy a prefab one with either Intel Atom or Sandy-Bridge based kit (personally, I'm a little underwhelmed by the hardware chosen in both the prefab

  • Quick bookmarks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stavr0 ( 35032 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:04PM (#38597278) Homepage Journal [] Free compiler for 65xx CPU targets [] Multi-platform emulation of all Commodore 8bit computers

    Libraries and repositories [] []

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:41PM (#38598032) Homepage Journal

    There were beefier computers (who didn't want a Lisa?) and cheaper computers (who did want a TS-1000?), but especially in 1983 as the price fell from around $600 to under $200, it got into the sweet spot. That got the machines into people's hands, and the best computer is the one you have.

  • by dculp ( 669961 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:17PM (#38598724)

    Wow, 30 years! It is hard for me to believe it has been that long, the C64 and the C64 community was a HUGE part of my youth. I first got in to computing in the very late 70's or extremely early 80's. I learned BASIC before I even had computer and began writing text based BASIC games in a notebook before I received my first computer. I begged my parents for a computer for Christmas and in 1982 I received a Texas Instruments TI-99/4a with no storage device. I spent many hours typing in programs and not turning the machine off so my work was not wasted. Eventually I got a tape drive but the TI kicked the bucket about 8 months after I got it.

    I desperately wanted a C64 with a 1541 disk drive but back then the whole package was close to $1000.00 and my parents couldn’t afford it. My dad suggested I get a job and made a deal with me; if I could earn 1/2 of the money he would front the other 1/2. I was 13-14 so job options were limited, we lived in an exceptionally large trailer park near the army base my dad was stationed at and they had LOTS of vacant lots with overgrown grass. They agreed to pay me $3.00 a yard to keep them mowed. I worked my tail off and by the end of the summer I had made more than enough money and was able to get the C64 and 1541 along with a printer, joysticks and a few games.

    I LOVED that C64 and quickly fell into the C64 scene in whatever area we were in. I went to copy parties, we spent uncountable hours in my room playing C64 games and programming. Not long after I got my C64 I discovered BBS's and spent an enormous amount of hours calling BBS's to download the latest C64 games and programs and play the latest BBS games.

    However, my first love was always programming. Although I collected a large number of C64 games, I spent most of my time exploring the machine. Delving in to it, learning everything it could do. I had the C64 programmer’s reference and lots of magazines and other materials and devoured them. Coding was my creative outlet, I was not a great writer, I couldn’t draw, but coding was how I explored my creative side and it absolutely lit me up, it fired something deep within me. I LOVED hitting problems and spending every waking hour trying to solve that problem and once you did, it was the greatest feeling.

    Around 1985 I decided to code my own BBS software and spent a few years working on it and eventually got my own BBS up and running on dual 4040 CBM drives around 1988 or 89 in Norman, OK.

    The C64 was special (along with many of the old 8-bit machines) in that you HAD to know something about the machine to operate it, and when you booted it up, it booted into a development environment, begging you to write your own programs. Todays machines don’t have that same appeal.

    One thing that bothers me is that the C64 is largely ignored in the retelling of the history of the PC. The C64 absolutely demolished the sales of the Apple ][ and every other 8 bit machine of that era. Commodore beat Apple to market with their PET machine. The Apple ][ was not as big of a hit has most documentaries want you to believe. The C64 may have been more important in that era than the Apple ][ ever was but most retellings of that era leave the C64 out completely.

    I am a teacher today (middle school science) and I look around and I don’t see kids excited about programming because most don’t realize you can. The machines that are on the market today come with no development environment, in addition, the complexities of coding in an object-oriented GUI world turn many kids away. There are easier options available, but you have to go out and actively search for them and as a young kid you might not find them.

    I run a robotics club and teach kids as young as 6th grade C and they LOVE it. I started an interactive fiction club and taught kids TADS and they ATE IT UP!!! You would think in todays world of high definition 3D graphics kids would be bored to tears with a text adventure game but the

  • Couldn't live without the "Fast Load Cartridge", what a difference it made in loading times. I wonder how many Epix sold?
  • My family's first computer was a Timex-Sinclair 1000. I then began to lust after the Apple IIe at school. A friend of mine turned me on to the Commodore 64 and I never looked back. Truely an awesome machine. I still own one today with (2) 1541 drives and a 1702 monitor along with a box of real floppies. And it all STILL WORKS (even the floppies!). I built an interface (easy instructions online) to connect a 1541 to an modern PC which allows one to actually download real C=64 software on the internet and then put it on a floppy. Incredible!

    While modern computers are much more powerful, I often wonder why we have to wait for them to boot. Why don't the mobo makers just put an EEPROM on the board and OS makers give us an OS we can load into the EEPROM? Instant boot up (like my C=64) would then be possible. All HD space and memory would be free for apps and data. Upgrades would require a simple re-load (like a BIOS flash) of the EEPROM. Yet here we are, still loading our OS like we did in the DOS days.

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault