In August 1982 the Commodore 64 was launched and a legend was born. The C64 went on to become the best selling computer model of all time with nearly 17 million units sold during its lifetime. As well as launching with twice the RAM of many rivals the $595 C64 featured advanced graphics and sound chips that gave it capabilities beyond that of many pricier rivals. The graphics and sound capabilities made it a popular gaming machine and during its lifetime the machine had over 10,000 commercial software titles developed for it, many of them games but also some productivity applications.
Commodore 64 spec
- CPU: MOS Technology 6510/8500, Clock speed: 0.985 MHz (PAL) or 1.023 MHz (NTSC)
- Video: MOS Technology VIC-II 6567/8562 (NTSC), 6569/8565 (PAL), 16 colours, 320×200 pixels, 8 hardware sprites of 24×21 pixels (12×21 in multicolor mode), smooth scrolling
- Sound: MOS Technology 6581/8580 SID, 3-channel synthesizer with programmable ADSR envelope, and programmable filter; high pass, low pass, band pass, notch filter
- I/O: Two 6526 Complex Interface Adapters, 16 bit parallel I/O, 8 bit serial I/O, cartridge, RF modulator, composite video, 2x joystick ports which also supported a light pen, mouse and graphics tablet
- RAM: 64 kB, of which 38 kB (minus 1 byte) were available for BASIC programs, expandable up to 320 kB with RAM expansion unit
- Storage: cassette tape drive was the most common “drive” and most software was supplied on tapes
The C64 is still a popular machine; there are masses of websites and forums devoted to this 30 year old computer. Instead of using original dusty old C64 machines hooked up to a TV and tape drive a lot of people choose to tinker of virtual C64 machines via emulation software. C64 emulators are available on nearly every computing platform, tablets, smartphones and consoles.
People still develop software and gadgets using, and inspired by, the C64. Only yesterday the internet was set alight by a video of GTA: Vice City remade C64 style. Have a look here at a new C64 bass keytar forged in an unlikely partnership of C64 body and bass guitar neck. It’s not just a design item, the keytar uses the SID sound chip to affect the guitar tone. It’s a shame it wasn’t demonstrated in the video by a better player!
Also last month a version of Linux Mint was released, the interface of which was styled in C64 fashion and comes with an integrated C64 emulator so you can very easily use your favourite old 8-bit apps and games.
The BBC have published a video today of young people in schools being exposed to a C64 and asks them what they think of the machine. Most are politely underwhelmed, though a lot of screen time was spend watching games load from the tape drive. I can’t believe there’s no Google Doodle celebrating the C64 today, they have a graphic showing a hockey player! If HEXUS had started in 1982 we might have called the site “ZZEXUS! 64” or suchlike but unfortunately this website is a relative youngster.