The Commodore 64 is 30
The most successful 8-bit micro ever
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't make it across the Atlantic until late Autumn.
The original 'breadbox' Commodore 64 design
Back then, I was a young lad eagerly awaiting the 64 my folks had ordered as a Christmas prezzie from a local reseller. But supply was so constrained, we were told we might not get the machine until the new year. Unwilling to wait until 1983, I chose a Dragon 32 instead.
Had I hung on, I'd have received a machine that, like the Dragon, had a full-sized keyboard and was also somewhat cheaper than a BBC Micro. But, unlike either the Beeb or the Dragon, the 64 couldn't use a standard domestic cassette player for storage - you had to buy Commodore's own tape deck, with a proprietary connector, adding to the cost.
However, with its squat design taken from the 1981-launched Vic-20, its keys bedecked with graphics symbols - even playing card suits - as well as alphanumeric characters, and its right-hand row of four function keys, the 64 arguably looked much more how a computer should look than many of its rivals.
Inside, Commodore had packed a 6510 processor, an updated version of MOS Technology's popular 6502, the chip used in the Vic-20, the BBC Micro and many others. In the UK, the 6510 was clocked at 985KHz, though the US version apparently ran at over 1MHz - assuming Commodore wasn't just rounding up 0.985MHz over there.
The Commodore's first, brief Vic-20 colour scheme, was quickly dropped in favour of the grey look (top). Note the different '64' logo and location
As the computer's name suggested, it had 64KB of memory, though only 38KB of that was available to Basic, which was stored on a 20KB Rom chip and copied into the main memory when the 64 was booted. The remainder of the memory map was used by the system.
Next page: The sprite stuff
It's been 30 fucking years?!?!??!??
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.
"The model that did more than any to bring computers into the reach of normal folk." - No, that'd be the Spectrum 48K.
I almost choked on my coffee when I read the article's claim that the OS was "copied into RAM".
You *could* copy the ROM into the RAM underneath it and then flip out the ROM (some of us liked to do this in order to alter system behaviour for nefarious purposes - for example, I altered the behaviour of the STOP vector, for writing autoboot code out to tape.) But the operating system, by default, ran directly from the ROM chip.
The C64 didn't have a "20K ROM chip", either - it had two 8KB ROMs (one for the OS "kernal" - misspelling intentional) and one for BASIC - and one 4KB character ROM which stored two sets of system fonts (one uppercase, with more of those funky symbols - and one mixed uppercase/lowercase, for professional uses.)
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.