Feeds

The Commodore 64 is 30

The most successful 8-bit micro ever

Security for virtualized datacentres

Archaeologic 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.

Commodore 64 home computer

The original 'breadbox' Commodore 64 design
Source: Wikimedia

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.

Commodore 64

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.

Commodore 64

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.

New hybrid storage solutions

Next page: The sprite stuff

More from The Register

next story
Apple iPhone 6: Missing sapphire glass screen FAIL explained
They just cannae do it in time, says analyst
Slap my Imp up: Bullfrog's Dungeon Keeper
Monsters need to earn a living too
Oh noes, fanbois! iPhone 6 Plus shipments 'DELAYED' in the UK
Is EMBIGGENED Apple mobile REALLY that popular?
Apple's big bang: iPhone 6, ANOTHER iPhone 6 Plus and WATCH OUT
Let's >sigh< see what Cupertino has been up to for the past year
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
The Apple Watch and CROTCH RUBBING. How are they related?
Plus: 'NostrilTime' wristjob vid action
Apple's SNEAKY plan: COPY ANDROID. Hello iPhone 6, Watch
Sizes, prices and all – but not for the wrist-o-puter
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.