Feeds

The Commodore 64 is 30

The most successful 8-bit micro ever

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Building the Vic-40

During the development of the Max, Robert Russell, who had overseen the creation of the Vic-20, and Al Charpentier, the Commodore home computer's hardware engineer, were able to persuade Commodore CEO Jack Tramiel to allow them to develop a more advanced successor to the Vic-20. That way, Commodore's home computing fortunes would not rest solely on the Vic-20 and the still unproven games console.

Commodore CEO Jack Tramiel

Commodore business men: CEO Jack Tramiel (left) and marketing chief Michael Tomczyk (right)
Source: Michael Tomczyk

Tramiel agreed, and the team began work on what was initially called the Vic-40. They were helped by Bob Yannes, who was by then finishing off the Sid chip over at MOS.

Tramiel told the Vic-40 team the machine must be completed by the first weekend in January 1982, to allow him to announce it at CES, and this they achieved, producing four prototypes with the components available to them.

Tramiel had stipulated that the machine must contain 64KB of memory, more than the 5KB the Vic-20 shipped with and more than the 32-48KB being sported by more recent home computers. Ram was expensive and though prices were coming down, Commodore would have to wait until later in the year for the economics to be right for it to ship at the $595 price point pledged by Tramiel in January.

Commodore 64: the benefits, according to CBM

The Commodore 64 advantages... according to Commodore

The 64 would be priced at £299 when it was released in the UK.

By the time Commodore's new machine went on sale, it cost more than twice what a Vic-20 would have set you back. Yet it was a hit and, according to some estimates, more than 16m units would be sold globally, making it one of the most successful home computers of its time - if not the most popular.

However, Commodore never lost its willingness to consider designing machines for specific markets, as it had tried with the Max. That computer was a failure, and Commodore's other efforts would largely fail too.

In 1984, Commodore launched the Plus/4, a cut-down version of the 64 pitched at the small office/home office market and pre-loaded with four productivity apps - word processor, spreadsheet, database and graphing - hence the name. In the States, at least, the 64 had always been pitched against the more business-centric Apple II than against entertainment-oriented home computers like the Tandy Color Computer.

Commodore SX64

Luggage: the Commodore SX64, the world's first colour portable computer
Source: Angeldust

Commodore also released an Osborne One-esque portable version of 64, the SX64 during that year. It featured a built-in colour display, making it the first ever portable colour computer - though, at 10.5kg, a better description of the machine would be 'luggable'. Again, it was hoped the machine would appeal to the business community in the same way Commodore's pioneering Pet had during the late 1970s.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Next page: Awaiting the Amiga

More from The Register

next story
Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE
Can't face sea of wobbling fondle implements. What happened to lighters, eh?
The agony and ecstasy of SteamOS: WHERE ARE MY GAMES?
And yes it does need a fat HDD (or SSD, it's cool with either)
Apple takes blade to 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
Shaves price, not screen on mid-2014 model
Apple to build WORLD'S BIGGEST iStore in Dubai
It's not the size of your shiny-shiny...
Steve Jobs had BETTER BALLS than Atari, says Apple mouse designer
Xerox? Pff, not even in the same league as His Jobsiness
Apple analyst: fruity firm set to shift 75 million iPhones
We'll have some of whatever he's having please
TV transport tech, part 1: From server to sofa at the touch of a button
You won't believe how much goes into today's telly tech
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
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.