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6502 and all that

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Commodore 64

Reg Hardware retro numbers

US computer giant Commodore planned two possible successors to its popular 1981 machine, the Vic-20: an all-out games machine, the Max, and a higher-spec beast for more power-hungry users. Yes, most 1980s computer users played games, but the Max was a flop, but the Vic-40 - soon restyled the Commodore 64 - was anything but. It went on to be much more popular than its predecessor and possibly the most popular home computer of its era.

Commodore 64

Like the Vic-20, the 64 was a hit with gamers, thanks to its powerful sound system and then novel sprite graphics technology. Yet it was strong enough to stand up against more 'serious' machines like the Apple II, IBM PC and Tandy TRS-80, against which Commodore pitched the machine too.

It led directly to the first portable colour computer, the Commodore SX64, and other follow-ups, but was finally discontinued in 1989. By then Commodore had the Amiga...

Check out our full history of the Commodore 64 here.

Commodore 64 UK advert
Release Date June 1984
Price £299
CPU 6510 @ 1MHz
Memory 64KB
Developers Commodore's Robert Russell, Albert Charpentier; MOS' Bob Yannes

Commodore Vic-20

Reg Hardware retro numbers

Commodore has made its name with the business-oriented Pet, which by 1980 was still selling well in the company's home, the US. But company boss Jack Tramiel was worried that Japanese firms would break into the market with cheaper, more colourful machines. His solution: beat them to it.

Commodore Vic-20. Source: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

The result was the Vic-20, based on chips from Commodore's semicondutor spin-off MOS and designs from the firm's in-house hardware team. Tramiel naturally launched it in Japan first, as the Vic-1001, in September 1980, before introducing it to a Stateside audience in January 1981. It shipped over here later in the year.

The Vic-20 proved hugely popular, with more than 2.5m of them shifted in its four-year lifetime. Here in the UK, despite its colour capability and full-size keyboard its struggled against the Sinclair ZX81, available for half the price.

Commodore Vic-20 advert Commodore Vic-20 advert

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Release Date January 1981
Price £199
CPU 6502A @ 1MHz
Memory 5KB (3.5KB used)
Developers Commodore's Chuck Peddle, Bill Seiler, Albert Charpentier, John Feagans, Yashi Terakura; MOS' Bob Yannes

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