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Flashback: The Commodore 64 In Pictures

Flashback: The Commodore 64 In Pictures
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The Venerable Old Commodore 64

The Commodore 64 is the computer that launched the careers of many of today's IT experts. Back in the 1980s, you could easily get countless add-ons, accessories, and peripherals for this home computer. For example, one of the best-beloved models in this family was the Commodore 128, whose C128D Diesel version sported a built-in 5" floppy drive. Along with an 80-column RGB monitor, a dot matrix printer, and an ungodly expensive 20 MB hard disk, you could also select from a large number of input devices and a plethora of software.

This breadbox shaped computer--also called a "bullnose" thanks to its rounded front edge--led many young enthusiasts to neglect their school work, and prompted many sleepless (but exciting) nights at the keyboard. At that time, the x86 PC was still chasing the Commodore for market share. These were pioneering days for personal computing technology and interest in the field pushed many people into IT careers. A whole slew of Tom's Hardware editors trace their computing roots back to the C64, or to other early PC precursors such as the VC20, C16, or C166 models. Generally, they moved to Amiga 500s or to the original 8086 PC models from there.

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  • 0 Hide
    BallistaMan , February 19, 2009 6:19 AM
    I thoroughly enjoyed this article. 'Twas a great read for all the "newbies" like me who can't remember much beyond when CPUs were around the 100MHz range.

    It's amusing that people were actually quite productive with these things. I know I could never do it. xD
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , February 19, 2009 6:41 AM
    A nice blast from the past, remembering all the hours wasted doing nothing but rebooting and playing with 10 print... 20 goto 10... etc :) 

  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , February 19, 2009 6:50 AM
    Last month I found an old C64 magazine dated februar 1989 in a pile of stuff at home, and I started browsing some of it. It's funny to see that nothing much has really changed since then - except for speed.
    The cdrom drive has existed since 86, and since 87 or 88 you could get an adapter for your c64 so you could use an audio cd to load software the same way you use your tape ... also I was surprised that a 30mb seagate harddrive only cost 500DM - I would've expected more considering I hadn't even heard of a harddrive at the time. And 30mb was afterall massive compared to the storage on a 5,25" floppy.

    Nice lookback to the old stuff though :) 
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , February 19, 2009 7:41 AM
    oh the days of the fast hackem' cartridge...... (the red one)
  • 3 Hide
    arkadi , February 19, 2009 8:58 AM
    Grate article,
    I am sure if i look hard, I will find mine some ware.
    To bad no benchmarks lol
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 19, 2009 10:09 AM
    Wow lots of memories there loved the article. Back in the day i liked the Atari systems.(i miss those for some reason)
    I remember spending two days on a program inputting all that code for a frog that went beep and waived its arms.
    But that was my dads computer my first was an 8088(my first intel pc)from there was a 386sx 16mhz with turbo 1mb ram a 45mb hard drive, brand new vga monitor and the state of the art sound blaster(with Dr. spatso) anyone remember that.
  • 1 Hide
    loftie , February 19, 2009 10:09 AM
    Ahh this brings back some memories! We had two C64s - the sound went on the first one :(  I just remember playing Wizard of Wor, Crystals of Zong and CJ's Elephant antics.

    No overclocking? ^^
  • 1 Hide
    LightWeightX , February 19, 2009 11:23 AM
    I had a C128 and a C64. My first "IT" job was repairing C= computers. I also ran a C-Net BBS. Ah the memories, single sided floppies,300 baud, typing in programs from magazines, 5 minute load times, life was simple.
  • 1 Hide
    TechDicky , February 19, 2009 11:31 AM
    C64? No sir... had a couple of friends with them... Me and my old man, where hardcore Trash-80 guys... had the original grey one and then later a CoCo (Color Computer) II. He was a hardware guy. piggy backed memory to make it double what RadioShack offered. Made a cartridge with an eeprom and a thumb switch so that we could dump cartridges to audio cassette and then reload the "backups" anytime we wanted, to the eeprom cartridge and then run it from there... hah, must have taken like 30 minutes to load from audio cassette. At the time I was mostly just playing with the software side. Writing programs in Basic, etc... at first text only, then I learned to do graphics (if you would endulge me and let me call them graphics). Those were the days... I still have a "Hot CoCo" magazine somewhere... and a "Radio-Electronics" magazine with a TRS-80 grey box 4k of memory I think... advertised for something like $800... hah, to think...
  • 1 Hide
    jcknouse , February 19, 2009 11:33 AM
    the original (tan box, dark brown keys) C-64 was my first real computer. I still have both a working C-64 and C-64 C, as well as 3 1541 floppy drives and a 1702 monitor and tons of 5.25" disks (of which 90% probably don't work now due lol).

    I loved the thing, and bought an interface a while back to hook it to a PC so that I can burn all the C-64 software I have (that still works) to CD and can re-claim it anytime I want.

    I miss the days of Karateka, Temple of Aphsai, Pirates, Zork, and...ah yes...GEOS.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , February 19, 2009 12:21 PM
    there was a football manager game me and my cousin liked to play but we couldnt save it so we left the the machine on like 1 week.After the 2nd season was over we got abit bored and diceded to give a break and repack the system. there was a black burnt hole in the carpet where the adaptor was placed :p 

    i remember my aunt's screems even now...
  • 4 Hide
    PrangeWay , February 19, 2009 12:25 PM
    I have 2 C64's, 2 disk drives, and a commodre monitor (8 color!) in my parents basement, along with a ton of programs. I think next time I'm by it's time to break them out. Conflict in Vietnam, Impossible Mission. Yeah Baby!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 19, 2009 12:47 PM
    Wow, I've never used a computer that didn't have at least Windows 95 (and that was on an old computer that sucked). I just turned 17 a few days ago, and wow am I glad I wasn't born 20 years ago :D  . Then again, 10 years from now, there will be some dickwad 17 year old on some forums saying how he's glad he wasn't born 10 years ago.
  • 2 Hide
    Bolas , February 19, 2009 1:03 PM
    My first experience with a computer was with the old mainframe at the university in the 1970's. Where you had to use punch cards to enter data into the computer. I was too young to use it, but I did enjoy using the punchings from the card punch machine as confetti.

    Around 1980 was when things really started to get interesting. My friend David had an Atari 2600 console. We played adventure -- a little box you move around the screen, LOL. And weak versions of Defender and Pac Man -- not much like the arcade games. He was one of the few people in the world that actually bought the "E.T." video game. I saved up $100 to buy an Atari 2600, but then blew it all in one night playing William's Defender at the arcade. I'm still not much good at that arcade game, sigh.

    Eventually I bought an Atari 400. With the "chicklet" membrane keyoard. Cartridges you could plug into the top to play good games, like Defender, Pac-Man, and Centipede that was kinda like the arcade -- much more so than on the Atari 2600. I remember buying a cool game on audiocassette and waiting for 6 minutes for it to load from tape... I only got it to load once, after that it never did load correctly so I got to wait 6 min for nothing. There was a great video game from the Atari Program Exchange (APX) called "Galahad & the Holy Grail" based loosely off the Monty Python movie. Can't find that title ANYWHERE now.

    My best friend Greg shared a Commodore Vic 20 with his brothers, Jim and Dave. Jim learned to program that thing inside and out, using "peek" and "poke" commands to directly affect particular memory values and eventually turned his skills he learned on the Vic20 into a lucrative programming career. They had a speech synthesizer that we used to make prank phone calls. That was a laugh.

    My grandfather had a TRS-80 Model III. My school had a TRS-80 Color Computer and a PL/1. I remember them trying to teach us to program. HEY! I wrote a BASIC program that adds two numbers! Quite a far cry from the video games I wanted to write.

    Our friend Paul's older brother had... a portable computer! Imagine! He had an Osbourne computer. Kinda clunky, but you COULD take it with you wherever you went. Of course it didn't really play any games, so I wasn't interested in it at all.

    Eventually Greg & family upgraded to a C64 and I upgraded to an Atari 800XL. Ah, power!!

    I still remember my first IBM PC. It was just that... an IBM PC. Not a PC AT. Not a PC XT. But the original, 8088 microprocessor running at a blazing 4.77 MHz. I remember thinking that I was special because instead of the 20 MB HDD that most people had at the time, I had an enormous 30 MB HDD.

    We had CGA graphics, and longed for EGA or... dare we say it... VGA! Where the pixels were so small at something like 800 x 600 resolution, that the images seemed completely life-like! Ah, to live the dream of resolution that high.

    Hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I certainly have.
  • 0 Hide
    Lovolt , February 19, 2009 1:13 PM
    Man, I remember the days of typing in my handwriten class papers into the C-64 late and night and feeling like I was at the top of the technological heap when I printed it out on my Brother daisy wheel typewriter using a custom built printer cable. And getting to class late every time because it still took the 5-page paper 20 minutes to print!

    Long live Zork I, II and III!
  • 1 Hide
    TwoDigital , February 19, 2009 1:22 PM
    I was an Apple ][ guy, but I have fond memories of the C64 computers. You had to buy a Mockingboard(R) for your Apple to get the kind of sound the SID provided natively for the 64.

    The thing I hated most about the 64 was that the disk drive would take FOREVER to load even small games and programs. And sometimes you needed to do: LOAD "*",8,1 and sometimes you'd need to leave the ",1" off... I never really knew what the ,1 meant but if you excluded it or included it by mistake your program wasn't going to run. :) 

    I've also never heard the term "flippies" but I remember those cool disk notchers quite well.
  • 1 Hide
    tlmck , February 19, 2009 1:37 PM
    The C64 was actually my 4th machine. The first was a Timex Sinclair, followed by an Atari, a TRS-80, and then C-64.

    IMO, the C-64 is still the most technologically advanced computer ever made. This opinion is based on what it could do with the amount of horsepower it had.
  • 1 Hide
    terr281 , February 19, 2009 2:01 PM
    (28 years old) My first computer was similar to gnerstil above, "top of the line" Pentium 166, 32 MB EDO ram, 2 GB HD, 2 MB of ram on the 2D video card, and an added PCI Voodoo 2 for 3D with 8 MB of ram. (For Everquest)

    But, I remember working with Apple IIs, integrated monitor duel floppy drive Tandy PC clones, etc. during intermediate school. I don't remember the "good old days" as most of you remember, but to this day my favorite console system from personal memory was my father's old Atari 2600. (Despite the fact that I had an original 8 bit Nintendo and a 16 bit Sega Genesis.) And, I rather enjoyed coding programs in Basic on "old" 386s in high school.

    I, too, long for the good old days of personal computing/game playing. (When graphics were not all that mattered, emergency patches did not have to be released for every game released, etc.)
  • 1 Hide
    angelraiter , February 19, 2009 2:27 PM
    This was great! I'll never forget my C64.. My father gave it to me in '90... I was 11... Had the tape drive, then bought the floppy later on with allowance money I saved for months! LOL
    One thing.. My C64 Didn't come with GEOS.. To tell you the truth, I barelly remember seing it at all, I think a boy in my neighbrhood had it and showed it to me, like ONCE.. I was living in Italy at the time, maybe it wasn't very popular there... Anyway, I just got confused when I read that EVERY C64 came with it... Are you sure EVERY single C64 had it?
    Well.. it was great remembering those days...
  • 0 Hide
    rwpritchett , February 19, 2009 3:04 PM
    Ah yes... fond memories. We had a C64 and a TRS-80.

    I remember for the TRS-80 my father would buy books filled with lnies of program code and have me hand-type the programs we wanted to use and save them to an audio cassette tape drive. Some of the bigger programs had like 300 limes of code and there were always some syntax errors that made the programs really buggy.

    For the C64, that was our "gaming" machine. My brother and I wasted half of our childhoods away playing Bard's Tale II and III, D&D: Pools of Radiance, and Dragon's Lair. I remember when we figured out that you could take a paper hole-puncher and make your 5 1/4 floppy disks for the C64 double-sided by cutting a 'recordable' notch on the other side of the disks thereby doubling your storage capacity on each disk. It sounds stupid, but it worked. :-)
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