Commodore 64 Microcomputer

Today I’m looking at a popular micro computer from the early 80’s the Commodore 64 or C64 for short. It was released in 1982 after machines like the Apple II, TRS 80 and CBM PET machines started a market for computers in the home. They became one of the most popular computers of all time selling more units than any other single model.

Commodore were able to under cut many of their competitors because they owned the chip maker MOS Technologies. This meant they could use chips like the 6502 at a lower cost and could include custom chips like the VIC II and SID with out paying as much for the chips. Other machines such as the ZX Spectrum, Apple II, TRS 80 and Atari 800 either had to use less capable of the shelf parts or pay more for chips with the same capability.



I have a C64c which is the later cost reduced version of the Commodore. You can see that it has a more modern chassis and now has a ventilation grill at the top. It does have the same keyboard, albeit in a different colour. The main changes are mostly on the main board with a reduced chip count and lower voltage to improve the reliability and cost of the machine.



I bought the Datasette for the machine first as many software titles came on audio cassette. I’ve found with the help of software and a tape player I was able to convert C64 images to audio tape for playing on the real machine. It takes ages for software to load but it allows you to play tape images you can get online. Recently I bought the SD2IEC pictured in the right of the photo. It allows you to load programs from an SD card. It connects to the floppy drive port and emulates it right down to the slow load times.



Here are the controllers I bought for my machine, a set of Commodore paddles as some games require them and two Competition Pro joysticks. The joysticks are good, although possibly in need of cleaning the contacts. They make a satisfying click when you press a button or move the stick. The paddles are reasonably accurate and aren’t suffering from jitter, a common problem for older paddles.



I was able to amass a good collection of cartridges for my system pretty quickly. I bought most of them in packs of 4 or 5 at a relatively good price. It is usually fairly easy to get games at a good price because they were fairly common. Cartridges less so as many games were distributed by tape or disk. I quite like having cartridges as they have less problems with media damage, especially if using a mask ROM. Floppy disks probably suffer the most from media damage and from damage to the floppy drives. Audio tape also suffers loss over time, but it usually isn’t as severe and many old games still load. I’d still archive them digitally but you’re less likely to have problems with them.

I didn’t own a C64 back in the day, so it was interesting getting one and trying out the software. When I first tried out the tape drive it did take a painfully long time to load anything but it was worth it once the game loaded and you certainly made the most of each session as it would take ages to load something else! The cartridge games have been fantastic because of the short loading times. I particularly like Wizard of Wor and Zenji but all the cartridge games are quite good.

Because the C64 was so common all the software, accessories and the machine itself are easy to find and relatively cheap. Finding software for devices like the SD2IEC is also easy because to the large internet community still supporting the machine. In short I highly recommend it for new collectors as an easy way to get your feet wet using old machines.


2 Responses to “Commodore 64 Microcomputer”

  1. April 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    The C64c like the one you have there was my first ever computer. I had it and a floppy disk drive and a ton of loose floppies. I never had a commodore monitor as mine was just hooked up to my tiny Magnavox TV via those weird antenna prong switch boxes. I never knew till later the earlier versions of the C64 were those “bread box” form factors that so many are fond of. personally I think their ugly as h***, though I’m told the SID chip that does the music is slightly different in the later 64c’s. I never noticed if that is the case.

    • April 21, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      Thanks for the comment Justin!

      I agree, I also prefer the newer design. They had improved the power consumption and lowered the internal voltage as well which makes them cooler and more reliable. Although I guess many people have nostalgic feelings for the old design which may explain their popularity with collectors.

      I am using the monitor connection with an av cable that outputs composite video and audio signals. I do this for better image and sound, it can make quite a difference! Of course back then most TVs didn’t have composite input so you used to require a monitor for better image quality. I’ve heard some of the switch boxes made the images worse than they already were.


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