Posts Tagged ‘C64


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.


Micro Computer Comparison – Part 3

I’ve been investigating the differences between the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64, and I’ve found previously that the ZX Spectrum is fortunate to have a slightly better processor and more memory bandwidth. You can read about those parts here and here.

Today in the final part I’ll be looking at the hardware external to the processor and memory. In the case of the Spectrum that will be the ULA, and the VIC and SID chips within the C64. This is one of the areas in which these two machines are the most different and also what makes a big difference to the user experience of both machines.

Continue reading ‘Micro Computer Comparison – Part 3’


Micro Computer Comparison – Part 2

In the first part of this series I compared the memory bandwidth of the Commodore 64 (know as the C64 for short) and the ZX Spectrum. If you haven’t read the first part you will find it here.

Today I will compare the two microprocessors used by the systems, that is the Moschip 6502 and the Zilog Z80 processors. In the last part I found that memory bandwidth wise, both processors have roughly the same ability at the speeds used and that the difference in memory performance was up to the physical architecture of the systems in which they are operating in. To understand how much work each processor is capable of doing I will be looking at the impact of the internal structure and instruction sets.

This will most likely be another very long post!

Continue reading ‘Micro Computer Comparison – Part 2’


Micro Computer comparison – Part 1

Recently I ran into the rantings of fan boys about the Commodore 64 and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. I wasn’t very satisfied with the arguments of either side, as they were both filled with bias and ignorance, just like pretty much any flaming on the internet. One C64 fan even claimed the 6502 was faster than the IBM PC (an 8088 @ 4.77Mhz). So I decided to do some reading of data sheets myself to get a more balanced and accurate view of the real potential of the machines. Just to clarify, whilst I own one of each kind of machine, I didn’t have either as a kid and thus don’t have childhood memories to bias my opinion one way of the other.

This is an incredibly long article so read on if you dare!

Continue reading ‘Micro Computer comparison – Part 1’


Wizard of Wor on the commodore 64

In recent years I got a commodore 64 micro computer in my efforts to begin collecting old computer hardware and software. I never had one of the machines when I was a kid, and thus did not know much about the software on the machines. I was a bit worried about getting software for it on tape or disk as both those mediums are decaying, and many disks and tapes no longer function. So I decided that I would concentrate on getting cartridge games, of which I have about 20 odd of them now. One of the games that has become one of my favourites is Wizard of Wor.

The game was made by midway in 1980 in the arcades, and shortly after for the commodore 64. You control a Worrior who travels around maze like dungeons trying to defeat creature summoned by the Wizard of Wor himself. There are three main types of creatures and two that may appear later. The creatures travel around the maze occasionally shooting some kind of lightning bolt. The Garwor and Thorwor can make themselves invisible when they are out of a direct line of sight from a player. As the game progresses the creatures speed up making it significantly harder to avoid them. If you manage to kill all the creatures the Worluk may appear and start travelling around the dungeon quickly. If you manage to kill it, you will get double the score rate for anything you kill in the next dungeon. You may also run into the Wizard himself after the Worluk is killed or escapes. The Wizard teleports around the level and also moves quite quickly, but if he catches you no lives are lost. The mazes also have the path leading off-screen like pacman does, where you can cross from one side to the other. The path is blocked for a short period after someone uses it however.

You can play with a second player as well, and you can choose to play cooperatively or against each other. It is much easier to survive longer with a second player helping, but you do need to be careful as your shots will kill your friend as well as the monsters.

The commodore version is very similar to the arcade original, in particular the sound is pretty much spot on. The gameplay is pretty good on both, with the arcade version understandably being slightly harder. The c64 version gets pretty hard quickly as well, it is just more forgiving, and does not put in an AI player as player two when playing on your own. Control via the joystick is very good and responsive. I have a couple of competition pro joysticks that I have found to be quite good.

I have found the game to be quite addictive, and it takes a good bit of practise to get high scores. I was recently able to get about 76000 on my c64 with a bit of practise. I enjoy the game enough that every time I play with my old commodore 64 I usually play some Wizard of Wor.

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