Commodore 64 is 40 years old

Commodore 64 (C64) was the most popular home computer in the days when you connected your computer to the TV set. This most popular home computer just turns 40 years old.

Commodore C64: The Most Popular Home Computer Ever Turns 40 article tells that this year marks the anniversary of the most popular selling home computer ever, the Commodore 64, which made its debut in 1982. “Note that I am saying “home computer” and not personal computer (PC) because back then the term PC was not yet in use for home computer users.

Happy Birthday Commodore 64, with Bil Herd

The Commodore 64 is the best-selling home computer of all time — it’s the box that launched a million geeks. In this video Bil Herd walks us through the evolution of 8-bit home computers at his old employer Commodore in the late 1970′s to 1980′s.

The 6502 is at the heart of many of the home computers of the era starting with Atari, Apple, BBC Micro, and of course Commodore. Commodore, under the reins of its founder Jack Tramiel, purchased MOS technologies and became a computer company that owned a chip fabrication plant. Commodore eyed to calculator market, but soon Commodore found itself in the position of being a computer company that could make its own (custom) IC’s, or chips. The VIC-20 was Commodore’s “TI Killer”.

Some amazing chips were combined into a demo and shown to Jack Tramiel, and the decision was made to produce the Commodore C64. The C64 became Commodore’s “Apple Killer” as it was targeted at the market shared with the Apple II. The C64 is listed in the Guinness Book or World Records as the most popular home computer ever sold at 27 million units (although numbers that suggest that somewhat fewer units were sold in actuality). Commodore’s founder Jack Tramiel stated famously that we made “computers for the masses not the classes” with emphasis on selling the hardware at a fair price which would open the door to massive software sales.

I have 10 years ago made a post The Commodore 64 is 30. Read some history from that post and post comments.

12 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Dark Forest’s Outbreak64 Aims to Give Your Commodore 64 Its Best Composite, S-video Outputs
    Offering S-Video, composite video, and the option of stereo audio outputs, this board-sandwich works with most C64 models.
    https://www.hackster.io/news/the-dark-forest-s-outbreak64-aims-to-give-your-commodore-64-its-best-composite-s-video-outputs-78e7cd3803e3

    Pseudonymous Swedish vintage computing enthusiast “The Dark Forest” has released a new accessory for the popular Commodore 64 family of eight-bit microcomputers: the Outbreak64 video output board.

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Can you build a brand new Commodore 64 from (nearly) 100% new parts?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TSffXvmx3M

    It’s time! It’s the big one! It’s a home built Commodore 64!

    The C64 250407 replica
    https://www.pcbway.com/project/shareproject/The_C64_250407_replica.html

    A replica of the Commodore 64 250407 1983 mother board, and a replica of the schematics made using SprintLayout and KiCad.

    The replica project was started by Michael K. (Der Alte Bastler) in 2019 to learn SprintLayout and the process of reverse engineering PCB. I finished it, importet it in KiCad, imported the KU motherboard schematics and modified it to match the 250407 Reb.B schematics.

    The board has been prototyped, and tested by me and Langwell Cowan.

    We are not the first to reverse engineer this board, but we are the first to share the design files online I think.

    More information at: https://github.com/bwack/C64-250407-Replica-KiCad

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Thin-Film Flexible 6502
    https://hackaday.com/2022/05/21/the-thin-film-flexible-6502/

    The choice of an archaic 8-bit processor might seem a strange one, but we can see the publicity advantage — after all, you’re reading about it here because of it being a 6502. Plus there’s the advantage of it being a relatively simple and well-understood architecture. It’s no match for the MHz clock speeds of the original with an upper limit of 71.4 kHz, but performance is not the most significant feature of flexible electronics.

    Reincarnating The 6502 Using Flexible TFT Tech For IoT
    https://fuse.wikichip.org/news/6648/reincarnating-the-6502-using-flexible-tft-tech-for-iot/

    Despite being nearly 47 years old, the MOS Tech 6502 – or its low-power direct equivalents – is still being manufactured and is widely used in consumer products such as toys, automotive, and appliances as well as in embedded and industrial applications. It would seem that interest in this chip isn’t dying out any time soon. Due to its simple design and the large existing repository of knowledge and code, this chip could find new uses in the emerging world of IoT and ubiquitous computing.

    At the recent 2022 International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), a team of researchers from the University of KU Leuven in collaboration with imec and PragmatIC Semi presented the world’s fastest TFT-based processor, the Flex6502.

    Highly integrated systems manufactured using Thin-film technology on a flexible substrate are an attractive area of research due to the relatively lower cost, mass production capabilities, as well as the unique use cases they can offer such as enabling seamless integration of electronic circuits on everyday objects. While your typical silicon die thickness is in the 100s of microns, thin-film can be less than 20 microns making them highly bendable. There are, however, various other tradeoffs when dealing with plastic electronics such as lower performance due to the mobility of the material and device dimensions. For the Flex6502, the researchers utilized PragmatIC Semiconductor’s 0.8 μm FlexLogIC fabrication line.

    FlexLogIC technology is a 0.8-micron process with an actual channel length of around 800 nm featuring only four metal layers. It is an n-type metal-oxide TFT technology and is based on Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide (IGZO) manufactured on an 8″ polyimide wafer less than 30 μm thick. Coincidently, There are a number of major barriers preventing mass production of large integrated systems not too dissimilar from the challenges engineers faced during the 1970s when the 6502 was first made. FlexLogIC fab suffers from high power consumption, poor noise margin, and large process variation. Beyond being a monotype process, they also only offer a single Vt device. Furthermore, no fully verified design follow is currently offered by foundries.

    For the Flex6502, the designers allocated two metal layers for the gate and source/drain and the two remaining layers for routing. Addressing the design restrictions of IGZO TFT technology, Flex6502 utilizes Pseudo-CMOS, a technique first described by the University of Tokyo in the 2010 IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices. Invented specifically for working with the limitations of TFT technology, it claims to offer comparable performance with the complementary type and dual-VT designs while utilizing a single Vt monotype design.

    All in all, the Flex6502 was synthesized and fabricated as 1718 standard cells integrating 16,393 TFTs in a 24.9 mm² area. Roughly 18.6% of the design is inverters, 17.4% NAND2, 13.5% NOR2, and 7.1% AOI22. All other cells make up the remaining 43%. The chip was validated and tested using an FPGA which emulated the memory, UART communication, and clock generation. The chip achieved a maximum operating speed of 71.4 kHz (at Vdd=3V/Vbias=6V) while consuming a maximum of 134.91 mW. Likewise, the chip can run as low as 10 kHz at 2V while consuming just 11.6 mW.

    Reply
  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Commodore 64 is Back and Better Than Ever
    2022 Technology With 1982 Swag
    https://kickstarter.myretrocomputer.com/signup/?fbclid=IwAR2kEScvNN77LHQxPTUL5Zciv-lQlr4kz5N1LBrpPAYPGYvqFqy6l7WRnfI

    That’s right! The legend has returned. Hailed as the World Record holder for the highest-selling single computer model of all time, the Commodore 64 is going to be a hit with retro fans everywhere.

    There will be three models available including the barebones case DIY model, the Extreme Model compatible with Windows 11 and Linux, and the PC gaming-ready Ultimate Model. Both Full Retail & VIP Pricing are outlined below. You’ll also have your choice of chameleon colors! It’s time to experience the joys of nostalgia, with the coolest all-in-one computer ever.

    Reply
  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Will The Real Commodore Please Stand Up?
    https://hackaday.com/2022/06/16/will-the-real-commodore-please-stand-up/

    The Commodore 64 is a much-loved 8-bit retro computer that first appeared in 1982 and finally faded away around a decade later. The Commodore company started by [Jack Tramiel] went on to make the Amiga, and eventually ceased trading some time in the late 1990s. All history, now kept alive only by enthusiasts, right? Well, not quite, as the C64 has been the subject of a number of revivals both miniature and full-sized over the years. The latest came in the form of a Kickstarter for the C64x, a seemingly legitimately-branded Commodore 64-shaped PC, but it seems that has now been paused due to a complaint from an Italian company claiming to be the real heirs of Commodore. So will the real Commodore please stand up?

    Commodore Branded Kickstarter Gets Hit by IP Troll Shenanigans
    https://www.amigalove.com/viewtopic.php?t=2254

    Reply
  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Music played with Commodore 64 computers:

    8 Bits High: Autofire
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRl4bC2YOVE

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Commodore 64 tuli kauppoihin 40 vuotta sitten – tietokone synnytti koodaajien sukupolven ja levitti teknologiauskoa
    https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-12588063

    Suomessa yksi legendaarisimpia yksittäisiä tietokonemalleja on Commodore 64. Lähinnä pelaamiseen käytetty tietokone totutti suomalaiset itse koneisiin, mutta myös koodaamiseen ja uuden teknologian omaksumiseen.

    Milleniaalin silmin Commodore 64 näyttää huonolta vitsiltä tietokoneeksi. Erillistä keskusyksikköä ei ole, vaan se sijaitsee muovisen oloisessa, tiiliskiven kokoisessa näppäimistössä. Typerryttävän yksinkertaisia pelejä tihrustetaan kookkaalta, joskin kuvaltaan vaatimattomalta kuvaputkinäytöltä.

    Levyasemaa ei ole, vaan näppäimistöön on yhteydessä kasetti- tai levykeasema, jota on vaikea käsittää: miten peli voi olla nauhalla? Vaatimattomista kaiuttimista pinnistävät äänet taas kuulostavat koostuvan eriasteisista vikasignaaleista.

    40 vuotta eivät siis välttämättä ole kohdelleet nykymittareilla rumaa, mutta tehotonta “kuusnelosta” tai “kuusnepaa” hirveän hyvin.

    Silti konetta edelleen rakastetaan ehdoitta. Koneesta tehdään kirjoja, dokumentteja ja sen ympärillä pyörii useita satapäisiä harrastajayhteisöjä. Koneen ääreen kokoonnutaan edelleen pelaamaan ja ohjelmoimaan.

    Commodore 64:n tapauksessa kehitettiin niin osuva tuote, että se – jos ei suorastaan määrittele – niin ainakin leimaa kokonaista sukupolvea ja aikakautta.

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    C64 Turned Theremin With A Handful Of Parts
    https://hackaday.com/2022/08/30/c64-turned-theremin-with-a-handful-of-parts/

    The theremin is popular for its eerie sound output and its non-contact playing style. While they’re typically built using analog hardware, [Linus Åkesson] decided to make one using the venerable Commodore 64.

    The instrument works by measuring the capacitance between its two antennas and the Earth. As these capacitances are changed by a human waving their hands around near the respective pitch and volume antennas, the theremin responds by changing the pitch and volume of its output.

    In this case, the humble 555 is pressed into service. It runs as an oscillator, with its frequency varying depending on the user’s hand position. There’s one each for pitch and volume, naturally, using a clamp and spoon as antennas. The C64 then reads the frequency the 555s are oscillating at, and then converts these into pitch and volume data to be fed to the SID audio chip.

    C64 Theremin
    https://linusakesson.net/hardware/theremin/index.php

    Reply
  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Using a Commodore 64 on the modern internet!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfahsGLtQwc

    That’s right! Now your Commodore 64 can surf the web! Well, kinda.

    In today’s video, I go over two ways to get the venerable Commodore 64 online. The C64 is one of my favorite retro machines, and I hope you enjoy this trip down (a slightly modernized) memory lane.

    Commodore BASIC commands used during the making of this video:
    `LOAD”*”,8` – load the first thing (or last opened file during current session) on the Commodore floppy drive
    `RUN` – runs the program it just loaded
    `LOAD”$”,8` – load the list of files from the Commodore floppy drive
    `LIST` – actually list out the list-of-files loaded with the previous command
    “Esoteric command” that renames the file: `OPEN 1,8,15,”R:NETCONF.PRG= NETCONF.PRG”:CLOSE 1`
    `LOAD”SETMAC”,8` – sets the mac address for your device in Contiki
    `LOAD”CONTIKI”,8` – loads the CONTIKI program itself

    Reply
  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How It Was Made: THE COMMODORE 64
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WBqGyf8eQVk

    Using machine learning on some scenes (see pinned comment & description) we’ve digitally remastered the only known, low-quality footage of the Commodore 64 & 6502 factory production to better show how the world’s bestselling computer was made!

    Reply

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