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The Commodore 64 was, at one point, the best-selling single (non Japanese) computer system of all time, with 17 million sold.note  It was released in 1982 as a low-end computer comparable to the Apple ][ and the Atari 8-Bit Computers, following on their earlier VIC-20 system. It was as cheap as the Atari 2600 and is, paradoxically, considered one of the finest personal computing devices ever built while also being partially to blame for The Great Video Game Crash of 1983.

The system was remarkably powerful for the price. The original design was for an Arcade Game board, and the C64 therefore had unusually good color graphics, sprite support, and sound compared to its competitors. It also had an operating system contained entirely in ROM, meaning that there was close to nothing (shy of physically damaging the hardware) that could corrupt the system, making it a hacker's dream machine. There was even a windowed operating environment with desktop publishing abilities available for it (GEOS), and some code genius even figured out how to do multitasking on it. It was also home of the Quantum Link online service, operated by the company that would become AOL.

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However, the success of the Commodore 64 was also its downfall. Commodore couldn't discontinue it due to high demand in Europe, and most people in North America had moved on to the Nintendo Entertainment System for their gaming needs and cheap IBM Personal Computer clones flooding the market for general computing by 1990. (VGA graphics and sound cards surpassing the C64's graphics and SID chip toward the end of the decade also prompted a lot of C64 gamers to migrate.) The C64's success also doomed every other Commodore 8-bit project, such as the MAX machine, the Educator 64, the C16, the Plus/4, the C128, the C64 Games System, and the C65.

The Commodore 64 was eventually discontinued in April 1994, when the company went bankrupt due to the now dated parts of the system being more expensive than what people paid for it. This is essentially what happens when Artistic License – Economics happens in Real Life. In April 2011, Commodore announced a brand revival and began accepting preorders for new C64s. The new systems were to essentially combine the classic design with modern internals, running the original C64 BIOS and present-day software. However, as Commodore fans were to come to expect in the following years, the project fell through; this began a long string of Commodore (now owned by an Italian tech company) promising big and failing to deliver, most notably with a branded smartphone that only ended up being available in a few European countries. The closest thing to a hardware revival the C64 has seen is some carefully non-copyright infringing computer-on-a-chip systems housed in a keyboard that apes the original's breadbox design.

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Commodore 64 games have been released for the Wii's Virtual Console. It's also one of the most popular platforms for the Demoscene. And a generation has learned to associate Bach's "Invention #13" with this system.

And now it's available as an app for iOS.

In 2018, Retro Games Ltd. released a microconsole version of the C64, appropriately called the C64 Mini. Similar to other contemporary microconsoles, the C64 Mini is an ARM-based Linux system using the VICE emulator and comes with 64 games preloaded on the system; however, unlike several microconsoles, users can legitimately load their own games and programs using disk images on a USB flash drive and update the firmware to fix bugs and add features. The company followed up the C64 Mini with a full sized version, simply called the C64, with a working keyboardnote  and the ability to switch between C64 BASIC and VIC-20 BASIC.

Specifications:

Processors

  • CPU: MOS 6510 (a modified 6502), ~1 MHz
  • GPU: MOS VIC-II
  • Sound: MOS SID

Memory

  • 64K RAM

Display

  • 160x200 or 320x200 bitmap graphics, 40x25 character graphics
  • 16 colors
  • 8 sprites per scanline
  • Hardware scrolling

Sound

  • 3 oscillators: Saw, triangle, square, and noise waveforms, 8 octave range, programmable envelopes
  • High-pass, band-pass, and low-pass filters
  • Ring modulators
  • An optional module, Sound Expander, adds OPL-1 FM Synthesis (allegedly upgradeable to OPL-2). Additionally, Speech Synthesis can be added via the Magic Talker module (although the SID, being a PSG, can produce speech rather well on its own via the Software Automatic Mouth, or SAM, software).

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  • Broken Record: Try this command:
    10 PRINT "TV TROPES";
    20 GOTO 10
  • Covers Always Lie: If a game was also released for the vastly more advanced Amiga, screenshots on the box would inevitably be from that version.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Against the other 8-bit computers.
  • Fridge Brilliance: Computer viruses had begun to be a problem by the mid-80s. Because of its ROM-based system software and Commodore's decision to offload disk handling to the floppy drives, it was all but impossible to write a C64 virus.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The computer was so popular, Commodore couldn't cancel it, even after the disk drive became more expensive to manufacture than the C64 itself.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading:
    • The 1541 disk drive was notoriously slow at 300 bytes per second, and the 1530 Datasette cassette drive was even worse at 50 bytes per second. This was because the both 1541 disk drive and the 1530 Datasette were carryovers from the VIC-20, and Commodore wanted to maintain backwards compatibility for VIC-20 users who wanted to upgrade.
    • Fast load cartridges helped alleviate slow load times in most floppy-based programs by using more efficient routines than the C64's stock ROM, making them a popular add-on for any serious C64 user. For commercial cassette-based programs, they often incorporate their own "turbo tape" routines. Not only did these routines improve loading times, they also dramatically increased a cassette's storage capacity; a typical T-30 tape could hold approximately 100 kilobytes while a "turbo tape" could increase a tape's capacity closer to a full megabyte.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: The C-One computer (originally designed as a C64 clone by the self-trained Jeri Ellsworth), as well as the VICE emulator (the latter being the only way most people will ever be able to use the C65).
  • Obvious Beta: The machine had reliability problems when first introduced, but when the kinks were ironed out, the C64 sold like hotcakes.
  • Spiritual Successor: The brand is active again, but with modern components like an Intel Atom processor.
  • The Moral Substitute: Like many other computer companies in The '80s, Commodore marketed the C64 as an educational alternative to evil, brain-draining video game consoles that would wreck parents' dreams of their kids getting into college. Subverted: the machine actually had lots of great games, as the list below shows.
  • Tonka Tough:
    • The operating system was in ROM, making it virtually impossible to corrupt.
    • A C64 in Poland has been used in an auto shop for 25 years to help balance driveshafts despite being rained on and crapped on by birds.
    • Retro tech YouTuber Adrian Black acquired a C64 was "left for dead", exposed to the elements for at least a decade. The RF shield had rusted completely to the point where it literally fell apart, and dirt, debris, and even insects had gotten into the machine. However, despite this, the computer did manage to boot, although Adrian had to clean corrosion off in certain places to get the computer to accept keyboard input.
    • Averted by the C1541 floppy drive which could go out of alignment with a funny look. Every 1541 owner ever knows the "BRAAAAAP" noise of a misaligned drive. Even worse is that some programs come with Copy Protection that will eventually cause this to happen!
  • Video Game Long-Runners: Was sold from 1982 to 1994.
  • The Wiki Rule: C64 Wiki.

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Original titles and Multi-Platform games that started here:

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