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Useful Notes / Commodore 64

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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... and 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 the IBM Personal Computer (or more likely one of the cheap PC clones flooding the market) for general computing by 1990. (PCs getting good graphics and sound 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. The C64 Mini comes with 64 games preloaded on the system; however, users can load their own programs using disk images and BASIC.note  The company plans to release a full sized version with a working keyboard.

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, but the 1530 Datasette cassette drive was even worse. This was because the both 1541 disk drive and the 1530 Datasette were carryovers from the VIC-20. Fast loader cartridges, which help alleviate slow load times in most programs, were a popular add-on and a must for any serious Commodore user.
  • 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.
    • 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.

Games:

Original titles and Multi-Platform games that started here:

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