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Retro Friday: Commodore 64

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A couple of weeks ago we brought you a retro view of the legendary Atari 2600. The Atari 2600 was a classic machine and I am proud to have grown up owning one (and I still do).  For this week’s Retro Friday feature, however, I want us to take a look at another great legend in the gaming world, the classic Commodore 64.

Commodore64

The Commodore 64, also known as the C64, was released in 1982 and was a really advanced system back in the day. The name C64 comes from the 64 kilobytes of RAM that the unit was packing. The C64’s sound and graphical specifications were comparable to the Apple II system, but it was priced much cheaper than the Apple system when it was released. In the period of 1983 t0 1986, it dominated with between 30 to 40 percent of the market share and sold two million units per year. They were outselling the competition like IBM PC compatibles, Apple and the Atari 8-bit family computers. The big reason for the success of the C64 was due to it being sold in normal retail stores instead of electronic stores.

The C64 unit incorporated the Commodore Basic 2.0 in ROM user interface shell, which was ready and waiting for you when you started up the machine. I still remember the days, when you inserted the floppy disk and then typed in ‘LOAD”*”, 8’ and when it loaded you typed ‘RUN’ to execute the programme or game.

Commodore64LoadingScreen

Every month or so my dad brought these books home that contained code for a game demo, and back in those days they didn’t come with the disk or tape with a demo, you had to type out the whole code, compile and run it! Sometimes you would make one small typo and you had to restart the whole thing again. I remember doing this with a game called River Raid, until my uncle gave me a floppy disk with the game on.

Here are some highlights of the C64′s system specifications:

Microprocessor CPU:

- Clock speed: 0.985 MHz (PAL) or 1.023 MHz (NTSC)

Video:

- 16 colours

- 8 hardware sprites of 24×21 pixels (12×21 in multicolour mode)

- Smooth scrolling, raster interrupts

Sound:

- 3-channel synthesizer with programmable ADSR envelope

- 8 octaves

- 4 waveforms per audio channel: triangle, sawtooth, variable pulse, noise

Input/Output:

-24-hours (AM/PM) Time of Day clock (TOD), with programmable alarm clock

RAM:

- 64 kB, of which 38 kB (minus 1 byte) were available for BASIC programs

- 512 bytes colour RAM (memory allocated for screen colour data storage)

Commodore64Image2


I played many games on the C64 and it really got me interested in programming. I remember sitting on the floor and using my Atari 2600 joystick playing games most of the Saturday and then my dad joined me and we played some more till we couldn’t stay awake anymore. I still have a Commodore 64 system, but sadly some wiring didn’t last and now it doesn’t power up anymore. I haven’t spent the time to repair it, but maybe I will take some photos of the actual unit for you all to see.

Do you have some great memories of the C64 or have you never worked on one ever. Luckily for us all, there is now so much C64 emulation software out there for us to experience the awesomeness that was the Commodore 64!


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