The Commodore 64, the bestselling computer of all time, turns 35

  • TECH
  • Wednesday, 16 Aug 2017

A Commodore 64 with its screen and floppy disk drive. © Bill Bertram via Wikimedia Commons Commodore 64C system with 1541-II floppy drive and 1084S RGB monitor — AFP Relaxnews

August 1982 will be remembered as the month the Commodore 64, the legendary spearhead of the home computer revolution, was launched. 

It is estimated that close to 20 million Commodore 64s were sold, a record that has yet to be equalled. 

Unveiled a few months earlier at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Commodore 64 went on to be a colossal commercial success. Along with its office applications, the wide range of games, with the rapid launch of several thousand titles, made the machine extremely popular. 

From runaway success to bankruptcy 

Creator Jack Tramiel and his associate Jay Gould launched the first Commodore computer, the PET 2001, equipped with a small screen, a keyboard and a cassette recorder, in 1977. 

Some years later, the company scored a major success with the VIC-20, which was both cheap and user-friendly. The VIC-20 was also the model that paved the way for the Commodore 64. 

The Commodore 64 

The first model was equipped with a MOS 6510 processor running at 1MHz with 64KB of RAM. As for its graphics capability, it could display 16 colours and a maximum screen resolution of 320x200 pixels. 

It had ports for a range of peripherals: screens, printers, disk and cassette players, joysticks etc. At its launch, the computer retailed for US$595 (RM2,556), an extremely competitive price for the time, especially when compared to the Apple II, which was around three times as expensive. 

From 1985 onwards, the Amiga computer range strengthened Commodore's grasp on the personal computer market, before the company was dealt a fatal blow by the advent of PCs running Windows. 

A huge range of compatible games for the computer continued to be sold until the 1990s. Commodore's slow response to a rapidly evolving market, as well as the failure of the CD32 console, drove the American company to bankruptcy in 1994. 

The brand was relaunched without success in 2007 with a new range of high-end gaming PCs. It is now in the hands of Italian entrepreneurs who are hoping to reposition it on the market for mobile devices. — AFP Relaxnews

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