The Commodore 64 is 30 This Year

I used to have a paperweight sitting on my desk that read something like “Robert H. Lane, appointed President of Commodore Computers....” It was the sort of thing that they gave to executives. A brass plaque of their appointment as it appeared in the Wall Street Journal or the Globe and Mail.

Back in those days – the early 80s - I did not pay a lot of attention to who my dad worked for or what they did. He got up in the morning and went to work and I went to school (and later to boarding school, so I knew even less about who he worked for or what the company did). I would love to say that my dad was a kernel hacker, or developed the silicone chip that changed the industry, but that was not what he did. In some ways, what he did was just as important. He was in marketing, but he was the type of marketing wizard that most techs, even today, would respect. He is an early adopter and saw the value of computers long before most people (including Bill Gates and the late Judge Green). He was president of Commodore during its heydays of the Vic-20 and C-64. My sister and I each had one (and I am sure my mother has long since thrown both of them away) and I used the Commodore at school. Our school had a pair of the few luggable versions of the C-64; I would not be surprised if they were prototypes. They were similar to the Osbournes and were the first with full colour screens.

The Commodore 64 turns 30 this year, and my father, well, he is certainly much older, but still working with technology and technology companies, while I toil away with Fedora on my desktop and work with satellite technology, developed on Open Source platforms.

As we enter 2012, take a moment to look back at some of the accomplishments the early pioneers in this industry have made, and the sacrifices. And wonder what might have happened, if people had been a little less, or a little more aware of what they were holding in their hands.

Image from Commodore USA LLC which is not Commodore Business Machines of old.


David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack


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I can't believe it how's the

Lisa McDonald's picture

I can't believe it how's the Commodore 64 is 30 in this Year. Hope you know something very important in this issue. Although you published here very meaningful sounds but not informative at all. Anyway kinda inspired by reading that information though. Girokonto Vergleich thanks!

I have never used Commodor 64

Us Military Bases's picture

I have never used Commodor 64 in my life but would like to try it just to get this feeling how was to use this device back then

Great to hear that the

Jill's picture

Great to hear that the Commodore 64 is 30 this year. Hope it's very impressive news for us. Secondary market Thanks for published.


Der Kieler's picture

It's a really great history ..!

Bumper Sticker

Bumper Sticker's picture

I began out several decades previously on the Atari 800. Antic/GTIA/POKEY trained me very much all of the ideas discovered in the later "Commodore" Amiga's Agnus/Denise/Paula.Bumper Sticker

My C-64 Memories

James C. Williams's picture

Just this morning while driving to work, I was musing over the development of computers in my life. As a teenager, I worked for Radio Shack and later repaired the TRS-80's in all their forms. The C-64, however, was my first computer. I used it in school, preparing my homework. I used it to write scripts for video productions, and to compose music. I even programmed a controller for a robot I designed for my electronics class. And I played games - loads of them! The computer was extremely versatile. What we did with floppy disks, tapes, cartridges and only 64K of RAM was incredible.

After years of hanging on to it, I junked mine last year. My wife was happy, I was not. I still use my monitor for video work (made by JVC) and it still looks great.

Not sure how I feel about the new machine. Rather like bringing back 8-track tapes, isn't it?

Thanks & Congratulations!

Roberto Vazquez's picture

A very close friend usually was borrowing his C64 to me. We were working
in a Solar System catalog (yes, it was programmed in "basic"!). My first 'hello world' was made on such platform. Thank you for your article that took me to that great time, and my congratulations to your father for taking part on this historical device.

Older still...

Ken Jennings's picture

I started out several years earlier on the Atari 800. Antic/GTIA/POKEY taught me pretty much all of the concepts found in the later "Commodore" Amiga's Agnus/Denise/Paula. Atari 8-bit programmers had the learning curve for Amiga hardware mostly beaten. My programming friends with C64s were often overwhelmed by the Amiga features. Thanks Jay Miner. (Ah, the good old days when there was variety in desktop systems.)

Not my generation

gadgetboi's picture

Even though C64 isn't in my generation. I really respect this machine. Without this or Apple's Computer, The revolution in home computer won't this fast. I really want the new commodor just like tacra said :D

Commodore VIC-20

CDOKayaker's picture

The first computer I use was a Commodore VIC-20. I still remember using tapes.

I started my career on the

lona's picture

I started my career on the Commodore 64 it is very nice


I learned on a C64

Leif Madsen's picture

I just turned 31 a couple of days ago on January 7th, and when I was in grade 2 (about 8-9 years old I guess) I started getting interested in the Commodore 64s we had at our school that were plentiful, but rarely used. I remember the first thing the teacher taught me; $p$g

The Commodore 64 replaced my interest with Nintendo (which I still have) to a greater interest that shaped me and caused me to grow technologically. This grew into the Packard Bell 486/25 my parents bought where I played flight simulator (after my Dad purchased more RAM for the computer at $100 a MB), and ran a BBS (the first month I played around with the 2400 baud modem calling Las Vegas BBS numbers that a friends father gave me; I lived in Sarnia, ON, Canada which is north-east of Detroit), and eventually ran my own BBS. Running a BBS gave me the sense of community that I possess and the love of telecommunications that is my career to this day.

So thank you Commodore for your C64 which has allowed me to carve out my career and greatly influenced who I am; and not just professionally.

Bought and back in production

tacra's picture

Check the link below:

You can get the new C64 and enjoy the old classics as well as run the latest and greatest OS of today.

Was it That Long Ago?

Bryan E Patrick's picture

I wrote my first actual computer programs on a C-64. Yahtzee and then Monopoly. I learned assembler on it, and then went on to a career in computer programming. I have a lot of fond memories of that machine. I once spilled a glass of scotch into the keyboard. It "burped" and kept on going.

C64: 30 years and counting.

Jeroen Tel's picture

I started my career on the Commodore 64 composing music in FM format. I think I did pretty well. I didn't go out to town when girls asked me to. I didn't watch television when my family wanted me to. I just wanted to create the fantastic music the SID-chip (the sound-chip) had to offer. It was *my* instrument (thank you Bob Yannes)!

I loved my C64...

Liam's picture

...and I still have one (or more) floating around in boxes the basement. I made a hobby of learning various programming languages and the C64 was an excellent tool for that purpose, in addition to the games and apps.

But seriously, whose idea -was- it to put the exposed joystick ports right next to the power switch so you could walk up to the thing and kill it while trying to turn it on?

As an aside, the new "C64x" is an eye-catcher, but over all seems like a silly idea. You can run linux and vice on commodity hardware cheaper, and one of my "pet" peeves about the real C64 was all that -stuff- hanging off of the keyboard. IS there something I'm missing about the C64x (besides the nostalgic look)?

Good old Times

Marcus's picture

Hell yes,

I started with an ViC20 and then the C64.
It was an experience that I never would like to miss.
At School we had also C64s and so I was able to teach the teacher.
Was a lot of fun. XD

I remember also a lot of good Games and Tools.

Especially Impossible Mission, where the C64 said the famous words, ... stay for ever. :)

Commodore - ahh the 6502 up ...

Carl Moser's picture

In 1975 I saw an advertisement in Electronics magazine for a 6502 up for$25. An astoundingly inexpensive price for a microprocessor - 8080's were going for several hundred dollars. I got mine and designed my own PC - a single board 12"x12". Failed to market it though. Later got hooked up with a guy named Bill (don't recall his last name) who worked at Commodore Business Machines. We had lengthy phone conversations about the latest trends with "microprocessors" and "microcomputers" as we called them back then. I started a company called Eastern House Software selling my software and simultaneously we were a Commodore dealer for a short while.

Yes, those days deserve pondering on how far we have come. Back then programs were written in kilobytes of memory. I wrote my MAE Macro Assembler in 8KB of space, and our Commodore Rabbit software in less than 4KB of space. Today 8KB is nothing and programmers today carelessly allocate 8KB and more buffers without a second thought.

I think the most creative development from those days was Visicalc - anyone remember that?

Those were "magical times" - I knew we were on to something historical - just did not know how to fully engage the opportunities that were all around us.


THe C64 got me started

Anonymous's picture

I was an early adapter who could not afford an S-100 bus machine or even an apple, but what I learned on my C64 lead to a great career in programming, administration, analysis, and system design (PCs, Networks,and Mainframes). Thank you C64!

C64 music software

Dave Phillips's picture

Hi David,

Nice article!

It's also worth pointing out that the C64 spawned some outstanding music software, in particular the programs written by Emile Tobenfeld, aka Dr T. His KCS (Keyboard Controlled Sequencer) crammed some real capability into the machine's memory toeprint. I recall hearing some impressive pieces composed by a friend 'way back when on a C64, stuff you wouldn't have believed was possible with such a box.



Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

A great product!

rickb928's picture

Tthe only people I knew who had a C64 and didn't like it were the ones who didn't *use* it. Even a Basic 'hello' script thrilled users, and you just got sucked in.

Having actually useful software available for it was gravy after that experience. Fortunately, we now have a myriad of options for self-directed exploration, but these all owe a small debt to Commodore and the C64.

And of course, I first bought a VIC-20. alas, not for long.

Started on the Commodor PET

David Lane's picture

Well, I have a few weeks on you John, I was in Grade 10 when I was first exposed to the Commodor PET back in the early 80s and used the C-64 luggable to write several papers in Grade 12 while my roommate was creating a game in assembler on when I wasn't using it. Ah, those were heady days! Somewhere I still have a couple of data tapes...

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

commodore pet

Lance Dillon's picture

Me too. I would go to the computer lab in junior high and work on the pet, before we got a c64 in 80 or 81, with an actual 1541 disk drive, which were insanely expensive at the time. I learned basic, assembly, and c on it (with the super-c compiler I bought in 89). I was in 7th grade at the time... Lot's of memories.

Almost as old...

John Knight's picture

Ah, serendipity: just before seeing this article, I kid you not, I was playing Creatures 2 under the VICE emulator, and grabbing more roms from!!!

I started my computing life on a C64 as a four year old (I'm 27, will be 28 this year), and it was a computing experience and gaming community like no other. Don't ask me why, but its combination of hardware and software gave rise to what was probably the most innovative and daring gaming scene we've ever had.

About the only modern comparisons I could make would be the feel of most Linux games on the public domain side, and perhaps gaming under Steam for the commercial side. Much like a commercial service like Steam is a great environment for $5 indie games, so too was the scene with the C64.

So fond am I of this machine (and emotionally entangled), that I'm planning on sticking a Raspberry Pi in one of them (a project I feel continues in a similar spirit in a new century), and running an emulator with as close as I can get to every C64 game that has ever existed on the SD card!

John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.