Commodore 64 and 128

Vital Statistics

Introduced August 1982 (C64), January 1985 (C128)
Retired: 1993
Price: C64: £399, $595 (soon dropped to $400), SX-64 ($999), C128: $299, C128D: $599
Quantity Sold: approx 22,000,000 (C64), approx 4,000,000 (C128/D), 80,000 (C64GS)
Countries: Worldwide
Dimensions: 403 x 205 x 66mm
Weight: ?
Ports: RF TV out, RGB & Composite video/audio, 2 x joystick ports, datasette, cartridge slot, user port (RS232), 5V DC in
Usable RAM: C64/C64C/SX-64: 64K, C128/128D: 128K
Built-in ROM: 8K
Colours: 16 colours
Graphics: VIC-II chip produces 320x200 (2 colours per 8x8 block), 160x200 (3 colours + bkgnd per 4x8 block), 40x25 text mode, 80x25 text mode (C128 only) from 16-color YPbPr composite video palette.
Sound: 3 channels, 8 octaves, 4 waveforms (SID chip)
Built-in Language: Commodore BASIC 2.0 (C64/C64C/SX-64), BASIC 7.0 (C128/128D), CP/M 3.0 (aka CP/M Plus)
Clones: ?
Other Names : VIP64 (Swedish version of the SX64)

Technical Details ...

 

 


What's it like today?

Fun Factor: 5/5
Geek Factor:
5/5
Model/Rarity/Price (Poor - BNIB/Mint):
Commodore 64 £25-£60
Commodore 128/D £60-£250
Commodore 64C £25-£70
Commodore SX-64/DX-64 £80-£200
Commodore 64GS £120-£180

 

Commodore was among the most influential IT companies throughout the 70s and 80s, and the computer they're most famous for is the Commodore 64. Sold in their millions from release (between 20 and 25 million eventually sold), it competed directly with the Sinclair ZX Spectrum for market dominance for many years. It is arguable who won this battle, as both machines had a huge following, and still do.

The C64 (as it was soon abbreviated to) looked much better technically, especially in the areas of sound with the famous Commodore dedicated custom sound chip - SID - and smooth scrolling. Over 10,000 programs have been written for the Commodore 64.

Internally codenamed VIC-30 (as it was to be the successor of the venerable VIC-20), and later renamed 64, Jack Tramiel set a deadline of the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in January 1982 for broadcasting the forthcoming machine to the world. This gave the designers and engineers just over two months to come up with prototypes and software to show it off. This they acheived, and the 64 received applause from the off. Due to it's low cost relative to its competitors at the time, and the fact that Commodore distributed it not only through its authorised dealer network but also off department store shelves, it sold in great quantity. In the United States, many competitors such as the Atari 400 and 800, and the Texas Instruments TI99/4A were soon out of the market - they simply couldn't compete on a price for performance basis.

In the UK, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum had been launched a few months before, and was quickly gaining market dominance. The Sinclair retailed for just over half the cost of the C64, so Commodore couldn't rely on their previously successful US marketing strategy to work in Europe. At launch in March 1983, the C64 went on sale at £399 GBP.

In May 1983, Commodore released the eagerly anticipated "Commodore Executive", renamed simply to "Commodore SX-64" for release at a price of $999. This was essentially a portable version of the 64, with a built-in 1541 floppy disk drive and a 5" colour screen - the first ever colour portable computer! While the standard 64 sold extremely well, the SX-64 did not, primarily thought to be due to the high price, sheer weight of the unit, lack of battery (you had to plug it into the mains for it to work), and lack of dedicated business software. Production ceased in 1986. Nowadays, however, these are very sought after among collectors, with an estimated sub-25,000 units sold worldwide. When the "Executive" was first shown to the public at the Consumer Electronics Show in the USA, a cut-down version was advertised - called the SX-100 - it contained a black & white screen. This was dropped in favour of the colour SX-64, so the SX-100 never reached production. A "DX-64" unit was also sold in small quantities. This model contained a second 1541 floppy drive in place of the floppy disk storage compartment above the first floppy drive. These are extremely rare, although several owners of SX-64s were known to add their own second floppy drive.

In January 1985 at the CES in Las Vegas, Commodore released what would be their last brand new 8-bit computer, the Commodore 128. In Summer 1984 Commodore's management realised their 264-series (the Plus/4 and C16) were not going to be the successor to the C64 they had planned them to be. So work got underway on correctly their past mistakes, most notably the lack of backward compatibility that consumers wanted, plus their desire to have support for the CP/M operating system thus broadening their usefulness in the small business market. Commodore chose to include full backward-compatibility with the 64. But the 128 was more than just a 64 with twice the RAM; it provided an 80-column mode with RGB output, and was powered by the MOS 8502 microprocessor (a newer version of the 6510 found in the C64) and a second CPU in the form of the Zilog Z80. This was the same CPU as in the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, but the purpose here was to allow CP/M programs to run, giving the C128 more attraction as a 'business' computer. Both CPUs however, could not run at the same time - it ran in either native C128 mode, CP/M mode, or C64 mode. The 128 also sported a total accessible memory capacity of 512K (if upgraded), and a new version of CBM BASIC, v7.0 with lots of extra commands for proper support of graphics and sound. Alongside the launch of the Commodore 128 came the Commodore 1902 colour composite/RGB monitor, for $400. This supported the 80-column CP/M mode.

In September 1988, Commodore released the 128D (D for "Desktop"), which had a separate keyboard and drive/PSU unit with a 1571 disk drive fitted internally. The desktop design came in an all-plastic case, depending upon when and where it was purchased (metal was the Cost-reduced model). The 128D models had a list price of $599 USD. Shortly after, Commodore managed to produce a cost-reduced version of the 128D, called the 128DCR, which had a metal casing but kept the plastic front panel and it lost the keyboard dock, and some internal connectors.

The C64's image got a cosmetic refresh in May 1986 with the casing being changed to a more sleek, sophisticated style, very similar to the Commodore 128. It was called the Commodore 64C. The style fit better with the competitors offerings of the time, and Commodore even gave the same treatment to some of its better selling peripherals, including the popular 1541 disk drive (aptly called the 1541C). The 64C also got newer versions of the popular SID, VIC and other I/O chips, and the whole machine ran on 9V compared to 12V for the original 64. The 64C, however, did not sell well, as at this time it was now up against the new range of 16-bit computers including Commodore's own Amiga and the Atari ST.

In 1990, a games console version of the C64 arrived on the scene, as the C64GS (C64 Games System). The cartridge port of the original PCB was repositioned to be vertical-mounted and a modified ROM replaced the BASIC interpreter with a boot screen to inform the user to insert a game cartridge. At its introduction Commodore promised 100 software titles would be available on cartridge, but the final number fell far short of this. The C64GS never sold outside of Europe, and was another Commodore commercial failure, with only approximately 80,000 units built and around 25% of these were sold. As a result, these models are now very rare and sought after by collectors.

Commodore 64/128 News

29 November 2016Excitebike clone for the C64

Here's some interesting news for fans of the NES classic Excitebike. A playable preview of a C64 clone called Motorman developed by Dr. Strange of Atlantis and Propaganda Magazine has just been released.

The preview lets you play against 2 cpu and 1 human opponent, on 1 track which features jumps, oil, rocks, and other obstacles which you either have to negotiate by switching lanes or doing wheelies etc. Controls seem pretty good, the bike responds well enough to do somersaults on the big jumps and wheelies over the barrels. While it is pretty short on features and has no title screen, this preview definitely shows potential that it could be a very nice motorbike racer, and when played with few friends, a whole heap of fun!

Download the preview here.

20 November 2016Commodore dev tool CBM prg Studio 3.9.0 available now

CBM prg Studio has reached version 3.9.0, bringing a ton of new features and bugfixes.

CBM prg Studio is a Windows IDE which allows you to type a BASIC or machine code program and convert it to a '.prg' file, which you can then run in an emulator or on real hardware. It also includes character, sprite and screen editors and a fully featured 6510/65816 debugger. The following machines can be developed for: Commodore 64 (and SuperCPU) Commodore 128 Commodore VIC 20 Commodore 16 Commodore Plus/4 Commodore PET BASIC 2 machines, e.g. PET 2001 Commodore PET BASIC 4 machines, e.g. PET 4000/9000 What CBM prg Studio isn't is a front-end for tok64, cbmcnvrt, bastext or any other tokeniser/detokeniser/assembler. It's all been written completely from scratch.

CBM prg Studio can be downloaded directly from its author’s website (Arthur Jordison). You'll need a PC with minimum specifications of Pentium III 600 MHz, 256Mb RAM, Windows XP or newer, and a graphics card supporting 1024x768 resolution.

14 September 2016Commodore Free Issue 94

Issue 94 of Commodore Free, the magazine dedicated to Commodore computers is now available for download. The magazine is available in the following formats; PDF, ePUB, MOBI, HTML, TXT, SEQ and D64 disk image.

For the latest news, editorial, reviews, adverts on new hardware and software, and helpful hints, visit the Commodore Free website.

09 September 2016Mega65 progress

A clever fellow by the name of Dr. Paul Gardner-Stephen has spent a number of years to take it upon himself to try to get a Commodore 64/65 into an FPGA package. Follow his progress via the Blog here.

Latest updates are that the emulator written by Gábor can now properly run kickstart and supports hypervisor traps and SD card access, sufficient to boot, and run the disk menu program (which makes heavy use of hypervisor DOS calls).

14 May 2016SEUCK Compo 2016 is open!

Wow, it's here again... the annual SEUCK competition for C64 enthusiasts.

Run by The New Dimension, this is an annual event where you can submit your very best Shoot 'em Up Construction Kit games to the competition.

The aim of the competition was originally create a new SEUCK game without enhancements, or anything in particular (apart from music). This was until 2014, onwards, where I allowed mods and minor enhancements to be added to your own SEUCK creations. Such as huge sprites, sprite/behind background priority Now come 2016, this compo is brand new, and major changes have been made.

The aim of this year's compo is simply to create a vertical scrolling or a horizontal scrolling shoot 'em up, which should stand out from the crowd. We don't want to see rushed out games, which were made in a series of less than a day, or really rushed graphics. We want to see real stunning SEUCK games, with really smart graphics, and also games good attack wave patterns, end of level bosses, etc. The creation will be in your hands. Can you game stand out? If you think it can, click here for more details!

...see more C64 news...

 

 

Page last updated on 10th January 2015