The Peripheral Connection - Compute!, March 1985

The Peripheral Connection - from Compute!, March 1985

Selby Bateman, Features Editor
Peripherals can bring much more power and flexibility to your Commodore 64. And they're available as never before. That translates into a multitude of opportunities and changes as you continue to enhance your computer's capabilities. Here's an overview of the expanding peripheral marketplace for the 64.

Once you've made the choice to purchase a Commodore 64 computer, your decisions begin to multiply. If you thought choosing a microcomputer to suit your needs was challenging, you'll soon find yourself overwhelmed by the peripheral options open to you. Even experienced computer owners discover it's hard to stay abreast of the rapidly growing inventory of peripherals designed for the 64.

But this proliferation of products means that some people are making mistakes, says Tom Dow, product manager for Commodore's Computer Systems Division, "It's obvious - but a very important consideration for people who are buying 64s or any computer - that they get involved with applications that are really going to benefit them. It's important for people to understand what they need to du and get themselves plugged into a product that is best going to suit those needs." And that means before you make peripheral purchases which may be two or even three times the cost of the 64 itself.

Many people buy peripherals without first fully understanding what they are going to do with them, how they interact with the Commodore 64, and what software is to be used, adds Dow.

If you follow the general rule that a peripheral is any piece of hardware which can be plugged into your computer to enhance its function, the list of such products includes literally hundreds of items from scores of manufacturers. The good news is that there's plenty of information at hand for the discerning consumer. And the peripheral options really aren't difficult to categorize and compare if you'll take the time to think through your choices and your needs.

There are basically five major categories of peripherals for nicest microcomputers, including the 64. When you begin to think about building a system around your computer, your choices include the following:

Mass storage devices - An absolute necessity for your computer since it is this attachment which lets you store information (on tape or disk) for later use and also allows you to run commercial software not on cartridge. For the 64, the choices have grown rapidly during the past year.
Display devices - Essentially the television set or video monitor which lets you see what you and the computer are doing together. There are surprising indications here that 64 owners are changing their preferences about what display they wish to use (more on this later).
Printers - Although printers could be listed as an alternative display device, their importance and special functions require a separate category. Commodore 64 owners have more choices here than ever before, generally at lower prices for better quality.
Communication devices - Modems (and telecommunications software) are now among the hottest items for Commodore 64 owners. The popularity of bulletin boards and the growth of major telecommunications services are changing the face of personal computing.
Input devices - There are many ways other than your computer keyboard for you to interact with the 64. Joysticks, light pens, touch tablets, and track balls are just a few. And soon even the popular table-top controller called a mouse should be available for the 64
Let's take a look at some of the changes affecting these peripheral product lines for the Commodore 64.

Commodore officials were pleasantly surprised during l984 by a significant change in the buying patterns of 64 owners looking for storage devices. Over 90 percent of these purchases from Commodore were 1541 disk drives rather than the more inexpensive Datassette recorders.

"That was one of the things that really threw us for a loop," says Commodore's Dow. "The percentage of people who actually bought disk drives to go with the 64 was very high." Commodore was caught by surprise and there was a period about a year ago when 1541s were in very short supply.

Since there are some other sources for inexpensive cassette tape drives compatible with the 64, it would be wrong to presume that the 90 percent figure would apply throughout the Commodore 64 marketplace. However, the combination of low price (about $250 for the 1541), the relatively faster access times of a disk drive over tape, and the trend toward putting more and more commercial software on disk rather than cassette has