The first successful home computer: Commodore VIC-20

The first successful home computer: Commodore VIC-20

What was the first successful home computer? Some people would argue it was the Apple II, the TRS-80 Model I, or perhaps even the Apple I. But I argue it was Commodore’s VIC-20.

Maybe I’m biased. I was a Commodore fan growing up and my first experience with a computer was probably on a VIC-20. But I think I can make a case.

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The silver label Commodore 64

The silver label Commodore 64

The most valuable examples of the Commodore 64, generally speaking, are the early variants that have silver labels across the top. The silver label Commodore 64 is the earliest, most expensive example of the venerable machine.

In all, Commodore produced about 80,000 of these machines. That compares to several million of the most common variants. That alone makes them relatively rare. When you do find one, there’s a fairly good chance it’s not 100% original.

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Commodore 64 vs 128

Commodore 64 vs 128

Commodore introduced the Commodore 128 in 1985 as an upgrade path from the Commodore 64, the most popular model of computer of all time. The 128 addressed the 64’s biggest shortcomings while remaining mostly compatible with its hardware and software. That makes the Commodore 64 vs 128 a natural comparison, even more natural than comparing the 64 with the VIC-20.

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C64 vs. Apple II

C64 vs. Apple II

The C64 vs. Apple II was perhaps the most epic battle of the 8-bit era. Both companies sold millions of machines, yet both nearly went out of business in the process.

Comparing the two machines with the largest software libraries of the 8-bit era is a bit difficult, but that’s what makes it fun. The two machines are similar enough that some people ask if the Commodore 64 was an Apple product. The answer is no.

As a weird aside, it was possible, with a Mimic Systems Spartan, to turn a C-64 into an Apple II. Not many did, but the reason why is another story.

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Commodore 64 vs VIC-20

Commodore 64 vs VIC-20

How do you compare the Commodore 64 vs VIC-20?

The Commodore 64 and its predecessor, the VIC-20, look a lot alike, and the VIC-20’s design certainly influenced the 64. The 64 is the best selling computer model of all time, and I argue the VIC-20 was the first really successful home computer.

But even though the two machines are closely related, there are significant differences between them. It’s important to remember that in the 1980s, two years was a comparatively long time because the market was moving so fast. Plus, the VIC-20 was always supposed to be an entry-level machine. In 1982, the 64 was supposed to be fairly high-end. Let’s compare and contrast the two venerable machines.

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How to connect a Commodore VIC-20 to a TV

How to connect a Commodore VIC-20 to a TV

Connecting old computers and consoles to not-as-old televisions is frequently a challenge. Sadly, the VIC-20, Commodore’s runaway bestseller from 1982, is no exception to that. Here’s how to connect a Commodore VIC-20 to a TV.

Unfortunately, there are fewer options for connecting a VIC than there are the slightly newer and more common C-64, but I’ll walk you through the options you do have.

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Commodore 16 and Commodore Plus/4

Commodore 16 and Commodore Plus/4

Dan Bowman kindly pointed out to me that former Commodore engineer Bil Herd wrapped up his discussion of the ill-fated Commodore TED machines on Hackaday this week. Here in the States, few remember the TED specifically, but some people may remember that oddball Commodore Plus/4 that closeout companies sold for $79 in 1985 and 1986. The Plus/4 was one of those TED machines. So was the Commodore 16.

What went wrong with those machines? Commodore miscalculated what the market was doing. The TED was a solution to too many problems, and ended up not solving any of them all that well. Read more

PCs are dead! Tablets are hot! Tablets are dead! PCs are hot!

In a shocking turn of events, PCs are now outselling tablets. Last year it was the opposite. What’s going on?

Priorities, that’s all. It’s the cycle of events in electronics. It’s happened before and it’s going to happen again as the market matures. Read more

The Tampa Post on “Windows Service Center” scams

The Tampa Post’s technology Q&A columnist received a letter this weekend (toward the bottom of the link) about Windows tech support scammers. From the article:

The people performing the hoax sound remarkably professional and officious.

Depending on what you say to them, results vary a lot. When they call me, they’re anything but professional. Especially lately. They seem to be OK when they don’t think they’re talking to a computer professional. Mention that you do this for a living, that you have an advanced certification, or that you wrote a book, and they turn vicious fast. Read more

How thousands of Atari cartridges ended up in the desert

The famous story of Atari burying millions of dollars of unsold videogame cartridges, including the infamous E.T. cartridge, is no longer just a legend–it’s been confirmed.

How they got there was mostly a misunderstanding of the nascent business. Read more