The Commodore 64 is by far the most famous and successful computer Commodore ever made. But there were numerous Commodore computer models over the years. Some were also successful. Some were complete flops. Overall Commodore had a good 18-year run, but it could have been so much longer and better.
Let’s take a walk through the Commodore computer models from the beginning in 1976 to the bitter end in 1994.
The Atari 2600 CPU was a nondescript MOS 6507 chip. Neither Intel nor Motorola had a CPU chip in the early 1970s that could meet Atari’s price point. MOS Technology didn’t have one either, but they asked Atari what they could afford. Then they made one.
The 6507 is so nondescript, some of them don’t even have the number “6507” anywhere on them.
From time to time, I see the phrase “Commodore stock scam” or something similar come up in discussion or in books. Commodore, in case you don’t know, was a high-flying computer company in the 1980s that was literally making computers as quickly as they could sell them while Apple struggled for its survival, and was in the enviable position of being the main supplier of chips for its competitors. Imagine if Intel sold computers at retail next to HP and Dell, while still selling chips to Dell. That was Commodore in 1984. I don’t have 1984 figures, but in 1985, Commodore had 38% of the computer market all to itself. IBM and its clones, combined, had 49%. Apple had 13%.
But a decade later, Commodore had squandered all of that away and was out of business. That’s why Robert X. Cringely sums up Commodore as Irving Gould‘s stock scam, then goes back to writing about Apple.
The real story is more complicated than that. More interesting, too.
There’s a nasty rumor floating around that in Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography, Steve Jobs, Jobs alleges that Commodore copied the Apple II when making its first computer, 1977’s PET. Here’s the story of Steve Jobs and the Commodore PET.
The book doesn’t come right out and say it, but it insinuates it. I know how the PET came to be, and the PET would have happened whether the Apple II ever existed or not. Read more