How to use a Commodore 64

How to use a Commodore 64

The Commodore 64 is rather unlike modern computers. It has a CPU and memory like a modern computer does, but the operating system and overall user experience is alien to someone used to computers that run Windows or Mac OS. So to modern eyes, it’s not completely obvious how to use a Commodore 64.

Commodore had a dominance of the market in the 1980s that would have made Apple jealous at any point in its history, but ultimately Commodore lost, so the Commodore 64’s bloodline is extinct.

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Commodore 64 operating system

Commodore 64 operating system

The Commodore 64 didn’t have an operating system in the traditional sense that we now think of one. It most certainly did have a method of interacting with the user and handling I/O, including disk files. But the way it all worked seems strange today. Here’s what made the native Commodore 64 operating system different, and the alternatives that surfaced during the 64’s long life.

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Commodore RAM expansion units

Commodore RAM expansion units

The 6502-family CPUs in Commodore 8-bit computers famously used 64K of RAM at a time. But in 1985, Commodore introduced a cartridge that added up to 512K of RAM to the 128. Commodore followed up soon after with a 256K cartridge for the 64. How did Commodore RAM expansion units work?

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Commodore computer models

Commodore computer models

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.

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The IBM PS/1 (or IBM PS1)

The IBM PS/1 (or IBM PS1)

The IBM PS/1, sometimes called the IBM PS1, was a line of 1990s personal computer systems, not to be confused with the Sony Playstation video game console that’s also often called the PS1. The PS/1 was IBM’s second attempt at a mass market consumer PC.

You can neatly divide the PS/1 into two generations. While they ran the same software, they had major philosophical differences. Perhaps more than any other computer line, they represent IBM’s change of heart in the early 1990s as it tried to survive in an extremely competitive and crowded market.

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