Happy 30th birthday Commodore 64! (video)

2 Aug 2012

Back in August 1982, an affordable 8-bit computer invaded homes across the world and, three decades later, it still holds a special place in our geeky hearts.

Though the exact sales figures are uncertain, the Commodore 64 is said to be the best-selling single personal computer model of all time, estimated to have sold anywhere between 12.5m and 17m units.

Released internationally in August 1982, its biggest competition in Ireland would have been the cheaper Sinclair ZX Spectrum, but with most rival computers the Commodore 64 came out on top for high specs at a low cost. The C64 dominated the market in the mid-Eighties, with 2m sold per year between 1983 and 1986, outselling IBM, Apple and Atari.  

Commodore 64 start-up

Today, a piddly 64kB RAM and 1.023MHz processor would be scoffed at, not to mention a 320 x 200 16-colour display, but back then it was a wonder to behold – even though it took forever to load.

About 10,000 software titles were made for C64, ranging from productivity tools to games. Today, you can run this software on a modern computer or console using a C64 emulator, or you can play the games online.

The Commodore 64 brought new technology to many a middle-class household and is practically the Model T Ford of computing. Mass production was key for the in-demand computer, and Commodore’s vertical integration approach helped save on production costs.

High demand made it hard for Commodore to discontinue the C64 in favour of higher-priced machines. All good things must come to an end, though, and in 1994 the company filed for bankruptcy and the Commodore 64 was no more.

Until last year, that is, when it was relaunched as a 21st-century update with a 2.13GHz 64-bit dual-core D2700 Atom processor, 4GB of DDR3 memory and a DVD/Blu-ray drive. But no souped-up reincarnation can ever replace the computer on which many an Eighties child spent hours of his or her life playing Chuckie Egg and Flimbo’s Quest. Those were the days.



Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.