Electrokinetica The Electro-mechanical Museum

The Games Room - Commodore

History

Commodore Business Machines (CBM) was founded in 1954, and started releasing computers commercially for the home and business market in 1977. The original line of computers, the P.E.T (personal electronic transactor, also abbreviated PET) was an all-in-one unit, containing both screen and datasette, and a non-standard keyboard - later designs would have a standard keyboard after extensive negative customer feedback, and the datasette became an external unit. Whilst various models of the P.E.T were produced, by 1981 the VIC-20 was introduced, followed in 1982 by the Commodore 64 (C64). The C64 represented a step-change in graphics and sound capabilities for home computers, and its introduction price was far less than any other 64K computer on the market at the time. Price cuts in 1983 of both the VIC-20 and C64 has been identified as the start of the "home computer war" - when most of the major manufacturers continually lowered prices in an attempt to gain market share, some of them leaving the home computer market forever as low prices meant their business models became unsustainable.

By the end of 1983, Commodore had sold more than 22 million C64s, making it one of the best selling home computers of all time. You can find links to historical and technical information for each model under their own sections below.

Our collection

Commodore PET

CBM3032, front view

CBM3032, front view

CBM 3032, open view

CBM 3032, open view

We are lucky to have a range of PETs in our collection, although only one of our models (the 3032) has currently been photographed. A majority of our PET collection was donated by a local college.

The 3000 series were based upon the PET 2000 series, but a trademark issue in Europe meant that they were rebranded as CBM 3000 series (dropping the PET name). The 3032 has 32K of RAM, is based upon a 6502 processor running at 1MHz, contained a 20K BASIC and character ROM, had an inbuilt 9" green monitor supporting 40x25 character display, a 69 key QWERTY keyboard and 16 key numeric keyboard, and supported the datasette through a dedicated port as well as printers and disk drive via an IEEE-488 interface. There was also a bi-directional parallel user port.

VIC 20

VIC20 and C2N

VIC20 and C2N

VIC20 cartridge slot

VIC20 cartridge slot

VIC20 logo

Commodore VIC 20

Commodore 64

C64 original design

C64 original design

C64c front view

C64c front view

C64 logo

The Commodore 64 (C64) followed on quite quickly from the VIC20, offering more advanced sound and video capabilities - and importantly for the home computer market this meant a better grade of games, particularly arcade conversions. The original design was a cream coloured case, similar to the VIC20 design, although later versions (the C64c) changed to a grey case with a sloped keyboard and flat rear.

The C64 specification included a 6510/8500 processor (based upon the 6502, but with an integrated IO port) running at 1MHz, a custom video chip - the VIC-II - supporting 40x25 character display, 320x200 or 160x200 bitmap display, 16 colours, and 8 hardware sprites, a custom sound chip - 6581/8580 SID - supporting 3 channels, and 64KB of RAM of which 38K was available to the user. There was also a range of I/O options including access to disk drives and printers via a serial version of IEEE-488, the datasette, joysticks, a cartridge slot, and a generic user port supporting RS-232 and parallel signals.

Our collection currently includes a number of C64s along with a range of common peripherals, and software on both tape and disk. We are in the process of cataloguing and preserving our software collection, as both types of media are subject to degradation and decay, particularly with repeated use. We also have a number of manuals and technical documents, and recent research on the web has revealed a number of sites which are making great efforts in scanning, preserving and distributing C64 information.

Commodore 64 links

Peripherals

Tape recorders

C2n cassette decks

C2n cassette decks

Disk drives

CBM 1541 drive

CBM 1541 drive

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