Monday, December 10, 2007

The Commodode 64 is 25 years old!



This post is to commemorate an 80's icon. Slicker than Faceman, more powerful than Mr T and faster than KITT, Streethawk and Airwolf combined the Commodore 64 was the biggest selling computer of all time. Its place in history, not just computing history, is well deserved, doing for computers what the Model T done for the automobile. The Commodore 64 was the first true computer for the people; easy to use, affordable, but for its time very powerful and also very reliable. It's also the first computer I ever owned and learned how to program at the tender age of 9.

When I read this article today I felt old, but also privileged to be a part of the Commodore generation. I witnessed many great things in my life, like the end of apartheid or the fall of the Berlin Wall, but none of those compared to that special moment when my Commodore 64 spoke to me - having trapped my first ghost in Ghostbusters. I pity all those kids who grew up with games with complete audio soundtracks, the ones who never got the intro screen on GTA Vice City.



The Commodore was fantastic for games, with classic titles from software houses like Codemasters and Ocean. Games only cost a few pound (which were ten times cheaper than console game cartridges did) they generally came on tape and took on average five minutes to load, which was an eternity as a kid, but the funky Ocean music made the waiting easier to bare. Indeed one of the Commodore's greatest attributes was its SID sound chip and even today a whole C64 music scene exists today.
And then there was the graphics, far, far superior to rival Sinclair and Amstrad computers, and, indeed, to consoles like Atari.

The Commodore wasn't all fun and games though, it was a nifty little business machine too and was also very popular in schools, colleges and academia in general.
In fact, from an educational point of view, I think the Commodore was way ahead of the competition - even that other classroom stalwart, the BBC Micro. It looked better, it sure as hell sounded better, it was less clunky, more sophisticated and, let's be honest, comparing the Commodore to the BBC Micro was like comparing Transformers with Open University.

Not only was the Commodore educational AND fun, it was easy to use and relatively easy to program too. The first language I ever programmed in was C64 Basic. I went cover to cover with my C64 manual and would also get books from the library - I became addicted to all those "write your own games" books. Only problem was that different versions had different versions of Basic, so the older books didn't work with the new firmware. But that only made the whole process more challenging and meant I had to experiment and adapt what I knew to make the code work. This instilled, in that scrawny young kid, the discipline and skills which I still draw upon today. Quite simply, if it wasn't for the Commodore 64, I probably wouldn't be in this business.

Or to put it another way:

10 ? "THE COMMODORE 64 ROCKS!"
20 GOTO 10


If you wish to find out what that means, there are plenty of Commodore 64 emulators out there.

* CCS64

* Flash64

* Vice 64

* Java64

For a further taste of nostalgia here's a brilliant video game history website.

Here's a selection of old Commodore TV ads

And finally, here's a couple of cheesy old print ads - gotta love that smarmy yuppie with his 80's "laptop" huh?




And here's a video ad:



Right, I reckon it's high time I dusted off my trusty ole Commodore and let her breath for a while, maybe see if I can dig up my copy of Miami Vice.

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