Launched in 1982 with a competitive $595 price tag, the 8-bit C64 went on to sell around 17 million units, making it the biggest selling personal computer of all time.
The beige-colored 8-bit box of tricks provided many with their very first programming experiences, though in reality most people used it as a games machine, with thousands of basic chunky-graphic titles to choose from.
Loaded over a lengthy period of time off an audio cassette (it wasn’t a case of ‘making a coffee’ while you waited; you could pretty much source your own beans, strike a deal with the grower and have them imported in the time it took), the games were played using the keyboard or, if you were lucky, with a clunky one-button joystick.
With its 1.023MHz processor, 64kb RAM and 16 colors, it all sounds a bit rubbish by today’s standards. Nevertheless, the C64 occupies a special place in the hearts of many geeks and gamers the world over – a web search for C64 fan sites highlights the fact.
The C64’s main rival in the early days was the Apple II (check out the wonderfully simple ad below), as well as the Atari 400 and 800 machines. Sales of the C64 tailed off through the 80s in the face of competition from more advanced machines, and the computer was discontinued in 1994 (though it made a kind of comeback last year).
For a bit of fun, the BBC invited C64 fan Matt Allen to take his still-working computer to a couple of schools in London to see what those who weren’t even born when the C64 was at the height of its success made of it.
“I want to convince the kids of today that the machine I grew up with, the Commodore 64, is as great as it ever was, 30 years on,” Matt says in the video (catch it below).
Halfway through downloading a game, the computer crashed. “Loading games in the 80s taught you patience,” Matt told the children as he cued up the tape again.
“While you’re waiting, could you listen to music and dance along to it?” one middle school student asked.
The children were polite with their opinions, but you could read their faces, which basically said, “Thank goodness today’s computers aren’t like this heap of trash.” Matt looked happy though. And the C64 will continue to be remembered fondly by millions.