Happy 30th birthday, Commodore 64!

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Commodore64.jpgHappy 30th birthday, Commodore 64!

The bulky brown home computing box of choice of the 1980’s hits the three decade landmark this month, and is fondly remembered by many a tech fan (including this very Tech Digest writer) as their first experience with home computing.

A tame machine by today’s standards, its 8-bit charms with a MOS Technology 6510 processor running at a 1MHz, 64k of memory and 16-colour graphics chip were as good as it got upon release in 1982.

For many, the machine was also their first taste of the delights of gaming at home, stuffing cassette tapes into the C64 rather than stuffing their pocket money into the local arcade machines. They took an age to load, but offered hours upon hours of fun. Anyone who has ever pulled off a split-kick double takedown in International Karate +, or ran through the legs of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters will sing the machine’s praises.

Anyone looking to get into making chiptune music should definitely check out the C64 too. The likes of Rob Hubbard, David Whittaker and Martin Galway were doing trailblazing stuff with game soundtracks using the machines SID chip, the influence of which can be heard in music by the likes of Crystal Castles. Just check this selection of tracks if you need convincing.

Though getting off to a slow start after being revealed at the 1981 CES show,17 million units Commodore 64 units went on to be sold. Dominating the 1980s, the machine fell out of vogue by the 1990s as Nintendo, Sega and Amiga machines become increasingly popular, and by the middle of the decade Commodore had filed for bankruptcy. A Commodore 65 prototype was built, but never hit mass production.

While it’s very easy to get your hands on a Commodore 64 emulator (there’s even one as an app for Apple devices), and just as easy to pick up a retro machine from eBay, a new company called Commodore USA in 2012 began to produce a new machine called the Commodore 64x. A great gift for fans of the original machine, it completely keeps the bulky build of the computer, but adds modern specifications like dual-core, 1.8GHz Intel Atom D525 chip, an Nvidia Ion 2 GPU, Wi-Fi and a Blu-ray drive.

So, were you the lucky owner of a Commodore 64 back in the 1980s? What were your fondest memories of the machine? Share them via the comments section below, our Twitter feed or our Facebook page, and we’ll publish some of the best in a Tech Digest post!

Gerald Lynch
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