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commodore 64:

Commodore 64.

quick facts

Overview Photograph
A typical Commodore 64 system
FCC ID BR98YV-64 (yes, the same as the C64C).
Model or Part # 64
My unit's vintage Serial #P2433427 (casing severely damaged), #P01820898 (near-mint condition).
CPU MOS 6510 enhanced 6502-compatible microprocessor.
Memory 64K RAM (bank-switched over ROM).
Operating System CBM BASIC V2 in ROM.
Ports Commodore serial port (for printer, disk drives and other peripherals), cartridge port (compatible with C64C, SX64 and C128), user port (compatible with VIC-20, C64 and C128), video out, RF out, two 9-pin digital joystick/paddle ports (Atari standard; one port can be used for a light pen or mouse), proprietary cassette recorder port (compatible with VIC-20, C64 and C128).
Video/audio output NTSC (PAL in PAL markets) with separate chroma/luma signals and audio on a proprietary DIN connector. This model also has a built-in RF modulator with RF output provided through a single female RCA connector.

The C64 has advanced color graphics with a pixel resolution of up to 320x200 (plus a border area) and hardware sprites with hardware x2 scaling and vertical/horizontal hardware flip capability.

The C64 series also has quite advanced three-voice mono audio provided by the Commodore SID chip.
Available peripherals Far too numerous to list. The most common peripherals were the VIC-1541 5.25" single SSDD floppy drive (and its smaller, mechanically superior successor the VIC-1541-II), the C2N (1530) Datassette, and one of a variety of different monitors. The C64C can also use the VIC-1571 5.25" DSDD and VIC-1581 3.5" DSDD floppy drives, but these weren't as commonly used by C64 owners because they were considerably more expensive than the 1541 and the C64 wasn't capable of using all their extra features.

The system illustrated above is a typical setup comprising a C64, a 1702 color monitor and a 1541 floppy drive (an older model with the Alps drive mechanism).

Commodore seems to have liked the shape of the original Commodore 64; apart from having different ports on the back, the casing is identical to the earlier VIC-20, and the later Commodore 16. The obvious cosmetic difference between the three is that the VIC-20 was white, the C16 was black and... here we run into argument. I say the original C64 model as pictured above looks gray, but everyone else calls it brown. This particular model is also referred to in the C64 community as the "breadbox", which is also baffling to me.

Anyway, whether I am color blind or not, the Commodore 64 is probably the best-selling 8-bit computer of all time, and no collection should be without one. At the time of writing (August 2000), you can pick up a working C64 on ebay for around US$20. I recently won a system with two disk drives and a 1702 color monitor for only about US$60. There are so many games and other programs for the Commodore 64 that you could never possibly get tired of playing them all (assuming you like C64-vintage games, of course!).

The history of the entire C64 series is very complicated; there are something like eight different incarnations of the machine, including one that was a keyboardless game console. Suggested reading is the Secret Weapons of Commodore! page, which concentrates a lot of fact and conjecture about various esoteric Commodore machines, peripherals and vaporware. For probably anybody other than the dedicated collector, the only two models to think about are the gray (brown) C64 on this page and the sleeker but technically identical C64C. Both are exceedingly common and it's well worth buying a few so that you'll have spare parts.

Below is one example of the retail (North American) box for the Commodore 64. The machine was, however, shipped in many different packaging styles. There were many different bundles, with different software and peripherals included (mostly games bundles, especially in Europe).

Commodore 64 box - top
Top of retail box (click for larger version)

C64 box bottom
Bottom of retail box (click for larger version)


The emulation scene for the Commodore 64 is thriving. At the moment (March 2001), one of the best places to visit for Commodore 64 material is the funet CBM archive. You won't find commercial games there, but you will find firmware dumps from almost every Commodore machine imaginable, as well as emulators. You'll also find a lot of hacker demos and intros which are fun to watch and which frequently have some pretty amazing music and/or graphical effects in them.

If you're looking for games, the definitive source is the Gamebase 64 project. I archived and contributed all my C64 software to this project.

  • - Frodo (Windows 95/98 DirectX version). This is an EXTREMELY good Commodore 64 emulator. Please note that this is a local mirror copy, and it might not be the most current. If you have any problems running particular programs, you should check funet for the latest version.
  • WinVice - This is a Windows (DirectX) multi-platform emulator for various Commodore machines including the C64. It's rather slow, but it works well. and all original content herein is © Copyright 2001 by Lewin A.R.W. Edwards. "" is a trademark protected under U.S. and international law. Infringement or attempted dilution of the intellectual property rights held by Lewin A.R.W. Edwards will be prosecuted to the fullest possible extent.