Remembering Everyone’s Favorite Childhood Computer: The Commodore 64

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Commodore 64

In the middle of the 1980s, it seemed like almost everyone had a Commodore 64 — or C64, as it was also known — that beloved 8-bit computer that kept many a kid glued to the beige keyboard. The C64 even made the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the greatest selling single computer model of all time, and for good reason.

Introduced in 1982, the C64 outsold competitors like the Atari 800 and Apple II thanks in large part to the lower price: $595 (comparatively, $1,500 today) or less than half of the Apple II’s $1,200 asking price. For many buyers at that time, the all-purpose Commodore 64 was the first personal computer to enter the home.

It wasn’t just price that won buyers over, though. The Commodore 64 boasted exceptional graphics and audio for its time (Hi-Fi output, polyphonic tones, a music synthesizer and several music add-ons) and one really killer feature: A ton of software titles. Nearly 10,000 commercial titles, in fact, according to Wikipedia, ranging from education applications to business and productivity software.

Impossible Mission

"Stay a while; stay forever!" Impossible Mission was a truly addictive, challenging game

And of course, there were the games — some of the best ever developed — and their groundbreaking music. I remember late nights playing Impossible Mission until the birds started chirping in the morning, the epic adventure of Ultima IV (how I loved that cloth map) and the button-mashing, joystick-rocking madness of Summer Games and Winter Games. For me, the Commodore 64 represents a good chunk of my childhood and reminds me of lazy summers filled with puzzles and friendly competitions with the other kids on the block.

Others took — and even still take — the C64 farther, cracking game intros, producing music, fiddling in BASIC and hacking the hardware as part of the demoscene subculture. With just 64K of memory, a 16-color graphics card and a processor that clocks out at about 1Mhz (yes, megahertz, not gigahertz), the Commodore 64 is laughably under-powered by today’s standards, but at the time — and until its discontinuation in 1994 — it felt like you could do just about anything with the system.

More than 30 years later, the Commodore 64 remains one of the most iconic computers ever made, and numerous emulators keep that spirit alive. C64.com offers not just downloads but more articles reminiscing about the Commodore 64. You’ll also find emulators for Windows and Mac at Zzap!64 as well as emulators for Android in the Google Play app store, such as Frodi C64. These let you run the classic C64 games and other software on your modern machine, so even if you never played or owned a Commodore 64, you can still do some retro gaming. See Zzap!64’s 6-step article for running an emulator and loading the disk image to play a game.

I’ve since gone through far too many computers to count, but, as the saying goes, you never forget your first love.

Photo credits: Graph Spee (Flickr), McLoaf (Wikipedia)

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