Hardware Heaven: Commodore 64
» Manufacturer: Commodore » Year: 1982 » cost: £345 (launch), £40+ (today)
We take a brief look at the bestselling home micro of the Eighties
It’s fair to say that the Commodore 64 was not a design revolution. The machine almost directly reused the case design of its predecessor, the popular VIC-20, with only a new colour scheme and minor changes to accommodate new connectors. Under the hood, it was a different story – the VIC-II graphics chip and the SID sound chip were a significant step up from what had gone before, and had been specifically designed for gaming use in the ill-fated Commodore MAX Machine. Thanks to Commodore’s ownership of chip fabricator MOS Technology, production costs were low enough that the machine could significantly undercut most competitors, and even profitably survive a price war. As a result, the Commodore 64 became the world’s best-selling computer for much of the Eighties.
The popularity of the Commodore 64 ensured that it lived on for many years after the 8-bit computer market started to decline. The iconic breadbin design was replaced in early 1987, with the more modern C64c based on the design of the new Commodore 128. The system was repackaged as a cartridge-based games console in 1990, but consumers rejected it in favour of the computer’s full feature set and cheaper tape-based games. Still, the Commodore 64 continued to sell profitably until the demise of Commodore itself in 1994 – which came shortly after the company had announced that it was to finally discontinue the computer.