The Commodore 64 lives on!

The Commodore 64 lives on!

Oct 1, 2008

This Christmas I received a C64DTV; a present from a co-worker that knew I was a big fan of the Commodore 64. Just seeing the old C64 logo started a great trip down memory lane. The Commodore 64 (originally introduced in 1982) has hit the market again 23 years later in the form of a battery powered joystick with 30 in-built games. The joystick design itself fascinated me with its reset button and 4 misc buttons. Its simple to use, requires 4 AA batteries, comes with 30 classic games pre-loaded, the games load quickly and it plugs straight into the composite and audio ports on your Television.

Upon turning on the unit for the first time I realized that although this was being sold as a toy there was a lot more going on behind the scenes. A quick check of the Web confirmed my suspicions.

The Commodore 64 joystick (C64DTV) is the brainchild of the extremely talented, self-taught Jeri Ellsworth.

Jeri hasn’t simply emulated the Commodore 64 in this games stick; Jeri has actually miniaturized the entire C64’s every aspect. Opening the C64 joystick reveals a very well labeled board which can be transformed back to a full featured Commodore 64 with PS/2 Keyboard, External Power, 2 Joystick ports and a Disk Drive with ease.

The specs of the C64DTV are slightly higher than that of the original Commodore 64:

  • 128K RAM
  • 2048K ROM
  • 256 colours on screen (yes 256 colors)
  • It has a DMA engine that can be used to copy data between system RAM and the game ROM and extra RAM

For those who loved the C64; the C64DTV is available from most games stores at a bargain price of about $30-$50 AUD (a little different to the $499 I paid followed by the $599 for the 1541 Disk Drive)

For some of us at MicroEd our experience with computers dates back to over 20 years ago. For me personally; although I worked with the Apple, TRS80, Vic20, Spectrum and Microbee in the very early eighties it was the Commodore 64 that was my computer of choice. I took the Commodore 64 > Commodore 128 > Commodore Amiga > IBM XT > IBM AT 12 Mhz route.

For those of that era some of the following will bring back memories:

  • 45 minute load times on the Commodore Datassette 1531
  • Notching the 5 ¼ inch floppies to double the capacity
  • Flashing coloured border during load / decompression
  • Game Intros and Loaders
  • Game Trainers
  • C64 Demo Scene
  • Cheats (Pokes)
  • Freeze Frame, Final Cartridge 3
  • Accessories – 1541, 1541 II, 1571, MPS-802 Dot Matrix, 1520 Printer/Plotter
  • Names like Epyx, Broderbound, Sega, Activision, Electronic Arts, Microprose, Ocean, Berkeley Softworks and funnily enough Microsoft
  • LOAD “$”,8 / LOAD “*”,8,1
  • “PRESS PLAY ON TAPE”
  • Rob Hubbard (music composer)
The Commodore 64 was truly an amazing machine. Although the games were great (debatably more playable than today’s games) I enjoyed the endless possibilities that the C64 provided. In the beginning there were very little software titles available in Australia and most software that was available was beyond affordability. For many people, myself included; the Commodore 64 was the launching pad into a career in Computers. The Commodore 64 provided me with the foundation for my Software Development career.

The Commodore 64 was truly before its time. While IBM clones were struggling with a very primitive CGA graphics mode (4 colors at 320×200) and no sound the C64 was punching out graphical software, sprites enriched with sound all at 1Mhz within 38K at a fraction of the price of an IBM clones.

There wasn’t much that couldn’t be done on the Commodore 64. With the C64 you could:

  • Play Games
  • Learn a programming language
  • Compose Music
  • Interface with the real-world
  • Book Keeping
  • Word Processing
  • Plotting
  • Communications
We even had a Graphical User Interface (GEOS) years before MS Windows. It makes us realize how bloated today’s software is when we require gigabytes of hard disk space and megabytes of RAM to run today’s applications and to think the C64 could do this in 38K of memory and no hard disk.

Did you know that Microsoft designed their first ever spreadsheet namely “Multiplan” on the Commodore 64. Multiplan was actually the basis for Excel that we now all use today.

For those of you who didn’t know you can still run all your favorite Commodore 64 games, demos and applications on your current Windows based computer. I can thoroughly recommend Vice (Versatile Commodore Emulator). The developers of this emulator have done a great job and this emulator provides you with many features that your original C64 never had including Hard Disk access.

In fact you can have your Commodore 64 emulated almost wherever you go: Xbox, Pocket PC, Linux, Unix, OS/2, Beos and even the Mac.

For those die-hard Commodore fans I have compiled a list of useful links as a guide for your trip down memory lane.

Emulators
Emulator Description Link
Vice64 X http://www.zophar.net/consoles/xbox.html
Pocket Commodore 64 http://www.zophar.net/pocket-pc/c64/pocket-c64.html
C64DTV
Description Link
C64DTV Hack Page http://dtvhacking.cbm8bit.com
C64DTV Hacking Guide http://dtvhacking.info/

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