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What is a Commodore 64?

Michael Anissimov
By
Updated Jan 23, 2024
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The Commodore 64 was a personal computer produced during the 1980s. Due to its low cost and high availability, the Commodore 64 eventually became the best-selling computer model of all time. The Commodore 64 came with 64 KB of RAM, as well as a 1 MHz 6510 CPU and separate sound and video chips. The operating system and a BASIC programming interpreter were built into ROM, allowing the Commodore 64 to be used straight out of the box.

The Commodore 64 was designed to be connected to a television display and did not come with a monitor, although one could be purchased separately. Commodore explicitly designed the machine for low-budget personal use, marketing it to retail stores instead of electronics vendors. The price for the Commodore 64 was originally set at $595 US Dollars in 1982, already low compared to other computers, and rapidly dropped during the next several years. The low cost of the Commodore 64 eventually drove Timex, Texas Instruments, and other competitors out of the computer marketplace; the low profit margin forced stores to try and make money by selling peripherals such as printers, disk drives and joysticks.

The graphics on the Commodore 64 included sixteen different colors and eight programmable sprites, which was quite advanced at the time. The sound system supported three channels and had several different waveforms and ring modulation built in. Although the Commodore 64 had roughly as much memory and processing power as other computers, such as the IBM PC and Apple II lines, it was not designed to be upgradeable.

Over the years, as the Commodore 64 became obsolete, several related models were introduced. The SX-64, a portable version, came with a monitor and floppy disk drive built in; the Commodore 128, which included an 80-line display mode and 128 KB of memory; and the Commodore Games System, which was a slightly retouched version designed specifically for video games. None of these models were particularly successful commercially, and the original Commodore 64 remained available until 1994, when Commodore went out of business.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated WiseGeek contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.
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Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated WiseGeek contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology,...
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