What is a Commodore 64?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

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.

A Commodore 64 could store data on a cassette.
A Commodore 64 could store data on a cassette.

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.

After the Commodore 64 became obsolete, the SX-64 came with a monitor and floppy disk drive.
After the Commodore 64 became obsolete, the SX-64 came with a monitor and floppy disk drive.

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.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime wiseGEEK contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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