The Commodore 64 turns thirty


With the CES up and coming, we pay a small tribute to the legendary Commodore 64, the personal computer that made a lasting impression in the industry, after being introduced at the show three decades ago.

Yes, statistics acknowledge the C64 as the best selling personal computer of all time. It plowed past the competition in 1982, beating the Apple II, IBM clones and the famous Atari. The “breadbox” was a revolutionary 8-bit machine that featured 64kb of RAM (32kb effective) and had a much lower retail price than its competitors. However, this post will pay tribute to the C64’s most notable features – its more “advanced” sound chips.

During a time when other computers could only generate monophonic “beeps”, the C64 could run three simultaneous voices with an 8-octave range. Created by Bob Yannes, the MOS 6581 sound chip (originally intended for gaming) was a complete “analog-style synthesizer”, and even had its own filter banks. Yannes, would later go on to found Ensoniq, producing musical instruments such as the now iconic ASR-10 which is used by artists such as Kanye West and Qbert today.

In fact, the “breadbox” (as it is sometimes called because of its shape), still has a cult following among electronic musicians today, resulting in a sub-genre known as “Chiptune” or “Chip Music”. As the name implies, chiptune is electronic music created with chips from obsolete computers and vintage gaming consoles. Moreover, the C64 has also undergone a “modern” rebirth for die-hard fans, now featuring modern tech specs, a DVD drive and a multi-card reader.

Happy birthday to the C64.