The Commodore 64 is the best selling single personal computer model of all time. Released in August 1982 by Commodore Business Machines, the Commodore 64 is commonly referred to as the C64 (sometimes written C= 64 to mimic the Commodore company logo) and occasionally known as CBM 64 (its model designation), C-64 or VIC-64 (a label used by some users, magazine writers, third party advertisements and also by Commodore in Sweden). The original Commodore 64 casing has affectionately been nicknamed the "breadbox" and "bullnose" due to its shape. Introduced by Commodore Business Machines in August 1982 at a price of US$595, it offered 64 kilobytes of RAM with sound and graphics performance that compared favorably with IBM-compatible computers of that time. During the Commodore 64's lifetime (between 1982 and 1994), sales totaled around 17 million units.

Unlike computers that were distributed only through authorized dealers, Commodore also targeted department stores and toy stores. The unit could be plugged directly into a television set to play games, giving it much of the appeal of dedicated video game consoles like the Atari 2600. Its affordable pricing contributed to the video game market crash of 1983.

Approximately 10,000 commercial software titles were made for the Commodore 64 including development tools, office applications, and games. The machine is also credited with popularizing the computer demo scene. The Commodore 64 is still used today by many computer hobbyists, and emulators allow anyone with a modern computer (or even smartphones) to run these programs on their desktop (with varying degrees of success and functionality).

The Commodore 64 is commonly seen as an icon of the 1980s. An example is the introductory movie of the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, which features a Commodore 64 screen which later reveals the Rockstar North logo.

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  In the summer of 2004, after an absence from the marketplace of more than 10 years, PC manufacturer Tulip Computers BV (owners of the Commodore brand since 1997) announced the C64 Direct-to-TV (C64DTV), a joystick-based TV game based on the C64 with 30 games built into ROM. Designed by Jeri Ellsworth, a self-taught computer designer who had earlier designed the modern C-One C64 implementation, the C64DTV was similar in concept to other mini-consoles based on the Atari 2600 and Intellivision which had gained modest success earlier in the decade. The product was advertised on QVC in the United States for the 2004 holiday season. Some users have installed 1541 floppy disk drives, hard drives, second joysticks and keyboards to these units, which give the DTV devices nearly all of the capabilities of a full Commodore 64. The DTV hardware is also used in the mini-console/game Hummer, sold at Radio Shack mid-2005.

As of 2006, C64 enthusiasts still develop new hardware, including Ethernet cards, specially adapted hard disks and Flash Card interfaces.
  1982: Commodore releases the Commodore MAX Machine in Japan. It is called the Ultimax in the US, and VC-10 in Germany. The MAX was intended to be a game console with limited computing capability. It was discontinued months after its introduction, because of poor sales in Japan.

In 1984 Commodore released the SX-64, a portable version of the C64. The SX-64 has the distinction of being the first full-color portable computer. The base unit featured a 5 inch (127 mm) CRT and an integral 1541 floppy disk drive. The SX-64 did not have a cassette connector.

Commodore was determined to avoid the problems of the Plus/4, making sure that the eventual successors to the C64—the Commodore 128 and 128D computers (1985)—were as good as, and fully compatible with the original, as well as offering a host of improvements (such as a structured BASIC with graphics and sound commands, 80-column display capability, and full CP/M compatibility).

In 1986, Commodore released the Commodore 64C (C64C) computer, which was functionally identical to the original, but whose exterior design was remodelled in the sleeker style of the C128 and other contemporary design trends. In the United States, the C64C was often bundled with the third-party GEOS GUI-based operating system. The Commodore 1541 disk drive was also remodelled resulting in the 1541-II.

In 1990, the C64 was re-released in the form of a game console, called the C64 Games System (C64GS). A simple modification to the C64C's motherboard was made to orient the cartridge connector to a vertical position. This allowed cartridges to be inserted from above. A modified ROM replaced the BASIC interpreter with a boot screen to inform the user to insert a cartridge. The C64GS was another commercial failure for Commodore, and it was never released outside of Europe.

In 1990, an advanced successor to the C64, the Commodore 65 (also known as the "C64DX"), was prototyped, but the project was cancelled by Commodore's chairman Irving Gould in 1991. The C65's specifications were very good for an 8-bit computer. For example, it could display 256 colours on screen, while OCS based Amigas could only display 64. Although no specific reason was given for the C65's cancellation, it seemed that it was a conflict of interest with lower end Amigas. The Amiga 600 was released in mid 1992, eventually taking the C65's place as an advanced C64 upgrade.
  The C64 faced a wide range of competing home computers at its introduction in August 1982. With an impressive price point coupled with the C64's advanced hardware, it quickly out-classed many of its competitors. In the United States the greatest competitors to the C64 were the Atari 8-bit 400 and 800, the IBM PC and the Apple II. The Atari 400 and 800 were very similar in hardware terms, but it was very expensive to build, which forced Atari to redesign their machine to be more cost effective. This resulted in the 600XL/800XL line and the transfer of their production to the Far East. The IBM PC and the now aging Apple II were no match for the C64's graphical and sound abilities, but they were very expandable with their internal expansion slots, a feature lacking in the 64.

All three machines had a standard memory configuration of 16K, 48K less RAM than the C64. At US$1,500, the IBM PC and Apple II were 3 times as expensive, while the Atari 800 cost a mere $899. One key to the C64's success was Commodore's aggressive marketing tactics, and they were quick to exploit the relative price/performance divisions between its competitors with a series of television commercials after the C64's launch in late 1982.

Commodore sold the C64 not only through its network of authorized dealers, but also placed it on the shelves of department stores, discount stores, and toy stores. Since it had the ability to output composite video, the C64 did not require a specialized monitor, but could be plugged into a television set. This allowed it (like its predecessor, the VIC-20) to compete directly against video game consoles such as the Atari 2600.

Aggressive pricing of the C64 is considered to be a major catalyst in the video game crash of 1983. In 1983, Commodore offered a $100 rebate in the United States on the purchase of a C64 upon receipt of any video game console or computer. To take advantage of the $100 rebate, some mail-order dealers and retailers offered a Timex Sinclair 1000 for as little as $10 with purchase of a C64 so the consumer could send the computer to Commodore, collect the rebate, and pocket the difference.[4] Timex Corporation departed the marketplace within a year. The success of the VIC-20 and C64 also contributed significantly to the exit of Texas Instruments and other competitors from the field.

In 1984, Commodore released the Commodore Plus/4. The Plus/4 offered a higher-color display, a better implementation of BASIC (V3.5), and built-in software. However, Commodore committed what was perceived by critics and consumers as a major strategic error by making it incompatible with the C64. To top it all off, the Plus/4 lacked hardware sprite capability and had much poorer sound, thus seriously underperforming in two of the areas that had made the C64 a star.

In the United Kingdom, the primary competitors to the C64 were the British-built Sinclair ZX Spectrum and the Amstrad CPC 464. Released a few months ahead of the C64, and selling for almost half the price, the Spectrum quickly became the market leader. Commodore would have an uphill struggle against the Spectrum, it could no longer rely on undercutting the competition. The C64 debuted at £399 in early 1983, while the Spectrum cost £175. The C64 would later rival the Spectrum in popularity in the latter half of the 1980s, eventually outliving the Spectrum when it discontinued in December 1990.

Despite a few attempts by Commodore to discontinue the C64 in favour of other, higher priced machines, constant demand made its discontinuation a hard task. By 1988, Commodore were selling 1.5 million C64s worldwide. Although demand for the C64 dropped off in the US by 1990, it continued to be popular in the UK and other European countries. In the end, economics, not obsolescence sealed the C64's fate. In March 1994, at CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, Commodore announced that the C64 would be finally discontinued in 1995. Commodore claimed that the C64's disk drive was more expensive to manufacture than the C64 itself. Although Commodore had planned to discontinue the C64 by 1995, the company filed for bankruptcy a month later, in April 1994.
  In January 1981, MOS Technology, Inc., Commodore's integrated circuit design subsidiary, initiated a project to design the graphic and audio chips for a next generation video game console. Design work for the chips, named MOS Technology VIC-II (graphics) and MOS Technology SID (audio), was completed in November 1981.

A game console project was then initiated by Commodore that would use the new chips -- called the Ultimax or alternatively the Commodore MAX Machine, engineered by Yashi Terakura from Commodore Japan. This project was eventually cancelled after just a few machines were manufactured for the Japanese market.

At the same time Robert "Bob" Russell (system programmer and architect on the VIC-20) and Robert Yannes (engineer of the SID) were critical of the current product line-up at Commodore, which was a continuation of the Commodore PET line aimed at business users. With the support of Al Charpentier (engineer of the VIC-II) and Charles Winterble (manager of MOS Technology), they proposed to Commodore CEO Jack Tramiel a true low-cost sequel to the VIC-20. Tramiel dictated that the machine should have 64KB of RAM. Although 64 kB of DRAM cost over US $100 at the time, he knew that DRAM prices were falling, and would soon drop to an acceptable level before full production was reached. In November, Tramiel set a deadline for the first weekend of January, to coincide with the 1982 Consumer Electronics Show.

The product was codenamed the VIC-40 as the successor to the popular VIC-20. The team that constructed it consisted of Robert Russell, Robert "Bob" Yannes and David A. Ziembicki. The design, prototypes and some sample software was finished in time for the show, after the team had worked tirelessly over both Thanksgiving and Christmas weekends.

When the product was to be presented, the VIC-40 product was renamed C64 in order to fit into the current Commodore business products lineup which contained the P128 and the B256, both named by a letter and their respective memory size.

The C64 made an impressive debut, as recalled by Production Engineer David A. Ziembicki: "All we saw at our booth were Atari people with their mouths dropping open, saying, 'How can you do that for $595?'" The answer, as it turned out, was vertical integration; thanks to Commodore's ownership of MOS Technology's semiconductor fabrication facilities, each C64 had an estimated production cost of only $135. However, cheaper manufacturing techniques resulted in manufacturing problems; during its launch, one in three Commodore 64s proved defective.[citation needed] Many of these early units had video problems causing a blurry effect that made alphanumeric characters difficult to read.
  At the time of its introduction, the C64's graphics and sound capabilities were rivalled only by the Atari 8-bit family. This was at a time when most IBM PCs and compatibles had text-only graphics cards, green screen monitors, and sound consisting of squeaks and beeps from the built-in tiny, low-quality speaker.

Due to its advanced graphics and sound, the C64 is often credited with starting the computer subculture known as the demoscene The C64 lost its top position among demo coders when the 16-bit Atari ST and Commodore Amiga were released in 1985, however it still remained a very popular platform for demo coding upto the early 90s.

By the turn of the millennium, it is still being actively used as a demo machine, especially for music (its sound chip even being used in special sound cards for PCs, and the Elektron SidStation synthesizer). Unfortunately, the differences between PAL and NTSC C64s caused compatibility problems between US/Canadian C64s and those from most other countries. The vast majority of demos run only on PAL machines.
  Cost reduction was the driving force for hardware revisions to the C64's motherboard. Reducing manufacturing costs was vitally important to Commodore's survival during the price war and leaner years of the 16-bit era. The C64's original (NMOS based) motherboard would go through two major redesigns, (and numerous sub-revisions) exchanging positions of the VIC-II, SID and PLA chips. Initially, a large proportion of the cost was lowered by reducing the number of discrete components used, such as diodes and resistors.

The VIC-II was manufactured with 5 micrometre NMOS technology, clocked at 8 MHz. At such a high clock rate, it generated a lot of heat, forcing MOS Technology to use a ceramic DIL package (called a "CERDIP"). The ceramic package was more expensive, but it dissipated heat more effectively than plastic.

After a redesign in 1983, the VIC-II was encased in a plastic DIL package, which reduced costs substantially, but it did not eliminate the heat problem. Without a ceramic package, the VIC-II required the use of a heatsink. To avoid extra cost, the metal RF shielding doubled as the heatsink for the VIC, although not all units shipped with this type of shielding. Most C64s in Europe shipped with a cardboard RF shield, coated with a layer of metal foil. The effectiveness of the cardboard was highly questionable, and worse still it acted as an insulator, blocking airflow which trapped heat generated by the SID, VIC and PLA chips.

The SID was manufactured using NMOS at 7 and in some areas 6 micrometres. The prototype SID and some very early production models featured a ceramic DIL package, but unlike the VIC-II, these are extremely rare as the SID was encased in plastic when production started in early 1982.

In 1986 Commodore released the last revision to the "classic" C64 motherboard. It was otherwise identical to the 1984 design, except that it now used two 64 kbit ×4 DRAM chips rather than the original eight 64 kbit ×1.

After the release of the C64C, MOS Technology began to reconfigure the C64's chipset to use HMOS technology. The main benefit of using HMOS was that it required less voltage to drive the IC, which consequently generates less heat. This enhanced the overall reliability of the SID and VIC-II. The new chipset was re-numbered to 85xx in order to reflect the change to HMOS.

In 1987 Commodore released C64Cs with a totally redesigned motherboard commonly known as a "short board". The new board used the new HMOS chipset, featuring new 64-pin PLA chip. The new "SuperPLA" as it was dubbed, integrated many discrete components and TTL chips. The 2114 color RAM was integrated into the last revision of the PLA.

The C64 used an external power supply. While this saved valuable space within the computer's case, the supply itself was barely adequate for the C64's power requirements. Commodore's plastic power bricks would typically break from overheating. Some users purchased heavier-duty, better-cooled, third-party power supplies. Later in the Commodore's lifetime, third-party power supplies became increasingly important when used in conjunction with RAM expansions or Creative Micro Designs' peripherals. Of particular note, a C64 coupled with a RAM expansion or CMD SuperCPU required more power than the original Commodore power supply could provide.
  On address $FFF6-$FFF9 (65526-9) in the C64 KERNAL, right before the hard-coded jump vectors for the processor, you can find the letter sequence "RRBY". These are the initials of Robert Russell and Bob Yannes, the two main engineers that created the C64.  
  The Commodore 64's BASIC V2, the programming language which came built-in with the computer, can be crashed by executing PRINT""+-[x] (where x is any integer), or by attempting to create a BASIC program with an initial line number near 350800.  
  The Commodore 64's BASIC V2, the programming language which came built-in with the computer, can be crashed by executing PRINT""+-[x] (where x is any integer), or by attempting to create a BASIC program with an initial line number near 350800.  
  There is a way to hide lines of code written in the BASIC Language stored in local memory. It involved using the "heart" symbol.  
  Entering the character shift-L (which looks like an L-shaped border corner) into the program code will cause a syntax error when that line is LISTed. This is a simple way to prevent arbitrary listing of the program code.  
  The C64 used an 8-bit MOS Technology 6510 microprocessor (a close derivative of the 6502 with an added 6-bit internal I/O port that in the C64 is used for two purposes: to bank-switch the machine's ROM in and out of the processor's address space, and to operate the datasette tape recorder) and had 64 kilobytes of RAM, of which 38 kB were available to built-in Commodore BASIC 2.0.

The graphics chip, VIC-II, featured 16 colors, eight sprites, scrolling capabilities, and two bitmap graphics modes. The standard text mode featured 40 columns, like most Commodore PET models; the built in font was not standard ASCII but PETSCII, an extended form of ASCII-1963. Computer/video game and demo programmers quickly learned how to exploit the more esoteric features of the VIC-II to gain additional capabilities, like making more than 8 sprites appear and move simultaneously (up to 128 in one case) or displaying additional colors beyond the 'factory' 16.

The sound chip, SID, had three channels, each with its own ADSR envelope generator, and with several different waveforms, ring modulation and filter capabilities. It too, was very advanced for its time. It was designed by Bob Yannes, who would later co-found synthesizer company Ensoniq. Yannes criticized other contemporary computer sound chips as "primitive, obviously (...) designed by people who knew nothing about music." Often the game music became a hit of its own among C64 users. Well-known composers and programmers of game music on the C64 were Rob Hubbard, David Whittaker, Ben Daglish, Martin Galway and David Dunn among many others. Due to the chip's limitation to three channels, chords were played as arpeggios typically, coining the C64's characteristic lively sound.

There are two versions of the SID chip, the first version was the MOS Technology 6581, which is to be found in all of the original "breadbox" C64s, and early versions of the C64C and the Commodore 128. It was later replaced with the MOS Technology 8580 in 1987. The sound quality was a little more crisp on the 6581 and many Commodore 64 fans still prefer its sound. The main difference between the 6581 and the 8580 was the voltage supply: the 6581 uses a 12 volt supply, while the 8580 required only 9 volts. A voltage modification can be made to use a 6581 in a C64C board (which uses 9V).

The SID chip has a distinctive sound which retained a following of devotees. In 1999, Swedish company Elektron produced a SidStation synth module, built around the SID chip, using remaining stocks of the chip. Several bands use these devices in their music.
  Microprocessor CPU: MOS Technology 6510/8500 (the 6510/8500 being a modified 6502 with an integrated 6-bit I/O port) Clock speed: 1.023 MHz (NTSC) or 0.985 MHz (PAL)  
  Video: MOS Technology VIC-II 6567/8567 (NTSC), 6569/8569 (PAL) 16 colors Text mode: 40×25 characters; 256 user-defined chars (8×8 pixels, or 4×8 in multicolor mode); 4-bit color RAM defines foreground color Bitmap modes: 320×200 (2 colors in each 8×8 block), 160×200 (3 colors plus background in each 4×8 block) 8 hardware sprites of 24×21 pixels (12×21 in multicolor mode) Smooth scrolling, raster interrupts  
  Sound: MOS Technology 6581/8580 SID 3-channel synthesizer with programmable ADSR envelope 8 octaves 4 waveforms: triangle, sawtooth, variable pulse, noise Oscillator synchronization, ring modulation Programmable filter: high pass, low pass, band pass, notch filter  
  RAM: 64 KB (65,536 bytes), of which 38 KB minus 1 byte (38,911 bytes) were available for BASIC programs 512 bytes color RAM (1 K nybbles)  
  ROM: 20 KB (9 KB BASIC 2.0; 7 KB KERNAL; 4 KB character generator, providing two 2 KB character sets)  
  I/O ports: 8-pin DIN plug containing composite video output, separate Y/C outputs, and sound input/output. (Some early C64 units utilized a 5-pin DIN connector that omitted the Y/C output.)  
  Integrated RF modulator antenna output via a RCA connector  
  2 × screwless DE9M game controller ports (compatible with Atari 2600 controllers), each supporting five digital inputs and two analog inputs. Available peripherals included digital joysticks, analog paddles, a light pen, the Commodore 1351 mouse, and the unique KoalaPad.  
  Cartridge expansion slot (slot for edge connector with 6510 CPU address/data bus lines and control signals, as well as GND and voltage pins; used for program modules and memory expansions, among others)  
  PET-type Datassette 300 baud tape interface (edge connector with cassette motor/read/write/sense signals and GND and +5 V pins; the motor pin is powered to directly supply the motor)  
  User port (edge connector with TTL-level RS-232 signals, for modems, etc; and byte-parallel signals which can be used to drive third-party parallel printers, among other things; with 17 logic signals, 7 GND and voltage pins, including 9 V AC voltage)  
  Serial bus (serial version of IEEE-488, 6-pin DIN plug) for CBM printers and disk drives  
  Power supply: 5 V DC and 9 V AC from external "monolithic power brick", attached to computer's 7-pin female DIN-connector  
  A PC power supply has 5 V DC and 12 V DC connections, perfect for powering the 1541-II and 1581 disk drives (as long as the connections are correct). Powering the original 1541s by a PC power supply is trickier. Even a decrepit 85-watt power supply from a scrapyard can power a Commodore disk drive.