So, my recent rants about Apple have reminded me of the old days when there were many home computer options. I’ve been interested in this topic for awhile as home computer are the cousins of another big interest of mine: video game consoles. Sooooooooo I’m going to write some posts about ye olde time home computer companies. These posts will be very brief and are mostly intended to give you basic information plus pix. I’m starting with Commodore because we had a Commodore 64 in our house back in the 1980s and our friends the Woods had a Commodore Amiga, so I’m actually familiar with them. Here goooooooes!
Commodore PET (1977)
Wow, look at that beast. Do you see that thing to the left of the keyboard? That is a CASSETTE TAPE drive, which was actually a common data storage medium at the time. The keyboard was very small on the early units, as shown in the picture. Later models introduced external cassette drives and larger keyboards. The PET was very underpowered when it came to graphics as it was intended to be a business machine and not a gaming machine. Its direct rivals included the Atari 400 and the Apple ][, which were both more successful.
Commodore VIC-20 (1980)
A much smaller unit than the PET but actually less powerful in some ways, this computer was aimed at households, not businesses, and sold for ONLY $300. For the time period, that price was very impressive since computers cost much more than they do now. As it was aimed at the home market, gaming was a big priority. Cartridge slots were common on computers back then for extra RAM and for programming. The VIC-20 slot was used heavily for gaming. In fact, putting a cartridge in the slot and turning the machine on boots up the game right away just like an NES or Genesis. In that respect, I would qualify the VIC-20 as a gaming console. Congratulations, VIC-20! PS – The VIC-20 was the first computer model to sell over a million units, and its final tally was 2 million.
COMMODORE 64 (1982)
Similar in many ways to the VIC-20 but more powerful, the Commodore 64 was a big-ass hit. It was also aimed at the home market and featured games and a cartridge slot. It still holds the record for the biggest selling computer model ever at over 20 million units.
COMMODORE 128 (1985)
A bit more powerful than the C64 but with many major adjustments to make it more business-friendly. It was a mild hit, moving 4 million units. It was 8-bit like the previous Commodore models. It had something of a game library but it’s not well-remembered in that regard today.
I’ll talk about the Amiga line some other time.