Pic. 1: The legend (original C64)
Technical detailsHistory - Documentation - Links
In January 1982, when it was presented at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)
(at a suggested retail of US$ 595 , or DM 1400 ),
nobody could foresee that the C64 would be the best-selling computer in the
world - over 17 million units were sold until late 1992
, as many as the VW bug. The technical limitations were
overcome in many ways: graphic modes go as far as 640x400 (okay, a bit cheating :-),
the RS232 was tuned from the standard 300bps [?] to over 9,600bps, and the sound
chip SID, which
originally wasn't designed to play samples at all, was talked into playing
8-bit PCM samples. So, the C64 seems to have no limits indeed :-)
The C64 was and is mostly used for games,
since its graphics chip (VIC-II) offers 8
hardware sprites, a rasterline interrupt and smooth scrolling, which makes it
very easy to write high quality shoot-em-up type games. The 3-voice synthesizer
(SID) gives the C64 sound capabilities which were
actually far ahead of its time back in the 80s.
This machine is undoubtedly one of the most
successful computers ever. 16 years after it entered the market, the C64 is
still around; used for programming, producing video titles, word processing,
packet radio, electronic handcraft and - of course - games. The load of web
pages, magazines, and new software makes clear that it will definitely
survive the year 2000 and probably go far beyond this point. This year,
a new German papermag, the GO64!, began
to come into heir to the infamous 64'er (which meanwhile has been reduced to
a two-page insert in a PC magazine), and underlines the nearly unbroken
enthusiasm of the C64 community.
1. The Original
The first Commodores came in an off-white case just like the VC20. The
color was changed to the well-known shade of brown soon (pic. 1). The keys
were white on dark brown, the four function keys white on brown. What leaps
to the eye on first sight is the second joystick port (which is missing in
the VC20) and a - compared with the VC20 - much smaller expansion port. Above
that, the C64 doesn't seem to differ from the VC20 - until you switch it on.
As opposed to the 22x23 characters of the VC20, 40x25 characters help
keeping track of things, and with 320x200 pixels, the C64's graphics
resolution has been more than doubled in comparison with the VC20. The
3-voice SID is a real synthesizer chip with quite sophisticated features like
high/low/band pass and notch filters, ring modulation and synchronization and
allows to produce sounds which were unique back in the C64's era - and still
The 8 hardware sprites offered by the VIC-II make it very easy to write
games for the C64, as it additionally has sprite-to-sprite and
sprite-to-background collision detection. With the VIC-II's lightpen interrupt
line, the C64 was also suited for drawing programs and GUIs using lightpens.
The early C64s employed buggy VIC-II's (R1 and R2 [?]), and all [?]
old boards use a misdimensioned capacitor
for triggering the NMI, so that you have to hit the RESTORE key very hard
to make it work. The latter can be fixed easily by
replacing this capacitor.
2. The C 64 C
Commodore produced the first generation of C64s (pic. 1) until May 1986 ,
then it was discontinued and they introduced the C64C. According to the
64'er , this version has been planned since the Hannover mass in 1985, but
as the old version sold so well during Christmas '85, it was put on ice first.
The new model does not differ much from
its predecessor, the only innovation is the flat case, which makes the
keyboard (which has off-white keys now) more ergonomical, as it is
less high than the old one. But the new case did not only have advantages:
due to its low profile and additional metal screening, most of the numerous
hardware expansions did not fit anymore. This was changed with the C64G (see
below). The 64'er staff noticed that VIC-II as well as the two CIAs have new
version numbers; they didn't write which, though .
The official name for this model was
"C 64 C", but nevertheless the German 64'er decided
to call it "C64-II"  (maybe the first units didn't have the new name
on the label at the bottom). They pointed out that this name was only valid
for the 64'er magazine, but since the 64'er was the magazine for the C64
for a long time, the name was widely accepted and so this model is mostly
known as "C64-II" in Germany.
The C64C appeared again after (or concurrently with?) the C64G, this time
with the new, short board. So, although the case
might look the same and the label says "C 64 C", the boards may be
3. The Golden C 64
Until December 1986(?) , 1,000,000 Commodore 64s have been
sold in Germany. On this occasion, Commodore Büromaschinen GmbH
(Commodore's German subsidiary) released a limited edition of a golden C64,
serial numbers 1,000,000 to 1,000,199 , which was presented to
the public in the BMW museum in Germany Commodore had rented for this event.
One of these machines was donated to the German magazine "64'er" (serial
number 1,000,058). In the middle of the acryl plate it was mounted on you
aus Anlaß des 1.000.000sten
C 64 in Deutschland
5. Dezember 1986
Which translates to:
on occasion of the 1,000,000st
C 64 in Germany
5th of December, 1986
4. The C 64 G
The third generation of C64s, introduced in August 1987 , did not only
come with a new board, which was significantly shorter and much more
integrated, but also with the old case (keeping the off-white keys of the
C64C). While the old case would have eliminated the problems with expanding
the C64, the completely new board made it nearly impossible to use ANY of
the old internal hardware extensions.
This model was named "C 64 G", but you can also find
"C 64 BN/E"  and, reported by a reader of the "64'er", "C64-III"
[?] on the bottom of this C64.
The new board introduced a slight (very
slight) incompatibility to the older models, which I will describe here as
soon as I can remember what it was or someone
tells me; all I know is that SMON's TRACE
command malfunctioned on these boards. Above that, it contains a new SID and different filter capacitors [?],
which make it sound slightly different; furthermore, digital samples sound
far too silent, as Commodore eliminated the 'volume clicks'. With some basic
soldering skills, you can
fix that very easily,
NOTE! Some versions of the C64 are said to have no 9VAC at the user
port , they are referred to as "ALDI" versions (ALDI is a German 5 'n' 10).
This means that you cannot operate EPROM burners and other hardware which
needs 9VAC with these C 64s.
 COMPUTE!'s Gazette, Issue 32, Feb. 1986, Beyond the 1541: Mass Storage for The 64 and 128
 64'er 7/92, p.20, Die Hardware des C 64 im Wandel
 Peter Kittel in 64'er ?/92(?), p.3, Seite 3
 64'er 6/86, pp.19-21, Der Neue
 64'er 2/87, p.10, Der Millionär
 RUN 2/87, pp.39-40, Eine Million Brotkästen claim they had the serial
numbers 1,000,001 to 1,000,150, but
Frank Kuppels told me that the
one he has/had bears the serial number 1,000,199 and
that the Commodore employee handing him this machine said that this was
number 200 and thus the last golden C64.
 64'er 9/87, p.8, Ein Neuer in der 64'er-Familie
 Marko Mäkelä and xxxx told me about this label; xxxx has one.
 64'er 7/92, p.22
Updated: May 26th, 1998
Created: September 1st, 1997
Status : Verified on September 9th, 1997
Thanks to: Marko Mäkelä and xxxx for reporting the
Site copyright © 1997 by Marc-Jano Knopp
This document is part of MJK's Commodore 64 & LCD Page
Brought back to life by Peter Schepers, Dec 10, 2005 because I really liked this site!