Home Computing Retrogaming Audio Random

Commodore C65 Microcomputer

Updated 26 February 2023

Yes, Commodore International did build the next generation Commodore C64 and called it the C65. The Commodore c65 was a prototype 8-bit microcomputer developed by Commodore Computers before it went bankrupt. This impressive 8-bit microcomputer was set to take the world by storm before the untimely collapse of Commodore computers. The Commodore C65 was to have the graphics and sound capabilities comparable to the Commodore Amiga or Atari ST while maintaining an aggressively low-price entry point.

Range of Commodore C65s sold on eBay

The Commodore C65 was a prototype 8-bit microcomputer that was developed by Commodore Computers in the late 1980s. It was intended to be a successor to the popular Commodore 64, but unfortunately, the company went bankrupt before it could be released. The C65 featured improved graphics, a faster processor, and more memory than its predecessor, making it a promising machine for its time. Despite never being released, the C65 remains an intriguing piece of computing history and has become a sought-after collector's item for vintage computer enthusiasts.

Was there a market for the Commodore C65?

Prototypes of the Commodore C65 were available in 1991, meaning that the consumer version of the computer may have been available for sale by Christmas 1992. The Commodore C65 was based around an improved version of the MOS 6502 microprocessor, internally named the CSG 65CE02, capable of executing software such as games and word processors up to 25% faster than the standard C64. This new processor was however limited to reading banks of 64KB or RAM at any one time. The larger 128KB of memory in the Commodore C65 needed to be accessed through an external memory management unit (MMU).

The wonderful Commodore C65

By Thomas Conté, source, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia

The Commodore C64 was a hugely successful machine with one of the largest range of popular games available on the market and very was well supported by third-party suppliers. The Commodore C128 was the immediate successor to the C64 and considered by many in recent times to be a market flop. This may be true when compared to the record breaking C64 sales figures but Commodore still managed to sell a very respectable 5.7 million C128s worldwide. To put this in perspective, the very successful Apple IIGS may have sold less than 1 million units (wayback). Commodore also knew that they could produce these machines at a ridiculously low price. The Commodore C65 should have been the Nintendo NES killer, but instead Nintendo and SEGA ultimately blew Commodore into the gamer's history books.

The Commodore C65 was developed to be the ideal low-end, first-time buyer machine. The great irony is that these machines are worth tens of thousands on the collector's market now. The C65 was to be compatible with the immense software library of the C64, have graphics performance comparable in an Atari ST, and be half the price of the Commodore Amiga 600. The C65 would have been ideal as a dedicated games machine, a second computer for the kids in the house, or for emerging markets like Eastern Europe or China.

The Commodore C65 was developed to be the ideal low-end, first-time microcomputer.

Commodore C65 in operation

There are very few video of a working Commodore C65 in operation. This video shows the general usage of a Commodore and runs a couple of demoscene demos from the early 1990s. We don't understand the fascination with scantily clad women in 8-bit pictures but as this is a period piece.

Please note that youtube and the video author(s) have not endorsed this article. The video is served directly by YouTube. Please read YouTube's privacy and copyright policy. The opinions expressed may not reflect the opinion of this site.

It is very rare to see a Commodore C65 out in the wild. I have never personally seen a Commodore C65 close enough to touch. So you can share with me in amazement when I was reading a blog about the World of Commodore 2019 held in Canada. This machine is obviously not the same machine as the one shown in the YouTube video above. There for people to opening interact with was a Commodore C65, complete with a trap door expansion card. Amazingly, the owner Chiron Bramberger opened the case and allowed people to gawk and photograph the insides. If you are interesting in reading more about this particular event then I suggest you take a look at this blog post.

The heart of the Commodore C65 is from the 8-bit world, yet the model looks suggest a match made in heaven with the Amiga.

5 Best Rumours about the Commodore C65

The Commodore C65 was never formally released to the public, although there were many prototypes that were distributed to Commodore offices. Here are some of our favorite rumours on the Commodore C65. We give you our 5 best rumous that you may not know about the Commodore C65.

  1. Apparently, many Commodore C65s were pulled out from the dumpster when the Commodore offices were cleared out. Given that some C65s sell on the market for tens of thousands, it would appear that dumpster diving really pays off.
  2. Not all Commodore C65s are the same. As these were prototype machines, many were in various states of assembly, some components are different, and some run with various ROM versions. There is nothing to say that parts are interchangeable so repairing a damaged C65 may well be impossible.
  3. The shape of the Commodore C65 is well know but was this really the final production shape? Drastic changes do occur at the last minute in the product development cycle. There is also the chance that the marketing team, or some other division, could have said that the machine needed a different look. This possibility further puts these machines into what could have been.
  4. Staying on the topic the Commodore C65 casework, there are fresh rumours that the Commodore C65 was designed in a way that the flat surface of the right hand side of the case could accomodate a cup of coffee. You read this right. In Commodore The Final Years by Brian Bagnall, Paul Lassa says, "We joked that you could set your coffee down on top of it."
  5. Commodore C65s are unicorns. Well that is not quite true. Commodore C65s do occaisonally come up for auction. Be prepared to spend the equivelent of a second-hand card on one of these. The condition of each prototype varies and many are in non-working or semi-working condition.

Commodore C65 articles

Commodore C65 System Specification

Commodore C65
System Specification

Commodore 65: Explaining the C65 and C64 operating modes

Commodore C65
operating modes

Commodore C65 System Memory Map article

C65 system
memory map

Commodore C65 Compatability Challenges to the C64

C65 Limintations
with C64 mode

Commodore C65 software archive

C65 software archive

Commodore C65 software TOSEC


Commodore C65 Sales History

Commodore C65 Serial 14 (USA)

Commodore C65
Serial 14 (USA)

Commodore C65 Serial TBA (Sweeden)

Commodore C65
Serial TBA (Sweeden)

Commodore C65 Serial 3 (USA)

Commodore C65
Serial 3 (USA)

Commodore C65 Serial 000097

Commodore C65
Serial 000097

Commodore C65 Serial 000060

Commodore C65
Serial 000060

Commodore C65 Serial 000016

Commodore C65
Serial 000016

Reimagining the Commodore C65

There have been lots of rumous circulating around the Internet about projects to re-imagine the Commodore C65. These microcomputers could have been the ultimate 8-bit computers. The most persistent project has been the MEGA65 project. The MEGA65 project calls itself the 21st century realization of the C65 heritage. We can't wait to get our hands on one.

There are only a handful of ways that most people can experience the Commodore C65. They come in three variations, hardware, low level software emulation, and high level emulation.

  1. hardware emulation:   The MEGA65 project looks to emulate the complete hardware solution using a high powered FPGA board. Check out the MEGA65 project page for more details.
  2. low level software emulation:  The amazing MAME documentation project covers many hundreds of machines including the Commodore C65. Check out the MAME project page for more details.
  3. high level software emulation:  This interesting project has implemented Basic 10 as per the manual, making it a claimed 12000x faster than a real Commodore C65 prototype. Check out the HI65 (wayback) project page for more details.

The MEGA65 claims to run around 50X faster than a C64.

Related Commodore Journals

Commodore C64 Scratch Pad

Commodore C64

Commodore C128 Journal

Commodore C128

Commodore Amiga Multimedia Computer

Commodore Amiga

Other articles we think you might like

Honeywell Vintage Computer

with punchcards

AKAI Professional MPC Comparison Chart

comparison chart

Entex Adventure Vision

Adventure Vision
game console

philreichert.org computer magazine reading rack

Computer Magazine
Reading Rack