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Commodore C65 Microcomputer

Published 26 January 2019


Yes, Commodore International did build the next generation Commodore C64 and called it the C65. 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.

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 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 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.

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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.

  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.

Commodore C65 articles

Commodore C65 System Specification

Commodore C65
System Specification

Commodore C65 Sales History

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 MAME project page for more details.

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

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Commodore C64

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Commodore C128

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