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Why is the Commodore C64 so popular?

Published 26 January 2019

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The retro-computer scene has positively exploded in recent years. There were many microcomputers that brought children of the 70's and 80's into the digital era. None were as popular as the incredibly versatile Commodore C64. We put forward our top 5 reasons why the Commodore C64 was the best microcomputer of its time.

Top 5 reasons why the C64 is so popular

As the bestselling computer of its time, the C64 was used for everything from games, music, writing, databases, computer graphics, as a microcontroller and launching the demoscene. Many of these uses have moved on to more modern hardware like the Commodore Amiga or the PC. We give our take on what the C64 is best known for today.

1   SID Music - the SID synthesizer chip is possibly the best known and one of the most loved audio chips ever made. Many musicians have gone back to their childhood to rediscover why they love music in the first place. The SID chip is the ultimate in music hacking available today. Take a look at what thousands of musicians have produced with the amazing High Voltage SID music collection.

2   Side-Scrolling Action Games have always been the C64's best graphics party piece. Smooth scrolling graphics, hordes of nasties, and punchy music are the ingredients to the best action games. Although the keyboard can be used, the joystick is the best investment to control the action with. Games in the 1980s were notoriously difficult and required the reflexes of a cat to complete. Boss battles were almost impossible to win. The aim of the game was to get the highest score. Many magazines and user groups published high score tables for popular games. Modern games are typically easier to play and emphasis completing a mission or objective overt achieving a high score.

3   Platform Games are back in fashion and the C64 gaming scene represents a treasure trove of platform games ready to be (re)discovered. Game play typically involves jumping, firing, avoiding traps and discovering secret levels.

4   Learning Assembler language is the ultimate in programming skill. The C64's core microprocessor is the MOS 6502 and is well known for its well structure commands and well documented features and hacks. Beginners can get started developing 6502 assembly, cross platform with VSCode for free. Mike Naberezny also contains a very comprehensive guide to developing projects on the MOS 6502. Software advertised as "written in 100% machine code" used to be a mark of quality. The C64 runs in immediate mode so it easy for programmers to dive into developing assembly language code. Galencia Khaos Sphere gives a great understanding of the capability of programming in assembler. There is even an excellent manual on using illegal opcodes. The next step on the journey is the demoscene.

Written in 100% machine code used to be the mark of quality

5   Demoscene - the Demonscene is as strong and vibrant as ever. Many crackers from the 1980s have grown up and are coming back to the C64 to demonstrate that they still have the skills. Demos are just the name says, a demonstration of a person or groups programming prowess in both graphics and sound. Just how much capability can you pack into 64KB of memory?

Article tags: Computers Retro Commodore C64 next article >

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