Australia Day is as Aussie as loudly singing out Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi with a Vegemite on toast in your hand. So I have come up with 5 ways you can celebrate everything Australian on your favourite 8-bit microcomputer, the Commodore C64.
For vintage tech enthusiasts who own the Commodore 64, we have got the perfect set of activities you can do on your microcomputer this Australia Day. Or for those who are not afraid of a bit of emulation, you can use The C64 maxi to relive almost the same experience. So set up your C64 and reminisce in the nostalgia of the vibrant 80s.
For the uninitiated, the Commodore 64 is an 8-bit home computer. The Commodore C64 made its debut in January 1982 and was designed in only two days when the CEO Jack Trameil had the epiphany that they could fill a major gap in the market by introducing their newly designed sound and video chips. The raw computing power of these machines is quite minimal and that is what gives these breadbins, as they are know to enthusiasts, their charm. This class of computer was often referred to as a microcomputer back in the day. It is amazing what can be squeezed into 64kB of memory.
The C64 stood out from other home computers because of its cheap 64KB RAM, BASIC programming capabilities, and most importantly, the awesome games. This home computer broke records in its day. Guinness World Records lists it as the highest-selling single computer model. Now, it is riding a revival wave in the retro-computing scene. If you have one, you will be pleased to know that you have got a collector’s item on your hands.
There are many things that you can do on a modern Commodore C64. Did you know that there are many games, demos and magazines still being produced for the Commodore C64. I go into a lot more detail in my Commodore C64 journal.
While Kylie Minogue was singing do the locomotion on ABC's Countdown, the Commodore C64 was shooting up the sales charts. Commodore Computers managed to hustle between 10 to 17 million units onto parents who wanted to introduce the future to their kids. Variations of the Commodore C64 remained in production for an impressive 12 years and was discontinued in April 1994. There are many imitations and emulations for this wonderful machine. My current favourite is to use The C64 maxi. It looks and feels much like an original Commodore C64 but without the melting powerbricks of the original.
So, without further ado, let’s get into some of the exciting things you can do on your Commodore 64 this Australia Day.
Top 5 Commodore C64 activities
1. Watch an advert for the Commodore 64 from the 80s
In Australia, the Commodore 64 commercials were light-hearted and enjoyable. Many of the ads featured a catchy jingle, “Are you keeping up with the Commodore? ‘Cause the Commodore’s keeping up with you.” These commercials would run on TV, especially on Australia Day. I go into more detail about these the Commodore C64 TV commercials. The computer packs shown in this advertisement is the family pack that I originally owned.
2. Get Your Game Face on and Play The Hobbit
We mentioned earlier that video games were one of the reasons that the Commodore 64 became a hit. This Australia Day, get in the zone and play The Hobbit. This game was a wildly successful illustrated textual game published by Melbourne House. I bet that you didn't know that Australia developed and released many fun and successful games into C64 market.
Almost everyone I knew had a copy of The Hobbit on a data cassette for their Commodore C64. Based on J. R. R Tolkien’s book The Hobbit, it sold over a million copies. The Hobbit of the Commodore C64 is a graphical text-adventure game. It started in Bilbo's house with the big green door and the amazing and timeless adventure that we all know and love awaits beyond.
Even without a Commodore C64, you can enjoy playing the text adventure game, The Hobbit, using the free online emulator at the Internet Archive.
3. Play Commodore C64 SID Music from Australian musicians
The Commodore 64 was a class apart from its competitors because of its SID music chip that gave birth to an entire culture of unmatched electronic music. The SID chip was a true synthesizer with three individually controllable voices that has inspired a generation of musicians. The computer became a nurturing environment for new, exciting sounds and demos. Hundreds of new music tracks still get released each year for the Commodore C64. A group of enthusiasts collect all of these releases and puts them into the world's largest collection of computer music. I have taken an in depth look of the High Voltage SID Collection and review the best tracks released this year.
This Australia Day, listen to a collection of these distinct beats from local musicians, such as Adam Morton. If you are looking for something on the heavy techno side of life then point your browser to Tekarp. Or alternatively, you can browse all of the songs created by Australian musicians on the DeepSID online emulator.
4. Read Vandalism 70 – The C64’s Dedicated Disk Magazine
The Commodore C64 is famous for hackers releasing news on magazines distributed on disks, or diskmags. Diskmags were big in the 80s before computers became permanently connected to the Internet. Interestingly they are still being released today for retro-platforms. These diskmags are the best way to get the latest knowledge of what is happening in the retro-computing scene. I give a rundown on the latest C64 diskmags.
Vandalism 70 is a diskmag which caters to everything related to the Commodore 64. It is a gold mine for C64 fans. New additions are made regularly on the website, making it a comprehensive database for CBM 64 nerds. The magazine started out way back in 1991 and is the brainchild of an Australian cracking group, Onslaught. Yes, more Australian influence on the retro-computer scene.
You can download the latest Vandalism 70 here.
5. Play America's Cup Sailing Simulation
Delve into the world of competitive sailing, courtesy of the America’s Cup Sailing simulation, on your Commodore 64. The simulation is based on the yacht race that first took place in 1851 and has captivated rule-benders ever since. The silver ornate trophy, AKA the America’s Cup, was crafted in 1848. All Australians will know that the club’s 132-year winning streak came to a dead-stop when Australia’s Royal Perth Yacht Club defeated them in 1983. We were glued to our TV screens that early morning when Australia-II glided across the finish line.
I cannot think of a better way to celebrate Australia Day this year with your C64 than by playing a game that will remind you of this epic victory. Enter the simulation and sail around Freemantle, West Australia in a world famous racing competition from the comfort of your home.
You can play the emulated version of this game on the Internet Archive.
The activities that I have picked out for all you proud owners of the Commodore 64 are sure to bring back fond memories and possibly expand your retro-gaming universe. It's amazing to see how far we have come in the world of computers and virtual reality. Yet, there is still something so enjoyable to be experienced in the 8-bit world.
Things like this can stir up excitement for what more the future could have in store. Although at times the road ahead may seem bleak, especially with troubling news all over the world along with the bush fires that have devastated Australia, it's important to remind yourself that there is always hope with each new sunrise. So, while we reminisce about the past, let us also remain optimistic about what lies ahead. Maybe the glory days of the Commodore C64 are still ahead of us.