New Kid with A Breadbox
(Case, October 1998) revised 2018
When I first wrote the following article some 20 years ago, the c64 should have been in its swan-song era, the Amiga was the machine to have and people were migrating in droves, myself included. However, as I read the article recently I realised that what I had written still rings true today, in fact if anything the C64 is even more alive. I originally wrote the article for Domination magazine, then re-edited for Vandalism and now I have once again come back to it and updated it for 2018. I hope you like it.
What is it about a computer that can generate such feeling in people? How can it be that with all of today’s technology people still look fondly remember, and are still using, a computer with only 64k of memory; a pretty basic 1 MHz processor. Yes. I am talking about the C64; the computer that for most of us was our first foray in the world of micro-electronics. It was also the starting point for some of us that are now employed in the vast IT job market. Some may even argue that this computer helped to create the massive video-game industry.
It all started almost 36 years ago in late 1982 when a small electronics company, Commodore Business Machines, produced a follow up to the best-selling VIC-20 computer: The Commodore 64. Immediately it was something special: I would have liked to have been there when they took the decision to mass produce them just for the atmosphere, let alone to know if they knew that they had a world beating product on their hands.)
When it was launched, the competition must have had kittens, there was nothing to rival this on the market. Sinclair had its limited (& Shit) Spectrum series, Atari had its game consoles and that was pretty much it. With nothing to stop it, the C64 just went from strength to strength, the software available multiplied at an incredible rate with everything from business software to flight simulators being produced. The peripherals also started to grow as well with printers, disk-drives & monitors being added.
But I think that the thing that most of us would really say got us hooked was the amazing sound & images that could be produced. How many of you can remember the 1st time you heard one of Rob Hubbard’s tunes blasting out of your TV, of the soothing sound of say Trollie Wallie or some other game. It’s as if the C64 was put on this earth by a power greater than God as it seemed to be the perfect product in the right place at the right time (very much like the Apple II & Visi-calc).
This brings me to the subject of software/hardware. When it was launched the C64 had 16 colour palette & 3 channel sound. This is pretty limited by today’s standard however for the time it was the cutting edge. Today the latest PC`s require you to by the latest sound or graphics card to get top performance, the c64 however is now doing things that should not be possible e.g.: plasma, glenz vectors, all border zoom scroller, pictures with many more then 16colors and the list goes on & on, every year something new. I have even seen some Amiga and PC demos converted to the c64, some with minor improvement.
Why is it that now some 34 years later that so many people are still using this outdated computer, there are hundreds of web-sites dedicated to it & several very large ftp sites that contain pretty much every game/demo/utility ever programmed. I have never seen so many utilities released that allow users to create music, pictures and even code in assembler. All of which can be viewed in one of the many emulators.
Why is it that every year people from all over Europe and even Australia travel to meet in a Dutch youth-hostel for the weekend just for the sake of making it happen. Maybe it’s just a load of people who want to hang onto a special piece of their youth. I believe that there is something else; the C64 is like no other computer there has ever been. There have been other memorable ones like the Sinclair Spectrum. BBC Micro or Amstrad CPC, but none of these have such a following. None of these still have new software releases on a regular basis. None of these have people attending parities held just for them.
How many of the home computers from the 80’s can say that they have software publishers that are still publishing physical games in 2018, not many and none as far as I know can compete with the beloved C64.
In recent years many of the original pioneers have returned and with them taken the demo standard to new heights, this has pushed other coders to up their game and improve and so on and so forth.
In a world that seems to be dominated by Micro$oft. Apple, Google & Intel, it’s nice to know that no matter what hardware/software advances they might make, I can still flick the switch on my C64 and I’m ready to go & the only ‘blue screen’ I’ll see is when I activate my action replay. 😉