What is the story of the Commodore 64?


Commodore 64, which is known as the best selling single home computer model of all time, has a great production story behind it, full of more twists and turns than a mystery movie. So, here is the story of Commodore 64; a single computer model that sold about 10 to 17 million units and set a Guinness World Record.

What is Commodore 64?

Commodore 64 is an 8-bit computer released by Commodore International in January 1982. The name of the single unit computer was derived from its 64 KB of RAM. The computer is mainly made for individual use and it incorporates high-quality sound and visuals. The computer is widely known for the popular games on its system.

The story of Commodore 64

Jack Tramiel founded Commodore International and made the company a household name with their original product, Commodore 64. Tramiel was born to a Jewish family in Poland, and survived the horrors of World War II before moving to the United States. After the war, he moved to New York and opened a machine repair shop.

He relocated to Canada in 1955 to expand the company, and his wish came true soon enough when the company went public in 1962. He sold his stake in Commodore International and bought MOS Technology, because he knew the future of electronics depended on their microchips. He decided to help get Commodore back on its feet after some financial trouble, and joined hands with the company again, this time with MOS Technology already in hand. Thus, the microchip revolution began.

Chuck Peddle was an American engineer and the main designer of the 6502 microprocessor chip, single board computer KIM-1, and Commodore PET PC. Despite being a bad product and lacking necessary customer support, the PET PC became super hit in domestic as well as European markets. And while other competitors like Apple, Atari, and Radio Shack were working on new products every day, Commodore was showing no movement, no advertisements, and no developments. It made people think that Commodore was out of business. But the best was yet to come.

Rise and fall

MOS Technology developed a chip for color TVs but it was a failed product. Then in a meeting in England, Tramiel announced that he wants to make a color computer immediately, and sell it for $300. His wish sounded impossible at the time but Peddle was already working on the Color PET computers. They built the VIC-20, and it was a massive hit. Its extension is called Commodore 64. Soon enough, Commodore 64 became available for just $400 and the price war between home computer makers began.

The results of this war were bad for Texas Instruments and Atari. Texas instruments went out of the home computer business when it lost over $100 million dollars, and Atari fell under the administration of Warner Communications. On other hand, Commodore made around $1 billion selling Commodore 64.

The story of Commodore 64 doesn’t end here. Immediately after the announcement of Commodore’s success, there was another announcement: Jack Tramiel’s resignation. The rumor mill started going on and on about various reasons behind the resignation.

Whatever might be the reason behind Tramiel’s resignation, Commodore 64 just couldn’t remain the same after he left the company. But it left behind a story and a legacy.