Why was the Commodore 64 such crap?!   16 comments

I hope to sum up in this post why the Commodore 64 was such crap, then go into more detail later on. Here’s a list of reasons why it was crap.

1. It was a revamped version of a failed games console called the Commodore Max, which was only released in Japan. It should never been marketed as or called a computer.

2. It didn’t have 64K RAM. There may have been 64K of RAM chips in the Commodore 64, but it was impossible to access 64K RAM, no matter what programming language you used, due to gobbledegook excuses such as “some memory locations can be RAM or ROM” and “some chips overlay portions of the RAM”. WTF?!

3. The version of BASIC on the Commodore 64 wasn’t even written for the Commodore 64, but recycled from years before. It was standard PET BASIC, as used on Commodore PET computers from 1977 onwards! It was V2 of this BASIC, but that made no real difference. In 1977 or 1978 hardly any individuals owned a computer, only companies and governments. People in those days were amazed to have a computer at all. By 1982 when the Commodore 64 came out, things had changed a lot, thanks partly to cheap Sinclair and Acorn computers, and people had higher expectations of what they wanted to do with a computer. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be able to do these things with Commodore 64 BASIC, which was stuck firmly back in the 1970’s, had only 71 commands, none for colour, graphics, or sound. The on board Commodore 64 BASIC, on ROM like almost all other computers, never had any commands added to it, which could have been done with a ROM upgrade. ROM upgrades were offered by Sinclair, and Atari, amongst others.

Posted August 5, 2012 by C64hater in Uncategorized

16 responses to “Why was the Commodore 64 such crap?!

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  1. LOL! You Atari and Commodore and Spectrum users are insane. Everyone and their brother knows the Apple ][ was an all around better computer then those 3 combined. Far better hardware expansion of which none of the 3 shitty above computers could even dream of having. A far superior BASIC not bogged down by useless graphics command crap and had far better non-MS weighted down fluff like the C64 did. The disk drives were far more flexibly usable and quicker. Graphics capability was all you needed in a nutshell. No eyesore colours like the Spectrum and no bloated hardware crap like sprites that the C64 and Atari were pitifully loaded with. I assume since you’re using a Mac like style on your blog here you must agree with my assessment about the superiority of the Apple ][. I look forward to a future blog posting about it and how much the advantages it had over Atari, Commodore, and the Spectrum. I’m going to imagine you’ll approve this post or I’ll take it’s never appearing as you agreeing with everything I’ve said since without this posting appearing there can be no counter argument and therefore my defense of the Apple ][ stands as win.

    • This blog is actually about how the Commodore 64 is crap compared to all other 8 bit computers which were being produced at the time, except other Commodore computers, when it came out, or not long afterwards (e.g. about 1982-1985).

      I had some knowledge of the Apple II from regular visits to a computer club which met up every week. The total amount of people at these meetings was something like 20-40 per week, but not everyone brought a computer with them, because some people didn’t have one yet, or they didn’t want to bring along a computer and TV or monitor, possibly due to lack of transport. Some people gathered round other computers at various times.

      Out of the 20-40 people there, not all with computers there were usually 2 Apple II computers, often with 1 or 2 other Apple II owners and some other interested club members gathered round. The most popular computers at the club were the BBC Micro, Spectrum, and Commodore 64. This meant that 10% or less of the club members owned an Apple II.

      I spoke to one of the club organisers about my ambition to break down a Danish language course and put the rules of Danish grammar into a computer program to help me learn it. He showed me how a particular sentence could be checked in BASIC on his Apple IIe. I also typed in a language quiz program on another Apple IIe later on. This was language learning not translation! I admired the high quality keyboard and large, sturdy case. Unfortunately, the price was listed in a buyer’s guide I’d bought as £1,209 for the Apple II and £1,270 for the Apple IIe, which was just one of many cases of replacing the $ sign for a £ sign. The users also used green screen monitors the whole time at the club, so I didn’t really like that idea. My Dad wouldn’t even pay out £399 for a BBC Micro, so I had to get a cheaper computer than that. This was one reason why I ended up with a Commodore 64, for about £199. It was an expensive mistake.

      While the Apple II was good, thanks to having 3 versions of BASIC produced over a short period of time, by Apple and Microsoft, it was just too expensive for most people, which played right into Commodore’s hands.

      A quick search for the Apple II list of BASIC commands reveals that Applesoft BASIC had 15 commands for graphics, so that was certainly enough.

      Unfortunately, Apple are still charging too much for their hardware, which is why they aren’t more popular. I only used the classic Mac OS theme because it’s a retro computer theme. I’ve never owned an Apple II. I now own two Macs, an iMac G3 bought for £8.70 and a Power Mac G4 “Quicksilver” free from http://www.freecycle.org .

  2. I found this blog via a link on the Telegraph you posted. Guess what? nobody gives two fucks which computer was “better”, it’s all relative to whether or not they had a good experience, which a lot of people had with the C64 despite any number of highly involved articles you may write on the subject. I’m sorry you did not, but even more sorry to happen upon your blog only to find someone dedicating so much of his time to hating a 30 year old machine.

    • I’m sorry to hear that you seem to have been brainwashed by the cult of the Commodore 64, founded by Commodore founder Jack Tramiel and his penny pinching ways! How would you know who does and doesn’t care about it? You’d have to trace everyone who’s ever owned a Commodore 64 to find that out. Don’t forget, Commodore supplied this so called “computer” with a 5 year out of date version of BASIC, just so they could increase their profits by less than $3, or perhaps a maximum of $10 per Commodore 64 sold. This can be summed up in the classic expression “Spoiling the ship for a ha’p’worth of tar”, as my Mum used to say. BTW, I think I’ll mention this to some dictionary editors and get them to list the Commodore 64 as a prime example of this! I thought I’d got over this nasty experience, but I certainly couldn’t stand by and let propaganda like you mentioned in the Telegraph go unopposed.

      • Brainwashed by the “cult of Commodore 64”? LOL, sure. I guess it’s the party everyone wants to join except cranky dudes who blog about how much better their 30 year old computer is than some other guy’s 30 year old computer. I like them all, but I have a preference of the C64 because it’s a good one for creating classic chiptunes. I have a whole pile of them, some modded with a second SID chip. THE CULT… it has me. Enjoy your Apple II’s, Spectrums and so on and so forth. I would.

  3. Yes, the 64 was a pile of poo. Atari was turning personal computers into friendly, easy-to-use home computing appliances. The industry in general was improving and expanding the capabilities of the 6502 platform and would have migrated gracefully to larger CPUs. Then Tramiel came along with the cost-reduced, functionality-reduced C64 (and ST for that fact) turning the personal computer market into a race-to-the-bottom toilet destroying multiple companies in the process. That vacuum left behind (plus the unix wars) let the even less friendly, MS DOS-based IBM PC waltz in to become an unopposed monopoly.

  4. The commodore 64 does have 64K RAM, and you can access it all. It was only from BASIC there were any limitations – from machinecode there are no problems. In fact you can say the C64 has around 88K of memory as it also has 20K basic+kernal+char ROM and 4K IO-mapped memory… Also, it rules 😀

    • I’m English, but you’ve already read that I wanted to learn more about Danish using computers. Eventually I did just that! I think you’re from Denmark. It’s much easier to learn and understand Danish than Commodore BASIC V2 on the Commodore 64, so I’ll reply to you in Danish to prove that. An English translation of my reply appears below for non Danish speakers.

      Jeg er engelsk, men De har allerede læst at jeg har villet bruge computers om at lære mere over Dansk. Endeligt har jeg gjort præcis det! Jeg tror at De kommer fra Danmark. Det er meget lettere at lære og forstå Dansk end Commodore BASIC V2 på den Commodore 64, derfor skal jeg svære Dem på Dansk om at bevise det.

      Jeg har læst flere boger og magasiner over 64’eren når jeg blev C64 egner. Desværre har boger fra Commodore og andre udgaver ikke sagde mig nok over hvordan man kan programmere 64’eren. Det og den skidelige Commodore BASIC V2 var grunden hvorfor jeg måtte sælge den Commodore 64 efter 10-11 måneder.

      Jeg har læst kun få boger over Dansk, f.eks. ”Danish” af Teach Yourself Books, og den Linguaphone Kursus. Jeg forstå Dansk meget bedre end hvordan jeg kan programere 64’eren på Commodore BASIC V2. Jeg tror at det beviser at det er lettere at lære Dansk end Commodore BASIC V2 på 64’eren.

      Den Commodore 64 ”regner” ikke!

      I read several books and maazines about the C64 when I was a C64 owner. Unfortunately, the books by Commodore and other publishers didn’t tell me how to program the Commodore 64. This and the crappy Commodore BASIC V2 were the reasons why I had to sell the Commodore 64 after 10-11 months.

      I’ve only read a few books about Danish, e.g. Danish by Teach Yourself Books, and the Linguaphone Course. I understand Danish a lot better than how to program the Commodore 64 in Commodore BASIC V2. I think that this proves it’s easier to learn Danish than Commodore BASIC V2 on the C64.

      The Commodore 64 doesn’t rule!

    • I actually had both in the end. I had the 48k and the 128k Spectrum and nearing the end of the ’80s I had the C64.
      After years of C64 hype and seeing the colourful screenshots – I was shocked how bad the games were, compared to the Spectrum! It turned out that to have twice the amount of colours (brown was the only additional colour the Spectrum needed anyway, and clever programmers got around the colour attribute clashes) the C64 pixels had to be ‘twice’ the size of Spectrums! As a result, the C64 games were far worse graphically, and also played much worse too! The Spectrum games played much faster and smoother, so I’d guess the ’48k’ Spectrum actually had more usable memory than the ’64k’ C64, or had a faster processor – but I don’t know much about the technical side of PCs.
      If you want to compare 2 computers and declare a winner, it’s simple – compare their 2 greatest games.
      Target Renegade was the best Spectrum game – 128k version had great music/sound and could be loaded in one go – 48k version looked the same though. I don’t know what the best C64 game was but Target Renegade on the Spectrum would’ve destroyed it!

      • Thanks for your comment! This criticism has been made often before. Actually, the Commodore 64 attribute clashes can even occur in the lores 160×200 mode, if you continue to draw lines of different colours through the same character cell. Once you exceed the total of 3 foreground colours it seems to turn all the lines drawn already to the colour of the latest line. You can see that effect in a pic illustrating this post https://commodore64crap.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/commodore-128-the-fixed-and-upgraded-c64-part-3/

        Can you tell me about any programming you did on the Spectrum instead of just playing games? Unfortunately, it now seems that MOST computer owners were put off programming by the BASIC language on nearly all computers, although Commodore 64 BASIC was worse. Please read my latest post about the LOGO programming language.

  5. I was one who found the Commodore C64 a great computer at it time. I seen worst computer then the Commodore C64. Some of these computer you couldn’t move the cursor any ware but forward and back. Even though Atari ST computer had a gui, I didn’t that computer. Tandy CoCo computer where worst, the Timex Sinclair zx80 was also bad computer, TI99/4 was another bad computer. Tell me one thing, if the Commodore was so bad of a computer why was is the #1 selling computer? Why where there so many software and games writing for it. Remember this is only a 1.023 MHz computer, and did so much. This computer did more then any of computer at that time. Remember at that time, the PC only had monochrome display. They could did more to it but it was a greate computer for it time.

  6. Dear Mike

    Thanks for reading my blog and asking these questions. I hope you will eventually read all of my blog instead of just this post or a few posts.

    Here are the answers to your questions, as well as a few questions of my own. I noticed some mistakes in spelling and grammar. Parlez vous Français comme langue maternelle? If so, then I’ll translate this reply into French if you request it.

    Why exactly did you find the Commodore 64 to be a great computer at the time?

    You criticised other computers for only being able to move the cursor forwards or backwards. I assume you mean they had a BASIC line editor instead of a BASIC full screen editor, like Commodore, Atari, and MSX computers used. I abandoned the Commodore 64 for the Amstrad CPC664, which had a BASIC line editor with the ability to copy text from elsewhere on the screen using a copy cursor and copy key, instead of a full screen editor, but I enjoyed its much better BASIC interpreter, with about 160 commands, instead of only about 72 commands on the Commodore 64. The amazing BBC BASIC on the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron also had a BASIC line editor with the same copy text feature, so I was already used to that system.

    I’m not sure what you mean about the Atari ST. You said “I didn’t that computer”, so there seems to be a word missing. I think it’s either that you didn’t own it or you didn’t like it. The spec of the Atari ST was put together by Jack Tramiel, who was also responsible for the Commodore 64 spec.

    You then go on to say “Tandy CoCo computer where worst, the Timex Sinclair zx80 was also bad computer, TI99/4 was another bad computer”,
    Why do you think these three computers were bad? You didn’t list any details that made them bad. The Tandy Coco had an advanced extended version of Microsoft BASIC, as I’ve already pointed out in lots of my posts. The Timex Sinclair ZX80 was designed to be a just a cheap entry level computer for less than £100 as well as less than $100. The TI99/4 was an earlier version of the TI99/4A, released when there weren’t many different computers available.

    Finally, you ask me if the Commodore 64 was so bad, then why was it the best selling computer? Quite simply, it’s because early C64 buyers didn’t do enough research about buying a computer, they only considered the price and the declared 64K RAM, then later on after a lot of Commodore 64 computers had been sold, some more potential computer buyers thought “If so many people have bought a Commodore 64, then they can’t be wrong”, but unfortunately they were! Similar things happened with video equipment. VHS video recorders became more popular because they were cheaper and available to rent instead of Betamax, which was a more expensive higher quality system usually only available to buy. Another example was camcorders (i.e. video camera recorders), where at one stage in Britain, a camcorder by the company Amstrad was outselling all the other camcorders. Why was this? I think it was because it was the cheapest camcorder on the market in Britain at that time and lots of people didn’t know why they should pay more. This was because they hadn’t read a magazine or preferably TWO magazines which told them what features to look for when buying a camcorder. People buying this Amstrad camcorder probably only found out after they’d bought it that the reasons it was was cheapest were that it was fixed focus instead of having a zoom lens, and couldn’t play back video cassettes through its viewfinder, unlike most other camcorders of the time. I think it was a similar situation with the Commodore 64.

  7. Lol.. yeah we made consumer goods for the masses, and brought home computing to 27 million for the C64 alone. Heck the C128 sold almost as many as all of the Apple II models combined. Plus sprites, custom sound, great game play. No argument that the $199 C64 had more quality issues than the $1200 Apple II… we didn’t really care.

  8. So.. the whole premise of this blog is that in 1983 you bought a C64 computer. You then discovered you didn’t like the BASIC on it, . You weren’t prepared to use Simon’s BASIC or learn assembly or some other language, so you have spent 35+ years sulking about it and wishing you had bought an Atari?

    And you are trying to convince millions of users with fond memories of these machines they would have been happier if they had bought something else?


    Glen Richards
  9. I’m afraid that your comment makes it obvious that you’ve hardly read any of my posts on this blog at all, so now I’m going to point out a few facts, as well as some links to some other posts on this blog.

    I’ve said lots of times in my posts that I bought a Commodore 64 in 1984! Here are some links to posts where I mention this or at least the year 1984, reminding or indicating this to visitors.





    This is crucial to the whole situation at that time, due to prices of computers when I bought it. The prices and availability of computers were based on what was available in Britain/UK at that time. One important factor was that the Commodore 64’s recommended price had recently been reduced from £399 to £199, while the BBC Micro Model B’s price was £399. I can’t remember what the exchange rates were against other currencies at the time. This reduced price increased the appeal of the Commodore 64 to my miserly Dad who was only LENDING me the money anyway! Not only that, but my Dad was a know it all, with an attitude I describe as IKBA (I Know Best Attitude) although it’s better known as an Ivory Tower Attitude (ITA). He hadn’t bothered to read any books about computers at all, so he knew next to NOTHING about them! He only knew how much memory/RAM, measured in Kilobytes they had, but it turned out he didn’t even know that, because although Commodore liked to brag about their Commodore 64 having 64K, as soon as anyone turned it on, the startup screen said it had only about 38K free to BASIC! This is where Sinclair with their ZX Spectrum missed a chance by not having a startup message declaring that it had about 40K free to BASIC!

    As for Simon’s BASIC, I had certainly heard of this, as well as other extended BASICs, so you haven’t bothered to read any of those posts either! The first one I heard about was a type in listing from “Your 64” magazine. It had some graphics commands! I didn’t really understand it, but I didn’t even know at the time that the C64 hadn’t got any graphics commands. As for Simon’s BASIC, it cost £50 in 1984. This meant I couldn’t afford it. My Dad certainly wasn’t offering to buy it for me either. This meant I bought a much cheaper extended BASIC called Turbo BASIC. The problem with all of them was that they didn’t allow me to write any software that would run on a Commodore 64 unless the owner of that Commodore 64 also had a copy of the same extended BASIC language.

    During 1984, a BASIC compiler was released by Data Becker in West Germany that could actually compile programs from lots of different extended BASICs into Machine Code, meaning that programs written in an extended BASIC could be converted to run on any Commodore 64! Due to language censorship, this software wasn’t released simultaneously in other EEC (European Economic Community) countries such as Britain. It was unheard of in Britain until 1985 when it was released by Abacus from the USA. I never heard of this at the time though.

    The manual for this compiler is available on https://www.lyonlabs.org/commodore/onrequest/abacus-basic-64.pdf

    According to this manual, as I thought there’s no indication that it can run from cassettte, only from disk. I don’t even know if this would be possible at all. I didn’t have a disk drive and I never even met any other C64 owners who had one either. This was because it was in Britain and the disk drive cost more than the computer! Some people in the USA got special deals on C64 disk drives, while in West Germany people had higher disposable incomes than in Britain!

    As for the “fond memories” that you say lots of C64 owners have, I think this is more like selective memory, Stockholm Sydrome, or domestic abuse!

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