In 1981, Commodore dropped a bomb on the home computer market,
releasing the inexpensive 3.5K Commodore VIC-20. A computer
for the game console buyer! The computer was even more successful
than Commodore predicted. At its height, the VIC-20 had a production
run of over 9000 units a day!
The VIC-20, like all other Commodore 8-bit computers, greets the user
with a flashing READY prompt. The operating system is built into the
hardware of the computer, and the user interface is BASIC 2.0, a
programming language Commodore purchased from Microsoft in the late
1970s. The VIC featured 5 kilobytes of memory, and color graphics at
a time when that was very uncommon, though it's display is only capable
of 22 characters per line. The joystick port and game cartridge port
are prominent features, as Commodore meant to market the VIC-20 as a game
console/computer hybrid. The cartridge port could also be used to
expand the VIC's memory up to a whopping 28/32 kilobytes.
Statistics, features, and VIC-20 resources:
CPU: MOS Technology 6502A
RAM: 5 kilobytes
ROM: 20 kilobytes
Video: MOS Technology 6560 "VIC"
Sound: MOS Technology 6560 "VIC"
- Text: 22 columns, 23 rows.
- Hires: 176x184 pixels bitmaped
- 8 text colours, 16 background colours
- 3 voices (square wave), noise and volume
Ports: 6522 VIA (X2)
- 1 Joystick/Mouse port
- Round DIN CBM Serial port
- Female edge-connector 'Cartridge/Game/Expansion' port
- Round DIN CBM Monitor port
- RCA-Style RF Audio/Video port
- Male edge-connector CBM 'USER' port
- Power and reset switches
- 2-pin DIN Power connector
Keyboard: Full-sized 66 key QWERTY
- 8 programmable function keys
- 2 sets of Keyboardable graphic characters
- 2 key direction cursor-pad
Help: (materials below thanks to Ward Shrake)
Personal Note:The Commodore VIC-20 is a machine
that exudes both charm and warmth. The large fonts, the simple, happy
graphics, the friendly CBM Basic prompt.. they all contribute to a
yearning for a long-gone simpler time in computer history. I do play
with my own VIC-20 quite a bit, and its hard not to be drawn in by it.
It was designed to be a game-playing computer, and it does this well.
My own VIC-20's were obtained through my arrangment with the Austin
Good Will Computerworks.
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