A Nostalgic Look At What A 13 Year Old Can Do With A C64

[Armin] recently pulled out his Commodore 64 and looked back on the projects he did as a kid. The surprising thing is that we’re not talking quite as far in the past as you might image. He was 13 in 2002 and the family didn’t have a PC. But more than a decade before his father had purchased a C64 and [Armin] dug into the manual to teach himself how to code. This week he connected the old hardware to his video capture card to give us a demonstration on what he accomplished.

He had seen Windows 95 at the local computer club and figured why not program a clone of the software for the machine at hand? He called it Windows 105 (because that number is higher than 95) and worked out ways to mimic programs like DOS, Corel Draw, Notepad, and some of the programs from Microsoft Office. They didn’t include all the functionality of the real thing, but the look was there.

The story does have a happy ending. [Armin’s] parents saw what he was doing and managed to pick up a PC for him to play with. Now he’s a professional programmer looking back on the formative years that got him there. We’ve embedded one of his demo videos after the break for your enjoyment.

41 thoughts on “A Nostalgic Look At What A 13 Year Old Can Do With A C64

  1. Damn! This reminded me at times you have nothing and make really use of what you have on hand.

    Reminds me moments back in 2000 when i was 7 and wanting a Windows 98 computer and i had modified the case of an IBM AT to look like the standing cases of the computers of that time.

    Not the same creative but that’s what it reminded me.

    1. IKR – Sometimes making do with what you have can help you appreciate things so much more. I remember sleeping on the top bunk with my desk stashed where the lower bunk would have been. Using a coffee table on the desk as a shelf because I needed a shelf and had nowhere to put the table. :p

      Every young person should spend some time working a bad job, struggle to pay the rent, choose between keeping the lights on and eating – even if it is only for a little while. It makes it so much easier to appreciate the things you have, when you have had to do without. (Not to mention gaining an appreciation for those who work such jobs. I will never look down upon janitors – I’ve done the work and it might suck but it’s better than begging.)

    1. I have Commodore 64 tapes with games which were recorded in 1984, and I can still get most of them to work, although they’re stored in Turbo Tape format. These are “special” Computer Cassettes (just a Type I tape with 10 Minutes play time), but I still prefer disks. Btw. these also work with 30 year old data on them.

  2. I have twin daughters who turn 4 very shortly. They’re both big geeks like their mom & dad, so like good Geek Parents, we’ve squirrelled away a bunch of old 8 bit machines for their 5th birthday. We’ve got a Commodore 128, Apple IIe and Apple Iic – all in perfect working order.

    The best way to *really* learn about technology is to tinker with the good stuff :-)

    1. I did not have a commodore in my young days, but a cannon msx 2 at age 8-9, which I used to learn BASIC and that made me the geek I am today. I spent a lot of time randomly playing with PEEK and POKE, but I had no clue at what was assembly and Z80. My parents knew zero in computer science so they could not help me.

      some years laters however I played a lot with my TI92+, we made some windows-style “operating systems” in basic, and later I learned 68k asm by reading documents and searching on the internet. This was the introduction to my embedded carreer!

  3. Boy this makes me feel old. I started programming a C64 when it was released. Bought it because the Timex/ Sinclair 1000 was too small to get the AP module working at the same time as the General Ledger module that I had written for it, so I switched to the C64 and was able to run all the modules at the same time. Great machine.

  4. I was so spoiled – my first computer was an Atari ST series… but I did have some old AT and TRS-80s afterwards.

    I finished High School in the 21st century taking notes and writing essays on my Tandy 102 “laptop”

    I especially enjoyed the looks I got when I had to transfer data to diskette on my AA powered serial port disk drive.

  5. Me & a buddy did something similar in DOS about a year before Win 95 came out. We didn’t have the cool Hierarchical menu system though. We had a series of button pads. Really primitive but it had about the same fit and finish. We figured we were programming gods about that time ; )

  6. I did something similar on my TI-83 when I was 12 in TI-BASIC. My family shared a Pentium III machine at the time, though. The calculator was just more appealing to program on because I could use it for as long as I wanted and it was portable.

      1. Oh, I had a TI99/4A as well and a Sharp PC1251 (pocket Computer) that I practiced my Basic chops on but the computer that got me started was Netronics, Cosmac Elf II. I learned machine language bare metal programming on that machine, all 256 bytes of it, LOL. Wish I still had it.

    1. For the “I remember” threads, I learned on punch cards on a CDC something or other. My first “computer” had discrete transistors (it was just a bunch of homemade gates that you patch corded together and “programmed” with toggle switches), and I still have a DOS/W3.1 machine running an old piece of material testing equipment in the lab (plus a backup for when it finally dies).

  7. ahh windows 95… i remember being inspired by it to create a custom case for my Tandy RSX 1000 back in the day. The case was constructed out of wood with an aluminum grounding plate for the motherboard and standoffs and made to look like windows 95’s illegal operations error window complete with scroll-bar and text. I wish I had taken pictures to remember it by.

  8. I’m really happy to see this. I can certainly relate, I learned how to program in a Philips VG8081 (MSX) using the user manual, I believe I was also around 13 years old. At the time my friends had Pentium computers with windows 95 while I had this MSX Basic my uncle gave me.
    Programming sprites in the MSX was a pain in the ass, I never managed to do it when I was younger. Though I did program a lot of other things, including command prompts and some (text based) games. Yikes! I better digitize my old tapes before my programs are lost!

    Would’t trade my MSX for anything!

  9. The proudest moment of my life was when…around 10 years of age…I got my C64 printer to print graphics.
    Normaly it could just do text, but by using peek and poke it was possible to dynamicaly assign custom characters 1 8×8 area of pixels at time.
    Took half hour or so to print anything, and there was lines missing due to a hardware based underline on the printer, but still, I got lovely spiralgraph paturns out of it :)

  10. [shrug] sometimes comments make me feel a bit older. As a younger adult I learned BASIC, Knowledge that was not useful to me, until the Vic 20 showed up. But as an adult I didn’t have the free time to work with it as the kiddies that had them did. Not I can’t appreciate the effort put forth and don’t enjoy these articles. I can’t wax nostalgic over the machines.

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