Commodore machines are well-loved around here, but usually when you think Commodore, you think about the Commodore 64, or maybe the PET or Amiga. But the Commodore 64 had an older sister, the VIC 20. This was the first computer to sell a million units and has a lot in common with its better-known successor. The machine was only made for a few years, and [Dubious Engineering] has been restoring one over a few videos. In the video below, he opens it up for a look inside, among other things.
If you want to get straight to the opening, you’ll need to fast forward about 5 and a half minutes. The keyboard pulls off and a nice old-fashioned set of cables made from individual wires connect to the skinny main board with all the smarts on it. No ribbon cables or flex PCBs!
It is interesting to see the design choices made back in the 1980s. The caps lock key, for example, is an actual latching key that mechanically maintains its position. There are two ROM chips, one for the system software and one for Basic. Two RAM chips give you a whopping 5K of read/write memory.
A $300 computer in those days would be about the same as an $800 computer today. You still needed a monitor or a TV and a cassette recorder. Meanwhile the memory could be expanded somewhat but the display was stuck at 176×184 and your choice of 8 colors.
The VIC20 might not have been the most influential computer of its day. But it was a clear stepping stone from the PET to the very influential Commodore 64. It was nice to see one running again.
The machine in this video looks a lot better than the last one we saw restored. Our own [Bil Herd] was part of the Commodore story and he appears in the documentary of that name which is well worth watching.