Love Letter To Commodore 64 Ads Takes Us Down Memory Lane

Original Commodore 64 ad

If you shop, you can get a pretty nice laptop for around $595. Maybe not the top of the line, but still pretty nice with multiple cores, a large hard drive, and a big color screen. But in the 1980s, the Commodore 64 bragged that for $595, they’d give you more than anyone else at twice the price. After all, 64K of RAM! Graphics with 16 whole colors! [Lunduke] dug up a bunch of these ads and has some thoughts on them and we really enjoyed the trip down memory lane.

If you look at other contemporary computers, they did cost more although sometimes it wasn’t a fair comparison. The TRS80 III, for example, cost $999 with 16K of RAM but it also had its own monitor — not color, though.

It is amazing to think that we’ve gone from where 16K was a reasonable amount of RAM in a personal computer to where it isn’t even worth having a flash drive with that capacity. We also can’t help but note that while computing power per dollar is through the roof now, computers aren’t actually that much more fun. We enjoyed interfacing a teletype to our 1802 ELF and working out a 300 baud modem for our TRS-80. Sure, we didn’t have Skyrim or HD movies, but we still have fun.

If you want to relive these exciting days, it is easy enough to build your own C64 with varying degrees of fidelity. It is trivial to emulate the thing on any kind of modern hardware, too.

22 thoughts on “Love Letter To Commodore 64 Ads Takes Us Down Memory Lane

  1. Yes, back then we were doing thing never done before at home.

    The nice thing was the price of the C64 fell fairly quickly, as I think my first one was $299, and its replacement was $199. My second one was running GEOS, and used a joystick instead of a mouse for controlling my GUI. Unfortunately I spent most of the 80’s overseas so I never got to use the 300 baud Vicmodem.

    Later my single-floppy Laser Compact XT cost $1200 (1989) though that also included a printer and monitor

    Through the mid-90’s I was content to have cast-off computers (286’s became dirt cheap once 386’s came out) and used Surplus Software to get earlier version of cool programs (they later became Egghead if I recall correctly).

    Now I primarily use my computer to argue with strangers on websites like Quora.

    Good times!

    1. I had the 1351 mouse for GEOS, as well as a 1581 3.5″floppy drive, having that much space was almost as good as a hard drive. It was pretty funny that my 8-bit 64K computer was more useable than the 286’s at school with 10 times as much memory running Windows 3.0.

      That situation also repeated itself around several years later when I was still using a 7MHz 68000-based Amiga in the mid 90’s and got a shiny new P90 with 4MB of RAM running Windows 95 at work.

  2. “We also can’t help but note that while computing power per dollar is through the roof now, computers aren’t actually that much more fun”

    Considerably more complex, and while that can be “fun” to a degree. It can also be overwhelming and tiring.

    1. I tend to agree. Back on the ‘DOS’ and ‘CPM’ days we still could write a document, fill in a spreadsheet, have a local database. Same as today… You could play games (in 8 or 16 colors) that were a lot of ‘clean fun’ without all the gory details of today’s supposedly ‘fun’ games. Applications were really fun to write which just had to run at the command prompt (single user). There were bulletin boards to communicate with others of like interests. I really enjoyed programming those days with especially Turbo Pascal and Turbo C. Still enjoy programming today (hey, it is part of my day job too as a CS major), but much more complex process in general especially when GUI programming, web-programming and all the multi’s to account for.

      We can’t go back of course, as the genie is out of the bottle, and the general public expectations are quite different now-a-days. . But good memories!

      Never had a C64, but a friend did. We used one in our electronics lab also at college. My first ‘home’ computer was a DEC Rainbow.

  3. I did all of that 35 to 40 years ago. It was something to do, and reflected the primitive computing. I have no desire to go back.

    But nobody needs to learn assembly language now, or hand assemble. Or do hardware, some of that was because there were no other choices. C compilers are way faster, one can still do the small steps that build into large steps that I did on my KIM-1 in 1979.

    Most people didn’t experience it, but then most people didn’t want to. They waited till there were things to use the computers for, and more waited till it was all easy. We create this illusion, “everyone has computers” and they live their tech, but it’s akin to using a telephone fufty years ago.

    Forty years ago, I wanted Unix. And the last computer I bought, in 2016, was infinitely better than the OSI Superboard I bought in November 1981, and cost less. I’ve run Linux for 20 years, simply because I can.

  4. “we’ve gone from where 16K was a reasonable amount of RAM in a personal computer to where it isn’t even worth having a flash drive with that capacity”

    Not a flash drive, but 16 kB is a typical amount of memory in many NFC tags, car keys and credit card chips. And I use them much more often than flash drives.

  5. Back in 1982 I got my C-64 and it was a very early model. A good friend of mine asked me , “what do you need 64k for?” When I got my Amiga and heard about the 68020 and how 32 bit cpus could address four gigabytes of ram I figured that was more than enough for anything I would do. Now RAM, CPU, and mass storage is so cheap it is just mind numbing.

    1. When I first got my Amiga after growing your with a VIC-20 and C-64, I couldn’t understand why I deeded megabytes of memory. By 1991, my A-500 got a 20MB SCSI HDD upgrade and I thought I was a superhero.

      1. To think, that the 64 was as successful as it was, with that terrible disk interface! Just imagine if they had pushed the release date 6 months and fixed that goof with the serial bus, so thing would load faster than cassettes

  6. Brings back great memories. The C-64 was my college computer, replacing the TI-99/4A. Great system for the time. Then came my Amiga 500. And finally I had to give in and go to a machine running this new thing called Windows 3.1. but I miss a lot about the c64, especially games like Impossible Mission, and the ease of programming and basic or assembly. I still have my book mapping the commodore 64, which goes through every memory address and what it does. Might be time to pull that out and take another look at it. Thanks for the reminder

    1. About thirty years ago, someone gave me a box of stuff. An Intel 8085 development board. And a Processor Technology 16K RAM board, for the S-100 bus. Completely useless at that point, though I suppose valuable to somebody nowadays. I looked in old ads,cI think it was about $600 when it came out. I vaguely recall it was the first dynamic ram board that worked, and much denser than static ram.

  7. I cut my teeth on the Commodore 64. My dad bought it when I was around 10 years old and he told me it was not a toy and I was not to touch it. After interrupting his football game on Sunday three times, he said, “Son, any time you want to play the guess number game we saved on the datasette (cassette tape) here is how you do it..” He and I both went to the local commodore user’s group meetings and I learned about BBS’. (I am 49 now.) ANYway… I ended up writing my own BBS software and terminal program which I ran for a while. I wrote my own software to hack MCI and Sprint before AT&T was deregulated so that I could call all the 0 day warez sites in California and download games. I went to college and majored in hospitality management but computers were always my passion. I was fortunate enough to end up working in IT which I have now for over 25 years. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the Commodore 64. My 83 year old father to this day says that buying this machine was the best thing he ever did for me. I concur!

  8. In 1987, when I was 10 years old, my father bought a 2nd hand CZ1000, and after a while, a brand new Drean C64C. (The PAL/N Argentine version.). Later, he bought a 2nd hand 1541. Computer prices were really high in Argentina during ’80s, however, he put his effort on buying this. He is now 71, and still loves technology! (Because of C64, I love and fortunately work in IT since then) 👍👍👍

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