New OS For Commodore 64 Adds Modern Features

The Commodore 64 was a revolutionary computer for its day and age. After four decades, though, it gets harder and harder to use these computers for anything more than educational or hobby electronics projects. [Gregory Nacu] is fiercly determined to challenge this idea, though, and has gone to great extremes to make this hardware still relevant in the modern age by writing a completely new operating system for the Commodore machines.

Known as C64OS, it squeezes everything it can out of the 8 bit processor and 64 kB of memory. The new OS includes switchable desktop workspaces, a windowing system, draggable icons, a Mac-style menu bar at the top, and drop-down menus for the icons (known as aliases in the demonstrations). The filesystem is largely revamped as well and enables a more modern directory system to be used. There are still some limitations like a screen resolution of 320×200 pixels and a fixed color palette which only allows for a handful of colors, but this OS might give Windows 3.1 a run for its money.

The project is still being actively developed but it has come a long way into a fairly usable state. It can be run on original hardware as well as long as you have a method of getting the image to the antique machine somehow. If not, the OS can likely run on any number of C64 emulators we’ve featured in the past.

Thanks to [Stephen] for the tip!

43 thoughts on “New OS For Commodore 64 Adds Modern Features

  1. “but this OS might give Windows 3.1 a run for its money.”

    Hah! Not until there’s a clone of dBFast, Visual Basic, Fox Pro, Turbo Pascal or Delphi for it! 😁
    Oh, and a MOD/SID player application..

        1. There definitely were version 1.0 and 2.0 of Windows.

          Version 1.0 had a tiled UI, you could not overlap windows of the different applications, that was basically a “split the main window” type of display.

          Version 2.0 added the type of windowing we are used to.

    1. I am fairly certain that Turbo Pascal was available for the C64. I had it on the C128 and used it for college. There were several other programming languages as well, including Forth, Fortran Versions of C and numerous versions of Basic. Visual Basic programs are of course too much of a memory hog. A simple Hello World program would use all the RAM. There are definitely SID player programs.

  2. Why wouldn’t you start with GEOS? That is what I used as a kid to write all my school papers. It had a word like app, paint program, folders, drag and drop, could get different fonts, etc..

    1. I don’t know how well you remember it, but GEOS had huge amounts of overhead. This made it extremely slow, it may load times very slow, too. While I haven’t played with C64OS, one thing that’s obvious is that by using the native character map abilities, it’s going to be lightning fast compared to GEOS. WYSIWYG definitely has its benefits, but it’s easy to forget how much it costs on these lower spec 8-bit systems. I think not going the GEOS route is probably a clever route to the fast lane, in terms of performance and memory usage.

    2. I was wondering when someone would mention GEOS. It impressive considering what they had to available at the time. I was a member of a team developing an app to run under GEOS. I was impressed when Berkley Softworks was ready to ship on the date they promised us. Other opportunities changed our direction or I would have had a fun time trying to fit our code in the few bytes remaining. 😵‍💫

      I still have a C128 in my work area and I think this conversation has encouraged me to find my GEOS software and install it. I bet I could fool some my younger friends believing a story about an Apple version of the Commodore.

      1. OS9 only ran on the 6809, until later. Motorola asked Microware to make a Basic that took advantage of the 6809, the result was BASIC09. But then Microware continued, creating OS9.

        OS9 saw use on high end SWTP and Gimix systems. But if Radio Shack hadn’t offered OS9 ata good price, and the CoCo to run it, OS9 would be obscure. And then Radio Shack offered the CoCo III, that could run Level 2, and offered Level 2 at a decent price. Even included Basic08, which had been about the price of OS9 before. No assembler, but the one from Level 1 worked fine

        1. OS-9 ran on STD bus and the EXORbus as well as SS-50/SS-50C; for consumer computers, there was also the Dragon, the Fujitsu FM-7 and FM-77, and the SuperPET (and others I can’t remember). Later on you could run OS-9/68000 on the Sharp X68000.

        2. OS-9 Obscure? Not well know outside the embedded world maybe. Like James Jones noted, it ran on STD bus, EXORbus, VME bus and a lot more. It was ROMable so no disk needed. I have several 68K systems and 6809 systems that run OS-9 (and OS9-68K for later systems).

    1. I can’t believe people still remember FoxPro (visual FoxPro). That takes me back, built the entire back bone of many (large) hospital databases with FoxPro. Wonderful rdms that just couldn’t be beat at the time. If you knew c and sql at the time, the wasn’t a business program that you couldn’t create with fox.

      Shame that MS bought, then gutted it to add to access.

    1. First thing I thought of too! GEOS was pretty amazing for the time, even worked with RAM expanders. of course concepts like a better file system and networking weren’t on the radar at that point. would GEOS have evolved into something more like this given more time?

  3. Windows 3.1 did not run in 64KB of RAM, on a 1MHz 8-bit CPU. So, it is high praise indeed if anyone thinks it is analogous to that. However, in my experience, one should avoid direct comparisons to non-C64 platforms. The question about its value compared to GEOS for the C64 is well placed. And hopefully, if you are familiar with actually using GEOS, you’ll see that C64 OS aims to address and solve very different problems than GEOS aimed at.

    Unfortunately the video linked in this article is over a year old. There is a second, more recent, video demonstration that I gave to Commodore Users Europe in June 2022. Check YouTube for that one to get a more up to date picture of where C64 OS is today, and what v1.0 release (coming this Summer 2022) will include.

  4. ah commodore. I remember my 8k PET. Typing in programs and saving to tape drive. My sophmore year, while on a work study program over the summer for school, a teacher and I repaired 15 PETs for classroom use out of a total of 21 donated. Very helpful in understanding physics, electronics and computer hardware. The next year we learned commodore basic and 6502/6520 assembly. A great learning platform. Professor, don’t touch the charged capacitor. ;)

  5. Where can you get this? I don’t see a way to download it on their site, unless you want to purchase a copy of it, which you can’t do yet because it’s still under development. Do you just have to wait until it’s finished?

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