Happy Birthday Commodore!

Thirty years ago I was seriously itching to get into the brave new world of personal computers. No longer content with commandeering terminals at the local college, no doubt keeping actual college students from getting work done, I pored over catalogs from Radio Shack, Sinclair, Apple, and Commodore. I put together dream systems with not one, but two (!) floppy drives, and in my wilder moments, a 5MB hard drive. And I wouldn’t just run the embedded BASIC (bleah!) but prove my real abilities as a budding computer nerd and run CP/M.

Apple IIs were around, my mother even had a TRS-80 Color Computer my parents had bought when she went back to school, and I couldn’t get my mitts on my own computer fast enough. It took me a good year to save up the $595 to get my own Commodore 64 when they came out. Initially I had to settle for a cassette tape drive to store and load data and programs (zzzz….), but gradually expanded my system to include the 1541 floppy drive and 1702 color monitor. I’d hit the big time!

I had a lot of fun with my Commodore 64, writing lengthy BASIC programs and tinkering with FORTH (though I never did really get to run CP/M or any other “real” operating system until I graduated to the IBM PC). I wrote programs in 6510 assembly language, ported a favorite Star Trek game from the college time-share system, used VisiCalc, played games, even used dialup online services like Dow Jones News/Retrieval (at 300 baud), and reached a pretty solid “intermediate” on the computer nerd scale. Then I graduated from college, went to work in a non-computer related (except to use them) occupation, and have been gradually left behind by younger, nerdier people.

Thirty years later I still consider myself an advanced user, but as a computer enthusiast, the Commodore 64 was really when I hit my peak. Looking over that last sentence it seems kind of sad, doesn’t it? It isn’t really, because, like a lot of people, I simply moved on to other things.

I wonder if I still have that old 64 in the attic somewhere….?

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