It’s probably hard to imagine your life without some sort of computer, whether it be a desktop, laptop, or even a tablet. That’s today though. Before all the computers we have today came about, there was a revolutionary home computer that actually made in-home computers the norm: The Commodore 64.
There are tons of cool things you can do with a Commodore 64, and we’ve got 9 of the coolest- like gaming, making music, analyzing sports, making visual art, and even working on astronomy. We’ve researched 9 of the cool things you can do with a Commodore 64 so that you can get in on the action of the revolutionary 80’s home computer like so many others have done.
We’ll walk you through a brief history of the Commodore 64, let you know some of the basic things you could do with a Commodore 64 back in the 80’s, explain some of the coolest things you can do with a Commodore 64, and even let you know how to get your hands on your own Commodore 64.
All About What You Can Do With a Commodore 64
There are tons of things you can do with a Commodore 64, and we’re going to walk you through 5 of them. First, we’ll make sure you are a pro on the Commodore 64 by letting you know what it is, why it was so revolutionary, and basic things it can do.
What’s a Commodore 64?
The Commodore 64 is an 8-bit home computer that was released by Commodore International in 1982. Back in 1982, it was sold for around $595.00. Today, that much money is the equivalent to about $1,545.00.
There were over 10,000 software titles created to be compatible with the Commodore 64, which led to the home computer being able to process development tools, office applications, word processors, and games. The Commodore 64 is still commonly used today by many computer lovers and hobbyists, with high satisfaction ratings.
Why the Commodore 64 Was So Revolutionary
The Commodore 64 was a revolutionary computer that dominated the markets for most of the 1980’s. It’s been compared to the Ford Model T for its role in bringing an accessible computer to middle-class households. The Commodore 64 really normalized the in-home computer for the middle-class world.
The Commodore 64 has actually been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest-selling computer model of all time. Commodore 64s were sold in department stores rather than electronics stores, and the home computers could be plugged into home televisions directly without any modifications; these are considered to be large factors in the Commodore 64’s success.
In the 1980’s, the Commodore 64 outsold big name competitors we still recognize today, like Apple, IBM, and the Atari family of computers. The Commodore 64 features 64 kilobytes of memory, which may not seem like much now, but was a large feat in the 1980’s. It also featured a sophisticated sound chip – something that wasn’t commonly seen at the time.
The simplicity and versatility of the Commodore 64 were perhaps two of the biggest pros of the computer. Programming on the home computer was simple, as users didn’t have to access the processor directly. Users could learn the basic programming of the Commodore 64 and make it however they pleased. With the Commodore 64, users could truly feel like the sky was the limit.
Easy access, reasonable pricing, large memory, access to thousands of programs and software, and versatility all aided in making the Commodore 64 as revolutionary as it was.
Some of the Basic Things Commodore 64s Can Do
Back in 1984, a book called 1001 Things to Do With Your Commodore 64 was published. This book outlined some of the (many) things the Commodore 64 was capable of doing – little to no modifications needed.
This book was a guide for those who were using the Commodore 64 right as and after it came out, and details some of the basic functions a Commodore 64 is capable of. Before we get into some of the really cool things you can do with a Commodore 64, let’s take a look at some of the other things.
Different Types of Applications You Can Use on the Commodore 64
The Commodore 64 can accommodate all kinds of applications – from basic letter writing to complex engineering applications. Some of the types of applications that can be used on a Commodore 64 are:
- Everyday applications
- Business and financial applications
- Technical and scientific applications
- Mathematical and statistical applications
- Educational applications
- Hobby applications
- Game applications
- Other miscellaneous applications
Examples of Some of the Applications on the Commodore 64
You’ve seen some of the categories of applications the Commodore 64 can accommodate, but let’s walk through some of the uses these applications actually have.
The Commodore 64 most likely has a use for just about everyone. It can be used to write letters and complete other word processing tasks. It can also index a library, or it can even act as a private information storehouse. Commodore 64 users can also use it as a telephone dialer and answering machine, a basic calculator, and even a recipe index.
Business and Financial Applications
The Commodore 64 can run business and financial applications that can do personal accounting, business accounting, act as a cash register, track finances, and investments, and track stocks and bonds among a ton of others.
Technical and Scientific Applications
The Commodore 64 can even be used to run engineering applications, solve technical and scientific equations, and forecast the weather.
Mathematical and Statistical Applications
Using the Commodore 64 for mathematics and statistics is no problem either. The computer can be used as a sophisticated calculator to solve mathematical and statistical equations and problems.
The Commodore 64 comes equipped with programs that can assist in education too. You can create educational simulations and formulas, use the Commodore 64 as a tutor, and use drill programs for learning and memorizing.
9 Cool Things You Can Do With a Commodore 64
Now you know that Commodore 64’s can be used to do just about anything – is it a wonder why it’s the highest-selling single computer in the world? While you can use a Commodore 64 to do a lot of basic things like calculations, letter writing, and indexing, you can also do some other really cool things with it. We’ll walk you through what these things are and how to do them yourself.
Cool Thing #1: Play Games
It’s no secret at all that the Commodore 64 could be used to play (literally) thousands of games, and this early home computer is still used to play games today. Commodore 64 games most often come in the form of disks.
How to Play Games on a Commodore 64
Unlike some other computers of the time, the Commodore 64 doesn’t automatically boot its game disks – that’s up to the user. For those who aren’t familiar with Commodore 64s, playing games may be a little tricky at first.
To play a game on a Commodore 64, you need to make sure to have your Commodore and your desired game. Connect your Commodore 64 to the television and connecting disk drives, then plug in the machine to the power supply. In-depth instructions on how to do so the best way can be found here.
Next, power on your machine and insert your game disk. It is recommended not to turn your Commodore 64 on or off while a disk is inserted so that data isn’t overwritten. You’ll need to use a command to load your game disk: LOAD “*”,8,1. Then it’s time to play!
Popular Commodore 64 Games
You may be wondering what types of games you can play on a Commodore 64. There’s no shortage of them, and a lot of them are still available to get your hands on today! Here are some of the most popular beloved Commodore 64 games:
- Wasteland – a post-apocalyptic role player game
- Jumpman – the popular classic game almost everyone had
- Bruce Lee – one of the first fighter/jumping combination games
- Summer Games – a game where the player gets to be an Olympian
- Karateka – a martial arts game praised for its fluidity of motion
- Ultima IV – a hack and slash fantasy game
- Zork – an early text-based game
Many Commodore 64 games can be found on sites like Amazon, Mercari, eBay.
Cool Thing #2: Make Music
Yep, you can actually make music with a Commodore 64, and it can be pretty good, too. The Commodore 64 had a unique music engine for its time, with a sophisticated sound chip, or SID. The Commodore 64’s sound chip is technically a three-voice synthesizer module, meaning three different sounds can be played at the same time.
The sounds can be one different note or three completely different sounds. Various effects can be applied to the sounds to alter them and their combinations, and they can even be further contoured.
With all its different uses and capabilities, the sound chip in the Commodore 64 (SID) can really be called an instrument with. There was even an entire music culture that evolved from the sounds that could be produced by the Commodore 64’s SID: chiptune.
How to Make Music With a Commodore 64
Making music with a Commodore 64 isn’t exactly simple or easy for beginners, but it can definitely be rewarding.
To get started, you’ll need a little more than just your Commodore 64 and a monitor. You’ll also need an emulator, a tracker like SID-Wizard 1.0, a little knowledge of basic synthesizer technology, and some basic knowledge of getting the software on to a Commodore 64.
Once you’ve got what you need, you can check out this guide for more information, or seek out some other guides of your own to get to making some beats of your own.
Cool Thing #3: Work on Astronomy
We’ve all looked up into the sky at night and wondered how things work up there. But have you ever thought you could use a Commodore 64 to get some answers? Using a Commodore 64, you can actually work on astronomy.
Using a Commodore 64, you can make records of your astronomical observations for quick retrieval. You can also interconvert astronomical units into other units; think of calculating how far away something is in light-years, parsecs or kilometers. Additionally, you can calculate and plot the orbits of planets and satellites using your Commodore 64. How cool is that?
The book 1001 Things to Do With Your Commodore 64can show you how to work on your astronomy with your 80’s home computer.
Cool Thing #4: Analyze Sports
The Commodore 64 is a great tool for any kind of analytics, and sports are no exception! Avid sports fans can use the Commodore 64 to compile, graph, and analyze sports and player statistics.
When it comes to sports and the Commodore 64, you can also use probability forecasting based on scores, point spreads and past sports performances to see how your favorite teams or players may match up with opponents in the future.
You can also use your Commodore 64 with a compatible program to produce elapsed-time computations or to make a stopwatch. There are a lot of options to play with!
Cool Thing #5: Create Visual Art
There’s no shortage of visual art that can be created on a Commodore 64. Using programs and mathematical equations, you can create the following types of visual art on your Commodore 64:
- Random art patterns
- Three-dimensional visuals
- Anamorphic art
- Crossword poetry
- Textile patterns
Commodore 64s can also alter designs that have already been created. The options are just about limitless! Want to print out the art you’ve created? You can also use a printer that’s compatible with the Commodore 64 to print any and all of your designs. We’ll discuss compatible printers later on.
Cool Thing #6: Do Your Personal Accounting
Sure, we’ve got bank apps and personal finance apps and all that good stuff today. But how cool would it be to give your personal accounting a whirl on a Commodore 64? A personal AP/AR program in the Commodore 64 can handle most, if not all, your personal accounting needs (if you so desire).
You can check and maintain the balances of your checking and savings accounts, and you can also use a budgeting program to make sure you’re on track with your earning and spending. It doesn’t stop there, though – you can make estimates for upcoming timeframes, print month-to-date figures, and you can even prepare your income tax forms!
Cool Thing #7: Make Your Decisions – Literally
Wait – a Commodore 64 can help me make decisions? It really can, and it’s actually pretty simple. In the Universal Decision Making Program in the Commodore 64, you first enter a list of the factors involved in making a decision.
Next, the computer asks you to rate the “relative importance” of each factor involved in making the decision. Then, for each possible outcome of the decision, you need to rate the favorability of each factor.
The computer will analyze the results and come up with an outcome of the most favorable decisions. The most favorable decision will have the highest score. There you have your choice!
Cool Thing #8: Calculate Your Blood Alcohol Content
This thing may not be for everyone, and it’s a pretty slim chance that you’ll have your Commodore 64 around to calculate your blood alcohol content when it might really matter. Either way, it’s still pretty cool that a computer from the 1980s can accomplish this feat fairly easily.
If you’re at home having a drink or two and you’re curious about what your blood alcohol content might be, you can get on your Commodore 64 to find out.
You can calculate your BAC on a Commodore 64 by using the Blood Alcohol Content Program (yep, it’s a thing!). The program plugs in factors like the ounces of drink(s) consumed, your body weight, and the proof of the alcohol into an equation to give you your blood alcohol content.
Cool Thing #9: Have Your Own Personal Computer Tutor
Students and learners everywhere, this one is for you. Your Commodore 64 can become your own personal computer tutor (say that five times fast).
The computer can help you study and essentially be your own tutor by using programs to create home quizzes for you to study, make flashcards, and make lists for optimum studying and memorizing.
How to Get Your Hands on Your Very Own Commodore 64
Now you know about all the great and cool things you can do with a Commodore 64 – but what if you don’t already have one? How can you get your hands on one of your own? With the power of the internet and online shopping, it’s pretty easy to get a Commodore 64 these days.
You Can Get Different Types of Commodore 64s
Oddly enough, there are actually a few different kinds of Commodore 64s you can get today. There’s the classic Commodore 64 from the 80’s, as well as a new Commodore 64 that was released in 2017 called the C64 Mini. Now, there’s even another new Commodore 64 that’s been announced!
Features, price, and availability may be some factors in your decision when trying to determine which Commodore 64 you want to get (or maybe you could just borrow someone else’s to use that decision-making program for you).
To help you figure out which Commodore 64 might be the right one for you, we’ve got a few examples of Commodore 64s for sale, how much they are, and where to get them.
Where to Get the Classic Commodore 64
You can get a used classic Commodore 64 on eBay for prices that vary from around $75.00 to around $149.95. There are plenty of options, too – so you can shop around and find the classic Commodore 64 that suits you.
Mercari also has a classic Commodore 64 listed with some additional components for $137.00 plus $35.00 shipping.
You may also be able to find Commodore 64s in person by going to any vintage stores or vintage computer stores. Thrift and secondhand stores may also give you luck! Other online shopping areas like Facebook Marketplace may also have Commodore 64s for sale.
Where to Get the C64 Mini
The C64 Mini was released in 2017 as a reboot of the classic Commodore 64. The C64 Mini is just like it sounds: it’s a small version of the original! Since it was recently released, it’s fairly easy to buy and for relatively low prices.
Amazon has a C64 Mini for sale for $39.98 plus free one-day shipping for Amazon Prime members. The C64 Mini can also be found at other major retailers like Walmart, Game Stop, Chickadee Solutions, and eBay. We told you these guys are everywhere!
Where to Get the New Commodore 64
The new Commodore 64 is said to be full-size, much like that of its original predecessor from the ’80s. The new Commodore 64, simply called the C64, will be released in December 2019 at a price of around $119.00. Even though you can’t get your hands on it just yet, be on the lookout for it right before Christmas time!
We imagine that once it’s released, you can buy the new C64 online at large retailers like Amazon and Walmart, and in-person at other large retailers like Game Stop.
Peripherals: Other Commodore 64 Accessories and Add Ons You Can Buy
While really all you need to work a Commodore 64 is the console itself and a television or monitor to plug it into, many people have chosen to buy other accessories and add ons to broaden the scope of what their Commodore 64s can do.
These add ons and additional accessories are often called peripherals. Peripherals can range from small things like floppy disks to large things like Commodore monitor screens.
Add Ons for Storage
Like we talked about briefly before, the Commodore 64 has 64 kilobytes of storage. While that seems minuscule by today’s means, it was quite a lot back when the Commodore 64 was released.
Either way, your Commodore 64 may need some extra storage, or you may wish to put some things on external storages. To add more storage to your Commodore 64, you can purchase a tape drive like a Commodore Datasette, a floppy disk like a Commodore 1541 Floppy Drive, or an external hard drive.
Add Ons for Inputs and Outputs
Input and output peripherals for the Commodore 64 either allow something to be put on/into the Commodore 64, or for something to come out of the Commodore 64. Think of a printer, for example – that’s output.
Speaking of printers, several of them are compatible with the Commodore 64; some are made by Commodore and some are made by other companies. This comes in extremely useful for those who use their Commodore 64 for things other than gaming, like making art, writing letters and documents, and educational or business purposes.
Like we talked about, the Commodore 64 was pretty great for gaming. So, naturally, you can get joystick controllers for the Commodore 64 to make games even better. Commodore also produced a few models of a computer mouse to be used with the unit.
Add Ons for Music and Synthesizing
Music synthesizing was hugely popular with the Commodore 64 when it was in its prime, and it’s still around today. So, of course, there were products made to aid with music production and synthesizing on the Commodore 64.
You can find peripherals like MIDI editing and mixing software, sequencers, assemblers, and notators to help make the music and synthesizing process on the Commodore 64 that much more fun.
There are also some hardware peripherals for the music-making side of the Commodore 64, like a plug-in synthesizer and keyboard, the Commodulator oscillator wheel, and various MIDI cartridges.
Monitor Add Ons
Although you technically don’t need one to use your Commodore 64, Commodore offers several options for monitors for the Commodore 64. First came the Commodore 1701 and the Commodore 1702: 13-inch color monitors that perform eloquently with the Commodore 64.
Next are the other monitors: the Commodore 1802 and the Commodore 1902. The 1802 even features a green screen mode, and the 1902 can be compatible with some IBM computers.
If you want a monitor you can use solely with your Commodore 64 (no more fighting over the TV) or if you want a monitor that’s exceptionally compatible with your Commodore 64, then the Commodore 1701, 1702, 1802 or 1902 might be for you!