How To Connect A Commodore 64 To The Internet

The Commodore 64 is an 8-bit home computer system that was released in 1982. But would a person want to use this 8-bit computer that was invented by Commodore International get on the Internet today?

How do you connect a Commodore 64 to the Internet?

  1.  Hyperlink 2.5e- This is a web browser that works with both the Commodore 64 and the Commodore 128. The browser will display JPG, GIF, and TIFF images as well as the standard HTML 1.0 colors and forms.
  2. Lantronix USD-10- To make the Commodore be able to go online, you will need a device that will connect to the commodore serial port. This device will convert Ethernet to serial communications. This device has full TCP/IP support and it can be administered through a Web browser on a remote machine. There is a newer version of it that is called the UDS1100. This supports speeds that are up to 100Mbps.
  3. Contiki Operating system- Another way that you can connect to the Internet using a Commodore 64, is by using Contiki. Contiki is an operating system for the Commodore and other machines that will allow you to get modern features, like the Internet, on old 8-bit computers.

The computer is listed in The Guinness World Records as the highest-selling computer model in history. It is estimated that since its initial release in 1982, a total of 17 million units were sold worldwide. And people actually use the old computer today.

Can The Commodore 64 Get Online

So can an old Commodore 64 computer get online? Absolutely, yes it can. In the 1980s, the Commodore 64 was used to run bulletin board systems that used software packages such as Blue Board, Bizarre 64, C-Net, Color 64, CMBBS, DMBBS, C-Bass, Image BBS, EBBS, and The Deadlock Deluxe Construction Kit. These boards were sometimes used to distribute cracked software.

As of December 2013, there were 25 of these Bulletin Board Systems in operation. They were reachable via the Telnet protocol. There were major commercial online services, such as Compunet, CompuServe, The Source, and Minitel. These services required custom software. This software was often bundled with a modem and it included free online time.

Q-Link was an online service for the Commodore 64 that operated from November 5, 1985, to November 1, 1994, in the United States and Canada. This online service was operated by Quantum Computer Services in Virginia. In October 1991, they changed their name to America Online.

The History Of The Commodore 64

When the Commodore 64 came out in 1982, it had a retail price of $595 US dollars, today that same computer would have a retail price of $1,145 Us dollars. The Commodore 64 got its name because of the 64 Kilobytes of RAM it had. In today’s world, with today’s technology, that is not a lot of RAM.

Today’s cheapest cellphone is more powerful than the Commodore 64 computer. Today’s iPhones have 250 Gigabytes of memory. Just one Gigabyte is equal to 1,000,000 Kilobytes. But that didn’t stop the Commodore 64 from outselling IBM and Apple in the 1980s.

Part of the Commodores’ success was because the Commodore 64 was sold in regular retail stores. The new computer wasn’t just limited to electronic and computer hobby shops. The Commodore company created many of the computer’s parts in-house to help control the cost of manufacturing.

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The computer was often referred to as the Model T of the computer world because Commodore was able to introduce new technology to middle-class households everywhere. Just like the old automobile company did. And computer users everywhere couldn’t be happier.

 The Commodore Family

There have been many additions to the Commodore family over the years. Some of these additions were good, and some just didn’t work out. But the Commodore company kept creating these new computers.

  • The Commodore Max Machine was released in Japan in 1982. The Max was called the Ultimax in the United States and the VC-10 in Germany. Max was intended to be a gaming system that had very little computing capabilities. Because of its poor sales in Japan, the Computer was discontinued just a few months after its release.
  • The Commodore Educator 64 was released in 1983. This was meant to go up against the Apple 2 and hopefully dominate the education market. Teachers preferred the Apple 2, so the Educator was produced in limited quantities.
  • The SX-64 was also released in 1983. The SX was created to be the portable version of the Commodore 64. The SX was crafted with a color CRT and a 1541 floppy disk drive.
  • The Commodore C128 was released in 1985. Two designers working at Commodore wanted to create a computer that would outdo the previous 64. The C128 had 80-column display ability, and full CP/M compatibility.
  • The Commodore 64 Games System was released in 1990. This new system was a C64 repackaged as a gaming system. A modification was done to the C64 so that cartridges could be inserted into the top of the system. This new Commodore product was produced to go against Nintendo, but it failed to compete in sales.
  • The Commodore 65 was released in 1990. Although it was just an 8-bit computer, it was capable of displaying 256 colors on the screen. This new system was canceled in 1991. The company never gave a reason for this cancelation.

As of 2008, there have been many C64 enthusiasts that still develop new hardware. Such hardware includes ethernet cards, flashcard interfaces, and specially adapted hard discs. There were several Commodore 64 games released for the Nintendo Wii but were removed in 2013 for unknown reasons.

Gaming On The Commodore

One of the biggest character-based interactive environment game that was released for the Commodore 64 was Club Caribe. The game was first released as Habitat in 1988. Club Caribe was created by LucasArts for Q-Link customers to play on their Commodore 64 computers. Players could interact with each other in the game, exchange items, and even chat with each other.

 Even tho the game’s open-world was very basic, its use of online avatars and the combination of chat and graphics were revolutionary for the time. In the late 1980s, online graphics were very restricted by the need to support modem data transfer rates that were as low as 300 bits per second. Habitat’s graphics were stored locally on a floppy disk, so that eliminated the need for network transfer.

The C64 Accessories

  1. The DE-9- The C64 continued to use the DE-9 Atari joystick port from the VIC-20 and added a second one. Any Atari game controller can be used with the commodore. It is also possible to use Sega gamepads with the Commodore 64. It is not recommended tho because the slightly different signal generated by the controllers can damage the CIA chip.
  2. Game Paddles- The Atari game paddles are compatible with the C64 but have different resistance values than the Commodore’s paddles. This means that most software will not work properly with them. However, only a handful of games that were released early in the computer’s life cycle can use gaming paddles.
  3. Computer Mouse- In 1986 the Commodore Company released two mice for the C64 and C128. They were the 1350 and 1351. The 1350 mouse is a digital device, read from the joystick registers (and can be used with any program supporting joystick input. The 1351 mouse, that Commodore released is a true mouse. It read with the SID’s analog-to-digital converter.
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Graphics For The Commodore

So what do we know about the graphics for the Commodore 64? The C64s resolution is 320 x 200 pixels, consisting of a 40 x 25 grid of 8 x 8 character blocks. The C64 also has 255 predefined character blocks, a version of ASCII called PETSCII. This character set can be copied into RAM and altered by a programmer.

  • The VIC-II– The graphics chip used for the Commodore 64 is called the VIC-II. It features 16 different colors, eight hardware sprites per scanline. It enables up to 112 sprites per screen, scrolling capabilities, and two bitmap graphics modes. The standard text mode for this chip features 40 columns, like most Commodore models.
  • The KERNAL ROM– makes the VIC-II have a dark blue background and a light blue text and border. Unlike the PET and VIC-20 models, the C64 uses a double-width text. Most screenshots show borders around the screen. This is a feature of the VIC-II chip.

The C64 has a bitmapped screen that makes it possible to draw each pixel individually. This, however, is very slow. Many developers used techniques made for previous non-bitmapped systems, like the Commodore Pet and TRS-80. A developer draws the character set again and the video processor fills the screen block by block from the top left corner to the bottom right corner.

Animation Used With The C64

There are two different types of animation that are used with the Commodore 64. First is character block animation and the second is hardware sprites.

  • Character Block Animation- A good way to explain character block animation is you draw a series of pictures of a man walking. Two in the middle of the block, and another two that are walking in and out of the block. If you sequence them so the character walks into the block and then back out again. If you draw a series of these and you will have a man walking across the screen. If you time the redraw to occur when the television screen blanks out to restart drawing the screen, there won’t be a flicker. The Commodore 64 has registers which record when flyback occurs. This is the same technique that was used in the classic Space Invaders arcade game.
  • Hardware Sprites-The second animation is Hardware sprites. A sprite is a movable character that moves over an area of the screen, draws over the background and then redraws it after it runs. On the Commodore 64, the VIC II video processor handles most of the legwork in hardware sprites. The developer defines the sprite and where they want it to go.

The C64 has two different types of sprites, respecting their color mode limitations. Hires sprites have one color, and multicolor sprites have three. Color modes can be split or windowed on a single screen. Sprites can be 2x in size vertically and horizontally, up to 4x the size. There can be 8 sprites in total and 8 in a horizontal line. Sprites can move with glassy smoothness in front of and behind screen characters and other sprites.

The Commodore 64 Motherboard

In 1986, Commodore released the last revision to its C64 motherboard. It was basically identical to the 1984 design, except for the two 64 kilobits × 4 bit DRAM chips that replaced the original eight 64 kilobits × 1-bit ICs. After the release of the Commodore 64C, MOS Technology began to reconfigure the original C64’s chipset to use HMOS production technology. The main benefit of using HMOS was that it required less power to drive the IC, which generated less heat. This enhanced the reliability of the SID and VIC-II. The new chipset was renumbered to 85xx to reflect the change to HMOS.

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In 1987, Commodore released a 64C variant with a highly redesigned motherboard commonly known as the shortboard. This new board used the new HMOS chipset, featuring a new 64-pin PLA chip. The new SuperPLA, as it was dubbed, integrated many discrete components and TTL chips. In the last revision of the 64C motherboard, the 2114 color RAM was integrated into the SuperPLA.

The Commodore 64 Power Supply

  1. Eternal Power Supply- The C64 used an external power supply, a conventional transformer with multiple tappings. It was encased in an epoxy resin gel. The design saved space within the computer’s case and allowed international versions to be more quickly created. The 1541-II and 1581 disk drives, along with a ton third-party copies, also came with their very own external power supply bricks.
  2. 5-Pin Connector- The original PSU included in early 1982-83 machines had a 5-pin connector that could accidentally be plugged into the video output of the computer. To prevent the player from making an error, Commodore changed its plug design on 250407 motherboards.
  3. 3-Pin Connector– They changed it to a 3-pin connector in 1984. Commodore changed the design yet again, omitting the resin gel in order to reduce costs. The follow-up model, the Commodore 128, used a larger, more improved power supply that included a fuse. The power supply that came with the Commodore REU was nearly identical to that of the Commodore 128’s unit, providing a boost for customers who purchased it.

Commodore power supplies often failed before they were expected to. The computers reportedly had a 30% return rate in 1983, compared to the 5-7% the industry considered acceptable. Creative Computing reported 4 working devices out of seven C64s. Power bricks that messed up were usually notorious for issues with the RAM chips. They were created with CMOS process rather than NMOS. Due to their higher density, they had less give for an overvoltage condition.

Goodbye To The Commodore 64

They always say that all good things have to eventually come to an end. Well, this is exactly what happed to the Commodore 64. In the United States, the high demand for an 8-bit and a 16-bit computer came to a screeching halt. With the 90s came the want for a change, for a better, faster computer. PC compatibles dominated the computer market.

The Commodore 64 however, continued to be very popular in European countries. The once famous computers’ demise wasn’t because of the cost of the entire computer itself, or a lack of demand for the product. It was because of the cost of producing the disc drive.

In March of 1994, at CeBIT located in Hanover, Germany Commodore announced that the C64 would be sadly finally discontinued. And only one month later in April of 1994, the once-powerful company filed for bankruptcy. It has been said that there were between 18 and 22 million Commodore 64 computers sold worldwide.

Company sales records, however, indicate that the total number was around 12.5 million. Based on that figure, the Commodore 64 computer was still the third most popular computing platform in the 21st century. That was until the Raspberry Pi family finally replaced it.

 While only 360,000 C64s were sold in 1982, about 1.3 million were sold in 1983, followed by a major spike in 1984 when 2.6 million were sold. After that, Commodore sales held steady at between 1.3 and 1.6 million a year for the remainder of the decade and then dropped off after 1989. North American sales peaked between 1983 and 1985 and gradually tapered off afterward, while European sales remained quite strong into the early 1990s.

There are a lot of people that still own and actually use the Commodore 64 computer today. And not only do they use it, but they connect it to the internet. It is said that the vintage computer has even sent out a tweet from twitter. Maybe the old computer will live on forever.