Robert Hampton

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20th January 2013

Game, Gazette and Match

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am something of a fan of the Commodore 64 8-bit computer.

The C64 was an all-round home computer with a wealth of productivity software – at least, it was in America; in the UK it always seemed to be primarily marketed as a games machine. There was also an active hobbyist computing scene, with many people trying their hands at writing their own programs using the built-in BASIC.

For reasons too dreary to go into here, I have been researching C64-related matters and have stumbled across the wealth of old computing magazines available on – including the magazine which was considered something of a bible for US Commodore users: COMPUTE!’s Gazette.

COMPUTE!'s Gazette

Thanks to the Internet Archive’s diligence, the entire collection of the Gazette is now online. It’s a fascinating time capsule giving an insight into the US computer industry, as it stood in the early 1980s.

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6th August 2012


Commodore 64An icon of computer geekery turns 30 in August. No, not me (that’s next month). I’m talking about one of the most popular home computers ever built – the Commodore 64.

The late 1970s and early 1980s were the time when computers finally moved out of university laboratories and corporate payroll systems and into people’s homes, as computer manufacturers – including Apple and Atari – introduced the first generation of microcomputers. These small self-contained systems could be connected to a TV set, giving Joe Public a window into the world of computing, in a limited fashion. By 1980 the Apple II and Atari 400 were well-established, although with a price tag of circa $1,000 they were still rich people’s toys.

Commodore were, perhaps, slightly late to the party – their earlier computers, the PET series, were mainly used in small businesses and schools. That policy changed in 1981 with the advent of Commodore’s first machine targeted squarely at home users, the VIC-20. Its capabilities were limited even by the standards of the time: only 5K of RAM and 176×184 screen resolution, meaning some very chunky graphics. However, at $300 it was substantially cheaper than its rivals and in its first year on sale it sold over 1 million units. This was partly thanks to a memorable TV ad campaign featuring William Shatner, who implored parents to buy this proper computer for their kids instead of a mere video game.

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