Thirty years ago, the bestselling home computer of all time – the Commodore 64 – hit the market. We look at the now and the then of home computers.
Back in the day: The Commodore 64
Size: Comparing modern computers to the building-sized proto-computers of yore is a bit like comparing factory machinery to the food processor in your kitchen. In fact, home computers were always compact. The Commodore 64 was basically a keyboard with a processor inside, weighing in at just under 2kg.
Power: The ‘64’ referred to its 64kb of RAM. Its processor offered a single MHz. Your washer and dryer possess chips thousands of times more powerful, but men had been put on the moon with far, far less.
Uses: Home computers generally exceeded business and research models in graphics capabilities, belying the importance of games to their appeal. The Commodore 64 could do anything you wanted – just slowly, and one thing at a time. Cost and difficulty of printing and low capacity of storage put practical limits on some uses.
Cost: $595 of your 1980s dollars. Pricey, but not unobtainable. The cost was about equivalent to ten pairs of Nike Air trainers.
Popularity: 17 million sold. Few pieces of technology can have been more popular.
Today: The modern PC
Size: Take your pick: a tablet, hardback-sized netbook, traditional laptop, micro-sized desktop or an immense gaming tower. “Sizes to suit all tastes” is the mantra of modern PC design.
Power: More than most people need. Specs will be tailored to each model’s audience – high-spec gaming machines or stripped-down laptops where battery life is all important. Again, computers have come to fill every niche.
Uses: They do everything. Actually, most of what they do, we couldn’t do without them.
Cost: Anything from around $500 to upwards of $3000 or more for high end gaming machines.
Popularity: More than popular, it’s a necessity. Lacking a PC or not knowing how to use one is the new illiteracy.
The Commodore 64 is separated from today’s computers by 30 years. Moore’s Law observes that computing power more or less doubles every two years. That increase in power has gone hand in hand with the development of the internet, reminding us that, while games remain a significant part of all computer usage, most of that 30,000-fold increase in technological power… has gone on naked ladies, Facebook and pictures of kittens.
Oh, and for those of you still reminiscing about your old Commodore 64, check this out: