Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Podcast: Ready (Blinking Cursor)

with 4 comments


This week Fred is joined by two special guests: EZ Mode Unlocked hostess Dana (@canadiandana) and listener Xenocore to discuss the illustrious Commodore 64, the only microcomputer to truly catch on the United States. After a few stories of everyone’s introduction to the C64 they go on to discuss the development, history, and of course mountain of innovative and unique titles available for computer/console hybrid.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 2, 2013 at 11:00 am

Posted in podcast

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4 Responses

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  1. I hate to be critical, because it’s great that you’re covering ancient relics such as the C64; but the first 30 minutes were brutal… so many inaccuracies, it was painful to listen to. Even the description is off… the Apple II and Atari 8-bit series “caught on” quite well in the US. Not as popular as the C64, but both sold millions of units stateside – the Apple II line in particular was ubiquitous in schools throughout the 80s.
    I realize you guys are a few years younger than I, and don’t have as much first hand experience (much like if I tried to talk about the Altair 8800); but if you’re going to talk about “gaming history,” it would be a good idea to at least get the facts lined up before you start the ‘cast, or get a guest who is more knowledgeable about the topic to help.
    I enjoy what you do, but this episode just needed some extra pre-planning.


    June 2, 2014 at 10:42 am

    • Please do not apologize for being critical. While I do concede that this is not an aggressive historical data site (which is why I warn readers that while the facts are typically researched, lack of citation disqualifies its use as a reference material in my eyes). At the same time, I spend 4-10 hours a week carefully researching our shows, pulling data, and making sure that broad distinctions like the ones in this particular episode are based on fact. Not only that, but I keep track of my notes and research references. I need to get home and dig into the notes/ref archives for that show, but I assure you there will be a response on this blog and on the official show. It’s not about the age, I feel confident talking about items that came before me provided I have done appropriate research to support my claims. Please bring up further issues with me as I take these concerns very seriously and will always address them. Stay tuned!


      June 2, 2014 at 11:02 am

    • Alright, I’m going to present my information for you and feel free to contact me to hash this out if you see further issue, but here’s my official response. I re-listened to the entire episode and I get where you’re coming from. First and foremost I was covering the C64 as stated because myself, my guest, and the listener who phoned in all played it and not the others. At the same time, I do state that the Apple II and Atari 400/800 series never really caught on, which to my eyes is true give several researched factors. First, the Atari 400/800 line did not continue nor did the Apple II line (Apple’s big break is well documented as the Macintosh although I will concede that it was based off lessons learned during the II line). Since both Apple and Atari were pretty secretive about sales, heck no one was able to even confirm how many ETs were actually buried, it’s a bit of speculation but the final numbers paint a clear picture: Citation isn’t great but at 17 million conservatively vs. the 5 million of the Apple II vs the 2 million of the Atari line, Commodore very clearly had market dominance during this era. The reason I say Apple IIs never “caught on” was because IBM came in and buried all of these computers, C64 included, in the mid-late 80s, however the Macintosh, introduced in 1984 and with a much longer ongoing lifespan, hit it big. Granted, this was the best source I could get at the time for comparing sales. I also contest, but I didn’t get into it much here, that the Apple II plus, which is truly the closest comparison to the C64, was in no way as popular as the much more expensive educational brother the Apple IIe, and thus not really comparable. Either way, I did make a mistake when I claimed the Apple couldn’t hook up to a TV, the II Plus had RCA out and I was more thinking of the IIe.

      Additionally, I site tons of product research, engineers, and even retail prices for the Atari, Apples, and C64, all of which seem completely accurate and took a chunk of time to research, so I’m somewhat surprised you are claiming that I was winging it based on experience for all of that data. If there’s something you felt was inaccurate in the pricing or history of the C64 I would appreciate receiving that to fix those inaccuracies. As for the market comparisons, pricing, hardware comparisons, and various other things I relied heavily on the cited page here: as well as Wikipedia and several other sources for pricing. I would also point out that this writer, who is clearly an Apple fans, concedes in his writings that Apple wasn’t quite there yet.

      On a side note, and I hope you don’t take offense to this, but is this really about factual data inaccuracies or were you more frustrated that I seemed to dismiss the Apple and Atari computers? To claim that Apple’s II line (especially the Plus), Atari’s 400/800 computers, and the C64, as well as a whole slew of microcomputers is more of a semantic debate than that of quality. It’s like trying to argue console wars today or which Android phone is better, it’s subjective. Since I had no strong experience with the 400/800 or II (save for some games with the IIe and a neighbor’s few sessions with adventure games) there was little nostalgia for me to offer, which was the focus of the show. I didn’t mean to come off as those are not valid, just that I had no basis for comparison of games, all I had was the facts I was able to find in research. I extensively prepared for this show, as with most GH101 episodes (especially recently), so I would really appreciate more specificity in the facts that were incorrect because I do want to do better. I appreciate you as a listener and don’t want to lose you, but if I get facts or numbers wrong I need to know specifically what I let slide and not a nebulous term like whether or not a computer “caught on”.


      June 2, 2014 at 1:39 pm

  2. On Fred’s unsubstanciated claim of the disk drive later plugging into the cartridge port:
    Commodore never did that in their entire lifetime, however in the UK there was a company by the name of TIB who created a 3.5″ disk drive for the C64 that would plug into the cartridge port and would load games in at around 10KB per second (so a game that used all of the C64’s memory would load in 6-7 seconds, and smaller games that used less memory would load even quicker), and by using the cartridge port could boot straight from the disk on power up. It was released in 1991, but due to discovered technical bugs in the hardware it was recalled almost straight after, with a re-release planned for the second half of 1992, but it was never re-released and TIB went out of business soon afterward.

    Zzap!64 feature of the TIB drive:

    Video of a TIB drive being used on a Commodore 64GS (a C64 based console):

    (This was not the only 3.5″ drisk drive for the C64 – Commodore themselves released the 1581, a 3.5″ drive in the mid 80s that used double density disks with a storage capacity of 800KB, and US company CMD released two 3.5″ drives in the mid 90s – the FD2000 used high desnsity disks with 1.6MB capacity (I had one of these back in the day), and the FD4000 used the new (for the time) enhanced density disks with 3.2MB capacity. CMD also released Hard Drives with a mamximum capacity of 4GB, as well as RAM expansions of up to 16MB and a 20mHz accelerator for the C64 too. Note all these disk drives, even the Hard Drives, all plugged into the standard serial port; the RAM expansions and accelerator plugged into the cartridge port. wikipedia page for CMD )

    And on the subject of game conversions, you should take a look at the C64 port of Lemmings, which had the distinction of being the last commercial C64 game ever released in April 1994 (I bought a disk copy direct from Psygnosis), which, considering the limitations of the host machine is an astounding conversion.
    Zzap!64 review:

    Sparky Kestrel

    September 30, 2018 at 11:10 pm

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