WANT: Commodore VIC-20

By / Life / August 27th, 2013 / 11

During the gaming crash of 1977, when the market was flooded with Pong wannabes, Commodore had just completed the development of a new computer chip called the Video Interface Card, or VIC for short. Unfortunately, the gaming market was on a down slide and no one was interested in the chip. So what did Commodore do?

They built a computer around it.

The Commodore VIC-20 operated similar to a gaming console. It connected to a monitor or a television, had cartridge and tape program compatibility, and boasted a keyboard and joystick, and had 22 bits of colour –all for under $300. In fact, it was the first colour computer to be available for that price; and it was also the first to sell one million units, beating the Apple II computer.

The VIC opened the door for the KIM1 – the world’s first single board computer; and the PET – the world’s first complete computer. It was the building block for many of today’s programmers. The unit introduced its users to BASIC programming and machine languages. Several magazines sold type-in programs – programs that you would enter into your computer which would create code for a new game.

These types of programs were especially useful on the Commodore VIC-20 because it only had 3.5K of RAM. Boggles the mind a bit when you compare it to today’s gigs of RAM.

When the VIC-20 was first introduced, it was a marvel for its affordable price and colour, even if the characters did look like blobs of colour on the screen. It is part of computer history that is worth cherishing and taking out every once and while to reminisce about the good ol’ days.


A freelance writer and editor, Lisa Hoekstra loves learning and trying new things. She can be found with her nose in a book or multiple tabs open on her browser as she researches the latest and greatest in the world of food, style and everything in between.

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