Monday, December 14, 2009

Remembering the VIC-20

Does anyone else remember the VIC-20? Am I dreaming? Did this $299 consumer appliance (the first "personal computer" to ship a million units) really transform people's lives? Or just mine?

I wonder if William Shatner remembers being in this ad?

Commodore's computer-in-a-keyboard, you may recall, came with a grand total of 5 KB of RAM (enough to run the operating system and leave 3583 bytes left over for you, the discerning consumer, to play with). Fear not, though: RAM was expandable up to 40 KB with an add-on memory cartridge.

Does anyone else recall logging onto CompuServe with a 300-baud modem, using the VIC-20 wired to a TV as a monitor? Or am I showing my age?

On second thought, don't answer that.


  1. I had one - it blew up while playing 'Quasmiodo' =(

  2. Anonymous6:17 PM

    I bought one for my Dad for Father's Day when they first came out. I remember him writing a game and showing it to me - took 10 minutes to load off the cassette tape...happy days...

  3. The VIC-20 is where I first learned how to program. My dad had one, and I would go to the public library and check out books with source listings included, methodically typing them in and then saving them to tape.

    There are parts of VIC basic that are still burned in my mind; for example, POKE 36879 would change the foreground and background colours on the screen by putting values into the video registers. Good times.

  4. Anonymous8:32 PM

    The vic-20 changed the course of my life forever. My father bought me one when I was 10 years old, and I haven't looked back since.

  5. Anonymous8:42 PM

    It was 1981 when my dad had to prop up his IT-Skillz (at Unilever, managing icecream production) - so he bought a used set of a VC-20 (german production), the tape device, a b/w-TV set and a Seikosha GP100 printer. The beginning of me being a geek. I should have gone beyond simple BASIC stuff but I used it mainly to play games and type in games out of magazines: Spent nights typing in Data, and then debugging it, pages after pages. Also: There was a very small trading scene in place, mainly face to face, on the schoolyard or at a store where some guy worked. I still have it stored away, it probably works.

  6. Anonymous9:10 PM

    My first computer too, never been the same...

  7. I started out with a Commodore CBM-8032, with 32 kilobytes of RAM (30k usable for BASIC programs) and a luxurious 80x25 green-on-black screen. No graphics, only a beepy oscillator for sound, but I managed to have fun.

    I looked at the VIC, but the tiny memory made it unattractive. I bought a Commodore 64 with my own money when I was about 14, and that was better. SuperForth64 was my language of choice, and I made it zing!

    Of course, eventually I got caught up by PC-compatibles and now I'm stuck in Windows and Linux, and I could run a Vic20 emulator like VICE ( in less memory than it takes to load Twitter... if I had the time.

    Ah, memories...

  8. I loved the VIC-20 for the games - stuff like Amok!, Artillery Duel, Radar Rat Race, Raid on Fort Knox, and Cosmic Cruncher. But it's also where I learned some basic programming concepts like variables, FOR loops, and GOTO, when I was 9 or 10 years old.

    By the time I was old enough to really understand what I was doing, the Commodore systems were way out of date, so I never learned POKE or any of that stuff, but the VIC-20 is definitely what got me started.

  9. A second hand VIC-20 was my first computer. After learning some basics on it I tried to type in a program that was really intended for the Commodore 64 and similar, and ran out of memory half way through typing it in.

    After that I upgraded to an Amstrad CPC464, on which I learned BASIC, Assembly Language, BCPL, COBOL, and C.

  10. Rustee5:58 AM

    Ahh Jupiter Lander..Good Times..

  11. I got a VIC-20 back in '83 or so. It was the first computer that I ever owned, and it was on there in the simple Commodore BASIC that I learned to program. Games, mostly. I'm still coding today, but not BASIC games unfortunately!

  12. Mike Lewis7:40 AM

    It certainly transformed mine. In 1984, I wrote a bulletin board program on my Vic-20 with public and private rooms (message areas), private mail and an online game, all in 9.6K of BASIC.

    I wanted to start working as a programmer and I had this fantasy that I would write a program so good that someone would hire me. Which is what happened. One of my users said "Anyone who can write a bulletin board for a Vic-20 can program!" and gave me a job.

  13. Anonymous7:57 AM

    I remember going to some computer camp, where we had nothing but cassette drives hooked up to store BASIC programs. Some of my superiors were already fluent in the POKE and PEEK commands. I think I was younger than all the others, but that didn't slow me down one BIT! Thanks Mom and Dad. Bet you didn't know at the time this would become a life time career for me. :)

  14. This version got me into gaming! Bubble Bubble is forever burned into my memory :D But I'm too young to have actually coded much on it. Started that on PC in QBasic.

  15. My First computer was amazing, really have fond memories of the Vic. POKE 36879,8 ;-)

  16. Anonymous10:19 AM

    just adding my 2 cents. The vic-20 was my first adventures in computers and programming. I still program professionally and as a hobby today almost 30 years later

  17. That's outstanding lol I remember having one of these but I only thought of it as a video game machine. I never really looked at it as a "computer".

    I think it's a bit funny that the one computer didn't allow upper and lower case letters lol, we've come a long ways.

  18. Anonymous3:14 PM

    yep. that was such a fun machine to learn to program on. in the name of screwing around to paint cool pictures on the screen, that thing inadvertently taught me about bitmaps, thinking in binary, and introductory assembly on the 6502 :)

  19. @Mike Lewis:

    Same thing happened here! Though, while I started on the VIC-20, I actually ran my BBS later on a C64, so I had more than a tidge more wiggle room than you did. ;)

  20. I loved the VIC20. Wrote many code for it in Basic and assembly. Ended up with 72Kb of memory which I could address by hardware switches. Sort of multitasking.
    Still have 3 (non-working) VIC20's stored on my attic ;-)

  21. I loved the VIC-20.....This is very helpful for ever one.
    Thanks VIC-20.

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  22. 10 PRINT "ciao"
    20 GOTO 10

    My entrance in the Programming World!

    Grazie VIC20!

  23. I loved mine so much, I had so much fun with it! I think it did change my life, although I didn't become a programmer, I still program for fun. I still have it, in a cupboard in the garage.


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