Friday, November 6, 2009

I Adore My 64, And So Must Everyone Else

Though the Apple ][ scored the #1 slot, the Commodore 64 did not even make it onto the PC World 25 Greatest Computers of All Time list at all (it, along with the PET, made it onto the "near greatest" list in favor of barely innovative, and (except the iMac) marginally culturally significant computers like the Alienware, Shuttle, Sony, and Apple iMac boxes on the list).

This is preposterous. The C64 sold 17 million units, making it the best selling model of personal computer of all time. In its heyday, it had between 30% and 40% of PC market share.

The C64 essentially defined a generation of computing, becoming a major force in popularizing hobbyist programming and PC gaming (many programmers I meet who are my age or older either owned a 64 at some point, or hacked on them in school -- even some who were primarily Apple ][ or Atari 800 hackers).

It defined a generation in part because it was the first computer that was truly affordable yet as good or better than its more expensive contemporaries. Families like mine couldn't afford $1200-3000 Apple ][s or even $1000 Atari 800s, but the initially $600 Commodore 64 dropped to $400 a year after its release, making it truly a people's computer. That alone is a major accomplishment in the history of computing, worthy of note (unless you think only rich people contributed to the history of computing).

And even though the Apple ][ and Atari 800 had sound and color graphics, it was really the C64 that was accepted as the the first prominent consumer/small business proto-multimedia-workstation. It was used extensively on TV especially for low budget chargen apps, helped define and popularize the demo scene, and the SID chip is still coveted today by electronic musicians.

Furthermore, only the Amiga, Apple ][, and Atari 800 machines can even compare to it in terms of long-term user loyalty. Many people still use C64s today, either the real hardware, or emulators to run beloved old games (and rediscover one's own early programming projects).

Personally, I think the C64 should have been #1 on that list. Objectively, it should have at least been in the top 10 -- not an also-ran.


hatsumi said...

Wow, that IS sacrilege. I absolutely ADORED my C64. It belonged to my whole family, but my sister almost never got to use it. I just wouldn't share...