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Looking Back At the Commodore 64

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the blast-from-the-past dept.

Hardware 263

An anonymous reader writes "It's the 30th anniversary of the Commodore 64 this week — news that has made more than a few gaming enthusiasts feel their age. This story looks back at some of the peculiarities that made the machine so special — a true mass-market computer well into the era where a computer in every home was a novelty idea, not a near reality."

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It was the computer for us commoner kids (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595110)

It may be hard for kids today to believe, but there was a time when home computers were WAY out of the price range of anyone below the HIGH upper middle class. In the early 80's, I had a friend whose dad was a yuppie who actually had an Apple II. All the kids used to go over to his house and marvel at Zork and all the neat stuff it could do. But it was a $2000 computer, and that was in early-80's dollars too (that would be about $5000 today). As much as we marveled at it, we all knew that one of those amazing machines would never sit in our homes.

So when the VIC-20 and Commodore 64 came out right about that time, it was like a godsend to those of us whose parents worked for a living. $200 for a computer that could do almost as much as that fancy $2000 Apple?!? Suddenly computers and programming didn't just seem like something for the yuppie kids, it was within reach of all of us. And the Commodores even came with BASIC built in (my Apple-user friend had to load his from a disc).

And you could get free games by typing them in from magazines! You could learn to do you own graphics by learning peeks and pokes. It's because of my Commodore 64 that I first made the connection between programming and mathematics (wait, I can draw this line a lot easier using a simple equation!). It's how I learned the importance of an if...then conditional.

10 Print " It's where I learned that even us nobodies could one day grow up to be computer programmers."
20 Goto 10

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (0)

TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595258)

We were poor, so my first computer was a Sinclair ZX-81. It gave up the ghost (actually it was ruined in the rain when my wife put my things in the front yard when she divorced me!) so I got a VIC-20. My God, what a piece of crap. I took it back. Like you, what I really wanted was an Apple ][. But yeah, my friends with Commie 64's sure did love 'em.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (4, Informative)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595294)

The problem with the VIC-20 was that paltry 5k of memory. The Commodore 64 became dominant because of that 64k, which put it on par with the big boys (and for a fraction the cost).

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (1)

TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595502)

I can't remember precisely and I'm too lazy to look it up, but of that 5K I think only about half was actually available-- my Sinclair had 2K, all of which was available & with a more powerful BASIC. That and the 16x32 screen. The 64 was a quantum leap over the 20.

3.5k was available for RAM in the Vic-20 (1)

KatchooNJ (173554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595922)

Yes, it was marketed as having 5k, but only 3.5k was actually available as RAM, since the other 1.5k was used for video processing. I still own a Vic-20 and it didn't take long for me to get the 16k expansion cartridge to make the thing far more usable. Eventually, I got a C64, which was an awesome step-up. I still own that one, as well! :-D

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595794)

Pretty sure the vic-II and SID had something to do with it as well man. :P

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (1)

PhotoJim (813785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596282)

Actually, with enough RAM a VIC-20 is a pretty fun machine. There is a fellow in Montreal that makes 32K expanders for them that are pretty cheap so you can have a 37K VIC-20 and geek out to your heart's content. The simple architecture makes it relatively easy to program.

The C64 can do a lot more, but added a lot of complexity. The higher video resolution was definitely a plus, though.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (1)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596818)

We were poor, so my first computer was a Sinclair ZX-81. It gave up the ghost (actually it was ruined in the rain when my wife put my things in the front yard when she divorced me!

My (ex) wife stabbed mine with a Philips screwdriver in a fit of rage. She took out an expensive calculator that way too, just before an exam.

I loved my ZX81. I wrote an assembler/disassembler in machine code (of course) It rewrote itself by flipping bits in subroutines as it ran.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595270)

"And the Commodores even came with BASIC built in (my Apple-user friend had to load his from a disc)."

With the Apple II machine's I've used, you could press at boot time and get a PBASIC prompt.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595842)

"And the Commodores even came with BASIC built in (my Apple-user friend had to load his from a disc)."

With the Apple II machine's I've used, you could press at boot time and get a PBASIC prompt.

Not being intuitive his pal did not know how to do this.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595272)

I had to wait for the Amiga, by which time programming was somewhat deprecated. You didn't get a programming environment when you turned the computer on without media any more. I did have a C= 16 before that, but I had no storage device. Typical christmas present from my dad, at least it was a step up from a card with McDonald's gift certificates in it. What an idiot.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595620)

you should learn to be more appreciative. An Amiga was an expensive piece of hardware.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596410)

you should learn to be more appreciative. An Amiga was an expensive piece of hardware.

I didn't get the Amiga from my father, who was busy drinking up every cent he ever got. I got it from a friend of my mother's who was fairly wealthy due to some work with Bausch & Lomb. He probably would have been happy to buy me a much nicer computer than the $600 Amiga 500 for which I will be eternally grateful on all levels. Paired with a hand-me-down BSR "Phone Modem" 1200 it got me into the world of BBSing, which in turn led to the internet. It also got me into hardware; I externalized my keyboard, I installed a socket-based 68020 accelerator and suffered with it, I upgraded to a 1MB agnus. I eventually had A2000, A2500, A3000, still have an A1200 but I don't switch it on. I don't know what would have become of me had I not snuck into the scruz geek scene when I did, but I imagine I'd be even more poorly socialized than I am now. ;)

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595780)

"What an idiot."

The apple didn't fall far from the tree...

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (1)

Zeromous (668365) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595836)

This doesn't totally seem true. Amiga 1500 had a shell I could write code on out of the box. I wrote many an obscene program at the K-Mart when I was younger and the NES was busy.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (1)

Alan Shutko (5101) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596168)

Well, if you turned on the Amiga without media, all you got was a screen saying to insert a disk. But if you did load workbench, you might have gotten a programming environment. Amiga's included Amiga Basic through Amiga OS 1.3, which was pretty equivalent to Mac Basic. I remember sharing programs with a friend who had a Mac. You're absolutely right that it was less discoverable than the C=64. You had to find it, it wasn't in your face.

As of Amiga OS 2.0, Amiga Basic went away. ARexx was there, which was great at tying programs together but not the same standalone programming environment. Eventually, AMOS took the mindshare away, but it was a separate product you needed to get.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596874)

It's not like the Amiga didn't come with it. As a home computer, that was really innovative; business-class computers of the time booted from magnetic media, not ROM and so they were infinitely updatable. The 8-bit computers? Not so much.

So you had to boot up your kickstart and workbench floppy and then you could program in AmigaBASIC or install your assembler of choice if you wished to program in assembly. It was a whole lot better than the C=64, the 8-bit Ataris, and so on; the OS was upgradable, something you simply did not have in home computers of the time, and it is something we take for granted today. What we have today was unimaginable then. Just think - the iPhone or Android phone in your pocket has hundreds or even thousands of times more processing power, RAM, and storage than home computers or even mainframes or supercomputers of the 1980s, and even these modern wonders feature upgradable software. (now, as far as whether or not your smartphone manufacturer actually delivers software updates is a different matter).

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595278)

We thought we had broke ours the first time we turned it on without a cartridge in it. Green screen with nothing on it. Wait! We can TYPE on this thing? Wow.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595318)

i thought the II was about $1200 back then, and the C64 about half that.

still a big difference tho. commodore knew how to build cheap and reliable all right.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595398)

The Commodore 64 was NOT $200 when it came out. It was more like $595.00 -- The Vic-20 was something like $299.00 when it came out. Apple ][ systems weren't $2000.00. The Apple I was $666.00 famously, and I think the Apple ][ started at $1298.00 though if you added drives and Apple's memory you could easily get it up to $2000 and more. Most of us added our own RAM bought mail order which was MUCH cheaper than Apple's or Radio Shack's pricing. And it wasn't long before third parties sold disk drive systems cheaper as well.

I Bought a TRS-80 Model I in 1979 for under $1000.00 including a cassette recorder, games, Line Filter, and books.

I'm sure others will correct my pricing if I am wrong.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595566)

When I got my VIC-20, it was down to $200 (seem to recall that my dad paid about $300 for my C-64 a couple of years later). But my memory could be wrong. My friend definitely claimed that his dad had spent $2000 on his Apple II. Not sure what the configuration was (he could have been bragging a bit).

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (1)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596082)

I doubt that you bought a C64 in the eighties.

I'm from France.
Back in 1982, when I wanted to buy a computer, I checked all the prices, and the Commodore 64 was very expensive (5000 francs, which is $1000).
The TRS80 was even more expensive: 6000 francs, or $1200.
Atari and TI99/4A were expensive too.
At that time, I bought a TI58C, and it cost me 600 francs, or $120.

Two computers were available at a much lower price: ZX Spectrum and Oric, at 2000 francs, or $300. I bought an Oric, since the Spectrum was late, and american computers were outrageously expensive.
My next computer was an Atari 520 ST in 1986, and it cost me 7000 francs, or $1300.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596672)

I certainly didn't buy one in France at those crazy prices.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38596804)

I started renting an IMSAI 8080 sharing the cost with four friends (one wee each), we paid about 200 francs or 40$ a month each, this was a pretty good deal in 1980 much faster than the old IBM360 we where supposed to use.
We had 2 8" floppy disk with 241K (I think) of storage, 32K of main memory and a Z80 !
The "printer" was a polaroid camera (our professor gave us extra point on ingenuity :-)), the cost of the "paper" was outrageous, but a real printer was way to expensive (and not avaiable as a rental)

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (1)

tmarsh86 (896458) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596024)

Prices for the Commodore 64 came down pretty quickly, IIRC. There's no way I would have gotten my C64 for $595 and I got it Christmas of '82. Might have been a price drop and a sale to put it around $300 or so.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (1)

danlip (737336) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595510)

The Apple IIe definitely had BASIC in ROM. I thought they all dd.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (2)

mgscheue (21096) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595918)

The Apple IIe definitely had BASIC in ROM. I thought they all dd.

The original Apple II had Integer Basic in ROM but floating point basic (Applesoft) had to be loaded from tape or diskette unless you had the optional Applesoft plug-in ROM card. The II+ had Applesoft in ROM.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595516)

I had a VIC-20 when they came out. It was one of the few times advertising swayed me to buy something (OK, ask my parents to buy something) - because Captain Kirk was their advertising spokesperson - so I had to have it. I did get tired of the "press play on tape" prompts though. When it came out, we moved up to a C-64 and a floppy drive. I played lots of Zork on that machine! Making paper maps, etc. to defeat the awful "You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.". Getting eaten by a Grue and dying, then typing in "shit" and it saying "you can't even do that". Like you, I learned programming on that machine. First BASIC - and I did make my own game, then later assembler for the 6502. Wow - that makes me OLD damn it.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595642)

I played lots of Zork on that machine! Making paper maps, etc. to defeat the awful "You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike."

Oh, if I had a nickel for all the hours put into playing The Bards Tale [wikipedia.org] series on that wonderful machine.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (1)

doppleganger871 (303020) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596292)

We also started out with a Vic-20... my dad eventually built his own audio amp for inside the computer (the green-screen monitor didn't have any audio), and made his own RAM expansion, and added the 40/80 column cart. Was an ass-kickin' system by the time we jumped over to the C128 in 85. I still have a huge collection of Commodore stuff... Vic 20's, a 16, couple Plus/4's, two SX-64's, several 128's, two 128D's, a ton of 64's and 64c's, Amiga 3000. And drives and printers... and a SuperCPU, Link-232, EZ-232, Swiftlink, Turbo-232, Ethernet Cartridge, CMD HD, CMD FD2000... the list goes on and on...

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596438)

I got one of the first that came out. The one thing I really feel Commodore screwed up on was the 1541.
It was so slow.... Had the C64 had a faster floppy drive it might have done better with business users. Hey people ran businesses off of the Apple II.
I also had a program that gave it a software 80 column display. It wasn't easy to read but it worked well enough with my terminal program on some of the CP/M based BBS that wanted 80 columns.

Re:It was the computer for us commoner kids (3, Interesting)

FreakyGreenLeaky (1536953) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596640)

You made me go all misty eyed there, old man. I remember disassembling mine so I could spray paint the case... soldered in a pulse switch on GND+RESET line so I could do a hard-reset by hitting that special button (lockups were common if you enjoyed machine language programming...).

I remember sitting in school class pretending to read from a schoolbook all the while studying my copy of Commodore 64 Programmer's Guide (I still have it).

I remember walking about 30km (return) as a 16yo to fetch my copies of aforementioned volume and Inside The Commodore 64 (Milton Bathurst) from the post office.

I remember tinkering with undocumented assembly opcodes to see what they would do (gleaned from Compute! magazine, remember that one?)... and of course the countless months of my life I must have spent typing in machine code numbers for various apps/games/utils.

I remember being able to scroll the screen left by 1 pixel for the first time (think gaming). Moving sprites around (the usual bird-flapping animation).

I remember the wonderful toe-curling rush of dopamine when it finally dawned on me how indirect addressing worked in machine language.

I think PEEK and POKE are still the fastest words I can type on a keyboard, and I still can't forget that the safest area of memory starts at $C000 (4k worth) - otherwise known as 49152 for mere mortals. ...oh and 53281/0 for the bg/border colours, IIRC. My daily routine was: switch on, wait for boot to finish (~1-2s), poke 53281,0:poke 53280,0 followed by a clear screen ... or something like that. I liked a clean slate and a screen that looked bigger than what it was. I also always changed the font colour to green since the movies proved that green on black was the optimal colour... lol

w00t!

First hands-on exposure... (1)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595126)

...to a computer, EVER, was through the Commodore 64 for me. I suppose this is true for many thousands of us ?

Re:First hands-on exposure... (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595236)

...to a computer, EVER, was through the Commodore 64 for me. I suppose this is true for many thousands of us ?

Probably millions, or tens of millions. It wasn't mine -- I had used a few others, particularly the older Atari systems that predated the C64, but in the mid 80's, the C64 was a VERY common computer for school computer labs. *That* is where most people at that time would've gotten their first experience with a computer.

Re:First hands-on exposure... (1)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595386)

Yes, indeed: at school, through our math teacher, gawd have his soul

Re:First hands-on exposure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595422)

Had the Atari 800 myself. Later a 130 (whooo - 128k RAM). I had a disk drive AND a 300BAUD modem (replaced with a 2400bps modem). Oddly, when I went to college (Rose-Hulman in 1992) I had a physics lab that used something called a "Sonic Ranger" that was attached to, of all things, an Atari 800. The entire school was using NeXT computers for pretty much everything except this one lab. It was kind of cool to see that old hardware still in use.

Re:First hands-on exposure... (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596128)

I started with an Atari 400 with the membrane keyboard. My best friend at the time made the choice to get an Atari, and after looking at pluses and minuses, I decided to get one, too. We both upgraded to 16k. We both ultimately bought a "real" keyboard you install.

By the time I went to college I had a 130xe... my first one had a memory problem, and I remember standing on line to return it at Crazy Eddie's in NY. The woman in front of me was having problems with her C64 and asked me "don't you think it would have been worth it to pay a few extra dollars for the better computer?" I asked her what she thought was better, and she said "well, this has 64k of memory; how much does yours have?" 128k. "Oh...."

Don't get me wrong; I liked both, they were different but very comparable, and I programmed on the C64s at school (better than most kids who actually owned one). I was never a fan-boy about it. I learned on PETs and had a lot of friends with Vic 20 and ultimately C64... it was all good. Good times.... good times.

Re:First hands-on exposure... (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595986)

Many schools had the Apple ][ series (particularly the e) because of the special pricing Apple gave schools. (And school teachers). That academic program (with it's vendor / software / learning curve buy in) is probably what kept them floating through a few different phases in their history. There were a number of years, to my childhood perspective, that the only time you had an apple was if you worked with the schools or did graphics (gs and early to mid macs).

Did the Commodore ever have a similar program, I don't remember running across it, although I think I remember a few of those in some of the labs, but not anywhere near as many as the Apples? I bet the non x86 market would have shaped up differently if the Commodore was pushed harder into the schools.

I don't ever remember an Atari at school, I mostly remember them for the games I played at a friends house like Defender of the Crown, Bard's Tale (although that was multi-platform), and some sort of skim across the snow and shoot things game - Arctic Fox maybe?

Re:First hands-on exposure... (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596038)

No idea if Commodore had that sort of a program -- at those prices, it hardly mattered.

Our school had a typing/computer lab with C64s, and a hand-ful of Apple II's on carts that classrooms could use.

Always struck me as stupid to do typing classes on a Commodore 64 -- the keyboard was just stupidly high off the table.

Re:First hands-on exposure... (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595372)

Seconded. We had a single C64 in our third grade class room in 1984, and it was an amazing experience. We got classes on using BASIC, and had to write programs for it for homework (meaning, write it out with pencil and paper, then type it in the next day one student at a time into the one computer). We used C64s in school for several more years. In 7th grade, we had a computer lab and every student had one. Good times, good times.

Re:First hands-on exposure... (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595478)

Yup, my Dad brought one home in the early 80s, can't have been long after launch. It's one of my ealiest memories. We had Frogger and "Sprite-Man" a pacman ripoff.

Thus started my long, slow descent to a life of software engineering.

Re:First hands-on exposure... (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595486)

...to a computer, EVER, was through the Commodore 64 for me. I suppose this is true for many thousands of us ?

Yep, it launched my entire career. C64 handed down from my brother, wrote my first horrible games... then a Tandy 1000TL (XT286 clone from Radio Shack) handed down from my father, ran my first BBS... then Pascal in High School CS, and you know the rest. Wow. I wish I could shake the hands of the C64's designers.

I still have mine, it's in the attic now, but it still works.

Re:First hands-on exposure... (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596556)

Definitely mine. Word up to the Flimbo's Quest posse.

Re:First hands-on exposure... (4, Interesting)

malkavian (9512) | more than 2 years ago | (#38597010)

Commodore PET in 1978.. It belonged to a friend's dad.. I was completely taken with it, and so wished I could have something like that..
I had to wait 3 years for the release of the ZX81 before I persuaded my folks to buy a computer for me (and that was a used one). From there it was a VIC20 a few years after (sans cassette player, so I had no way to save what I wrote, so I ended up writing the games I wanted to play every time I wanted to play them!). Then came the BBC model B about a year afterwards (and that changed life! 32k ram,100k 5 1/4" floppy disk and ADC/DAC ports! Wow that really rocked my world back then). I still remember my folks being hesitant about buying it as they thought computing would be a 5 minute fad with me. So far, it's been nearly a 30 year fad since that point.
Since the '90s, it's all been PCs.. I do still miss the days of the diversity of home computers (Sinclair spectrums, Dragon 32, Memotech MTX, C64, Amiga, Atari, Oric and so on!).

FUCK YOU SLASHDOT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595166)

SLASHD0T, THE F0X NEWS 0F TECH, IS N0T W0RTHY L00KING AT THE FR0NT 0R THE BACK 0F A C64

Slashdot was 4 days late reporting the death of Dennis Ritchie.

nostalgia (1)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595228)

This made me feel so good I had to run downstairs and cut a notch into a single-sided floppy to make it a DS DD. And damn those disk-notchers. A pen knife is the tool of the true hardware hacker!

Re:nostalgia (4, Informative)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595310)

Disc notcher? Save your money, Mr. Fancy Pants. Just use a hole punch.

Re:nostalgia (1)

Torinir (870836) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595364)

Nail clippers, with the attached file. The multitool of choice.

Re:nostalgia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38596730)

Heh, your parents must have been loaded! I used to bring a stack of marked-sense cards home and write my BASIC programs on them using the ASCII codes I had memorised for pretty much every character. Oh the joy of loading them into the hopper and waiting for them to load... Was fun watching the lines load on the screen with the inevitable bad reads due to me not having a B pencil, only and HB. ;-)

A very hackable machine, I loved it. (3, Interesting)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595240)

I loved the C64 because of its hackable nature. Unlike my dads Digital Group [brouhaha.com] and TRS80, the C64 was very accessible from both software and hardware perspective, and easy to mess with for a highschooler like I was back then. I built tape copiers,font cartridges and light control modules for the thing, and later on I started modifying the machine itself. I picked up the C64 Reference Guide early on, it had a fold-out schematic of the complete machine in the back. How cool is that?

Part of the charm was that it was not all that hard to know and understand the complete machine, yet with some outside-the-box tricks it could be made to do amazing stuff.

A very grokkable machine, I loved it. (5, Informative)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596006)

One of the things I loved about the C64 (even more so in retrospect) is the fact that entire address space of it (including the ROM OS) was mapped and documented. The background color of the display could be read from this byte in RAM. The character set was bitmapped in that address space. You could generate a sound by poking values to these addresses. You could grok the whole damn machine, which is simply impossible for any human dealing with a 2012 desktop (or even pocket) computer.

Re:A very hackable machine, I loved it. (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596532)

Part of the charm was that it was not all that hard to know and understand the complete machine, yet with some outside-the-box tricks it could be made to do amazing stuff.

Ditto with the Atari machines of the era. I remember reading through an annotated listing of the ROM/OS of the Atari. Today's computers with their quad cores, multi-stream hyper threading, caches upon caches, GPUs, various north and south bridge chipsets, etc, you have almost no hope of understanding what's really going on inside your machine.

SYS 49152 (1)

sTERNKERN (1290626) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595282)

Still owning one... one day I showed it to my 4 and 6 year old sons. I expected some loud "Boo!"s as they do play games on my PC but they enjoyed it a lot :) I guess the C64 has a charm that does not fade with time.

Oh the Memories (2)

muppetman462 (867367) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595284)

Man, the C64...does it bring back the memories. Load "*", 8 I got one when I was 6th grade, and I would spend hours messing around with it. Then in middle school, we started getting them set up on a network. It was really awesome! I also had a modem for it, where I would have to dial a number on the phone, the put the hand set on it to communicate. Nothing like getting on the boards at 16k.

Re:Oh the Memories (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596238)

I always used Load "*",8,1. First used a token ring (I think?) network on a C64, although my first computer was a Sinclair ZX-81 1kb with the 16kb expansion cartridge. Oh, the memories.

Lets hear it (2)

will_die (586523) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595298)

For the FASTLOAD Cartridge!!!!!

Re:Lets hear it (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595884)

Ah yes... what was it... six times faster than the baroque firmware of the 1541 drive?

I still remember as one of my first exposures to programming, going through the Assembly for the particularly lovely serial data transfer routine... since the 1541 and C64 happened to have the same CPU running at the same clock speed, the code bypassed using the clock line for timing at all, and blasted the data across using both the data line -and- the clock line simultaneously. Over the several hundred lines of Assembly for the transfer, the clock cycles per instruction were calculated -precisely- to ensure that the data was on the lines within, IIRC, a 4 clock-cycle window, so given the maximum number of cycles the C64 CPU and the 1541 CPU could be "out of sync" during the transfer, the data was assured to be there from the 1541 side when the C64 pulled the bits off.

It is the closest thing I've seen to -perfectly optimal- code in my 30-ish years of development since. Actually, as far as I can tell, this was in fact perfectly optimal given the hardware characteristics of the C64 and 1541.

As I'm thinking about it now... I think this was actually code from FCopy/4-Minute-Backup, but Fastload was comparable, and as I recall didn't require blanking the screen to turn off all interrupts during the data transfer at a slight speed penalty...

Ah, memories.

Re:Lets hear it (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596294)

Commodore put together probably the only system in history where the floppy drive had as much horsepower than the main computer, but they somehow managed to make the thing as slow as a cassette tape. I can't figure out what they were thinking.

Surely it would have been faster and cheaper to control the floppy through a stripped-down controller chip connected to I/O signals from the main CPU the way the PC did it.

Re:Lets hear it (2)

Empiric (675968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596828)

I actually picked up a book back then giving a disassembly of the 1541 code with some line-level commentary--though, apparently, even the author of this book which was -only about- the 1541 internals couldn't figure out what the code was doing for page after page after page in some cases.

It was really horrific spaghetti code. I don't know what they were thinking either--unless it was some kind of "security through obscurity" notion that their IP would be protected by making the firmware 95% gratuitous nonsense functionality-wise, or, possibly, they actually wrote the firmware in a poorly-chosen high-level language and compiled it.

Anonymous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595326)

Submitter is commodore64love. Admit it!

Re:Anonymous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595932)

I was hoping to see an "I'm not dead, yet!" post from him when I opened this story.

Commodore Vic-20 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595330)

sorry people if ya weren't in this generation the c-64 means naught.

the Vic was really neat and the c64 was just a fairly decent upgrade to what the vic already had, if ya added memory expanders you could do all the c64 mostly could do.

and that joystick port having a gram a gold is cool

Re:Commodore Vic-20 (2)

wildstoo (835450) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595542)

The VIC chip (as opposed to the VIC-II in the C64) was far less flexible and capable. Also, the SID chip far exceeded the abilities of the sound synthesis capabilities of the VIC.

It's fair to say that both machines had a similar heritage, and similar design philosophy, but to say that the C64 is just a Vic-20 with a memory expansion isn't fair to the engineers and designers at Commodore. The VIC-II and the SID were a substantial leap forward, while maintaining the price-point that made the C64 so popular.

C64 (1)

wildstoo (835450) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595342)

The C64 was my 2nd computer (first was an Acorn Electron) and it's still my favourite computer of all time.

I still have a C128 with several disk drives, cartridges and other peripherals. I've even got a couple of flashable carts and an SD-card based reader with an ethernet port, so I guess I'd be classed as a Commodore enthusiast :P

Commodore were amazing. They should have remained on top, but a confluence of a factors drove them from the market.

I strongly recommend this book [amazon.com] for anyone with fond memories of Commodore machines.

Re:C64 (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#38597032)

Updated second edition [amazon.com] . The one in the GP is out of print and rather expensive. May have to grab this.

Obigatory troll for UK readers (4, Funny)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595416)

(Sneaks up to the C64 in Dixons)

10 PRINT "THE BBC MODEL B IS BETTER!"
20 GOTO 10:REM ** FOR STARTERS, BBC BASIC COULD DO THIS AS A REPEAT/UNTIL FALSE LOOP **

Oh, the biting wit of the 1980s teenager...

Re:Obigatory troll for UK readers (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595796)

It was better, but it was also more expensive. I bought an old MTX-512 (now there's a rare 8-bit machine) second hand a few years ago, and it came with a load of magazines from that era. The C-64 was significantly cheaper than even the BBC Model A. And you needed a BBC Master to have as much RAM as the C64. The BBC had a (much!) better dialect of BASIC, better graphics, better sound, and far better I/O, but did not have a better price. Unless you were a school in the '80s, then the government would pay something like 50% of the cost of a computer that met a strict set of requirements (including a programming environment with support for structured programming) that the BBC met and the C64 didn't.

Found this stapled in my programmers reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595484)

Smooth scroller in 2 lines of BASIC (compressed with shift of course, the magic is the WAIT command):
1 F=53270:POKEF,PEEK(F)AND247:S=PEEK(F)AND248:P=1063:G=Address:U=F-4:V=128:PRINT"InverseheartInverseclosingsquarebracket";
2 POKEP,PEEK(G):FORX=7TO1STEP-1:WAITU,V:POKEF,S+X:NEXT:G=G+1:WaitU,V:POKEF,S+7:PRINT"InverseTInverseclosingsquarebracket";:GOTO2

And theres a note written under it: "enter text from Address in memory, using a monitor (I*Address-)"
Inverseheart I believe either cleared the screen or went to the top left, Inverseclosingsquarebracket was the left cursor, InverseT was delete which I remember only worked when an odd number of quotes were entered and after doing a shifted space. All the other methods of compacting the commands were needed to fit this on 2 lines, like P shift O for POKE and ? for PRINT, etc.
This only worked smoothly on the original C64, and jittered with the Action Replay fastload enabled, Also when I did it on an emulator a few years back it jittered on it. Not quite perfect timing on the emulator I guess.

Re:Found this stapled in my programmers reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38596408)

Silly me, I should have just taken a picture of it. [picplzthumbs.com]

The stapled one wasn't that, it was a screen editor and scroll [picplzthumbs.com]

Strange bug... (2)

mseeger (40923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595590)

My C64 (Serial #600) has a very strage bug: If you started a line at the end of the screen, entered more than 80 chars and backspaced into the previous line, it executed a "run" and the program would be non-interruptible. Used this to prevent my brother from stopping my programs and using the C64 for himself.

Re:Strange bug... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38596466)

"My C64 (Serial #600) has a very strage bug"

The "N" key doesn't work?

Re:Strange bug... (4, Funny)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596596)

It's a feature!

Sorry, I couldn't resist!

I Spendt Hours Looking for the "Punter Protocol" (1)

MikeyC01 (231948) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595622)

The C-64 was my second computer (the VIC-20 being the first) and my first experience with the on-line world (and a modem that used the sound output from the computer to generate touch tones). Not knowing what I was doing I remember spending hours looking for something with the Punter Protocol ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punter_(protocol) [wikipedia.org] ) so I could partake in downloading of software...

The C-64 was later replaced with a C-128 (and a 3.5" floppy drive *gasp*) which turned into my first attempt at running a BBS.

Ah the memories

load"*",8,1 (3, Insightful)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595630)

I probably owe my career to one of those.

I was 4 years old (1)

netsavior (627338) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595672)

My dad's friends couldn't believe he was letting his CHILDREN touch a COMPUTER, he would tell them "this is the future, these are life skills now". I learned to load programs before I could write by hand. My older brother and I typed in a game from a magazine. The rest is history, I have been a hacker ever since, it's how I make my living and how I pass the time.

I was very fortunate to be born at a time when computers were suddenly affordable.

An important machine in history (3, Interesting)

tekrat (242117) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595708)

The number or programmers who cut their teeth on the C=64 is huge. The number of people who did hardware hacks is enormous.

But what's most impressive about the Commodore 64 is the number of people who continue to use it, or pieces of it to this day. The SID chip is still used by electronic musicians, and the number of people who either emulate the machine on other hardware or create new hardware to expand it's original capabilities is simply astounding.

While the exact number of C=64's sold is debatable (some say 33 million, others about 21 million), it's clearly the "Model T" (or Volkswagen Beetle) of computers, having sold MORE than any other single "PC" model, ever.

Commodore 64 (2)

Siggy200 (721326) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595748)

Purchased a Commodore 64 and the tape drive at Sears. Learned some about Basic programing but never enough to encourage me to lean other programing languages. Overall experience was great, Eventually I sent for a interface device that would connect the Commodore 64 to my ham radio and decode Radio Teletype over the air called ACT?. I thought for that time the program that came with the interface the graphics were excellent. I believe the RTTY program had a 'cross-hair' tuning indicator, much like a oscilloscope used on RTTY Terminal Units that used vacuum tubes: http://www.qsl.net/n4xy/Images/Electronics/Ham_Radio/RTTY/rtty_electrocom-402_fsk_tu.jpg [qsl.net]

An important eye-opening machine (3, Interesting)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595804)

I was 20 when the C64 came on the scene, and was an apprentice electronics engineer, mostly in the analogue/RF field. Digital logic was something I understood, but microprocessors, as such, were not. I bought a C64 because I'd used a PET and thought BASIC would be something worth learning, with half a mind on a game idea I had. BASIC soon proved useless, so I turned to an assembler cartridge (bought rather expensively at the time) called MIKRO64. This unlocked the full available power of the machine, but more importantly, it made me understand how a microprocessor actually worked. Back then, the whole architecture was easily understood down to the last register, plus the 64 came with full schematics! This proved to be a most important eye-opener because in the industry I worked in, within a few years, nearly all designs had moved to having a processor at their heart, and programming replaced the old-school logic and analogue design I'd come up with. Without the 64, chances are I would not have been able to keep up in electronics, and eventually go into programming as a career.

Re:An important eye-opening machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38596332)

MIKRO64 was great. 3 pass Assembler (slow as hell if you had a tape drive, OK if you had a floppy disk drive). Disassembler. Debugger. All in one 8KB cartridge. Wrote all my games using that cartridge - the first one or two I only had a tape drive!

Reviews of my games split into two camps: Awesome or totally shite. I did write a couple of things that were crap and that I hated (I didn't design them). But I was happy with the others. A couple of cool things never came to public view due to disk crashes wiping months of work and aged hardware.

I found out years later that most of the bad reviews were because of magazine publishing rivalry and I was signed up to a games house owned by one of these. Their competitors would slate your work regardless of its quality purely because of who you had published through.

Back then one person could write an entire game, sounds effects and graphics. No longer. I stopped writing games around 1998.

I now write low-level debugging tools for Software Verification. Just as much fun, just different.

Stephen Kellett
www.softwareverify.com

Commodore 64 is still far from dead (5, Informative)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595808)

And the Commodore 64 community is still far from dead.

There are several hardware projects in active development on the C64 - including a few forms of solid state and HD mass storage (IDE64, SD2IEC, 1541 Ultimate, MMC64, EasyFlash), Internet connectivity (The Final Ethernet/Retro Replay), Commodore in the cloud (commodoreserver.com), hardware accelerators/enhancements (Turbo Chameleon 64).

Besides many of the mas storage mediums being cross-platform usable, there are a few conversion methods to get files to/from the C64 (ZoomFloppy, x1541 cables and utilities, and commodore server are two notable ones)

Programming continues on the 64, including stock c64 demos (the demo coder are still amazing us with what they can crank out of a 1Mgz 64), GEOS related productivity, music, and most notably games. For the game users there are now popular 4 player adapters that games have been developed and a couple involving Playstation controls (the guitar heroish Shredz64 comes to mind)

If developers want the luxury of a modern computer there are cross assemblers (i.e. xa 6502) and now also a textBASIC conversion utility: C64List

Regional commodore gatherings are not uncommon in North America (Commodore Vegas Expo, C4 Commodore Expo, Emergency Chicagoland Commodore Convention, TPUG World of Commodore Expo) as well as Europe and other parts around the globe (someone comment with a list of those) which includes those cool demo scene parties

Dealers Made The Difference (2)

echusarcana (832151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595954)

As many here have correctly pointed out, the C64 was a very accessible computer which could be a little challenging to program (all those chip bitwise register operations were dreadful) at least you could do cool things with it. And you could probably get instructions from a magazine on how to do it. And your school probably had several of them if your parents couldn't afford one. It continued the tradition of the Commodore PET - a fun little computer which was a great teaching tool.

Apple at this time was pursuing the business market - something they could no hope to compete in - and was nowhere. Almost no one I knew had one and they were vastly overpriced. The great myth of Apple is that they somehow pioneered the computer. They were trivial at the time.

Commodore had a great dealer network in every small town. It was the 1-on-1 customer service at this time that was important in making the difference. With the purchase of a machine you also got somewhere to ask questions, buy accessories and magazines, and most importantly somewhere to network with other users.

Re:Dealers Made The Difference (2)

sshirley (518356) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596476)

I TOTALLY agree with that! I think it was really the time period because this dealer phenomenon wasn't limited to Commodore machines. I had an Atari 800XL and I LOVED going to my local dealer. God bless my parents because the dealer was just far enough away where they had to drive me there. :-) But It was great for demos of new products, buying Atari specific magazines, and yes, meeting other enthusiasts. These dealers also sponsored local user groups. That's a thing that has continued to today and it's a great thing.

VIC tricks (2)

art6217 (757847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595956)

C64 had a quite large "border" or margin around the 320x200 frame, to avoid nonlinear distortion at CRT's edges and probably to make the resolution more manageable for a 64k machine. The programmers discovered a trick, though, of disabling the border -- when VIC was drawing the 25th text line, the mode was changed to 24 lines for a while, and a similar trick was performed with the number of columns. This made VIC never "see" the begin of either the "vertical" or the "side" border. And -- sprites everywhere, including the border! Add raster tracing for putting sprites just where a pixel is drawn on a CRT, and you have tens of sprites instead of the "factory" eight ones.

Interactive video game in one "line" (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596080)

0 poke 32788+p,65; p=p+peek(151)*2-1; print tab(rnd()*37),"###"; if (peek(32788+p)==32) goto

((Not sure of exact syntax and rnd() operation, it fit in the character limit using the short forms of the commands.

p starts at zero of course. clear the screen. scroll to the bottom. RUN

An "A" is your space ship. Starts in the middle of the top of the screen. It moves left or right depending on if shift is pressed or not. Update of P based on shift detected with the peek.
A block "###" is put in a random location at the bottom of the screen and screen scrolled. so it looks like the "###" are appearing at the bottom and flying up.
The game ends if your A would hit a ###. Use the shift key to avoid them as they fly up from the bottom.

I wish the Atari 800 got more love. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38596158)

The Atari 800 offered a comparable performance performance level (faster CPU, 5 sprites, 4-voice sound, 128 colors) in 1979 and in my opinion, the 800 was a much cleaner ergonomic design and had a much better OS. Plus, it was much cheaper than an Apple II. Atari's attempts to keep the system closed to outside developers for the first year greatly harmed its adoption, though.

In 1982 the 64 was cheap. They had a high failure rate, a bizarre keyboard layout, a confusing array of unlabled ports, the slowest disk drive known to man, and it was all shoehorned into a recycled Vic-20 case. The only good part was an excellent chipset.

Check out the "Drunk Chessboard" demo for the Atari on youtube. It was really any amazing machine 3 years before the 64.

Re:I wish the Atari 800 got more love. (1)

sshirley (518356) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596514)

Agreed! Myself I had an 800XL. Atari had a great line of computers. I personally think it beat the C64, but both were of a great time period.

Re:I wish the Atari 800 got more love. (1)

tungstencoil (1016227) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596618)

I'm with you as well.

Commodore 128 (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596184)

I was given the Commodore 128. Just missed out on all the ability to reminisce.

Re:Commodore 128 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38596566)

Hold down the C= key when turning it on, and join in the fun with the rest of us!

Still Very Active User Community (1)

Leif_Bloomquist (311286) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596216)

There is is still a very active user community centered around the Commodore 64 (and to a lesser extent, the VIC-20 and other Commodore machines). There are active user groups, vendors, new hardware and software under development, you name it. Yes, in 2012.

Check out this link [tpug.ca] for a partial list of what's out there!

Modern C64X Giveaway (1)

dammy (131759) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596218)

Modern Commodore C64X (dual core D525 with nVidia ION2) contest until March 31st: http://www.commodore-amiga.org/en/forum/34-site-news/11318-commodore-amgaorgs-first-great-giveaway [commodore-amiga.org]

Re:Modern C64X Giveaway (1)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596702)

Modern Commodore C64X (dual core D525 with nVidia ION2) contest until March 31st: http://www.commodore-amiga.org/en/forum/34-site-news/11318-commodore-amgaorgs-first-great-giveaway [commodore-amiga.org]

It would be great if one could actually REGISTER to post on that site and enter the contest. Firefox/Chrome/IE8 all say that "Session expired or cookies not enabled" when trying to register. This happens even after all security measures in the browser are removed and IE8 is dumbed down to minimal security.

Commodore Kids Joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38596288)

> LOAD "MY BRAIN",8,1
> SEARCHING FOR MY BRAIN.....
> COULD NOT FIND MY BRAIN
>

Still funny after all these years.

I miss my C64! (4, Interesting)

TheJodster (212554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596360)

This was my most prized possession. When I asked for a C64 for Christmas, I never thought I would actually get it. $200 does not grow on trees! Then the presents were placed under the tree and one of them was the size and shape of a boxed C64! Could it be? What was in that box? Christmas morning was one of the happiest days of my life. It was torture waiting for Christmas that year. It was just the C64... no tape or disk drive. I could care less. I had a stack of Compute! magazines ready to go. I typed in my own games out of the magazine. I would leave it turned on for days to enjoy the program because once I turned it off, it was gone.

I once typed in a program for three days to see it generate a three dimensional donut on my TV. It took the program hours to calculate and display that donut. When I finally got a tape drive I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I didn't have to type in my game every time I wanted to play. I could save it and then mangle the code figuring out how to adjust the programming to create my own game without fear of screwing up the code so badly it wouldn't run anymore.

I feel sorry for people who didn't get the opportunity to enjoy the early computers. Things were so simple and fun back then. Now when a kid gets a computer there is so much information to absorb in order to become an expert that one doesn't even know where to start. Back then, you just needed the Commodore 64 Reference book purchased from your local book store and everything you could ever want to know was at your fingertips.

I'm guessing many know already but... (1)

RanceJustice (2028040) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596378)

I didn't have a C64 as a kid, moving straight from the whole Apple series and Atari, to 486 DX66 (a monster of gaming power at its inception). However, for those with C64 memories, Commodore isn't dead - check out http://www.commodoreusa.net/CUSA_C64.aspx [commodoreusa.net] - you can actually buy a perfect replica C64 keyboard/chassis in which to build a modern PC, or you can buy a prefab one with either Intel Atom or Sandy-Bridge based kit (personally, I'm a little underwhelmed by the hardware chosen in both the prefabs, you can probably do better yourself). Commodore has gone even further by creating a new Linux distribution "Commodore OS Vision" which gives a full featured Linux system (based on Mint) and has all the old Commodore software built in and accessible as well, free to download for anyone (which will spur Linux adoption as well). So if you want to create a retro gaming system, a unique HTPC, or just want to dive into the old C64 software your remember, give it a look! Cool that they're introducing fun, user-controlled computing to a new generation and making a fleshed out Linux distribution that pays homage to the old ways while showing how far we've come.

My Nostalgia and Gateway Drug (1)

tungstencoil (1016227) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596396)

I cut my teeth on a Commodore PET that was donated to my school as part of a grant program. Most kids (and teachers) ran away, and I couldn't keep my hands off it. I actually had my mother drop me off at school early in order to get a couple of hours on it each morning. At night, I would hand-write out more program code.

By the time the VIC-20 and C64 rolled around I was hooked. We were poor and couldn't afford them, but a teacher at school brought his C64 in. From there, I saved (and saved... and saved) and eventually got into the Atari line for the better (to me) graphics and gaming potential. I lusted after the Apple ][ but certainly couldn't afford that.

Ahhhh, memories of direct memory manipulation, no look-asides, no threads. Back in my day....

Those were the days... (1)

teeloo (766817) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596490)

I was in high school at the time and did all my essays on the C64. Boy did it make things so much easier than using a typewriter (or pen and paper for that matter!). The only problem was that you couldn't type more than about 10 pages at a time before it ran out of memory. Most of my assignments ended up being done in parts...

Impossible Mission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38596552)

Best game of my childhood by far. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impossible_Mission

The Pain! The Pain! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38596934)

Those square Joysticks that used to give you RSI and a throbbing red patch on your hand at the base of the thumb. I can still feel it to this day.
Whoever designed those Joysticks clearly never played on those Sports games where you had to thrape the stick backward and forward as fast as you could like a masturbating lunatic. Joysticks didn't last long in those days.
But fortunately more than 30 years on and despite taking a battering that far exceeded any Commodore 64 Joystick, my **ck is still in one piece.
Every time I masturbate I think of Daley Thompson's Decathlon.
Happy times indeed..

Serious nostalgia for my first computer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38597022)

LOAD "*",8,1

That is all.

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