Retro Computers - Commodore 16 - Retro Computer

Commodore 16
Commodore 16
Coming along, Commodore.

The Commodore 16 was a home computer manufacured by Commodore (or CBM) which was released onto the market in 1984.

It was intended to be an entry-level computer to replace the VIC-20. A cost-reduced version, the Commodore 116 was also released but was only available in Europe.

The Commodore 16 (Or C16 as it would become known) was intended to compete with other computers at the 'budget' end of the market, such as those releasedby Timex Corporation, Mattel and Texas Instruments.

Timex's and Mattel's computers were cheaper than the VIC 20, and although the VIC offered better expandability, a full-travel keyboard and in some cases more memory, the C16 offered a chance to further enhance these advantages.

Machines by Mattel and Texas Instruments were not overly popular in the UK, so the C16 ended up competing against the ZX Spectrum (by now only 48k versions and the Speccy + being sold) and it's brother the Commodore 64. You may as well have put an Austin Metro against a Porsche 911.

As the name would suggest, the C16 had 16KB of RAM, with 12KB available to use through the built in BASIC interpreter. The video palette was superior to that of the VIC 20 (as would be expected by 1984) which offerred an eye popping 128 colours (mixed from 16 base colours and 8 shades - but still pretty good and useful for developing arcade games.)

The sound chip was an improvement over the VIC, giving two full channels over 4 octaves and a white noise generator (again useful for developing arcade games). It was still inferior to the SID chip that would be powering the C64's sound though.

Bizzarely, the BASIC installed in the ROM (3.5) was more powerful than the version (2.0) installed in the C64. BASIC version 3.5 actually had commands for bitmapped graphics and sounds. It also had simple tracing and debugging features. Many popular 8-bit machines at this point in time still did not have features such as these (BBC Micro and Master excluded).

Now, some bad points. Come 1984 - 16KB of RAM was nowhere near acceptable. Why would you have a machine with less memory than a goldfish? We needed more RAM for those classic games! There was no port to connect a modem, and no generic game ports to speak of whatsoever - about as much use as a swimming pool on the moon.

Commodore did provide a 'C16 specific' cassette player and joystick, but people wanted to use their existing and much cheaper peripherals that were available for the VIC 20 and the C64. Third party converters were released to allow users to do this very thing.

Outwardly the C16 resembled the VIC-20 and the C64, but with a reverse colour scheme of a black case and a white or light gray keyboard. Certainly not the best looking of the 8-bit machines, and it never really had the visual appeal of it's brothers and sisters.

The lack of commercial software and the problem with peripherals for the machine caused the C16 to sell poorly in it's country of origin, the USA. It was quickly discontinued over the pond, where the C64 (which already had a good library of computer games) was dropped down a notch to become Commodores entry level machine.

The C-16 did enjoy some popularity in Europe however, as a cheap games machine with an array of arcade games and text adventures released in 1531 cassette format. In a few Eastern Bloc countries such as Hungary, (which was still lacking a home computer industry of its own) remaining C16, C116 and Plus/4 stock was released onto the market at cheap prices in the late 1980s.

This created a fan base of its own for the computer that contributed among others, several unofficial ports of popular Commodore 64 programs to the line. I suppose this adds to the character and charm of the C16.

A machine that came and went without much of a bang. Anyone who had one of these generally kept quiet about it. A decent retro computer.

We recommend trying to pick up one of these machines.
Look at computers for sale online or even locally.

If you don't want to get hold of the real hardware then try and download an emulator and
download those classic games. Alternatively you could try and play them online.

MACHINE TYPE: Home 8-Bit Micro (including classic games)
BUILT IN LANGUAGE(S): Commodore BASIC 3.5 and a built in machine code monitor (12 commands)
KEYBOARD: 66 keys with 4 function keys and 4 cursor keys
CPU: 7501
SPEED: 0.89 MHz or 1.76 MHz
CO-PROCESSOR: TED (For video & sound)
RAM: 16KB (12KB free for the user - certainly not enough by 1984)
TEXT MODES: 40 chars x 25 lines
GRAPHIC MODES: 320 x 200 / 320 x 160 (with 5 lines of text) / 160 x 200 / 160 x 160 (with 5 lines of text)
COLORS: 121 (15 colours x 8 luminances + black)
SOUND: Two channels over 4 octaves plus white noise
SIZE / WEIGHT: 40.7 (W) x 20.4 (D) x 7.7 (H) cm I/O PORTS: Tape, Cardridge, Joystick (2), serial, Composite Video, TV
BUILT IN MEDIA: Cassette unit. Provision for 5.25
OS: ROM Based
PRICE: The C16 starter pack retailed at £129.99

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