View Full Version : 1983

October 2nd, 2003, 02:36 PM
Back in early 1983 I attended a Long Island Computer Association (LICA) meeting. There were several computer retailers at this meeting as well as the usual group of about 100 "geeks."

The "main event" for the night was going to be a demonstration of Commodore's new C-64. It had been rushed to market just before Christmas and many folks hadn't had a chance to see it just yet.

One of the dealers brought in a machine to demo. He had it hooked up and actually running at the front of the room. He explained that what he had brought was a demo unit, not a production unit. The production units were, he explained, for all intents and purposes, complete garbage.

In their rush to get boxes on the store shelves, Commodore had filled them with just about anything but working C-64s. Since it was already after Christmas all of the other retailers told their stories of nearly 100% failure rates, computers without keys, computers with all the same letter on the keyboard and other nightmares that had the return rate closely approaching the number of sales with the remainder expected to be boxes that hadn't been checked yet.

There were a couple of folks that claimed to have working systems and, completely ignored on the front table, was a real working unit being demonstrated, but the bulk of the meeting was consumed by Commodore bashing.

Commodore did end up replacing bad units and went on to set sales records. I'm still not sure how they reestablished their reputation, but they did.

I still remember that meeting as one of the loudest and craziest. . .


October 2nd, 2003, 10:58 PM
Back in those days, wasn't there only two options: release now and eat the bugs, or delay another year? Both will frustrate the potential buyers and possibly make your competitor getting an advantage.

Since Commodore already had a decently working VIC-20 (and the PET/CBM business computers) on the market, I assume it assured their reputation despite deliving malfunctioning C64 to begin with. If the C64 had been their first home computer, it might have taken a different turn or at least have been more remembered.

Related to this, recently a prototype C64 was on sale on eBay, but I didn't bother to follow the bidding. A lot of cash was expected though.

October 3rd, 2003, 05:46 AM
Related to this, recently a prototype C64 was on sale on eBay, but I didn't bother to follow the bidding. A lot of cash was expected though.

Actually, it's on the Vintage Computer Marketplace (http://marketplace.vintage.org) and the auction is slated to close during or just before the Vintage Computer Festival (http://www.vintage.org/2003/main/).

This is the 20th anniversary of the C64 so that's become a theme for the show and also one of the reasons I was thinking about this event.

As for Commodore biting the bullet on a junk release, I understand their reasoning but I'm still amazed that the worlds biggest selling computer had that rocky a start.


October 4th, 2003, 01:40 PM
There were many others, those I can think of:

Radio Shack's TRS-80 (model 1) was no p[olished computer when it came out. It had neumerous glitches serious enough for free under warrant repairs. Unlike the 64 it got the nickname "Trash-80" and it stuck for quite a long time.

Also IIRC one of Imsai's computers had such problems too (I think I read about it in fire in the sky).

Another notable glitch was with the Adam Computer (Coleco) turning it on sent a magnetic pulse to the data drive heads, so you needed to keep your tapes out from the unit when you turned it on.

Both of those I believe were not just dead units but working but partly unusable.

Not to say I'm defending Commodore, even the original Commodore PET had buggy ROMs when it first came out (problems with peeking and poking on the same line, arrays limited to 255 elements, incomplete IEE-488 support, etc.) Much of that was fixed about a year later with the "upgrade ROMs".

Eraly 64s had a few bugs that were worked out in later models - video sparkle and a glitch in the screen editor. Though one of those fixes caused another problem with compatibility with the CP/M cartridge.

As far as wht Commodore made it in face of all that. The 64s were great little computers far less expensive then the competition and less proprietary (read secrative about how to program for it and build stuff for it) and had some very great features (great video and unbelivable sound).

It's hard to understand that unless you were actually playing with computers back then and saw what stuff was out there for how much and how available they were.

vic user
October 4th, 2003, 03:49 PM
Does anyone know if the vic 20 suffered any of these beginning release problems?

I am just wondering if perhaps the little vic made it to the shelves as promised.

Chris, still using my vic ')