The Commodore 64 (C64) is perhaps the best known 8-bit computing platform ever designed, rivaled only by the Apple II in terms of popularity and longevity. Within a few short years after its introduction in 1982, the Commodore 64 dominated the low-end computer market, receiving a steady stream of software and peripheral support that lasted through the decade.
In 1985, Commodore followed up with the lesser known Commodore 128 (C128), a technically superior machine that failed to win over the massive base of C64 fans and developers.
The Commodore 64 (C64) wasn't Commodore's first foray into the home computer industry. In 1977, Commodore had earned some recognition with its ground-breaking PET, which went through several iterations over the years and was quite popular in schools.
The PET was followed by the VIC 20 in 1981, the direct ancestor of the C64. The VIC 20 was a smashing success, eventually selling millions of units and establishing Commodore's reputation for making highly capable computers at prices that rivaled the era's videogame consoles. “Why buy a videogame when you can have a computer?,” asked Star Trek’s William Shatner in a famous series of print and television advertisements.
Still, although the VIC 20 was a great value for the budget-conscious, its limitations were onerous for many enthusiasts. They wanted a more powerful machine and were willing to pay extra to get it. Commodore heard their call, and the first C64 went straight from the assembly lines to the headlines. The personal computer industry would never be the same.
The C64’s unprecedented success demonstrated, once and for all, that there was a strong and viable market for inexpensive personal computers that could run the latest videogames. Today, tens of thousands of avid C64 fans publish websites, populate online forums, run C64 games in emulators, and develop new homebrew software and other products for the system. There are even bands who specialize in arranging old Commodore favorites for the pub and bar crowds. For countless fans of the system, the "Commie" is still the best personal computer ever to grace the living room.
During a 12-year production cycle from 1982 to 1994, Commodore managed to sell over 17 million C64 computers worldwide, and software developers and publishers released over 10,000 commercial programs. Obviously, the C64 played a definitive role in the evolution of computer gaming -- especially since the C64’s low price and subsequent popularity may well have played a small role in The Great Videogame Crash of 1984. Commodore saw the line in the silicon between computers and consoles and didn't just step over it -- they erased it.