I got my C64 on 1984. A few (boring games) and all of the English manuals. A problem because I did not speak much English, nor did I know how to properly read ( I was 5 ). But my oldest brother would write down the typical Basic program:
10 PRINT "HELLO"
20 GOTO 10
After about two years of playing around with it, learning how to read a bit more, and watching a ton of TV in English, I was able to start writing down my own little short programs. Then I discovered that I could load and save stuff to a floppy disk. Then after some time, I kept learning and reading some of the manuals (what I understood), and wrote programs that were up to 50 LOC long. Which for a kid who is 7-8 years old is pretty good. Then the damn thing broke, and I was without a computer for about six long years. A 133mhz speed demon that my brother bought to connect to the internet. I did not know what email was, much less the internet. But I sat down with Win 95 and started poking around. I haven't stopped ever since.
I constantly find myself searching ebay for old C64s and 6502 chips. Never have bought anything, but one day I will.
Other people might have partially similar experiences with their first car or guitar. Possibly. I wouldn't know.
While I might have had an innate interest in programming, it was C64 that verified it for real. Without C64 I would have turned out to be a very different programmer or worse, I wouldn't have started programming at all. I owe so much to that machine--and all that in terms of what most people can't understand.
What a funny world.
My first computer was a Heathkit, my grandfather brought me. We built it together. I wish I still had it. I miss that machine. Worthless today, except in a collection. And to me.
But my second was a Commodore VIC20. Another machine with a solid place in my heart. Also wish I still had it.
After the VIC its IMB clones, MSDOS, DRDOS, Windows - blah blah blah until the later 90's when I brought my first Mac.
Of course now, it's hard to romanticize a any computer. Since they so common place.
.. and now I've just spent far too much time looking through old issues of commodore magazine.
Apple definitely was one of the companies inventing personal computers.
Apple invented some aspects, like lots of others.
In terms of making them mainstream, both Commodore and Tandy outsold Apple from the start, and the Commodore 64 went on to significantly outperform Apple's combined Apple II sales, despite being on the market a far fewer number of years.
Apple was not first, nor shipping anywhere near the greatest volume.
Old skool hackers will remember that the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga were massively superior both in price-performance and raw performance to contemporary Macs. Strange as it may sound today, Apple won on business savvy, emphatically not on technology.
"The Amiga was so far ahead of its time that almost nobody—including Commodore's marketing department—could fully articulate what it was all about. Today, it's obvious the Amiga was the first multimedia computer, but in those days it was derided as a game machine because few people grasped the importance of advanced graphics, sound, and video. Nine years later, vendors are still struggling to make systems that work like 1985 Amigas.
--Byte Magazine, August 1994
Of course, the Amiga was originally conceived as a gaming box, but the initial price and inept marketing scuppered chances of real success.
I agree with you about the Amiga, it was a great machine that did not deserve to die.
Later Commodore got the Guiness honor of producing the most of a single model computer with the Commodore 64, no solid number but its above 12 million up to 17 million.
An interesting read is Brian Bagnall's book Commodore: A Company on the Edge, which has many accounts from Commodore's staff. One interesting tidbit, is Apples marketing at the time though they were third in sales (behind Radio Shack and Commodore) their ads touted "We are Number One!" of course there probably wasn't a mention of what they were number one of...
What Apple got for a time was a foothold on the Business market with VisiCalc, and also Apple Works (this is not the Mac GUI program Appleworks). They also got a solid foothold in the education market. Educational software was a very lucrative market for many companies during the 80s and early 90s.
I was only person around who wants do to anything around programming and only manual was writen in German, language I was not able understand, so I was just retyping examples and try to figure out how it works.
If you want to see just what the C64 demo scene is capable of, then Booze Design's Edge of disgrace is probably a good start. Finally, if you want to try your hand at C64 demo coding there's an excellent resource here.
 - http://www.viceteam.org/
 - http://c64s.com/
 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzvMYE3PUn4
 - http://codebase64.org/doku.php?id=base:demo_programming
Happy birthday, C64!
The Spectrum looked better though :D
Well, that's what got me started, anyway, and the MS Basic it shipped with gave me a head start when I did my final year project at University in VB 1.0.
My Dragon 32 has a botched key [;]. I hope I can fix it at some point. I had friends in school in the 80s who got a Dragon 32 by collecting biscuit boxes (local offer).
I remember playing Zaxxon for Dragon in my friend's house and thinking it wasn't too bad (similar to Speccy's, remarkably less visual than C64's).
It came with full schematics, it was made to be hacked. Sometimes I wish that kind of thing was possible now.
I'd like to share a story with Hacker News about something so dear to my heart.
When I was just shy of 3 years old, my father brought home some greyish-brown television-looking thing. He had purchased it from a co-worker of his, along with a bunch of games on floppy disks and cartridges, a joystick, and a KoalaPad. He turned on the computer, some sounds happened, and a blue screen eventually appeared with a flashing prompt and the word "Ready."
He fussed through some manuals and papers to find the boot sequence necessary to start something called Jumpman. I watched, in fascination, as he was able to manipulate these things on the screen. Various beeps and boops emitted from the machine and a little stick figure climbed ladders and dodged various objects. He quickly died in the game.
He started to show me other stuff this thing was capable of. KoalaPainter was absolutely wonderful. I could draw and manipulate shapes on the screen as much as I wanted; as if I was using a piece of paper.
He couldn't get me away from the thing. Eventually, bedtime came around, and I cried as I was torn away from something that I was completely enamored with.
Around 2 or 3 in the morning, my father awoke, hearing weird noises coming from the basement. He groggily stumbled down the stairs and into the room to find his 3 year old son, covered with a blinking glow, sitting at the keyboard. After watching him perform the boot sequence only a couple of times, I had it memorized, had gotten up from my bed, and was sitting there playing games.
Silent Service. Kickman. Heist. These kicked off a long and wonderful obsession with technology, computers and video gaming. They defined who I would be as a child; a self-professed and proud nerd and geek. Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering; the whole nine yards. 286, 386, 486. Oak Technologies. Math co-processors. Sound Blaster. Voodoo. Serial cable LAN parties playing Doom. Betrayal at Krondor. Ultima VI. BBS. MUD. The first time I saw a GIF. Links. The Nintendo Entertainment System.
So many absolutely wonderful memories that I wouldn't trade for anything. The Commodore 64 was absolutely integral in defining who I have been and who I continue to be. Without it: I have no idea where I'd be in this world.
I'm a software developer now. I've been programming since I was in grade school. I picked up a software application development degree just because I thought it may be handy someday. I grabbed a theatre degree, because it was my other passion I discovered at a relatively young age.
Computers have always been in my life, through thick and thin. They always do exactly what you tell them to do. Nothing more, nothing less. Humble machines that push electrons around to provide entertainment, fascination, communication and now, connection.
Thanks Commodore. I owe you one. Happy birthday.
EDIT - reproduced on my blog here:
Hours and hours of Jumpman, Ghostbusters, Castles of Dr. Creep, Bruce Lee, Space Taxi, Save New York, Kids On Keys, Asteroid, Impossible Mission, 5-A-Side Soccer.
That tattoo's a great idea...
Why, HN, oh why, "none" of you write(or even watch!) demos!?
Old demos were like watching a guy do world class running on springy blades that you didn't even know existed. Now they are like watching an Olympics where everyone agrees to use only their right foot for all the events.
Pickup iPad, press game icon, play game.
However, great to see Last Ninja 2!