Commodore's rich past

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Learn about Commodore’s history and its much forgotten pioneering role in the personal computer industry. It’s not all bits, bytes, pixels and sprites, you know…

Commodore holds a unique place in computer and gaming history. The company played a much overlooked pioneering role in making computers available to the general public by creating the home computer business model and made many other monumental achievements.

Commodore International Corporation was founded in the early 60s by Jack Tramiel and initially focused on typewriters and mathematical machines. It was in 1977, before anyone else, that Commodore International Corporation released the first ever personal computer, the Personal Electronic Transactor (PET), and as a result created a revolutionary new market.

In 1981 Commodore released the VIC-20 “The Friendly Computer”. While it was not the most powerful computer of its generation, the features and low price ($299.95) proved very popular with the public. It has the distinction of being the first computer to sell over 1 million units. In total 2.5 million were sold before manufacturing ceased in 1985. A great deal of the success of the VIC-20 was due to selling through retail rather than through authorized dealers.


While the previous models had proven a success, the release of the Commodore 64 completely changed the face of the computer industry. Released in 1983 as a successor to the VIC-20, the C64 offered an unprecedented price to performance proposition. Also famous for its rich catalogue of available games, the C64 remained a hit during its production life (1982-1993), selling around 17 million units. It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best selling single computer model of all times.

In 1985, Commodore, after having bought Amiga Corp, launched the first incarnation of the Commodore Amiga, the Amiga 1000. The machine possessed a custom chipset with advanced graphics and sound capabilities, and a sophisticated multitasking operating system. Introducing gamers to explosions of colour and parallax scrolling years before the 16-bit game consoles hit the market, the Amiga has always been considered ahead of its time.

In 1994, after suffering from bad management and the company's failure to market and promote the Commodore Amiga, Commodore filed for bankrupcy. A time period in which the company got sold and resold to different parties followed, but the year 2007 marks Commodore's big return as a major player in PC gaming.

Throughout its history, Commodore was the first to:

  • release a personal computer, the Commodore PET;
  • release a colour microcomputer to sell for under 300 U.S. Dollars, the Commodore VIC-20;
  • release the first computer to sell over 1 million units, the Commodore VIC-20;
  • release a computer that is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best selling single computer model of all time, the Commodore 64;
  • release a multimedia computer with a multitasking operating system, the Commodore Amiga 1000;
  • release a 32-bit gaming console, the Commodore Amiga-based Commodore CD32.

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