Commodore 16

The Commodore 16 was a home computer made by Commodore, released in 1984. It was intended to be an entry-level computer to replace the VIC-20.
The C16 was one of three computers in the 264 family.

The original design for the computer, was born from a meeting, where one of the designers, Bil Herd was given a Timex computer from a filing cabinet, and told to come up with something for $49.

  The machine produced was the Commodore 116 (Pictured), with it's TED chip (Text Editing Device), which contained all the functions of the computer from the graphics and sound, right down to the joystick ports, the computer was slightly larger than a ZX Spectrum, with a similar, but even more awkward rubber keyboard, the machine had no sprite capabilities, being built entirely as a cheap business machine, it's case was similar to the later Commodore Plus 4.
 Commodore and in particular Jack Tramiel, did not want to be left out of the potential budget computer market, and the competition therein from Timex and Texas Instruments, and he was also convinced the Japanese were about to flood the market with cheap micros, in reality Timex and Texas soon left the computer scene, and the Japanese invasion did not happen.

 This left the 264 machine with no market, the 50,000 manufactured C116 machines were sent to Europe, mainly Germany, where it was not a great success, and no more were produced, the machine is now a rare collector's item, and quite hard to find in a working condition.
Commodore sat on the chipset for a while, before deciding that an opportunity was there for the aged VIC-20 to be replaced, so the Commodore 16 was conceived, Bil Herd was later to describe the machine as an abomination, and inbred, it shipped in an identical case to the C64 and VIC-20, but was charcoal black with grey keys.

 Performance-wise located between the VIC and C64, it had an 8501 CPU, similar to the 6502 processor, 16 KB of RAM with 12 KB available to its built-in BASIC interpreter, and a new sound and video chipset offering a palette of 128 colors, The ROM resident BASIC 3.5, however, was more powerful than the VIC-20's and C64's BASIC 2.0, in that it had commands for sound and bitmapped graphics (320200 pixels), as well as simple program tracing/debugging.

 However, use of the computers hi res graphics mode would reduce the memory further to just 4K, also the computer was completely incompatible with either the VIC-20 or C64, the processor was similar to the 6502 those machines used, so converting software would be relatively easy, but few companies bothered, as the performance of the machines at retail, meant it was not economical.

 With only 12k of available RAM for programs it must be said that a good deal of conversions from other systems fared very badly on the C16, games such as Ghosts 'n' Goblins, Beach Head and Green Beret were inferior in just about every way possible, some bordering on unplayable, at a time when the latest games required more memory, not less, the Ram in the C16 soon became it's Achilles heel.

 The C16 had a sister machine in the Commodore Plus 4, which had the same chipset, but 64K of Ram, but because it sold in less numbers, the Plus 4 rarely got to use it's expanded memory, so had to make do with the same games as the C16.

 There were a few noticeable exceptions, Saboteur by Durell had a seriously dreadful C16 game on one side of the tape, and a much enhanced Plus 4 one on the other, that matched the Spectrum original, Ace from Cascade had a Plus 4 enhanced version as did it's sequel.

 A few authors and companies did fly the flag for the machines, most notably Udo Gertz (Summer and Winter Games, Tom Thumb) and a particularly prolific C16 coder was Shaun Southern, (Pacmania, Arthur Noid, Trailblazer, Jet Brix, KickStart).

 Mastertronic produced some 53 titles for the machine, many of which sold very well indeed, including Formula 1 Simulator, and Rockman, Gremlin Graphics made just over 30, including Monty On The Run, and it's sequel.

 There were games that appeared on the machine first , such as Trailblazer, and Tomb Thumb.

 In America the machine was a complete flop, but in Europe it did sell well, especially the UK, having a very good year in 1985, when Commodore UK did a very good job of putting an entry level package together, with a fair mix of educational software, and games aimed at younger players, and slashing the price from it's £149 starting price to the originally invisaged price point of the C116 of £49.

Manufacturer: Commodore
Date: 1984

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Commodore 16 Manuals:

Item Manufacturer Date
Commodore Service Manual - Model C16 Computer Commodore Oct 1984

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This exhibit has a reference ID of CH227. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.


Commodore 16

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