Monday, July 25, 2011

Micro Life (2) : Commodore VIC-20

The ZX-80 was fine but i didn't do a great deal with it, i needed something with more oomph in order to fully be able to explore the world of computing and be able to properly interact with this exciting new paradigm... in other words i needed something that had decent computer games. So our second microcomputer was the Commodore VIC-20.

Technology wise it was quite a leap from the Sinclair, having a whole 5K of RAM (which was later expanded by 16K!) and more importantly colour! It also had a proper keyboard as opposed to the awful membrane keyboard on the Sinclair. Software was loaded from cassette as with the Sinclair though there was also an extension socket to load games and other software from cartridges. I got a few games on cartridge and my Dad tried his hand at a bit of assembly language programming. Actually my Dad was a keen programmer in the 8-bit days but i don't think thats why i became a programmer myself later on, i think it is just because its one of the few things i am any good at.
Me on the VIC in 1983, see the cartridges and other paraphernalia.

The VIC-20 gave us several years of trouble free and largely enjoyable computing and for me that meant a lot of gaming. I can remember some of the games i played on it, vaguely, though not their names. My favourite was one where you flew a Harrier jump jet and had to shoot down MiGs, though running out of fuel was always a problem and when you landed for refuelling the MiGs would always come out of nowhere and blow you up!

I used to play videogames quite a lot back then, not that i have been ever any good at them. Nowadays i barely play any apart from a small number of games which really grab my attention like Wolfenstein-3D or Toy Commander which i then play until the media wears out.

After a few years the VIC was becoming a bit obsolete and my Dad wanted something with more expandability potential so he could experiment with computing and his HAM radio so the next computer in our house was the BBC Micro but that is a story for another day.


  1. My mates had one. My favourite games: Defender (cart), Race, Trader, Perils of Willy (a manic minor clone or sequel, I was never sure). My friends were serious: they had the RAM expansion cartridge. Significantly bigger than my iPhone it boosted system memory to 16k

  2. I might have had the Defender cart not sure. Did have the 16K RAM pack though, it was as big as a paperback novel!