Commodore Computers

In the 1970s and 80s, which computer manufacturer had models known as the PET, the VIC-20, and the 64?

And the answer: Commodore.  

First launched in 1977, the Commodore PET-2001 combined its monitor, keyboard, and cassette tape drive in a heavy all-in-one metal case. In 1982, the company launched the Commodore 64, which became one of the most famous and successful personal computers of all time.

Photo credit: The Science Museum

In 1974, a company called MOS Technology (a business comprised of mainly past Motorola employees) set out to create a compatible computer chip known as the MOS 6501. This chip, ideally, would be used to supplement the far more expensive Motorola chip (and would work faster, too). However, to little surprise, Motorola sued, and the MOS 6502 was born. The microprocessor was essentially a simplified, less expensive and faster version of the first. Luckily, the 6502 found early success in engineers and hobbyists alike. Its processing power was later brought into early Apple, Atari, Nintendo, and Commodore products, and the latter company actually purchased MOS in 1976.

At the time of Commodore purchased MOS, their business was primarily in calculators. As such, Jack Traimel, the founder of Commodore, quickly realized that they needed to create a compatible, competitive computer if they wanted to stay afloat. Thus, the Commodore PET-2001 was born.

1977 was indeed a big year in the nascent computer revolution. With the market introduction of the big three – Apple II, Commodore PET, and TRS-80 computer – it was the first time in history that any individual could purchase a reasonably-priced computer without having to assemble it themself. While these models may appear clunky and even a bit confusing to our 2021 eyes, the convenience we enjoy in our Apple MacBooks and Dell laptops today would cease to exist without this ground-breaking technology.

Learn more about the advances and innovation of Commodore below.

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