Innovation Heroes: Do you recall the 8-bit PC that revolutionized video games?
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Commodore 64
The Commodore 64 was the best-selling personal computer of all time. Released in 1982, sales reached almost 17 million units – and ignited a new era of gaming that has had a lasting impact on today’s video game industry – by the time it was discontinued in 1994.
On the latest episode of Innovation Heroes, a podcast by SHI, host Ed McNamara meets with Melanie Swalwell, Professor of Digital Media Heritage at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, to trace the history of the Commodore 64 and its influence on modern gaming and computing.
“The Commodore 64 was a bestselling computer, but it appealed mostly to school kids and teens,” says Swalwell. “[It came with] a book that walked you through how to program in BASIC and you actually had to learn a few commands even to load programs from tapes. [And] many people, once they started to get into writing code, would write their own programs. So, this began an era of incredible digital creativity and productivity.”
Swalwell speaks about the untold story of these young kids and teens who spent hundreds of hours learning to program, which paved the way for the gaming industry to develop and spawned new ways of sharing and designing modern games.
“This was a moment [in history] when a whole generation of people – who later went into the tech industry – learned their way around computers. This is really the origin of the gaming industry: school boys and girls coming home after school and beavering away on their computer trying to figure out how to solve the problem to make that Sprite move across the screen or whatever it was that they were trying to get to happen. And it’s not so much the stuff of grandiose origin myths, but about people trying to make content that was meaningful to them and learn stuff along the way and realizing that they could do it.”
Swalwell reminds us that the history of the Commodore is as much about innovative technology as it is about the passion and dedication of young innovators.
To learn more about the Commodore 64, the history of digital gaming, and how the games of the past are still being used and preserved, listen to the full conversation here.