Commodore VIC-20

The VIC-20 (in Germany, VC-20;[3] in Japan, VIC-1001) is an 8-bit home computer that was sold by Commodore Business Machines. The VIC-20 was announced in 1980,[4] roughly three years after Commodore's first personal computer, the PET. The VIC-20 was the first computer of any description to sell one million units.[5] The VIC-20 has been described as "one of the first anti-spectatorial, non-esoteric computers by longer relegated to hobbyist/enthusiasts or those with money, the computer Commodore developed was the computer of the future."[6]

Commodore VIC-20
Commodore VC20 Logo
DeveloperJack Tramiel
ManufacturerCommodore Business Machines
TypeHome computer
Release date1980 (VIC-1001) / 1981
Lifespan5 years
Introductory priceUS$299.95 (equivalent to $778.73 in 2018)
DiscontinuedJanuary 1985
Operating systemCommodore KERNAL
Commodore BASIC 2.0
CPUMOS Technology 6502 @ 1.108404 MHz (PAL) [1] @ 1.02 MHz (NTSC)
Memory20 KB ROM + 5 KB RAM (expandable to 32 KB), 3.5 KB for BASIC (expandable to 27.5 KB)
StorageCassette tapes and floppy disks
DisplayCommodore 1701
GraphicsVIC 176 x 184 3-bpp
Sound3 × square, 1 × noise, mono[2]
Inputtape and floppy disks and cartridge
PredecessorCommodore PET
SuccessorCommodore 64


Origin and marketing

The VIC-20 was intended to be more economical than the PET computer. It was equipped with 5 KB of static RAM and used the same MOS 6502 CPU as the PET. The VIC-20's video chip, the MOS Technology VIC, was a general-purpose color video chip designed by Al Charpentier in 1977 and intended for use in inexpensive display terminals and game consoles, but Commodore could not find a market for the chip.

As the Apple II gained momentum with the advent of VisiCalc in 1979, Jack Tramiel wanted a product that would compete in the same segment, to be presented at the January 1980 CES. For this reason Chuck Peddle and Bill Seiler started to design a computer named TOI (The Other Intellect). The TOI computer failed to materialize, mostly because it required an 80-column character display which in turn required the MOS Technology 6564 chip. However, the chip could not be used in the TOI since it required very expensive static RAM to operate fast enough.

In the meantime, freshman engineer Robert Yannes at MOS Technology (then a part of Commodore) had designed a computer in his home dubbed the MicroPET and finished a prototype with some help from Al Charpentier and Charles Winterble. With the TOI unfinished, when Jack Tramiel was shown the MicroPET prototype, he immediately said he wanted it to be finished and ordered it to be mass-produced following a limited demonstration at the CES.

As the new decade began, the price of computer hardware was dropping and Tramiel saw an emerging market for low-price computers that could be sold at retail stores to relative novices rather than professionals or people with an electronics or programming background. The personal computer market up to this point had sold primarily through mail order or authorized dealers, the sole exception being Radio Shack, who had their own stores as a distribution network. Radio Shack had been achieving considerable success with the TRS-80 Model I, a relatively low-cost machine that was widely sold to novices and in 1980 released the Color Computer, which was aimed at the home and educational markets, utilized ROM cartridges for software, and connected to an ordinary TV set.

The prototype produced by Yannes had very few of the features required for a real computer, so Robert Russell at Commodore headquarters had to coordinate and finish large parts of the design under the codename Vixen. The parts contributed by Russell included a port of the operating system (kernel and BASIC interpreter) taken from John Feagans design for the Commodore PET, a character set with the characteristic PETSCII, an Atari 2600-compatible joystick interface, and a ROM cartridge port. The serial IEEE 488-derivative CBM-488 interface[7] was designed by Glen Stark. It served several purposes, including costing substantially less than the IEE-488 interface on the PET, using smaller cables and connectors that allowed for a more compact case design, and also complying with newly-imposed FCC regulations on RFI emissions by home electronics (the PET was certified as Class B office equipment which had less stringent RFI requirements). Some features, like the memory add-in board, were designed by Bill Seiler. Altogether, the VIC 20 development team consisted of five people, who referred to themselves as the VIC Commandos.[8] According to one of the development team, Neil Harris, "[W]e couldn't get any cooperation from the rest of the company who thought we were jokers because we were working late, about an hour after everyone else had left the building. We'd swipe whatever equipment we needed to get our jobs done. There was no other way to get the work done! [...] they'd discover it was missing and they would just order more stuff from the warehouse, so everybody had what they needed to do their work."[8] At the time, Commodore had a glut of 1 kbit×4 SRAM chips, so Tramiel decided that these should be used in the new computer. The end result was arguably closer to the PET or TOI computers than to Yannes' prototype, albeit with a 22-column VIC chip instead of the custom chips designed for the more ambitious computers. As the amount of memory on the VIC-20's system board was very small even for 1981 standards, the design team could get away with using more expensive SRAM due to its lower power consumption, heat output, and less supporting circuitry. The original Revision A system board found in all silver-label VIC-20s used 2114 SRAMs and due to their tiny size (only 512 bytes per chip), ten of them were required to reach 5 KB of system RAM. The Revision B system board, found in rainbow logo VIC-20s (see below) switched to larger 2048-byte SRAMs which reduced the memory count to five chips: 2× 2048-byte chips + 3× 2114 (the 1024 × 4 bits) chips.

While newer PETs had the upgraded BASIC 4.0, which had disk commands and improved garbage collection, the VIC-20 reverted to the 8 KB BASIC 2.0 used on earlier PETs as part of another of the design team's goals, which was limiting the system ROMs to only 20 KB. Since Commodore's BASIC had been designed for the PET which had only limited audiovisual capabilities, there were no dedicated sound or graphics features, thus VIC-20 programmers had to use large numbers of POKE and PEEK statements for this. This was in contrast to the computer's main competitors, the Atari 400 and TRS-80 Color Computer, both of which had full-featured BASICs with support for the machines' sound and graphics hardware. Supplying a more limited BASIC in the VIC-20 would keep the price low and the user could purchase a BASIC extender separately if he desired sound or graphics commands.

While the TRS-80 Color Computer and Atari 400 had only RF video output, the VIC-20 instead had composite output, which provided a sharper, cleaner picture if a dedicated monitor was used. An external RF modulator was necessary to use the computer with a TV set, and had not been included internally so as to comply with FCC regulations (Commodore lobbied for and succeeded in getting them relaxed slightly by 1982, so the C64 had an RF modulator built in).

VIC-20s went through several variations in their three and a half years of production. First-year models (1981) had a PET-style keyboard with a blocky font while most VIC-20s made during 1982 had a slightly different keyboard also shared with early C64s. The rainbow logo VIC-20 was introduced in early 1983 and has the newer C64 keyboard with gray function keys and the Revision B motherboard. It has a similar power supply to the C64 PSU, although the amperage is slightly lower. A C64 "black brick" PSU is compatible with Revision B VIC-20s; however, the VIC's PSU is not recommended on a C64 if any external devices such as cartridges or user port accessories are installed as it will overdraw the available power. Older Revision A VIC-20s cannot use a C64 PSU or vice versa as their power requirement is too high.

The VIC-1001 was the Japanese version of the VIC-20. It featured Japanese-language characters in the ROM[9] and on the front of the keys.

In April 1980, at a meeting of general managers outside London, Jack Tramiel declared that he wanted a low-cost color computer. When most of the GMs argued against it, he said: "The Japanese are coming, so we will become the Japanese." This was in keeping with Tramiel's philosophy which was to make "computers for the masses, not the classes". The concept was championed at the meeting by Michael Tomczyk, newly hired marketing strategist and assistant to the president, Tony Tokai, General Manager of Commodore-Japan, and Kit Spencer, the UK's top marketing executive. Then, the project was given to Commodore Japan; an engineering team led by Yash Terakura created the VIC-1001 for the Japanese market. The VIC-20 was marketed in Japan as VIC-1001 before VIC-20 was introduced to the US.

The Commodore 1530 C2N-B Datasette provided inexpensive external storage for the VIC-20

When they returned to California from that meeting, Tomczyk wrote a 30-page memo detailing recommendations for the new computer, and presented it to Tramiel. Recommendations included programmable function keys (inspired by competing Japanese computers),[10] full-size typewriter-style keys, and built-in RS-232. Tomczyk insisted on "user-friendliness" as the prime directive for the new computer, to engineer Yash Terakura (who was also a friend),[10] and proposed a retail price of US$299.95. He recruited a marketing team and a small group of computer enthusiasts, and worked closely with colleagues in the UK and Japan to create colorful packaging, user manuals, and the first wave of software programs (mostly games and home applications).

Scott Adams was contracted to provide a series of text adventure games. With help from a Commodore engineer who came to Longwood, Florida to assist in the effort, five of Adams's Adventure International game series were ported to the VIC. They got around the limited memory of VIC-20 by having the 16 KB games reside in a ROM cartridge instead of being loaded into main memory via cassette as they were on the TRS-80 and other machines. The first production run of the five cartridges generated over $1,500,000 in sales for Commodore.

While the PET was sold through authorized dealers, the VIC-20 primarily sold at retail—especially discount and toy stores, where it could compete more directly with game consoles. It was the first computer to be sold in K-Mart. Commodore took out advertisements featuring actor William Shatner (of Star Trek fame) as its spokesman, asking: "Why buy just a video game?" and describing it as "The Wonder Computer of the 1980s". Television personality Henry Morgan (best known as a panelist on the TV game show I've Got a Secret) became the commentator in a series of Commodore product ads.

The VIC-20 had 5 KB of RAM, of which only 3.5 KB remained available on startup (exactly 3583 bytes). This is roughly equivalent to the words and spaces on one sheet of typing paper, meeting a design goal of the machine. The computer was expandable up to 40 KB with an add-on memory cartridge (a maximum of 27.5 KB was usable for BASIC).

The "20" in the computer's name was widely assumed to refer to the text width of the screen (although in fact the VIC-20 has 22-column text, not 20) or that it referred to the combined size of the system ROMs (8 KB BASIC+8 KB KERNAL+4 KB character ROM). Bob Yannes claimed that "20" meant nothing in particular and "We simply picked '20' because it seemed like a friendly number and the computer's marketing slogan was 'The Friendly Computer'. I felt it balanced things out a bit since 'Vic' sounded like the name of a truck driver."

In 1981, Tomczyk contracted with an outside engineering group to develop a direct-connect modem-on-a-cartridge (the VICModem), which at US$99 became the first modem priced under US$100. The VICModem was also the first modem to sell over 1 million units. VICModem was packaged with US$197.50 worth of free telecomputing services from The Source, CompuServe and Dow Jones. Tomczyk also created a SIG called the Commodore Information Network to enable users to exchange information and take some of the pressure off of Customer Support inquiries, which were straining Commodore's lean organization. In 1982, this network accounted for the largest traffic on CompuServe.


The VIC-20 was the best-selling computer of 1982, with 800,000 machines sold. One million units had been sold by the end of the first full year of production; at one point, 9,000 units a day were being produced. That summer, Commodore unveiled the Commodore 64, a more advanced machine with 64 KB of RAM and considerably improved sound and graphics capabilities. Sales were slow at first due to reliability problems and lack of software, but by the middle of 1983, the latter had turned into a flood and VIC-20 sales abruptly plunged. It was quietly discontinued in January 1985;[11] by mid-1983 the computer had become widely available for under $90.[12] Perhaps the last new commercially available VIC-20 peripheral was the VIC-Talker, a speech synthesizer; Ahoy! in January 1986 wrote when discussing it, "Believe it or not, a new VIC accessory ... We were as surprised as you."[13]


ViC20 Cartridge
Software cartridge

The VIC-20's BASIC is compatible with the PET's, except for PEEK and POKE commands, and the Datasette format is the same.[14] Before the computer's release, a Commodore executive promised that it would have "enough additional documentation to enable an experienced programmer/hobbyist to get inside and let his imagination work".[15] Compute! favorably contrasted the company's encouragement of "cottage industry software developers" to Texas Instruments discouraging third-party software.[16] Because of its small memory and low-resolution display compared to some other computers of the time, the VIC-20 was primarily used for educational software and games. However, productivity applications such as home finance programs, spreadsheets, and communication terminal programs were also made for the machine.

The VIC had a sizable library of public domain and freeware software. This software was distributed via online services such as CompuServe, BBSs, as well as offline by mail order and by user groups. Several computer magazines sold on newsstands, such as Compute!, Family Computing, RUN, Ahoy!, and the CBM-produced Commodore Power Play, offered programming tips and type-in programs for the VIC-20.

An estimated 300 commercial titles were available on cartridge and another 500+ were available on tape. Games on cartridge include Gorf, Radar Rat Race, Sargon II Chess, and Jupiter Lander. A handful of disk applications were released.

The VIC's low cost led to it being used by the Fort Pierce, Florida Utilities Authority to measure the input and output of two of their generators and display the results on monitors throughout the plant. The utility was able to purchase multiple VIC and C64 systems for the cost of one IBM PC Compatible.[17]

Technical specifications

Basic features

4860 - VIC-20 Mainboard
VIC-20 mainboard

Ports and sockets

The VIC-20 had card edge connectors for program/expansion cartridges and a tape drive (PET-standard Datassette). It came with 5 KB RAM, but 1.5 KB of this was used by the system for various things, like the video display (which had a rather unusual 22×23 char/line screen layout), and other dynamic aspects of the ROM-resident BASIC interpreter and KERNAL (a low-level operating system). Thus, only 3583 bytes of BASIC program memory for code and variables was actually available to the user of an unexpanded machine.

The computer also had a single DE-9 Atari joystick port, compatible with the digital joysticks and paddles used with Atari 2600 videogame consoles[18] (the use of a standard port ensured ample supply of Atari-manufactured and other third-party joysticks; Commodore itself offered an Atari-protocol joystick under the Commodore brand); a serial CBM-488 bus (a serial version of the PET's IEEE-488 bus) for daisy chaining disk drives and printers; a TTL-level "user port" with both RS-232 and Centronics signals (most frequently used as RS-232, for connecting a modem[19]).

Importantly, like most video game consoles and many computers at the time the VIC had a ROM cartridge port to allow for plug-in cartridges with games and other software as well as for adding memory to the machine. Port expander boxes were available from Commodore and other vendors to allow more than one cartridge to be attached at a time. Cartridge software ranged from 4–16 KB in size, although the latter was uncommon due to its cost and only larger software houses produced 16 KB cartridges.


Screen color test CommodoreVIC20 Multicolor
16-color (multicolor) capability

The graphics capabilities of the VIC chip (6560/6561) were limited but flexible. At startup the screen showed 176×184 pixels, with a fixed-color border to the edges of the screen. Since a PAL or NTSC screen has a 4:3 width-to-height ratio, each VIC pixel was much wider than it was high. The screen normally showed 22 columns and 23 rows of 8-by-8-pixel characters; it was possible to increase these dimensions up to 27 columns, but the characters would soon run out the sides of the monitor at about 25 columns. Just as on the PET, two different 256 character sets were included, the uppercase/graphics character set and the upper/lowercase set, and reverse video versions of both. Normally, the VIC-20 was operated in high-resolution mode whereby each character was 8×8 pixels in size and used one color. A lower-resolution multicolor mode could also be used with 4×8 characters and three colors each, but it was not used as often due to its extreme blockiness.

The VIC chip did not support a true bitmap mode, but programmers could define their own custom character set. It was possible to get a fully addressable screen, although slightly smaller than normal, by filling the screen with a sequence of different double-height characters, then turning on the pixels selectively inside the RAM-based character definitions. The Super Expander cartridge added BASIC commands supporting such a graphics mode using a resolution of 160×160 pixels. It was also possible to fill a larger area of the screen with addressable graphics using a more dynamic allocation scheme, if the contents were sparse or repetitive enough. This was used, for instance, by the game Omega Race. The VIC chip did not support sprites.

The VIC chip had readable scan-line counters but could not generate interrupts based on the scan position (as the VIC-II chip could). However, the two VIA timer chips could be tricked into generating interrupts at specific screen locations. This could be accomplished by setting up the timers after a position had been established by repetitive reading of the scan-line counter, and letting them run the exact number of cycles that pass by during one full screen update. Thus it was possible but difficult to mix graphics with text above or below it, or to have two different background and border colors, or to use more than 200 characters for the pseudo-high-resolution mode. The VIC chip could also process a light pen signal (a light pen input was provided on the DE-9 joystick connector) but few of those ever appeared on the market.

The VIC chip output composite video; Commodore did not include an RF modulator inside the computer's case because of FCC regulations. It could either be attached to a dedicated monitor or a TV set using the external modulator included with the computer.


The VIC chip had three pulse wave sound generators. Each had a range of three octaves, and the generators were located on the scale about an octave apart, giving a total range of about five octaves. In addition, there was a white noise generator. There was only one volume control, and the output was in mono.

Memory expansion

Vic20 16k
A 16 KB RAM expansion cartridge

Because the VIC had only 5K RAM, the VIC-20's RAM was expandable through the cartridge port via a Super Expander Cartridge (or simply, RAM Expander). RAM cartridges were available in several sizes: 3 KB (with or without an included BASIC extension ROM), 8 KB, 16 KB, 32 KB and 64 KB, the latter two only from third-party vendors. The internal memory map was dramatically reorganized with the addition of each size cartridge, leading to a situation where some programs would only work if the right amount of memory was present (to cater to this, the 32 KB cartridges had switches, and the 64 KB cartridges had software setups, allowing the RAM to be enabled in user-selectable memory blocks).

Since the VIC-20 was designed to use SRAM rather than DRAM, the system board had no provisions for RAM refresh. Memory expansion cartridges may in practice use either type; however, DRAM-based expanders had to contain their own circuitry to refresh the RAM and multiplex the data/address bus, and one possible reason for the oversized VIC-20 cartridge PCBs may have been to provide room for DRAM infrastructure.

The memory mapping of the VIC-20 was slightly confusing and could vary depending on system configuration. With no expanders installed, free user memory started at $1000 and extended up to $1DFF, with the video buffer placed at $1E00-$1FFF. Below $1000 was a "hole" from $400-$FFF which could be filled with 3 KB of expansion RAM, which if installed would place the BASIC program area at $400. If an 8 KB or larger expander was used, screen memory began at $1000 and BASIC program text at $1200.

The VIC-20 allowed two locations for color RAM, either at $9600 or $9400. The default for unexpanded machines was at $9600, and with an 8 KB or larger expander, the color RAM would be moved to $9400, however the user could freely set it to either location via the register at $9002.

The normal location for ROM cartridges was at $A000–$BFFF. On power up, the kernel ROM checked for an ID header and if found would jump to the specified starting address. Larger 16 KB cartridges had the second half of ROM either at $2000 or $6000. A few cartridges, including Scott Adams adventures, loaded entirely in the $2000-$7FFF area. Since the kernel can only autostart ROMs located at $A000, such programs would have to be manually launched from BASIC via the SYS command.

Commodore's official RAM expansion cartridges were only available up to a maximum of 16 KB worth of additional memory, but third party cartridges could provide up to 64 KB and sometimes included DIP switches to map the additional RAM to user-selectable address space.

Unlike the PET, the VIC-20 did not include a built-in machine language monitor, but Commodore offered them on disk, tape, or cartridge, with several different executables to load into various memory locations. The monitor programs were the same as the PET monitor, but now added a mini-assembler instead of requiring the user to enter hexadecimal opcodes.

The 32 KB cartridges allowed adding up to 24 KB to the BASIC user memory; together with the 3.5 KB built-in user memory, this gave a maximum of 27.5 KB for BASIC programs and variables. The extra 8 KB could usually be used in one of two ways, set by switches:

  1. Either it could be mapped into the address space reserved for ROM cartridges, which sat "behind" the I/O register space and thus was not contiguous with the rest of the RAM. This allowed running many cartridge-based games from disk or tape and was thus very useful for software pirates; especially if the RAM expansion allowed switching off writing to its memory after the game was loaded, so that the memory behaved exactly like ROM.
  2. Or, 3 KB of the 8 KB could be mapped into the same memory "hole" that the 3 KB cartridge used, letting 5 KB lie fallow. These 3 KB were contiguous with the rest of RAM, but couldn't be used to expand BASIC space to more than 27.5 KB, because the display data would have had to be moved to cartridge RAM, which was not possible.

Some 64 KB expansion cartridges allowed the user to copy ROM images to RAM. The more advanced versions even contained an 80-character video chip and a patched BASIC interpreter which gave access to 48 KB of the memory and to the 80-column video mode. As the latter type of cartridges, marketed primarily in Germany, were not released until late 1984—two years after the appearance of the more capable C64—they went by mostly unnoticed.

Memory map[20]
Address Size [in KB] Description Cartridge
0x0000 1.0 RAM with jump vectors etc.
0x0400 3.0 Expansion *
0x1000 4.0 RAM for BASIC and screen
0x2000 8.0 Expansion block 1 *
0x4000 8.0 Expansion block 2 *
0x6000 8.0 Expansion block 3 *
0x8000 4.0 ROM character bitmap
0x9000 1.0 I/O for VIC, 6522 VIA#1, 6522 VIA#2, block 0
0x9400 0.5 Used for color RAM when expansion RAM at block 1
0x9600 0.5 Color RAM (normally)
0x9800 1.0 I/O block 2 *
0x9C00 1.0 I/O block 3 *
0xA000 8.0 Decoded for expansion ROM *
0xC000 8.0 ROM BASIC
0xE000 8.0 ROM KERNAL


Describing it as "an astounding machine for the price", Compute! in 1981 expected that the VIC-20 would be popular in classrooms and homes with small children, with "excellent graphic and sound capabilities". While predicting that the 22-column screen was "too small to support any but the most rudimentary business applications" the magazine observed that "at a price of $299, that is hardly the point", stating that "the VIC will provide very stiff competition to the TRS-80 Color Computer" and "is a much more valuable computer literacy tool than" other products like the TRS-80 Pocket Computer. Compute! concluded that "VIC will create its own market, and it will be a big one".[16] While also noting the small screen size and RAM, BYTE stated that the VIC 20 was "unexcelled as low-cost, consumer-oriented computer. Even with some of its limitations ... it makes an impressive showing against ... the Apple II, the Radio Shack TRS-80, and the Atari 800". The magazine praised the price ("Looking at a picture ... might cause you to think $600 would be a fair price ... But it does not cost $600—the VIC 20 retails for $299.95"), keyboard ("the equal of any personal-computer keyboard in both appearance and performance. This is a remarkable achievement, almost unbelievable considering the price of the entire unit"), graphics, documentation, and ease of software development with the KERNAL.[22]


The VIC-20 could be hooked into external electronic circuitry via joystick port, the so-called "user port," or the memory expansion–cartridge port, which exposed various analog to digital, memory bus, and other internal I/O circuits to the experimenter. The BASIC language could then be used (using the PEEK and POKE commands) to perform data acquisition from temperature sensors, control robotic stepper motors, etc.

The VIC-20 did not originally have a disk drive, but an extremely reliable digital tape storage system (using audio cassette tapes); the VIC-1540 disk drive was released in 1981.

Recent software releases such as clones of Frogger (2007 release) and Berzerk (2010 release) have gameplay, graphics, and sound (including voice synthesis in Berzerk) that are comparable to the original arcade machines. A port of Doom, a 1993 game popularized on much more powerful platforms, became available for the VIC-20 in 2013.[23]

The VIC-20 was called VC-20 in Germany because the pronunciation of VIC with a German accent as well as its codename Vixen both sound like German curse words.[24][25] The term VC was marketed as though it was an abbreviation of VolksComputer ("people's computer", similar to Volkswagen, Volksempfänger, etc.) [26]

See also


  1. ^ "MESS VIC20/VC20 (German) PAL". MESS — Multiple Emulator Super System
  2. ^ "Home Video Game Console Sound Chip Round-Up". 090514
  3. ^ The computer was renamed in German speaking countries because "VIC" would be pronounced similarly to the obscene word fick.
  4. ^ " - Products - Commodore VIC-20 History, Pictures & Time Line". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  5. ^ "OLD-COMPUTERS.COM : The Museum". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  6. ^ Arnold, Bruce Makoto (June 2017). "Twenty-Two Columns of Lowbrow Revolution: The Commodore VIC-20 and the Beginning of the Home Computer Era". Journal in Humanities. 6 (1): 11–20.
  7. ^ "RUN Magazine issue 28".
  8. ^ a b Herzog, Marty (January 1988). "Neil Harris". Comics Interview (54). Fictioneer Books. pp. 41–51.
  9. ^ "Commodore VIC-1001 Kanji (Japanese VIC-20 Characters) Demystified". Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  10. ^ a b Tomczyk, Michael. "The Home Computer Wars". Archived from the original on 14 February 2015.
  11. ^ " - Products - Commodore VIC-20 History, Pictures & Time Line". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  12. ^ Lock, Robert (June 1983). "Editor's Notes". Compute!. p. 6. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
  13. ^ Kevelson, Morton (January 1986). "Speech Synthesizers for the Commodore Computers / Part II". Ahoy!. p. 32. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  14. ^ Butterfield, JIm (April 1981). "Advice to PET Owners: How To Be A VIC Expert". Compute!. No. 11. p. 34.
  15. ^ "Commodore: New Products, New Philosophies". Kilobaud. September 1980. pp. 26–28. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  16. ^ a b Thornburg, David D. (April 1981). "The Commodore VIC-20: A First Look". Compute!. p. 26.
  17. ^ "RUN Magazine Issue 34".
  18. ^ Flynn, Christopher J. (June 1982). "Using Atari Joysticks With Your VIC". Compute!. p. 79. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  19. ^ The Commodore VICModem and later models connected directly to the user port's edge connector. But in order to connect the VIC to industry-standard modems and other RS-232 devices, the user needed to purchase a separate TTL-to-RS232 voltage converter box (standard TTL voltages lie between 0 and 5 V, while RS-232 uses ±12 V).
  20. ^ "VIC-20 memory map (long)". 19 September 2005. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
  21. ^ "VIC 20 / Commodore 64 RS 232" (PDF). 30 March 2011. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
  22. ^ Williams, Gregg (May 1981). "The Commodore VIC 20 Microcomputer: A Low-Cost, High-Performance Consumer Computer". BYTE. p. 46. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  23. ^ "DOOM - First person hit on the Commodore VIC-20 / Commodore VC-20". Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  24. ^ "Fick – Wiktionary". Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  25. ^ "wichsen – Wiktionary". Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  26. ^ "CCOM - Commodore VC20 / VIC20". Retrieved 10 July 2018.

Further reading

BYTE in 1983 published a series of technical articles about the VIC-20:

  1. Swank, Joel (January 1983). "Exploring the Commodore VIC-20". BYTE. p. 222.
  2. Swank, Joel (February 1983). "The Enhanced VIC-20 / Part 1: Adding a Reset Switch". BYTE. p. 118.
  3. Swank, Joel (March 1983). "The Enhanced VIC-20 / Part 2: Adding a 3K-Byte Memory Board". BYTE. p. 34.
  4. Swank, Joel (April 1983). "The Enhanced VIC-20 / Part 3: Interfacing an MX-80 Printer". BYTE. p. 260.
  5. Swank, Joel (May 1983). "The Enhanced VIC-20 / Part 4: Connecting Serial RS-232C Peripherals to the VIC's TTL Port". BYTE. p. 331.

External links

This article is based on material taken from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing prior to 1 November 2008 and incorporated under the "relicensing" terms of the GFDL, version 1.3 or later.

Chuck Norris Superkicks

Chuck Norris Superkicks, is a 1983 video game produced by Xonox where the player takes control of Chuck Norris. It was later sold as Kung Fu Superkicks when the license for the use of the name Chuck Norris expired. The game was produced for the Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, Atari 2600, and Colecovision as part of Xonox's double-ender cartridge line (cartridges with two games and two connectors that were flipped over depending on which one the user wanted to play).

Commodore bus

The Commodore serial IEEE-488 bus (IEC Bus), is Commodore's interface for primarily magnetic disk data storage and printers for the Commodore 8-bit home/personal computers, notably the VIC-20, C64, C128, Plus/4, C16 and C65.


Contiki is an operating system for networked, memory-constrained systems with a focus on low-power wireless Internet of Things devices. Extant uses for Contiki include systems for street lighting, sound monitoring for smart cities, radiation monitoring, and alarms. It is open-source software released under a BSD license.

Contiki was created by Adam Dunkels in 2002 and has been further developed by a worldwide team of developers from Texas Instruments, Atmel, Cisco, ENEA, ETH Zurich, Redwire, RWTH Aachen University, Oxford University, SAP, Sensinode, Swedish Institute of Computer Science, ST Microelectronics, Zolertia, and many others. Contiki gained popularity because of its built in TCP/IP stack and lightweight preemptive scheduling over event-driven kernel which is a very motivating feature for IoT. The name Contiki comes from Thor Heyerdahl's famous Kon-Tiki raft.

Contiki provides multitasking and a built-in Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP stack), yet needs only about 10 kilobytes of random-access memory (RAM) and 30 kilobytes of read-only memory (ROM). A full system, including a graphical user interface, needs about 30 kilobytes of RAM.

Demon Attack

Demon Attack is a fixed shooter written by Rob Fulop for the Atari 2600 and published by Imagic in 1982. It was ported to the Intellivision, Odyssey², Atari 8-bit family, VIC-20, Commodore 64, PC (booter), TRS-80, IBM PCjr, and TRS-80 Color Computer. There is also a port for the TI-99/4A titled Super Demon Attack.

Demon Attack is supposedly based on the 1979 arcade shooter Galaxian, though it closely resembles several waves from the 1980 arcade game Phoenix. The similarities prompted a lawsuit from Atari, Inc., who had purchased the latter's home video game rights. Imagic settled out of court, and Demon Attack became Imagic's best-selling game as of 1983.


Gridrunner is a series of shoot 'em up games written by Jeff Minter/Llamasoft. The original Gridrunner was first published for the Commodore Vic 20 in 1982, and ported to various 8-bit computer platforms. It is the developer's longest running series, and remains one of his most enduringly popular, with eight titles released between 1982 and 2018.

HAL Laboratory

HAL Laboratory, Inc. is a Japanese video game developer founded on 21 February 1980. While it is officially independent, it has been closely affiliated with Nintendo throughout its history. It is headquartered in Chiyoda, Tokyo. The company got its name because "each letter put them one step ahead of IBM". The company is most famous for the Kirby, Mother, and Super Smash Bros. series.

HAL Laboratory started off making games for the MSX system and the Commodore VIC-20. After financial strain brought on from the development of Metal Slader Glory (1991) for the Famicom, Nintendo offered to rescue HAL from bankruptcy on the condition that HAL employee Satoru Iwata was appointed as its president. Iwata later became president of Nintendo.

In many of its games during the early to mid-1990s it used the name HALKEN, derived from their Japanese name. Some of its early titles were also released as HAL America, a North American subsidiary of the company led by Yash Terakura. HAL owns 50% of Warpstar, Inc., the production company that created the Kirby: Right Back at Ya! anime series.

Hunchback (video game)

Hunchback is an arcade game developed by Century Electronics and published in 1983. The game is loosely based on the Victor Hugo novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the player controls Quasimodo. Set on top of a castle wall, the player must guide the Hunchback from left to right while avoiding obstacles on a series of non-scrolling screens. The goal of each screen is to ring the Church bell at the far right.

List of Commodore VIC-20 games

This is a list of games for the Commodore VIC-20 personal computer, sorted alphabetically. See lists of video games for other gaming platforms. A section at the bottom contains games written by hobbyists long after the mainstream popularity of the VIC-20 waned. Many of these are unlicensed clones of arcade games or games from other systems.

Midway Campaign

Midway Campaign is a strategy game developed by Avalon Hill in 1980 (released across multiple platforms through 1983). It is a wargame using ASCII text for the visuals and is written in BASIC.


NukeWar is a 1980 video game by Avalon Hill for the Apple II, Atari 8-bit family, Commodore 64, Commodore PET, FM-7, TRS-80, and VIC-20.


PETSCII (PET Standard Code of Information Interchange), also known as CBM ASCII, is the character set used in Commodore Business Machines (CBM)'s 8-bit home computers, starting with the PET from 1977 and including the C16, C64, C116, C128[1], CBM-II, Plus/4, and VIC-20.

Pirate Adventure

Pirate Adventure (also known as Pirate Cove) is a text-based adventure program written by Scott Adams.

Snooker (video game)

Snooker (Sometimes referred to as Snooker '83 due to the year of its release) is a 1983 sports simulation video game published by Visions Software Factory. The game simulates (as the name suggests) the cue-sport Snooker. The game was released for the Acorn Electron, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20 and ZX Spectrum.

Tank Battalion

Tank Battalion (Japanese: タンクバタリアン, Hepburn: Tanku Batarian) is a multi-directional shooter arcade game that was released by Namco in 1980. The only direct home conversion is for the MSX, and in 1985 a similar game release is Battle City for the Family Computer. Tank Battalion received a sequel called Tank Force, for the arcades in 1991.

The Count (video game)

The Count is a text-based adventure program written by Scott Adams and published by Adventure International.

Traxx (video game)

Traxx is a computer game released in 1983 by Quicksilva for the ZX Spectrum (48K) and Commodore VIC-20 (+8K). It was inspired by the arcade game Amidar.


The software program VICE, standing for VersatIle Commodore Emulator, is a free and cross platform emulator for Commodore's 8-bit computers. It runs on Linux, Amiga, Unix, MS-DOS, Win32, Mac OS X, OS/2, RISC OS, QNX, GP2X, Pandora (console), Dingoo A320, Syllable, and BeOS host machines. VICE is free software, released under the GNU General Public Licence.

VICE for Microsoft Windows (Win32) is known as WinVICE, the OS/2 variant is called Vice/2, and the emulator running on BeOS is called BeVICE.

Wacky Waiters

Wacky Waiters is a 1982 two-dimensional platform game for the Commodore VIC-20 home computer, published by Imagine Software.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.