As I train new our computer systems engineers I have found that few of them know anything about the Commodore home computer systems. In the early 1990s, when I first started getting into electronics and computers, Commodores were everywhere. By the mid 90s they were ancient relics. I always had five or six laying around the shop. Most were given to me for spare parts from customers. The majority of them had no issues, they were just out dated. For fun and to train new guys, we repaired many of them over the years. Over the years, less and less of our computer systems engineers had any experience on Commodores. Today, virtually no one under 35 knows what a Commodore computer system is.
The MOS 6502 chip
The reason why a 15 year old could work on a Commodore was that the systems were all based around simple CPUs. The MOS 6502 was very easy to diagnose issues with and repair. All I needed to work on the circuits was a simple analog volt meter and a reference voltage. Digital voltmeters were very expensive in the 1990s, I don’t think we had one until the late 90s.
For example, most prominent home computer systems and video game systems in the 1980s and 1990s had a MOS 6502 or a derivative within them. These derivative chips were called the 650x or the 6502 family of chips. The Commodore VIC-20, Commodore 64, Apple II, Atari 800, Atari 2600 and NES all had a 6502 or 650x chips in them. Almost everything made from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s had a connection to the 6502 family. By the late 1980s newer and faster chips by Motorola and Intel replaced the MOS 6502 family as the primary go to processor.
Commodore History Disappearing
While I train new field engineers here at Karls Technology I have been looking online for reference materials about Commodores. Back in the 1990s reference material was available at the library, in hobby magazines and BBS’s. Today, I find very little good reference material about Commodores, MOS or the 6502 family of chips. Previously, you could find people that worked for MOS, Commodore or GMT around the internet. As those engineers of yesterday pass way their knowledge of the history of computing leaves us.
Before the days of blogs, much of the early computing history was recorded on early engineer’s personal websites. Those websites have gone offline or were hosted by companies that not longer exist.
Computer History Archive
Due to this knowledge leaving us and much of it only existing in an offline capacity; we decided to start archiving Commodore, 6502 family and other early computer history information. Therefore, we will scan and post below any knowledge we find in an offline repository. In addition, any historical personal websites about early computer history from yesteryear will be archived here. Our goal is to document as much early computer history as possible.
Commodore Semiconductor Group’s Superfund Site from the EPA
Designing Calm Technology by Mark Weiser, Xerox, 1995.