Flashback Friday: The Commodore 64

I am often amazed by how fast technology has developed over the decades. I’m not surprised, but it’s incredible to witness the evolution of gaming devices and capabilities. It’s fortunate for me to experience the evolution of systems since 1980, something that more and more gamers may never truly appreciate until they hit 40. Today, I remember back to the days of the Commodore 64 and the stupid amount of hours that I spent hammering away at its keys.

My Real Introduction to Gaming

In reality, my first real taste of gaming was at the helm of the Commodore 64. My grandma owned one and was always using it to do everything from genealogy to collecting game software for us grandchildren. It was here that I first experienced 8-bit resolution and enhanced sound quality from a computer system.

Don’t laugh. Back in the day, 8-bit characters in full color moving across the screen was innovation at its finest. While the school was filled with limited, mono-chrome Apple IIe, I spent many days glued to the monitor of the Commodore 64 and its glory.

Because the system was so popular world-wide, there were titles upon titles of games available. At any given time, Grandma would have rows of disks loaded with perhaps eight to ten games each. I will have to do some research, but I believe that it had more of an extensive collection of gaming titles than any other system – perhaps in history. At one point, there were games available ported from Nintendo, Sega, Atari and many other systems.

Pool of RadianceTo this very day, my favorite game of all time is still available on my Commodore 64 – “Pool of Radiance.” As soon as I can stabilize the household, I plan on streaming a bit of this game play on Twitch for charity. But we’ll have to see. Things are pretty hectic around here.

Creating My Own Games on the Commodore 64

I wasn’t just content with playing available games on the C64. I wanted to learn how to make my own. At the age of nine, I began to learn BASIC – Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. At that point, I began developing text-based adventures and more. I even may still have the programs I developed for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition such as NPC generators, random treasures and even name generators. Ah, those were the days. I almost have the roll charts of the entire Dungeon Master’s Guide in a single program.

I never got a chance to delve too deeply into how to create sprites or being able to develop “machine language.” Which is a shame, really. Perhaps I could have made something of myself at a very early age.

Gone, But Not Forgotten

It’s exceedingly difficult to find parts for the Commodore 64 today. At least, not without paying a crap load of money. However, my unit is still sitting on a desk in the basement ready for the next player.

It’s impressive how graphics move from the 8-bit sprites to 3-dimensional rendering within my lifetime. Because technology is always advancing faster and faster, I hope I am around for the next 30 years to see where gaming takes my children. I’ll try to keep up, but its getting more difficult. Not because I am getting too old to use a controller, I am still undefeated in any game in my house, but because adult responsibilities take away from the time I would love to spend delving into new tech.

So, to those youngsters out there reveling in the technology available through the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, remember you may experience an incredible change in technology yourself as the decades pass. Just don’t take things for granted today. You may just find yourself nostalgic for the days when computers and life were so much simpler.

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Michael Brockbank

I have been playing games for more than 30 years. I wouldn’t consider myself a hard-core gamer, but I have brought the pain in my day. Now that I am rounding the horn at 40, I still enjoy everything from booting up the old Commodore 64 to exploring new titles in Steam. You’re never too old to enjoy a good plot and mind-numbing graphics.

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