Day 5: Graphics and Frustration
On day five, I had planned to tackle graphics-related applications. On the C64, that mostly means joystick-based doodling programs, mouse-based clones of MacPaint, and Broderbund's The Print Shop, which allowed users to design and print cute banners, newsletters, and custom calendars.
But in truth, I spent most of Day 5 trying to transfer NovaTerm, a nice 80-column terminal program, over the serial connection from the Linux Machine to the C64. At 1200 bits per second, each attempt took quite a while, and just as I succeeded, I ran out of time.
Earlier in the day, I did get a chance to try a single graphics package: Doodle, a joystick-based drawing program released by Omni Software around 1985. This is what I managed to doodle:
I was aiming for "Sunset, as viewed from the Eiffel Tower in 1892," but it ended up looking more like lines made by a woodworm.
So what did I learn from my week-long Commodore 64 adventure? I'd have to say that, truthfully, I ended my week with less respect for the platform as a general-purpose PC than I had before I started.
I've owned a C64 (or ten) for almost two decades now, and I had used them only casually to play games now and then. Using them for anything else is an exercise in frustration, especially when you're dealing with vintage hardware that was unreliable to begin with.
But I have a great respect for the C64's role as a cultural catalyst for a generation who grew up basking in its warm blue glow. For them, the Commodore 64 did everything they needed: It provided a valuable stepping-stone to a larger world of computers, it taught many how to program for the first time, and, for its day, it was a killer gaming machine.
If you simply take C64 as it was—an entry-level home computer that provided immense entertainment value—then it is obvious that few products fulfilled that role better than Commodore's little brown box.
Few technology products have been as influential or important in the lives of millions as the C64.
Despite my troubles using it as a work machine, I am not ashamed to raise a glass to toast its 30th anniversary.