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1980 - The Commodore VIC 20


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Announced at an International Managers conference in London in April 1980 by Commodore's founder Jack Tramiel, the Vic 20 was an advancement of the original Commodore PET, purpose designed for the home market. The VIC 20 was revolutionary in that it offered colour graphics at a modest price and used the same 6502 processor as the PET. The Video Interface Chip (VIC) provided up to 16 colours, 8 for the foreground and 8 for the background or border.

Its name was derived from the decidated chip that controlled the screen display - the Video Interface Chip or VIC, but in the early days of development it didn't really have a name. Most of the engineers liked the name Vixen, and sketches of a cute little fox to be used as a logo were even prepared. The name Vickie was also mentioned, but after months of procastination (sorry, serious research using thesauri and such), VIC was decided. However VIC by itself sounded a bit naked, so they decided to add a number. The only meaningful number was VIC-22 (based on 22 columns) but given Tramiel's "user friendly computer" attitude at the time, it wasn't considered to be "friendly" enough, so 20 was used instead. Ironically Vixen was vetoed as a name because it had undesirable connotations in German, but VIC later turned out to mean something even worse. As a result, the German model was called VC-20 and translated as "Volks Computer" (the "People's Computer"), and the Japanese model was called the VIC-1001. Incidentally, the Japanese model included uppercase English letters, PET graphics and Japanese characters.

VIC 20 Technical Specifications
Microprocessor MOS 6502
System Memory 2K ROM - 3K RAM
User Area 3K RAM - 3K if Basic Interpreter not used
Keyboard Qwerty layout - 66 keys including 4 function keys
Display 22 columns 25 lines 255 displayable characters
Resolution 192 x 200 pixels
Colours 16 - 8 for the foreground and 8 for the background or border
Sound 3 tone generators + white noise generator
Input/Output RS232C Commodore Serial Port
Cassette Drive C1531 Cassette Drive port
Joysticks 2 Joystick ports
Other ROM Cartridge port
Price NZ$895
Datasette NZ$199


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Revised: September 25, 2005.