With hardware I mean the accessories that came out for the Commodore computers. I will by no
means collect all the different hardware pieces, but a managable sample of the interesting
ones that are available on the market.
Tape and floppy drives
Commodore started out with their first PET computer having a built in cassette player
which would be the main storage type to be used for many users of their computers. Naturally
tape drives have their serious limitations like very very slow reading and writing. Also
the data was sequencial and there was no easy way to find the programs or data you wanted
to load unless you kept an index of the counter position for each program. Commodore released
a number of cassette drives for their computers and they were all using the same interface
and compatible all the way up until the Plus4/C16/C116 type of computers which used a
Its clear that using a tape drive was maybe good enought to load simple programs and
applications. But for those that needed to read or write now and then, it could be hard to
use a tape drive. Some games were multi-part or had so much data that the 64kb of e.g. the
C64 was too small and the game had to load each part as the player progressed. It was very
slow and tedious now that I look back on it. But for some reason it was good enough then for
millions of users. Especially in Europe, cassette based games were very popular simply because
people couldnt afford disk drives. Eventually something called turbo loaders came out which
used compression algorithms and shortened the loading and saving time somewhat.
It is clear that disk based storage is much better. Commodores
first disk drives for the PET had double drives and used the 5 1/4" format instead of the old 8"
disks of other computers. This format would live for over 10 years until the Amiga came along and
used 3.5" disks with much more storage space. Commodore also released a 3.5" drive for the
C64/C128, the 1581, which is a nice collectors item today.
The disk drives usually had their PSU inside the drive which made them bulky, but at the
same time avoided yet another box on the floor (to warm your feet on). The VIC20 and 64 had
their distinct drives formed in the same styling as the bread-box computer with their 1540
and 1541 drives. The 1541 with the grey boks would be the most purchased drive of all times
for microcomputers and any serious C64 owner saved up for one. When the C64c came along they
released the new 1541 II where they took the PSU out of the box which naturally made the
device look more sleek. It fit the new styling of the C64 perfect.
The C128D was profiled more as a business computer and had a 5 1/4 floppy inside the
case, and for the C128 a new set of floppy drives came out, among these the 1571 which was
the same drive that was inside the C128D. Commodore had a history of having to ruin their own
products by solving timing issues in their devices by slowing them down, and the 1570 and 1571
solved some of that by offering a burst mode that only worked on the C128 computers.
The Plus4 computers got their own floppy drive, the 1551 which was only
compatible with the Plus4. It wasnt a very good seller because they never came out with
the promised C64 interface for it.
All the Amigas had 3.5" drives integrated and also provided extra external drives
which was quite popular. The Amigas were also the first computer for Commodore to have
a harddrive as an optional sidecar expansion for the Amiga500. Later models would
have harddrives more easily integrated in the case.
Joysticks, Paddles, Lightpen and Mice
The VIC20 had only one joystick port so the only way to play 2 players (unless one
was using the keyboard) was to split the 2 axis into two devices - the famous Paddles
that were quite common on the first game consoles. They also released an Atari style
joystick. For the C64 a new style of joystick was also released. Almost every computer got
their own style of the joysticks. Notably the Plus4/C16/C116 joysticks used a different
port and an adapter was needed if you wanted to use them on another computer (or vice versa).
CRT screens enabled users to hook up a lightpen that would react to scanlines on the
screen enabling a user to draw directly on the television. It was a facinating feature
for an old computer - the first touch screens in a sense.
For a long time, a mouse was an unknown input device for Commodore computers, util the
Amiga 1000 was released - and a bit later GEOS came along for the C64. These had graphical
user interfaces much like the Mac and a mouse was a natural input device for this. Commodore
released a couple of mouses for the C64 (1350, 1351) and over the Amiga years some different
styles were made for that. The first model 1350 for C64 only emulated joystick movements
while the latter had a more analog conversion like a real mouse.
Printers and Plotters