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1980s Computers Explanation of terms
Notes


The VIC 20


VIC 20

Manufacturer

Commodore (US)

Model

VIC 20
(The name arose because it contained a Video Interface Chip. The 20 was added to make the name sound more technical.)

Date Launched

January 1981

Price

£200
Later dropped to £125

Microprocessor type

MOSTEK 6502A @ 1 MHz

ROM size

20 kilobytes

Standard RAM

5 kilobytes

Maximum RAM

29 kilobytes

Keyboard type

Typewriter style

Supplied language

BASIC

Text resolution

22 x 23 characters

Graphics resolution

No high-resolution capability directly, but an approximation to 176 x 184 pixel graphics was possible by redefining the character set in RAM.

Colours available

16 for graphics, 8 for text

Example Screenshot

VIC-20 screen
The short lines and narrow gaps between them made text on the VIC-20 very difficult to read.

Sound

3 channels, through internal speaker

Cassette load speed

300 baud
VIC Cassette RecorderRequired a special cassette recorder costing £40.

Dimensions (mm)
Weight (grams)

404 x 216 x 75
1200 approx.

Special features

Large character set with many symbols, enabling pictures to be built up as 'text'.
Redefinable function keys.

Good points

Had cartridge and joystick ports for game playing.
Large amount of (mostly games) software available.

Bad points

Supplied memory was too small to use full graphics potential, or for complex programs other than on cartridge.
The text display was too narrow, making word processing or even reading program listings difficult.
The BASIC was limited and all graphics and sound control was via POKE statements.

How successful?

One of the best selling computers of all - about 2.5 million had been sold by 1985.

Comments

It was one of the cheapest colour computers available, and with a good specification, especially if extra memory was added.
The Commodore 16, a VIC 20 with 16 KB of RAM and light keys in a dark case, was launched in June 1984 for £140, but the Commodore 64 with 64 KB for £175 was a better buy.



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