History of Commodore - History

History of Commodore - History

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The Junior flag officer rank, standing between captain and rear admiral.

(SwStr: t. 80 cpl. 56; a. 1 20-pdr. r., 1 12-pdr. r.,
1 21-pdr. how., 1 12-pdr. how.)

The first Commodore, a side wheel steamer, was built at New Orleans and fitted for service with the West Gulf Blockading Squadron during 1863. On 31 July 1863 Acting Master F. M. Green was ordered to her command with instructions to patrol in Lake Pontchartrain, LA., The small steamer remained there throughout the war. She was renamed Fort Gaines on 1 September 1864 and sold at New Orleans, 12 August 1866.

Released: August 1982 – April 1994(!)

Specs: 64KB RAM, 1.023MHz CPU

“Gee, Will, with access to so many computers and parents who owned a bookstore, you must have been rich!”

No, we weren’t rich. My father ran the bookstore into the ground with his sketchy accounting and customer service (“It can’t be cheaper back in Michigan. They print the price on the fucking cover!”) by 1984 or so, but even at its height, there were only so many Judith Krantz novels and books about snakes we could sell. Soon, my father was working as a furniture mover and security guard, and my mother was working at a doctor’s office and as an EMT.

I was lucky in a few important ways, though:

  1. My parents had very strange financial priorities, often involved with keeping up appearances of our social class. So we’d eat Dinty Moore beef stew with my father’s restored Porsche parked out in the driveway.
  2. My grandparents, much better money managers, must have asked my parents at key birthdays and Christmas what my sister and I wanted.
  3. My family as a whole likes to give dramatic, wish-fulfilling gifts. (Which sucks as adults because we all have most of what we want.)

So it came to be for my twelfth birthday in 1985 that I got a Commodore 64 home computer. I remember my father did a lot of research and asked around to discover that it was a superior product for the price, which was essentially true. It came out of the box with a lot of features that required upgrades to an Apple II.

My father also imposed a rule for the Commodore: no games except ones I wrote myself. That felt draconian at the time, but in retrospect, it sparked me to learn programming in a way that I wouldn’t otherwise.

He eventually got a professional job again (at a mental institution, ironically), and my first black-and-white monitor for the Commodore was almost certainly pilfered from there, because that’s how he rolled.

Before I could work on games, my father was obsessed first and foremost with having me write a program that he could use as an address book.

What he craved was the convenience of:

  1. Sitting down at the computer.
  2. Inserting a tape into the cassette drive and fast-forwarding to a spot we’d written down for the counter.
  3. Typing LOAD “ADDRESSBOOK”,1.
  4. Pressing Play on the tape deck and waiting patiently for the program to load at 55 bytes per second.
  5. Typing RUN.
  6. Entering a person’s name precisely spelled in answer to a prompt.
  7. Waiting briefly for the program to churn through some READ and DATA statements.
  8. Receiving the requested phone number, assuming the person was in the data.

Even as a kid, I thought this was insane, so I suppose this marks my first encounter with unreasonable client demands for software.

It was also my first encounter with development delays and bad project management because he left my mother for another woman before I finished writing the program.

(And thank God, because as funny as I make him sound, he was a dangerous and violent sociopath and he exits the story here.)

In his absence, I got cracking on those games, including a Star Trek ship simulator.

My friends and I would position the coffee table and TV in the living room to be the bridge of the ship, and I’d write a program that could accept commands for navigation and combat. You could enter a heading and a warp factor, and the computer would show you scrolling stars as the ship was underway. At random intervals, Klingons would attack, and it was possible to fight them off with phasers and photon torpedoes after declaring Red Alert.

There are no pictures of this bridge setup, alas, but this was the computer at the time:

It was really a prop for role-playing more than an actual game, and that source code had to be an ungodly mess as I added feature after feature to make it better. A few friends remember my frustration at debugging that resulted in some loosened keys, but then, shit was blowing up on the Enterprise all the time like that.

What I learned most from that Commodore 64 was the power of tinkering and incremental changes based on making something user friendly. It wasn’t necessary to get the exact product you wanted on the first try, though my anxiety disorder didn’t let that part sink in for many more years.

The programs I wrote on the Commodore were all about entertaining people, and that’s a practice I maintain today not only with my fiction but also with my design and technical work. I’m less interested in what I can help people DO than in how I can make them FEEL. The Commodore’s emphasis on audio and graphics made that easy.

Commodore 64

The 8-bit home computer Commodore 64 (commonly known as the C64 or C=64), introduced by Commodore International in January, 1982, was a machine with remarkable market success. Volume production started sometime in the spring of 1982, with machines being released on to the market in August at a price of $595. During the his lifetime, sales totaled some 17 million units, making it the best-selling single personal computer model of all time. For a substantial period of time (1983-1986), the Commodore 64 dominated the market with between 30% and 40% share and 2 million units sold per year, outselling the IBM PC clones, Apple computers, and Atari computers. Sam Tramiel, a former Atari president said in a 1989 interview "When I was at Commodore we were building 400 000 C64s a month for a couple of years."

Part of the Commodore 64 success was because it was sold in retail stores instead of electronics stores, and that these machines can be directly plugged into an existing home television without any modifications. Commodore produced many of its parts in-house to control supplies and cost. Improving the reliability, as well as reduce manufacturing costs, eventually, it cost only about $25.00 to manufacture, and the consumer price of the C-64 dropped to around $200.00.

Another part of the Commodore 64 success was because approximately 10000 commercial software titles were made for the Commodore 64 including development tools, office applications, and games. The machine is also credited with popularizing the computer demo scene. The Commodore 64 is still used today by some computer hobbyists.

The Commodore 64 home computer see the upper image) remained in production from August 1982 as late as until April 1994. The Operating system was Commodore KERNAL/Commodore BASIC 2.0. The CPU was MOS Technology 6510, working at 1.02 MHz (NTSC version) or 0.985 MHz (PAL version). Memory: 64 kB RAM, 20 kB ROM. Display: 25吤 text. Graphics VIC-II (320𴢠, 16 colors, sprites, raster interrupt). Sound was SID 6581, 3 channels of sound. Ports: TV, RGB & composite video, 2 joysticks, cartridge port, serial peripheral port. Peripherals: cassette recorder, printer, modem, external 170K floppy drive.

The Commodore Business Machines was found in 1954 by Jack Tramiel (Jewish, born Idek Trzmiel on December 13, 1928, in Łódź, Poland, emigrant to the United States in 1947) of Bronx, New York. Later Tramiel relocates to Toronto and became the biggest manufacturer of low cost office furniture in Canada. In 1970s Commodore manufactures calculators and digital watches, but gets killed by Texas Instruments. In 1976 Commodore purchases MOS Technologies, an American maker of IC chips. MOS’ senior engineer, Chuck Peddle was working on the 6502 micro processor, a popular 8 bit processor that soon would be used in machines like the Apple II, the Atari 800, the Commodore PET and 64.

In 1977 Commodore launched its first successful computer&mdashPET 2001 computer, for US$600. In 1980 Commodore Japan introduces the VIC-1001 (later called the VIC-20 in the USA) US$299, which appears to be a rather successful machine. During its life, production peaks at 9000 units per day.

In January 1981, MOS Technology, initiated a project to design the graphic and audio chips for a next generation video game console. Design work for the chips, (which will be used in C64), named MOS Technology VIC-II (graphics) and MOS Technology SID (audio), was completed in November 1981.

At the same time Robert Russell (system programmer and architect on the VIC-20) and Robert Yannes (engineer of the SID) were critical of the current product line-up at Commodore, which was a continuation of the Commodore PET line aimed at business users. With the support of Al Charpentier (engineer of the VIC-II) and Charles Winterble (manager of MOS Technology), they proposed to Commodore CEO Jack Tramiel a true low-cost sequel to the VIC-20. Tramiel dictated that the machine should have 64 kB of RAM. Although 64 KB of DRAM cost over 100 USD at the time, he knew that DRAM prices were falling, and would drop to an acceptable level before full production was reached. In November, Tramiel set a deadline for the first weekend of January, to coincide with the 1982 Consumer Electronics Show.

Commodore 64 with monitor and floppy

The product was codenamed the VIC-40 as the successor to the popular VIC-20. The team that constructed it consisted of Bob Russell, Bob Yannes and David A. Ziembicki. The design, prototypes and some sample software was finished in time for the show, after the team had worked tirelessly over both Thanksgiving and Christmas weekends.

When the product was to be presented, the VIC-40 product was renamed C64 in order to fit into the current Commodore business products lineup which contained the P128 and the B256, both named by a letter and their respective memory size.

The C64 made an impressive debut at the January 1982 Winter Consumer Electronics Show, as recalled by Production Engineer David A. Ziembicki: "All we saw at our booth were Atari people with their mouths dropping open, saying, ‘How can you do that for $595?’" The answer, as it turned out, was vertical integration thanks to Commodore’s ownership of MOS Technology’s semiconductor fabrication facilities, each C64 had an estimated production cost of only $135.

In 1984, Commodore released the SX64 (see the upper image), a portable C64 with built-in monitor, floppy drive and power supply.

The Complete History of the Mac

The Macintosh, or Mac, is a series of several lines of personal computers, manufactured by Apple Inc. The first Macintosh was introduced on January 24, 1984, by Steve Jobs and it was the first commercially successful personal computer to feature two … Keep Reading


Early days Edit

Use of the term "commodore" dates from 1775 in the then–Continental Navy, the predecessor of the modern U.S. Navy, when it was established (but not used) as a courtesy title reserved for captains in command of a fleet or squadron. [1]

The first U.S. naval officer to become a commodore was John Barry, a senior officer of the Navy, appointed in 1794 after the former Continental Navy was reorganized into what would become the current U.S. Navy. [1]

Because the U.S. Congress was originally unwilling to authorize more than four officer ranks in the navy (captain, master commandant, lieutenant, and midshipman) until 1862, considerable importance was attached to the title of commodore. Captain Isaac Hull, chafing at not being able to progress further in rank, wrote in 1814 that, if no admirals were to be authorized, something should be done to prevent, ". every midshipman that has command of a gunboat on a separate station taking upon himself the name of Commodore".

Like its Royal Navy counterpart at the time, the U.S. Navy commodore was not a higher rank, but a temporary assignment for navy officers, as Herman Melville wrote in his 1850 novel, White-Jacket. [1]

An American commodore in the early period, like an English commodore or a French chef d'escadre, was an officer (generally, but not exclusively, a captain) assigned temporary command of more than one ship. He continued his permanent or regular rank during the assignment. Once employed as a commodore, however, many jealously held onto the impressive title after their qualifying assignment ended. The Navy Department tried to discourage such continuing usage because it led to confusion and unnecessary rivalries.

Eventually the title of commodore was defined more strictly, and was reserved for captains so designated by the Navy Department, although the practice of retaining the title for life added some confusion.

Rank of flag officer Edit

In 1857, Congress established the grade of flag officer. This generic title was intended "to promote the efficiency of the Navy", but differed little from the previous practice. The first flag officer appointed was Charles Stewart, who was appointed as "Senior Flag Officer" in 1857. The Act to Further Promote the Efficiency of the Navy, [2] passed on December 21, 1861, gave the president the authority to appoint squadron commanders with the "rank and title" of flag officer. On January 3, 1862 Charles H. Bell (naval officer), William W. McKean, Louis Goldsborough and Samuel Dupont were promoted to Flag Officer, followed by David Farragut on January 17, 1862. [3]

The rank of flag officer was short lived because it was replaced by commodore in July 1862.

American Civil War Edit

Because of the acute need for officers at the beginning of the American Civil War, naval tradition was ignored and commodore became for the first time a permanent commissioned rank in the U.S. Navy. Eighteen commodores were authorized on July 16, 1862. The rank title also lost its "line command" status when, in 1863, the chiefs of the bureaus of Medicine and Surgery, Provisions and Clothing, Steam Engineering, and Construction and Repair were all given the rank of commodore.

Disestablishment Edit

The rank of commodore continued in the Navy until March 3, 1899, when "An Act To reorganize and increase the efficiency and the personnel of the Navy and Marine Corps" redefined the list of officers on the active list and did not include the rank of commodore, effectively disestablishing the rank for active line officer, but not on the retirement list. [4] [5]

According to Laws Relating to the Navy, 1919, the step was taken, "…on account of international relationships, the consideration of which caused the Navy Department to regard the complications confronting it as inimical to the honor and dignity of this nation, because of the adverse effect upon its high ranking representatives in their association with foreign officers". In short, U.S. Navy commodores were not being treated as flag officers by other navies, or given the respect that the Navy Department thought was their due.

As it would have been expensive to increase the pay of all the former commodores to the level of rear admirals, the U.S. Congress at the time specified that the lower half of the rear admiral list have pay equal to brigadier generals of the U.S. Army. If there were an odd number of rear admirals, the lower half of the list was to be the larger. All rear admirals lower half and full rear admirals, were considered equal to major generals, flew a blue flag with the requisite number of stars instead of a broad pennant, and were entitled to a 13-gun salute. The U.S. Supreme Court later held that the rank of commodore had been removed from the U.S. Navy, leaving it without a rank equivalent to brigadier general. This act disgruntled all the brigadier generals, who could now be outranked by officers who were their juniors in terms of service. This was a point of inter-service controversy for many years, especially after 1916, when the U.S. Army made its brigadier generals equivalent to rear admirals (lower half). Thus the two-star rank of rear admiral was now equal to that of major general. [6] [7]

World War II and the Cold War Edit

During the huge expansion of the U.S. Navy during World War II, the Department of the Navy was concerned that the appointment of more flag officers would create a glut of admirals whenever peacetime was achieved. However, some Navy and Coast Guard captains, although not yet selected for rear admiral (lower half), were holding commands of significantly higher responsibility than they had earlier and this needed to be recognized. The COMINCH of the U.S. Navy and Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral (later Fleet Admiral) Ernest J. King, proposed bringing back the older rank of "commodore" for these officers. President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed, making the suggestion that the title be revived. [8]

As a result, the one-star officer rank for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard was re-established in April 1943 with the title of "commodore". In actual practice, some officers on admiral's staffs were also promoted to the rank of commodore. By the end of the War in the Pacific in August 1945, there were over 100 commodores in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard. With respect to the U.S. Coast Guard, it should be understood that during World War II, the much-expanded Coast Guard was transferred from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of the Navy and was involved in combat operations in both anti-submarine warfare and amphibious warfare, thousands of miles away from home, and not just in its usual role of defending the coasts of the United States, detaining smugglers, lifesaving, and search and rescue operations.

After World War II, and with the rapid drawdown in size of both the Navy and the Coast Guard, very few of the wartime commodores were ever promoted to rear admiral. All promotions to commodore ceased in 1947, and nearly all of the commodores who had held the one-star rank had either been promoted to rear admiral or had retired from the Navy by 1950. According to the 1949 edition of the Official Register of Commissioned Officers of the United States Navy, updated to January 1st, 1949, the last two commodores on active duty were Tully Shelley (b. 1892) and Antoine O. Rabideau (b. 1884). [9] Shelley retired in July 1949 and was promoted on retirement to rear admiral retroactive to April 3, 1945. [10] Rabideau apparently died sometime in 1949, as he is not listed in the 1950 register as either on active duty or as retired.

However, as the Cold War evolved, the Navy began to rebound from its immediate post-World War II reductions. This expanding Navy saw growth in several mission areas, and the reintroduction and designation of senior captains in command of units comprising multiple ships (e.g., "flotillas"), multiple aviation squadrons or other similar organizations became increasingly commonplace, leading to increased use of the title of commodore for those senior captains occupying these highly responsible positions.

1982 commodore admiral / 1983 rear admiral (lower half) Edit

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, following years of objections and complaints by the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Marine Corps, efforts were begun to reinstate commodore as an official rank in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard with a pay grade of O-7, replacing "rear admiral (lower half)", which were Navy and Coast Guard flag officers who were paid at the one-star rank of an O-7 and carried the relative seniority of a one-star officer, but who, due to the elimination of the rank of commodore at the end of World War II, wore the same two-star rank insignia as a full, or "upper half," rear admiral, an O-8.

In 1982, the rank of commodore was finally and officially reintroduced in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard as the O-7 rank. This was intended to quell the long-running dissatisfaction by U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force officers with the U.S. Navy's and the U.S. Coast Guard's policy of honoring its rear admirals (lower half), who received the pay grade of O-7 while wearing the rank insignia of a two-star admiral, i.e., an O-8. The one-star officer's rank and insignia for Navy and Coast Guard officers was thence re-established with the initial title of commodore admiral. [11] [12]

In 1983, following numerous objections by USN officers to the Chief of Naval Operations and USCG officers to the Commandant of the Coast Guard that this new title was unwieldy and confusing, the rank of "commodore admiral" was simplified to "commodore".

However, this action still failed to stem the confusion and the objections of senior officers in the naval services. This was because the U.S. Navy had long assigned the title (although not the rank) of commodore to selected captains holding major operational sea-going commands. Since at least the late 1940s, commodore had been used as a "position title" for senior navy captains who commanded air groups and air wings (other than those officers commanding carrier air groups/carrier air wings, who were historically known and referred to as "CAGs"), destroyer squadrons, submarine squadrons, amphibious squadrons, patrol boat flotillas, patrol hydrofoil missile ship squadrons, special warfare groups, construction regiments, and other large seagoing commands. The U.S. Coast Guard had never previously used the title.

Later in 1983, the one-star U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard admiral rank was changed back to its original O-7 pay grade title of "rear admiral" with the discriminator in seniority and protocol purposes of Rear Admiral, lower half, and a rank title abbreviation of RDML versus the O-8 rank title abbreviation of RADM.

From then on, commodore has remained a title for U.S. Navy captains in command of more than a single unit (other than captains commanding carrier air wings, who retained their traditional title of "CAG") and all U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard one-star admirals were subsequently referred to as rear admiral. The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard rear admirals (lower half), continued to wear the single star for collar insignia and applicable shoulder insignia (i.e., flight suits, jackets, etc.), a single silver star on top of solid gold background shoulder board insignia, and a single broad gold sleeve stripe insignia for dress blue uniforms (service dress blue, full dress blue and dinner dress blue) of all USN and USCG flag officers in pay grade O-7, and for the service dress white and full dress white uniforms of female USN flag officers in pay grade O-7. [13]

The term "commodore" again reverted to that of an honorary title versus an actual rank for the limited number of captains in command of multiple units.

Military Edit

U.S. Navy Edit

The U.S. Navy no longer maintains a rank of commodore, but the term has survived as an honorary title. Modern-day commodores are senior captains in the U.S. Navy holding major operational command of functional or "type" air wings or air groups (exclusive of carrier air wings) such as strike fighter wings, electronic attack wings, patrol and reconnaissance wings, airborne early warning wings, strategic communications wings, various helicopter wings, training air wings, [14] or tactical air control groups destroyer squadrons submarine squadrons amphibious squadrons mine countermeasures squadrons riverine squadrons coastal warfare groups and squadrons special warfare (SEAL) groups explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) groups logistics task forces and naval construction regiments.

With the exception of the naval construction regiments that are commanded by senior captains of the U.S. Navy's Civil Engineer Corps, all other commodores are senior captains who are warfare-qualified unrestricted line (URL) officers in that combat specialty (e.g., naval aviators and naval flight officers commanding "functional" or "type" air wings or air groups, [15] [16] surface warfare officers commanding destroyer or littoral combat ship squadrons, submarine warfare officers commanding submarine squadrons, SEAL officers commanding special warfare groups, etc.).

Such officers employ the term "commander" in their organizational command title, this in keeping with the naval tradition of officers commanding a single ship, unit or installation being referred to as a "commanding officer" or "CO", while those captains and flag officers commanding multiple ships, multiple aviation squadrons, multiple air wings, task forces, fleets, etc., being known as a "commander" (but not to be confused with the USN / USCG rank of commander). With the exception of commanders of carrier air wings, captains in this latter category are referred to, both orally and in correspondence, as "commodore", but continue to wear the rank insignia of a captain. [17] [18] Captains in command of carrier air wings continue to use the traditional title of "CAG" which dates from when these units were known as carrier air groups.

While technically not flag officers, captains holding a commodore billet are authorized a blue and white broad pennant, [19] also known as a "command pennant", which is normally flown from their headquarters facilities ashore and/or from ships on which they are embarked when they are the senior officer present afloat (SOPA). Depending on the type of aircraft, it may also be displayed as a plate or decal when embarked on that aircraft, or painted on one of the aircraft in one of their subordinate squadrons that also displays their name on the fuselage. This swallow-tailed pennant has a white field bounded by two horizontal blue stripes, with the numerical designation or the initials of the command title in blue centered on the white field. [20]

In the U.S. Navy, commodore billets are considered to be O-6 "major command" assignments for Captains, on par with the commanding officers of major combatant vessels (e.g., aircraft carrier, battleship, guided missile cruiser), commanders of carrier air wings, and commanding officers of major shore installations (e.g., naval air station, naval station, naval base, naval support activity, etc.). In the other U.S. armed services, the level and scope of responsibility of a USN Captain in a commodore billet is equivalent to that of the Commanding Officer of a Marine Regiment, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) or Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in the U.S. Marine Corps, a wing commander in the U.S. Air Force (even when the USN command is designated as a "Group"), or a brigade commander or O-6 level post commander/installation commander in the U.S. Army.

U.S. Coast Guard Edit

The U.S. Coast Guard presently designates the USCG captain commanding those U.S. Coast Guard cutters and other afloat and ashore USCG units comprising Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) as a "commodore". PATFORSWA is headquartered at Naval Support Activity Bahrain in Manama, Bahrain and its primary area of responsibility is the Persian Gulf, as well as other areas coinciding with that of United States Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT). It is currently the only commodore billet in the U.S. Coast Guard and this usage mirrors the USN's use of the title "commodore".

Auxiliary Components of Uniformed Services Edit

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Edit

In the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary variants of "commodore" are used as position titles for high level leadership positions (e.g. National Commodore, Deputy National Commodore, District Commodore etc.). While auxiliarists do not hold ranks per se, and it is not usual to address an auxiliarist by position title, these very senior members do use "Commodore" (abbreviated "COMO") as a form of address (e.g. Commodore John Smith or COMO John Smith). [21] The National Commodore wears insignia similar to that of a Coast Guard vice admiral (three stars), the Vice National Commodore and the four Deputy National Commodores wear insignia similar to that of a rear admiral upper half (two stars), and the eight Assistant National Commodores and each District Commodore wear insignia similar to that of a rear admiral lower half (one star). There also several Deputy Assistant National Commodores but these members wear insignia similar to that of a Coast Guard captain and are not addressed as "Commodore."

The Coast Guard Auxiliary also occasionally bestows the title of "Honorary Commodore" as a mark of high esteem. Recipients of this honor include actor and Coast Guard veteran Lloyd Bridges (who was an active member of the Auxiliary and served as its national celebrity spokesman in the 1970's) and television personality Al Roker (who produced the documentary series Coast Guard Alaska).

U.S. Maritime Service Edit

The United States Maritime Service uses the rank of commodore for their one-star flag officers, with the two-star rank being simply designated as "rear admiral". The rank is usually given to the president of one of the seven federal and state maritime academies who had not attained flag rank during his/her active duty naval career.

Commodore in Yachting Leadership Edit

Civilian yacht clubs, yachting associations and fellowships [22] with formal hierarchical structures, began to use the title "commodore" in countries around the world [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] for their presidents in the early twentieth century [32] along with "vice commodore" in the same manner as "vice president,"and "rear-commodore" and "port captain' or "international bridge member" in the same manner as board members. [33]

Commodores, Vice-Commodores and Rear-Commodores are also known as civilian Flag officers because they have an Epaulettes, Regalia and Maritime flags with designated symbols and number of stars for their ranks. Many of the clubs that are more than a century old, such as the Los Angeles Yacht Club have formal ceremonies, where Commodores from more than 100 surrounding yacht clubs, flag officers of the US Navy and Coast Guard attend a ceremony at the beginning of the year. The ceremony includes a bagpipe entrance, a presentation of the country flag by commissioned officers of the country's navy and a cannon shot upon the raising of each individual officer's flags on a flag staff, (also known as Flagpoles) for each flag officer (Commodore, Vice Commodore, Rear Commodore) as their term of office officially begins. Sometimes a trumpet fanfare is also include for special occasions like ribbon cutting in 2019 for the 50th Transpacific Yacht Race. Salutes are given to Commodores for special ceremonies, including Opening Days of the Racing Season.

Commodore as Mascot or Nickname Edit

The athletic teams of Vanderbilt University of the Southeastern Conference use "Commodore" as their mascot, the nickname of the university's founder and namesake Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Florida, also uses the Commodore mascot for its sports teams.

Commodore as a title of Recognition by State of Rhode Island Edit

The state of Rhode Island has a group of select individuals, appointed by the governor, known as Rhode Island Commodores. Rhode Island Commodores function as ambassadors for the state and promote its economy and attractions. It is a similar to the title Kentucky Colonel but less commonly awarded.

A History of Commodore’s 8-bit Computers

Best known for the Commodore 64, the best selling single model in the history of computing, Commodore International was one of the first companies to enter the personal computing market and the first with a million-selling computer. Its first model was the Commodore PET.

Before the PET

Commodore got its start long before personal computers arrived. It was founded in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1954 as the Commodore Portable Typewriter Company by Polish immigrant Jack Tramiel. The company incorporated as Commodore Business Machines in 1955. In 1962, it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange as Commodore International.

When Japanese imports forced most North American typewriter manufacturers out of business in the late 1950s, Tramiel moved to adding machines. Then in the late 1960s, Japanese adding machines hit the North American market, once again threatening Commodore’s existence.

Tramiel went to Japan to figure out how to compete and came back with the idea of producing electronic calculators instead of mechanical adding machines. Once again, Commodore had a successful product on its hands – until in 1975 Texas Instruments (TI) entered the market with calculators that cost less than Commodore was paying for parts (TI was one of Commodore’s important suppliers).

Tramiel decided to head in another direction, took out a $3 million loan, and acquired chip manufacturer MOS Technology, Inc. to assure a steady supply of chips for his gear. Part of the agreement was that Chuck Peddle, MOS Tech’s chip designer, would join Commodore.

Commodore’s First Computer

Before home computers, there were hobbyist computers. The KIM-1 was one of the first, developed as a way for MOS Technology to demonstrate its 6502 CPU. The KIM-1 was the world’s first single-board computer when it was released in 1976. It had 1 KB of memory, a 6-digit LED display, a cassette interface, and 15 input/output ports. It sold for $245 and only required a power supply and some sort of enclosure for the 9″ x 10″ board.

This became the basis for many different projects and laid the foundation for Commodore’s first personal computer, which was released in 1977.

The Commodore PET

Peddle convinced Tramiel that calculators were a dead end, so Commodore should turn its attention to the fledgling personal computer market (often called home computers back then). Peddle designed a machine with a metal case, a keyboard, a built-in monitor, and a built-in cassette tape drive for loading and saving software and files. This was the Commodore PET 2001, which came to market in October 1977.

The PET was named in part for the pet rock fad, which lasted about six months during 1975. Silly as it sounds, 1.5 million pet rocks were sold during that period for $4.00 each, making their creator a millionaire. Officially, P.E.T. stood for Personal Electronic Transactor.

There were only two other home computers at that time: The Apple II, also built around the MOS 6502 CPU, had arrived in June 1977, replacing the Apple 1, which had been more of a do-it-yourself project. The Apple II sold for $1,298 with 4 KB of memory and could be used with a composite monitor or with a color or black-and-white TV (with an RF modulator) and cassette tape recorder, which many homes already had.

The other was the TRS-80 Model I, on sale at Radio Shack stores across the US since August 1977. It was based on the Zilog Z-80 CPU, and the 4 KB version retailed at $599, which included a screen and tape recorder.

The PET sold for $495 with the same 4 KB as its competitors. Commodore could only produce 30 units per day at that time, and orders came in so quickly that Tramiel decided to raise the price to $595. Next Commodore started pushing the 8 KB version at $795, since the 4 KB model left only 3 KB available for the user. In all, Commodore sold 500 PETs in 1977.

A Better BASIC

Commodore acquired a BASIC license from Microsoft, allowing it to install Commodore BASIC on as many machines as it could produce for a single, one-time fee. Over the years, it was installed on tens of millions of Commodore computers. Microsoft BASIC included floating point operations the BASIC used in the TRS-80 and Apple II at that time only worked with integers.

The Datasette

The Datasette tape drive reads and writes data at 1500 bits per second, but the computer reads and writes data twice to verify integrity as well as using a parity bit. Unlike the cassette tape units used with other personal computers, the Datasette is a digital device, not analog.

It would take over 2 minutes to load an 8 KB program from tape, something developers addressed starting in 1980. The PET Rabbit for 16 KB and 32 KB PET and CBM computers used routines that made saving and loading data 4x as fast. At $30, it was a lot less expensive than a disk drive. (The January 1985 issue of Compute! magazine included TurboTape as a free type-it-in program for the Commodore 64 and a VIC-20 with at least 8 KB of memory expansion. TurboSaved programs did not require TurboTape to load. Like The PET Rabbit, it speeded up tape operations four-fold.)

The Display

The original PET has a 9″ display showing 25 lines of text with up to 40 characters per line (this uses just 1000 Bytes of memory). When Commodore introduced the PET 4000 series, it displayed the same amount of text on a 12″ screen, and the CBM 8000 family provides 80 columns of text, twice as much as earlier Commodores (also using twice as much system memory, 2000 Bytes).

The Keyboard and Character Set

One clever feature of the PET and later Commodore computers was the PETSCII character set, also known as CBM ASCII. In addition to the standard characters found on a keyboard, Commodore computers had a whole range of graphical symbols that could be accessed from the keyboard – and these characters were even printed on the keycaps for easy access.

The biggest complain about the original PET was its keyboard, which was laid out in a grid (see above keyboard layout) and not like a typewriter keyboard. Within a year Commodore introduced the PET 2001-N (right), which removed the tape drive and added a standard keyboard along with a numeric keypad (something the TRS-80 had but the Apple II did not).

In 1978, Commodore also expanded into Europe, where it sold its computers for twice as much as in the States – and it found ready buyers. European models were called CBM models, since Philips had a trademark on the PET name. The first models were the CBM 3008 (8 KB), 3016 (16 KB), and 3032 (32 KB).

Floppy Drives

In 1979, Commodore introduced its first floppy drive, the CBM 2040 dual drive with DOS 1.0 built into it. Like later Commodore floppy drives, it is an intelligent device with its own CPUs (two of them) and RAM that connected to the PET’s IEEE-422 parallel port. Each disk could store 170 KB of data on a single-sided 5-1/4″ floppy. Single drive mechanisms came later.

Because Commodore DOS was built into the floppy drive, you had to buy a new drive to get the latest version of DOS. The 2040 had DOS 1.0, the 4040 used 2.0 and later 2.1, the 8050 included DOS 2.5 and support for 500 KB high-density disks, and the 8250 had DOS 2.7 and could store 1 MB on a double-sided 5.25″ high-density floppy.

Improving PET

By 1980, the PET had moved from its original 9″ display to a 12″ screen, and along the way the metal case had been replaced by a plastic one. The European versions were the called the CBM 4016 and 4032.

Commodore also introduced the 8000 series, which featured 80 characters per row instead of 40 and was geared more toward business use.

VIC-20: The Wonder Computer of the 1980s

About three years after it announced the PET 2001, Commodore introduced the VIC-20, a low cost home computer.

PETs were monochrome computers, but Apple had been selling color computers since 1976. Commodore jumped on the color bandwagon with a new model designed for the home market and intended to be hooked up to your TV or a color monitor. The Commodore VIC-20 was a price breakthrough at US$299.99 when it was released in 1980.

It was first introduced in Japan in 1980, where it was called the VIC-1001 and included Japanese character support. It proved such a hit that some Japanese companies cancelled their plans for lower-cost computers. The VIC-20 became available in the rest of the world in 1981. Commodore sold 800,000 units in 1982 and was able to build up to 9,000 a day.

VIC stands for Video Interface Chip, the component that lets the VIC-20 display color. As for the 20, nobody knows for sure. The VIC-20 displays 22 characters of text per line and 23 lines of text (506 Bytes, just over half as much memory at the PET and 40-column CBM models used), and with a 16 KB memory cartridge it has a total 21 KB of RAM, but Michael Tomczyk, Commodore’s VIC Czar, says the number just sounded friendly.

The VIC-20 uses the same 1 MHz 6502 CPU found in the PET and Apple II, but it is equipped with far less memory than other 1980 machines – just 5 KB, of which 3.5 KB is available for programs. It uses the PETSCII character set, has 4 function keys on the right, works with any DE-9 Atari compatible joystick, and has a cartridge slot for games, programs, and memory expansion to a maximum of 40 KB (BASIC can only access 27.5 KB of memory).

Commodore pushed VIC-20 to the masses, including an ad campaign featuring William Shatner, Captain Kirk from Star Trek. And where PETs had been sold exclusively by computer dealers, VICs were sold in stores such as K-mart. The VIC-20 was the first computer to sell 1 million units.

Perhaps the most popular accessory was the Commodore 1530 C2N-B Datasette, which was much less expensive than a floppy drive – besides which the 1540 floppy drive, the model designed to work with the VIC-20’s disk drive port, wasn’t available until 1982.

Text adventures from Adventure International were put on cartridges and generated over $1.5 million in sales for Commodore.

Commodore developed the first modem to retail for under US$100 for the VIC-20, and the 300 bps VICModem became the first modem to sell 1 million units. A later version, the 15670, supports 1200 bps operation.

Commodore sold over 1 million VIC-20s, and in 1982 it was the best selling computer on the market. But it was about to be eclipsed by a more expensive upstart, and Commodore ended up dropping VIC’s price below $100 in April 1983. Production of the VIC-20 ended in 1984.

Commodore 64: The Upstart

Rather than wait for the VIC-20 to peak before introducing its successor, Commodore chose to strike while the iron was hot and get the Commodore 64 to market as quickly as it could at the price point it wanted to reach. 64 KB of RAM cost over $100 in 1981, yet Commodore aimed at a US$595 retail price. Because Commodore owned MOS Technology and made most of its own chips, and because memory prices kept falling, it knew $595 was an attainable target.

In January 1982, the very year that the VIC-20 was the best selling personal computer, Commodore previewed the Commodore 64 (C-64) at the Consumer Electronics Show. It would go on to become the best selling single computer model of all time, as attested by Guinness World Records, although the exact number sold is unknown (at least 10 million and possibly as many as 17 million, although a figure of 12.7 million seems the most credible).

Where the VIC-20 had 5 KB of RAM, the C-64 had 64 KB. Where the VIC-20 had 23 lines of 22 characters, the C-64 had 24 lines of 40 characters. Commodore had a new version of the VIC chip, a new sound chip, and an enhanced version of the 6502 CPU known as the 6510 that let the computer access a full 64 KB of memory alongside 20 KB of ROM.

The VIC-1540 floppy drive had introduced for the VIC-20 in 1982. It includes DOS 2.6 and connects to the VIC-20 via a serial port. (Previous Commodore drives used the parallel port found in PETs and CBM models. The VIC-20 and its descendants do not have parallel ports.) Its 170 KB disk format is “mostly compatible” with earlier PET/CBM floppy drives.

The VIC-20 was the first personal computer to sell for under US$1,000 with a floppy drive.

The Commodore 64 was officially introduced in August 1982. Despite serious competition at home from Atari’s 8-bit computers and the Apple IIe, the $595 C-64 was the value champion at half the price of the Apple IIe with no need to add cards for floppy drives, printers, modems, and so on. (In the UK, the competition came from the BBC Micro and Sinclair ZX Spectrum.)

For VIC-20 owners, it was easy to move the Datasette and a printer to the C-64. The VIC-1540 floppy drive was not compatible with the C-64, so Commodore released the 1541 floppy drive for the C-64, which originally retailed at US$399.95. The 1541 also uses DOS 2.6.

The success of the VIC-20 and C-64 helped drive the Timex Sinclair 1000 and Texas Instruments 99/4A out of the market during the 1983 home computer price war. Commodore dropped the C-64 to $300 in June 1983, which TI countered by selling for TI 99/4A for $99 – losing money on every sale.

The Commodore 64 remained on the market until 1994, 12 years after its introduction. Commodore had hoped to keep the C-64 going for another year but ended up filing for bankruptcy in April 1994.

Commodore Bombs

Despite the success of the VIC-20 and C-64, Commodore made some poor moves while trying to grow its market.

Max – or Not

Commodore tried to sell a game console in 1982. It was called Max Machine in Japan, Ultimax in the US, and VC-10 in Germany. With just 2 KB of RAM, the same 6510 CPU as the C-64, and a target price of US$200, it couldn’t compete with the VIC-20 for value. It was discontinued within a few months due to dismal sales in Japan.

A C-64 to Go

In 1983, Commodore introduced the SX-64 executive computer, a portable C-64 along the lines of Osborne (5″ display, 24.5 lb.), Kaypro (9″ display, 29 lb.), Compaq (28 lb.), Zenith (Z-138 left, 24.2 lb., 2,600 cubic inches. I used one for a brief time while working at a Heath/Zenith store), and other luggable CRT-based portables larger than a big briefcase. The SX-64 has a built-in 1541 floppy drive (with storage space above the drive for a stack of floppies) and a 5″ CRT display. It sold for US$995 and was the first of these portables to include a color display.

The SX-64 weighed just 23 lb. (10.5 kg), and measured approximately 16.9″ x 14.6″ x 5.3″ ( 430 x 370 x 135 mm ) – just over 1,300 cubic inches.

The SX-64 was a thing of beauty, as you can see by enlarging its image on the CBM Museum website (in German). We’ve reduced it significantly for use here. The attention to detail tells you Commodore really did intend the SX-64 as an executive machine.

The SX-64 did not sell well (estimated at about 85,000 units based on serial number data), even as Commodore discounted its retail price to move inventory. Commodore had announced a dual-drive DX-64, and a few of these appear to have reached the market, but it never went into full production because of low SX-64 sales – driven lower by people waiting for the DX-64.

Commodore 16

Trying to replace the entry-level VIC-20, Commodore introduced the Commodore 16 in 1984. It had just 16 KB of memory, used a 7501 or 8501 CPU, and was intended to compete with sub-$100 computers. By the time the C-16 shipped, Timex Sinclair, Mattel, and Texas Instruments had left the home computer market.

Visually, it was quite attractive with its dark grey case and VIC-20/C-64 styling.

But the C-16 had an inferior graphics chip vs. the C-64, had no modem port, could not connect to the existing Datasette, and had no game port, making it in many ways inferior to the VIC-20. Commodore did produce a C-16 compatible Datasette and joysticks for the C-16, but this model never caught on in the US market.

An even cheaper machine, the Commodore 116, was sold in Europe. Although functionally identical to the C-16, it had a smaller case and a rubber chiclet keyboard.

Commodore Plus/4

Released in June 1984, the Plus/4 was similar to the C-64 and also had four built-in applications, an office suite with a word processor, database, spreadsheet, and graphics program. It is more compatible with the C-16 than with the C-64 – however, that wasn’t a good thing. The C-64 was selling for US$199 when the Plus/4 came to market at US$299.

Although Commodore considered the Plus/4 its flagship model, it never sold well and was finally phased out in 1988.

Finally, Something Better

The Commodore 64 would not die. Commodore’s newer models were doing nothing to cut into its market. The C-64 was joined by the Commodore 128 in January 1985. The new model has two 64 KB banks of memory, supports 80-column text, includes an extended keyboard with a numeric keypad, and also contains a Zilog Z-80 CPU, enabling it to run CP/M software from the business world – although both processors cannot run at the same time.

The C-128’s primary CPU is an 8502 running at 2 MHz, twice the speed of the VIC-20 and C-64. The C-128 has three operating modes: native C-128 mode, CP/M mode, and 1 MHz C-64 mode that is nearly 100% compatible with the older machine’s software.

Commodore sold 4 million C-128s before it was discontinued in 1989. The C-64 remained on the market until 1994.

Commodore introduced two new floppy drives for the C-128, both running CBM DOS 3.0. The single-sided 1570 floppy drive uses the same 170 KB format as previous Commodore computers, can also read CP/M formatted floppies, and supports MS-DOS disks with additional software. The 1571 is a double-sided floppy drive with twice the storage. Commodore was unable to keep up with demand for the US$300 double-sided 1571.

Commodore 128D

Later in 1985, Commodore released the Commodore 128D, which follows the styling of the Amiga 1000 and DOS PCs with a separate keyboard. The 128D was the first 8-bit Commodore desktop computer with a built-in floppy drive – the 1571 mentioned above. It even had a handle on the left side to facilitate transporting the computer.

In late 1986, Commodore introduced a “cost reduced” version of the 128D in North America and parts of Europe. The 128DCR had a metal chassis in place of the plastic one in the original and eliminated the carrying handle.

C-64, the Next Generation

In 1986, Commodore introduced a refreshed version of the C-64 called the Commodore 64C. It is functionally identical to the earlier model but takes its styling cues from the Commodore 128.

Another Bomb

In 1990, Commodore repackaged the C-64 as a gaming console to compete with the Nintendo Entertainment Systems (NES) and the Sega Master System. Commodore went after the gaming market but never got any traction, as the C-64 was only a little more expensive and included a keyboard. The C64GS was another commercial failure for Commodore.

The Big Step Forward: Amiga

The future of 8-bit home computers was drawing to a close by the mid 1980s. The IBM PC had established the Intel 8088, a 16-bit CPU with an 8-bit data bus, as the business standard, and Apple introduced its Lisa business computer in 1983, followed by the first Macintosh in 1984. These were the first commercial computers with a graphical user interface and a mouse, something Microsoft quickly copied in developing Windows for the IBM PC and compatible clones.

Lisa and Macintosh used the Motorola 68000 CPU, a 32-bit chip with 24-bit addressing on a 16-bit data bus. Commodore chose the same CPU for its next computer family, the Amiga, which we cover in a separate article.

Further Reading

Keywords: #commodore #commodorepet #commodorevic20 #commodore64 #commodore128 #commodorecomputers #commodoreinternational #6502 #6510 #mostech6502 #6502cpu #6510cpu

History of the Holden Commodore Part One: VB, VK, VL

N o, the Holden Commodore isn't just a rebadged Opel. With this three-part history, we'll show you why

IT SEEMS every mention on social media of the late Aussie-built Holden Commodore stirs an army of sleeper-cell keyboard warriors. They crack their knuckles and set to, spewing falsities as fact. The main crux of their argument tends to be that the Commodore was never anything more than a rebadged Opel anyway, and therefore not something to be grieved.

It’s true that the VB-VH Commodore bears more than a passing resemblance to the Opel Rekord/Commodore/Senator of the same era, but to disregard the Holden as merely a locally assembled Opel is an affront to the hardworking engineers, stylists and line workers who helped forge the Aussie Commodore legend over the past 40 years. It might have had its design origins in Opel, but the Commodore was developed by Aussies and forged from BHP steel by our very brothers and sisters – a true local hero.

So we’re going to dispel some rumours, separate fact from fiction, and give the Holden Commodore the tribute it deserves.

Holden Commodore VB

It's no secret that the early Commodores shared much with the Opel Rekord E/Commodore C/ Senator A it’s there for all to see. The halls of General Motors at the time were abuzz with ‘World Cars’ – platforms that could be modified to suit various local markets – and thus by 1974, Opel’s concept drawings had arrived in Fishermans Bend.

August 1975 saw Holden’s designers dispatched to Germany, and after three weeks of study, it became obvious that the trusty red six and Holden V8 would not fit into the Rekord’s stubby nose. Fortunately, Opel was concurrently developing the upmarket Senator, based on roughly the same shell with a six-window glasshouse and a larger frontal area, with an engine bay designed to swallow a straight-six.

Opel was keen for Holden to follow its lead, suggesting Holden offer local versions of both the Rekord and Senator, but the Aussies were having none of that we were to have the same body across all spec levels, with the Senator nose married to the Rekord shell, as per Opel’s own mid-spec, but ultimately unpopular Commodore C. While they were at it, the Aussies convinced Opel to ditch the proposed recirculating-ball steering in favour of rack-and-pinion – crucial if the V8 was to fit.

Holden’s development of the Commodore went well beyond bunging two Opel designs together and whinging about steering systems. Once on Aussie soil, Holden’s styling team set about ensuring that locals would warm to the Eurocentric Commodore. They workshopped a bunch of frontal treatments, including a weird twinheadlight ‘Premier’ version, along with a heap of different grilles, before settling on the now-familiar cheese-grater – a design picked up by Vauxhall and Daewoo for their own V-platform projects.

While exterior stylists massaged the Eurodore into something that would appeal to Aussies, Jacqui Sutherland, a young chemical engineer, spent 18 months developing new interior vinyls that emitted less sticky crap on a hot day. She solved a problem the Germans hadn’t even thought of, let alone solved!

Unfamiliar environmental extremes weren’t limited to our temperatures Australia’s notoriously shitty roads also proved eye-opening to the Europeans. An early Rekord prototype was set to task on the roughest tracks within Holden’s Lang Lang Proving Ground the grille fell out after 50 kays, and the thing was scrap by 1500 – hardly a car saleable to the Australian public.

Later Rekord prototypes attacked real-world conditions in the Flinders Ranges, with one splitting apart at the firewall. Strain gauges were fitted to the front stub axles, steering column and rear suspension and the data sent to the boffins at Opel, who noted the inputs were 300 per cent above anything they’d ever tested at. Suspecting the data was wrong, they suggested Holden engineers check their equipment the Aussies reported to Germany that their gear was fine, but Opel staff were welcome to offer a second opinion.

Accordingly, a bunch of Germans arrived locally in May 1976 and immediately resolved the issue Australia needed better roads, not stronger sedans!

Among them was Peter Hanenberger, a 36-year-old chassis engineer and shining star in Opel’s suspension development team. Having previously worked on the Opel GT and the Kadett/Gemini T-car project, Hanenberger’s presence was specifically requested by Holden’s top brass. Commodore prototypes were boiling shocker fluid over corrugations, a road hazard the young German had only recently learned about. But they didn’t call him ‘Handling-berger’ for nothing, and he attacked the project with enthusiasm, despite the task ahead. “I never forget when we were in the outback and the whole front fell off the thing collapsed,” he was quoted as saying. “It looked very sad!”

Mid-1970s Australia was still a frontier few main highways in the outback were sealed and off-road vehicles were not yet prevalent in the marketplace. Hanenberger and the guys from Opel simply couldn’t believe that crazily attacking Aussie backroads with nothing but a locally built car and a good dealer network was the norm rather than the exception.

With that knowledge, the decision to move from the H-series Kingswood to the new Commodore was not taken lightly or immediately in fact, Holden took some time to decide which product the new car was actually replacing was it the Torana or the Kingswood? It must have been a busy time at Holden in the mid-1970s people were working on a Kingswood-based Kingswood replacement (the WA), the stillborn Kingswood passenger car facelift (WB), a Torana-based five-door Commodore (VA), and the Opelderived Commodore all at the same time!

It took Chuck Chapman, Holden’s managing director from January 1976, to commit to the Opel development as Holden’s mainstay into the 80s despite conceding around four centimetres of shoulder room, the Rekord returned better leg and headroom against the old Kinger.

Charles 'Chuck' Chapman, Holden boss from 1976 to 1987, oversaw the introduction of the smaller Commodore and killed the Kingswood. He made amends when he fought for the plus-sized VN in the late 80s to put Holden back on top

So was the first Commodore just an Opel in disguise? The Aussie design team overcame boiling shocker fluid, broken firewalls, gunky plastics, shit steering, stumpy noses and even public marketing clinics that pegged the Commodore as too upmarket, to deliver us a rugged local product with international looks.

The resulting VB Commodore was, despite the vast improvements, a tough sell against the larger Falcon – Holden lost a bunch of fleet sales on size alone – but in making an Aussie car with modern looks, incomparable handling and a big V8 in a tight body, it also became a legend.

Holden VK Commodore

The 1973 Arab Oil Embargo that set the wheels in motion for the smaller Commodore was, by the 1980s, a distant memory. Both Holden and Ford had gambled on their flagship products for the new decade and Ford had won the bet, refusing to downsize the Falcon and landing a bunch of fleet sales in the process.

The Commodore lost Holden the long-held numberone spot on the sales charts, despite sporty versions by HDT, V8s available across the range and multiple Bathurst wins. Such honours couldn’t make up for taxi, police and rep fleet sales plus the XE Falcon finally received a bunch of improvements that Ford should have applied with the XD of 1979.

Legendary Holden design boss Leo Pruneau pasionately disagreed with the axing of the Kingswood, but did impressive things with the Commodore to hide its size deficit

Leo Pruneau’s design department wasn’t allowed any major sheet-metal changes for the VH Commodore, instead relying on horizontal lines, a thinner grille and larger tail-lights (especially the extra bits on the SL/E) to give the illusion of greater size. But even Pruneau’s beloved ‘Shadowtone’ option on the up-spec SL/E wasn’t enough to sway buyers looking for automotive real estate.

The VK range introduced polycarbonate bumpers and broad side mouldings in an attempt to give the small Commodore more visual clout, but it was only six months out from launch when the masterstroke was realised: a six-window glasshouse.

Opel’s luxury Senator featured a larger, six-window layout from the outset, albeit with entirely different rear quarters and tail. Holden stylists found they could graft this window treatment to the existing sheet metal with minimal changes to tooling, much to the chagrin of Opel, who had invested heavily in two different rear quarter stampings! Changing a design so considerably at a time when pilot-build cars should have been rolling out the door was unprecedented in auto design circles and probably a shade reckless, but it was necessary to freshen up the Commodore.

Initial plans for a four-model structure – two retaining the old C-pillars and two up-spec models with the sixwindow design – were nixed early on all models got the new glasshouse, giving the car greater presence and allowing more ambient light into the cabin.

Along with the new body design, the range was renamed, dropping the Commodore L, SL/X and SL/E tags that had been used variously over the preceding three models. Instead, the VK introduced upmarket names such as Berlina and Calais, with Executive leaning towards fleet buyers who wanted to treat their staff to standard power steering, leaving the poverty-pack SL to soldier on for those on a budget.

These changes, along with significant improvements to ‘grandpa’s axe’ – the old Holden red which had, through the Commodore, been upgraded to ‘blue’ and then finally ‘black’ for the VK – saw the sales landslide slowed Holden was clawing its way back up, with no input from Opel.

Holden VL Commodore

The introduction of tighter emissions regulations in the 1980s saw power levels and driveability drop across most makes and models globally. Drivers suffered as manufacturers scrambled to pursue economy over driving enjoyment, but it wasn’t a permanent issue the tech just had to catch up.

Although the VK’s black motor was the pinnacle of development of the Holden red, it was a gruff old thing by the mid-80s, and something had to change. Investing in the 1960s-era six simply did not make economic sense besides, the timeframes were insufficient. Re-engineering the car for a new donk was quicker and cheaper, so the venerable red/blue/black had to go.

It’s been well documented that the fully imported, 3.0-litre RB30 Nissan six was the replacement, but how Holden went about sourcing the engine was charmingly simple it sent letters to a bunch of manufacturers and hoped for a response.

Naturally, nobody was pouncing on a relatively small deal to power a bunch of obscure Aussie cars, but in 1982 Nissan saved the day, providing some early-development RB30Es for Holden to install into half-a-dozen VK engineering mules.

With the OHC Nissan engine offering 11 more horses than an EFI-optioned black motor, along with better economy, it was a no-brainer. Holden struck a deal for Nissan to provide manual and auto transmissions to suit the RB30E, plus exclusive rights to the RB30ET turbo version, and the rest is history.

The RB30E went on sale in Australia before it was even released in Japan, and despite the imported engine dropping the Commodore’s local content from 87 per cent to 79 per cent, even the most ardent Holden supporter was turned after one drive. And the Turbo version became Holden’s hero car of the 80s.

Silky-smooth engine aside, another key to the VL’s continuation of the upwards sales swing was styling gone was the Opel Senator’s tall, V-shaped front in favour of a longer, broader nose with headlights that could be partially hidden for the stylish Calais.

Windows too were revised, with the addition of wide plastic trims to give the illusion of greater size and sharper angles. If you’ve ever wondered why your VL is covered in a shitload of plastic, this is why! Down the back, stylists mildly revised the rear quarters and boot lid, creating the VL’s trademark ‘kick’, another tactic to visually extend the length of the car.

Continuing the V8 allowed Holden to win over plenty of private buyers for whom only a 5-point-0 would do in doing so they retained a sporting reputation that the Falcon squandered. Holden’s sales figures were on the up, but despite all the attempts to make the Commodore look bigger, it simply wasn’t fleet buyers knew that and the Falcon remained king of the charts, with the roomy Magna knocking on the back door. The next Commodore had to not just look big it had to be big. But would Holden need Opel’s ‘help’ again? Find out next month.

Both Holden and Nissan went skitz when Japan's Car Graphic magazine, via Wheels editor Peter Robinson, revealed that the RB30E would power the next Commodore. As Robinson readied the scoop for his own magazine, both companies sought an injection against then-publisher ACP. Refusing to reveal his sources, Robinson and ACP lawyer/future PM Malcom Turnbull agreed to pull the story rather than be held in contempt of court


• Commodore Vacationer sedan and wagon (VC, VH, VL)
• Commodore 50th Anniversary sedan (VC) – celebrating 50 years since establishment of GM-H
• Commodore SL National Police Pack (BT1) sedan and wagon (VK, VL)
• Commodore Series 200 sedan (VL)
• Calais wagon (VL)


• According to Bill Tuckey’s book Commodore: Lion King, the concept of marrying two different Opel designs came from Holden and inspired Opel to create its own version. The mid-spec Commodore C came out in late 1977, sitting between the Rekord and the Senator, which had come out a few months earlier.
• Bodyshell significantly strengthened to cope with Australian conditions
• Body re-engineered to suit Aussie red/blue/black six and V8
• Unique interior plastics to reduce gross plastic film build-up in hot weather
• Holden forced Opel to install rack-andpinion steering across the V-car range
• Other names considered: Kingswood II, Cutlass, Torana, Senator and Delta


• The VC and VH Commodore were engineered to take Holden’s rough and unloved Starfire four-cylinder, but the VK model also received the Starfire – for export only, thankfully!
• The silky-smooth RB30E engine powered the VL Commodore in Australia, but in New Zealand an RB20E 2.0L was also available
• NZ also copped the Commodore Royale, a locally assembled, budget-build luxury pack sharing features with the SL/E and Calais, but made do with the Starfire four (VH and VK) or RB20 2.0 six (VL, with the RB30E as an option)
• The basic styling of the early Commodore sedan and wagon can be credited to Opel, but we Aussies missed out on a bunch of other versions including a two-door sedan, two-door wagon and the fastback Monza coupe, one of which was modified by Peter Brock into the prototype 5.0L HDT Monza
• Aside from the Opel range, other V-platform ‘world cars’ include the Vauxhall Carlton, Viceroy, Royale and Senator (UK) the Chevrolet Rekord and Commodore (South Africa) and the Saehan/Daewoo Royale (South Korea), which was assembled using Aussie-pressed panels

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Commodore SX64 Laptop Announcement

The Commodore 64 has sold more than any other computer in history. The Guinness book of Records estimates that there were about 30 MILLION units pushed out of Commodore plants even though most historians argue that the real number is closer to 20 million units. Either way, it is a record breaking achievement.

In addition to the 64 being a fabulously powerful machine produced at time of exploding computer popularity, it was also without doubt the longest production run in history. From early 1982 through to 1992, Commodore manufactured several minor derivatives of the machine to keep its profits paying for Commodores many many mistakes with newer products.

The 64C came in a sleek beige plastic case. Commodore kept the 64 in the ugly brown ‘VIC-a-like’ box because it was cheap. Other than some minor circuitry revisions (and the case obviously), the 64C was identical to the original 64. The 64C came with Berkley Software’s famous GEOS Operating System and modem linking software. This made the 64 a minor competitor to IBM PC’s with original versions of Microsoft Windows 1, 2 and 3. GEOS was MUCH more mature and capable than Microsoft’s fledgling Windows, but a combination of excellent copy protection (which hindered its spread / popularity) and it’s minimal base hardware (the 64) made GEOS’ life all too short. While new versions of GEOS are still developed and produced for commercial sale today, its commercial significance died with the 64.

The most interesting C64 Derivative was the Commodore Max Machine. It was announced in Germany and Canada but was only released only in Japan.

The MAX was anything but. It was a much cheaper version of the Commodore 64 with only 8K of RAM and a very bad membrane keyboard. This combination makes it one of the rarest and most sought after production Commodore computers. This limited system has two joystick ports, a cartridge and cassette port, RF out, audio out, channel select and power input.

Commodore 64GS Game System – A C64 motherboard with no keyboard – not a big success

The 64GS was a keyboardless version of the 64 released to Europe in 1998. The idea was to further reduce cost to produce a low price gaming console. The 64GS was a little white box containing a C64 motherboard with a cartridge slot on top. If the production cost of a regular C64 was $50, the GS was likely near $40 ($90 in 2018 dollars). It did not sell well. In fact I have never seen one, other than in pictures.

Commodore 64 Compendium Bundle

There were seemingly countless Commodore 64 bundles to keep sales moving including Terminator II bundle, a 64C TV Quiz Pack and so many more.

There were even several $995 ($2100 in 2018 dollars) laptops (ok, laptop is a stretch they were 25 pound luggables) executive versions of the 64 called the SX-64, DX-64, and the SX-100. These began to appear in 1983 which was fairly early on in the 64 life cycle and taken by some to as an indication that the C64 laptop was planned as an expansion product rather than a way to resuscitate a dying line.

COMMODORE SX64 LAPTOP – PORTABLE: Who’s keeping up with the Commodore Executive?

Golden Commodore 64 Very limited “production” to celebrate 1 million units being productions. These units are supposed to be fully functional, but in fact Commodore staff simply took problem 64’s that had been returned / warrentied and turned them into these highly collectable units.

Commodore produced fully functional Golden 64’s in various markets. These “Jubilee” machines commemorated the 1,000,000th unit produced. In the US, Golden 64’s were shown at the 1984 winter CES. More than 350 Golden 64’s were produced for Germany’s one millionth celebration in December of 1986.

Commodore 64 - The Most Popular Retro Computer of All Time

Commodore started out manufacturing typewriters and adding machines, then moved on to electronic calculators and eventually computers. In 1976 they purchased MOS Technology, the company that built the 6502 processor, used in the Atari 2600, NES, Apple II, and many more. Part of Commodore's success was due to the fact that they could manufacture their own chips in-house at MOS.

The PET and VIC-20 had already been successful for Commodore and in 1981 they started working on a new system with new chips (the VIC-II video chip and SID sound chip). CEO Jack Tramiel said that it should have 64KB of RAM - expensive at the time, but prices were coming down and Tramiel knew that it would be viable by the time the machine was ready.

The C64 debuted at CES in 1982 and started shipping eight months later. Because they could manufacture their own chips, Commodore was able to sell the C64 for much less than other systems, and they sold it in regular stores rather than just in computer or electronics stores. Commodore sold between 10 and 17 million units by 1994.

Due to its popularity, software developers targeted the C64 and wrote tens of thousands of titles for the system. Games were especially popular - the VIC-II and SID chips were far more capable than the video and sound in most other computers and made it a great platform for games.

By the early 1990s PCs were getting more affordable and more capable and the market for systems like the C64 was dying out. Commodore released the Amiga (while battling with Atari, now owned by former CEO Jack Tramiel, over rights to produce such a computer) but it wasn't enough to save them from the PC. Commodore declared bankruptcy in 1994.

The C64 lives on with a huge enthusiast following. People are still writing new software, building new add-ons, and even building modern versions of the 64 with HDMI and Ethernet.

It's also well-supported with emulators, so let's install one and check it out!

This guide was first published on Sep 25, 2019. It was last updated on Sep 25, 2019.

Computer design: Commodore PET 2001 (1977)

Probably, the two men behind the Commodore PET 2001 computer – Commodore International’s founder, Jack Tramiel, and the company chief designer, Chuck Peddle – would have preferred to call it HAL 9000.

Indeed, many elements of this famous late-70s PC were somewhat inspired by A Space Odyssey‘s infamous thinking machine from its evocative three-letter name, to the PET logo Microgramma typeface (the same used by Kubrick for HAL’s graphic interface), to the addition of the number 2001 which, apart from that reference, is totally senseless.
Overall, the PET possibly manifests like no other machine the influence of the aesthetic of cinema on a computer design.

Both the PET logo and the cryptic letters displayed on HAL’s monitors were written with the same typeface, Microgramma. The font – designed in the early 󈧶s by two Italian type designers, Aldo Novarese and Alessandro Butti – was quite popular in the Seventies and widely used in technical publications (top: the original PET 2001 logo down: a still from 2001: A Space Odyssey)

The PET 2001 can be considered the first all-in-one home computer and, under many aspects, the first commercially successful personal computer ever.
It was based on a MOS 6502 processor (which also powered the Apple II) and equipped with a cassette recorder as a mass memory device, a keyboard with 53 buttons, a 20-button numeric keypad, and a 9-inch monochrome CRT monitor (manufactured by Sony).
The default RAM amounted to only 4 KB yet, Commodore quickly released a version with 8 KB to improve the performances of the machine.

All elements were grouped into a single massive sheet metal case overall, the PET’s weight was about 25 pounds. As usual for many computers of the time, the PET included, along with a minimal Operating System, a programming language pre-installed in ROM: it was a version of BASIC produced by a small company from Albuquerque, called Micro-Soft, and developed by its young co-founder, William Henry “Bill” Gates.

1981, Microsoft’s founders, Bill Gates (28) and Paul Allen (26), proudly pose with some computers using their company’s software, which include an Apple II, an Intertec Superbrain, a Sanyo MBC-550, a Zenith Data Systems Z-19, a TRS-80 I, and, in a quite prominent position, a Commodore PET 2001

For the European market, the Commodore PET (which means Personal Electronic Transactor) was renamed to Commodore CBM (Commodore Business Machine) to avoid a dispute with Philips, which had already trademarked the name PET for a new computer, called Programm-Entwicklungs-Terminal.
The PET’s original name wasn’t really an acronym, the Commodore wanted the name to be a three-letter one (both as a reference to Kubrick and to openly defy IBM) and “pet” seemed appropriate and friendly therefore, a (rather) reasonable meaning for that name was creatively invented later.

There is little doubt that the hallmark of the PET 2001 housing – designed by Chuck Peddle together with an industrial designer, Larry Hittle – is its peculiar trapezoid-shaped monitor.
Despite the all-in-one concept of the PET, nevertheless, the monitor looks more a separated part “welded” to the computer’s sturdy base than a formally integrated one (yet, this was common to almost all unibody computers of the time, until the advent of the Macintosh).

Front, side, and rear views of a computer Commodore PET 2001-32 photos courtesy, reworked by Inexhibit

It should be mentioned, that Commodore originally intended the PET to have a less sharp case made in plastic, but then reverted to a sheet metal container, produced by a Canadian office furniture company also owned by Tramiel, to reduce the computer manufacturing cost.
This move caused issues to Commodore later on, since the slow manufacturing process of the metal case became a bottleneck in the production of the large number of machines that clients were requiring after the unexpectedly fast success of the PET.

Aesthetically, the PET was a typical son of the 󈨊s, with the same angular forms of many other industrial products of the period, and its bright white case.
In the 󈨀s and 󈨊s, white was widely considered THE color of the future, as we can see in various American and European science fiction films, such as The Tenth Victim by Elio Petri (1964), George Lucas’ THX 1138 (1971) and, of course, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The design of the computer case itself has more than a superficial resemblance to the futuristic video phone with which Dr. Floyd calls his daughter in Kubrick’s film.

Many car designs show how sharp-edge, white forms were popular in the late 󈨊s. Up: the Lotus Esprit S1 drove by Roger Moore / James Bond in the film “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1976). bottom: an advertise for the 1977 model of the Ford Fiesta

White was the “color of the future” in the cinema of the 󈨀s and 󈨊s. Stills from: (up) THX 1138 by George Lucas and (down) from Elio Petri’s The Tenth Victim

Movies and the infancy of information technology: Dr. Heywood R. Floyd and the futuristic video conferencing device installed in the Space Station V of 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick (1968)

Futuristic ancestors: a 1970 DEC VT05 console

The ambitious plan to fit the monitor, electronic boards, mass-memory devices, and a keyboard into a single container, small enough to be easily placed on an office desk, caused some problems.
For example, there wasn’t enough room for a real computer keyboard, and Commodore (which was also producing electronic calculators) replaced it with a small calculator-style rubber keyboard. Unfortunately, such a chicklet keyboard was not appropriate to write long texts since it lacked proper tactile feedback, therefore the user had to constantly check on the display if a letter had been typed or not (a more effective plastic keyboard was introduced later on).
An interesting feature of the PET case was that it was composed of two parts, hinged to one another, designed so that it could be quickly and intuitively opened like a car hood (it even included a prop rod).

The open case of a PET 2001 clearly shows its two-piece design, with its opening mechanism inspired by that of a car hood

This advertise of the PET shows how compact the computer was

The infamous “chicklet keyboard” of the original PET 2001 (up) note how the graphic design of the “shift”, “return”, and “space” keys is similar to that of the HAL 9000’s screenshot from 2001: A Space Odyssey (bottom)

Thanks to its competitive price of less than $600 (2,400 in today’s dollars and about half the price of the coeval Apple II and Tandy TRS-80), the Commodore PET was a huge success believe it or not, in 1980, Commodore was the third-largest personal computer manufacturer in the world.

Unfortunately, both for the PET and Commodore, the golden age didn’t last long within a few years, two lethal competitors were standing around the corner: the IBM PC and the Apple Macintosh.
Nevertheless, after the PET, Commodore was still able to create a sequence of successful products during the 󈨔s – comprising inexpensive home computers such as the Vic-20 and the Commodore 64, and the graphics-oriented machines commercialized under the brand name Amiga – which prolonged its life until 1993, when the company was finally forced to declare bankruptcy.

Also due to its being a relatively cheap computer, the Commodore PET was very appreciated by schools, as you can see in this late 󈨊s American classroom

Advertise of the 32KB version of the PET 2001 (in this case, marked as CBM)

Finally, just a little game. Which 1985 film featured this robot dog, whose head somewhat recalls the case of a PET 2001?

Commodore II History

The city of The Dalles, Oregon is located 90 miles east of Portland on the Columbia River off Interstate 84. The city and county have a long history as a cross roads of development. In the mid-1800’s Wasco County stretched from Wyoming to Oregon and Northern California to the Canadian border, the largest ever recorded county in the United States. The city of The Dalles was the county seat. The most prominent feature in the city is The Dalles Dam constructed in the 1930’s. This is the longest cement damn in the United States stretching almost a mile in length. The city population is 12,400 (24th largest city in Oregon). Within the Wasco country service area the population is 24,500. With the availability of electricity adjacent to the damn, a number of aluminum smelters and related factories have been long time employers.

The claim to fame for The Dalles is its rich historic nature and an active Urban Renewal District. There is an excellent web site for The Dalles at There is a complete historical tour of the area and 48 photos of historic buildings, most of these in the downtown area. The Commodore is photo 26.

The building is located on Court Street across from City Hall, with pictures of the rehabilitation found on the following pages. When the Commodore was built in 1906, it served as a Masonic Lodge.

The area along the Columbia River, which runs adjacent to the city, is a strong attraction for tourism. Approximately 20 minutes to the west is Hood River, the wind surfing capital of the United States. The advantage of The Dalles is its semiarid weather, without the rains experienced in Portland. Across the river in Dallesport, Washington a 500 acre industrial project on the Columbia is beginning construction.

The Commodore is a has four stories, 48,800 total square footage and is located at 312 Court Street on a 12,800 square foot site. The building has an 11,700 square foot fully unfinished basement and an interior atrium/light well accessible from the second through fourth floors.

The building is the largest remaining commercial/residential structure in The Dalles. It has had been vacant since May 1, 1995 due to a number of building code violations and deficiencies in fire and life safety. The building also incurred approximately $150,000 in fire damage on May 21, 1995. It is listed on the National Historic Register.

The Development Concept:
The concept for the building is one of mixed-use components. The first floor will consists of rehabilitated retail spaces, with approximately 8,250 square feet of commercial lease space. The entire fourth floor is commercial office space.

The second and third floors are designed as affordable housing units. And are targeted to individuals and couples earning 60% MFI or less and includes one transitional apartment for victims of domestic abuse. All of the residential units are built with energy efficient appliances and fixtures, designed in compliance with all ADA, HUD and applicable local planning and building codes. All units are served by a hot water boiler system for heat and a water-based cooling tower for air conditioning.

The basement, which has not been functional in the past, has been restored to include individual lockers for private property, an exercise facility for residents, meeting rooms for tenants and community groups and limited office space. The meeting room is intended in part, to provide classroom space for the service agencies to conduct training, counseling and other services for the residential tenants.

Important elements in the Commodore II project:
Rehabilitation vs. New Construction- The Commodore project is a historic rehabilitation building. This project involved cleanup and removal of over 1,200 pigeons that called Commodore home and the disposal of over 1.2 tons of pigeon guana before reconstruction could begin. Exterior brick siding was thoroughly washed and repointed to restore it to near original condition. Evidence of multiple fires were detected as improvements were made to the interior and entire floors had to be rebuilt to level a 3” discrepancy in elevations due to extensions added to the original building over succeeding years.

This was a substantial historic rehabilitation to restore the building to its original dignity. It has been recognized by the National Park Service which administers the historic landmarks program, as one of the best examples of successful historic rehab in the country. The Commodore has again taken its rightful place as an important historical and architectural facility in the city and will continue to represent the best of repurposing efforts in Oregon.

For commercial leasing information please contact Brian Lauterbach with Windemere Realty in The Dalles 503-858-5010.

For residential leasing information please contact Viridian Management at 541-298-7600.

Watch the video: A Short History Of The Commodore 64 (August 2022).