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commodore 16:

Commodore 16.


quick facts

Overview Photograph
Commodore 16 keyboard
FCC ID BR98YV-16
Model or Part # 264 Series model 16
My unit's vintage Serial #CA1078356.
CPU MOS 7501 HMOS-1 or MOS 8501 HMOS-2 processor (6502 compatible).
Memory 16K DRAM.
Operating System CBM BASIC V3.5 in ROM.
Ports Commodore serial port (for printer, disk drives and other peripherals), cartridge port (compatible with other 264 series machines, such as the Plus/4, ONLY), video out (compatible with all the other 8-bit Commodores), RF out, two digital joystick/paddle ports with proprietary mini-DIN connectors, proprietary cassette recorder port (electrically the same as the C64/128/VIC-20 but uses a mini-DIN connector again).
Video/audio output NTSC (PAL in PAL markets) with separate chroma/luma signals and audio on a proprietary DIN connector. This model also has a built-in RF modulator with RF output provided through a single female RCA connector.

The C16 has the same advanced 40x25 text and color graphics as the Plus/4; it has 121 colors (more than the C64) and two-channel mono sound. Graphics and sound are provided by a chip called TED (Text Editing Device), which is apparently not a very robust part and prone to failure.
Available peripherals There were few peripherals designed for the 264 series, and all of them are quite rare. The C3N cassette drive (same as the C2N, but black to match the C16, and with the C16's mini-DIN plug), Commodore jet-fighter-style joysticks, and a few cartridges were made. There was also a 1551 floppy drive, again cosmetically identical to the 1541 but black. The 1551 uses a special cartridge port interface, and only works with 264-series machines.

Look! It's a VIC-20 dipped in tar! It's a C64 that's been char-grilled! No... it's a completely different machine from both of those.

The Commodore 16 is a member of Commodore's ill-fated 264 series. It has an updated graphics controller, a new improved version of BASIC, and it's quite incompatible with the Commodore 64. Secret Weapons of Commodore! mentions several machines in this series, and they make interesting reading, but the only two 264s that made it into the mass market in meaningful quantities were the C16 and the Plus/4.

Besides not being compatible with the C64/C128 (at the time, one of the most popular machines on the shelves), Commodore also changed the joystick, cassette and cartridge ports on the 264 series, and eliminated the user port. This seems insane - even beyond the normal Commodore level of bizarre and/or stupid decisions. The user port wasn't a very big deal - it was mostly used for modems and proprietary printer interfaces - but why did they have to change the other ports? The only factor that makes some sense is that the C16's PCB is much smaller than that of its predecessors (thanks to TED). Perhaps Commodore didn't want to waste the materials making the board long enough to stretch across the entire back of the machine, and so they had to use smaller connectors.

My unit is a standard North American market version, bundled with a tutorial cartridge similar in concept to the "Apple Presents Apple" disk bundled with the Apple II series. As you can see from the box photos below, it is billed as "the world's learning machine"; perhaps Commodore aimed it at teaching computer literacy? I have read that the C16 was, like the Plus/4, aimed at business applications, but I find that very hard to believe.

Commodore 16 box - top
Top of retail box (click for larger version)

C16 box bottom
Bottom of retail box (click for larger version)


I bought my C16 purely because I wanted one way back in the 1980s when they came out. In Australia, the C16 was sold from its introduction date in a package with a joystick, the Jack Attack cartridge, and a blue Commodore-badged sports bag big enough to hold the computer, for AUD$129.

Pricing on collectible C16s is very variable. I paid about US$20 for mine, but I have seen them go as high as $170 recently. Bide your time; this machine isn't fantastically useful and it's not worth spending a lot on unless you're a serious historical collector.


downloads

The best emulator I know of for the Commodore 264 series is WinEMU. This emulator handles Commodore 16, 116, 232 and Plus/4 emulation.

  • WinEMU048R2.zip - Winemu for Windows 95/98 (DirectX). Includes all the ROMs you'll need.


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