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Welcome to my general Commodore Information page

This page is intended to give a decent overview of the capabilities of the Commodore 64/128 and some of it's peripherals. For more detailed information about the C64 and C128, see these Wikipedia links:

Commodore 64 - Commodore SX-64 - Commodore 128

Basic information about the C64 and C128
Machine C-64 C-64c SX-64 C128 (Flat) C128-D (European) C128-DCR (American)
CPU Speed PAL: 985,248.4 Hz
NTSC: 1.022727 MHz
PAL: 985,248.4 Hz
NTSC: 1.022727 MHz
PAL: 985,248.4 Hz
NTSC: 1.022727 MHz
PAL: 985,248.4 Hz
or 1.9704968 MHz
NTSC: 1.022727 MHz
or 2.0454545 MHz
PAL: 985,248.4 Hz
or 1.9704968 MHz
NTSC: 1.022727 MHz
or 2.0454545 MHz
MIPS (varies by instruction) PAL: 0.1407143 to 0.4926242
NTSC: 0.1461039 to 0.5113635
PAL: 0.1407143 to 0.4926242
NTSC: 0.1461039 to 0.5113635
PAL: 0.1407143 to 0.4926242
NTSC: 0.1461039 to 0.5113635
PAL: 0.1407143 to 0.9852484
NTSC: 0.1461039 to 1.0227273
PAL: 0.1407143 to 0.9852484
NTSC: 0.1461039 to 1.0227273
PAL: 0.1407143 to 0.9852484
NTSC: 0.1461039 to 1.0227273
Base Memory 64 KB 64 KB 64 KB 128 KB 128 KB 128 KB
Maximum Internal Memory 256 KB [8] [8] 1 MB 1 MB 1 MB
Maximum Extended Memory 32 MB 32 MB 16 MB [7] 32 MB 32 MB 32 MB
BASIC Free Mem. 38,911 bytes 38,911 bytes 38,911 bytes 122,365 bytes 122,365 bytes 122,365 bytes
Display Device(s) VIC-II composite VIC-II composite VIC-II composite VIC-IIe composite
and VDC / RGBI
VIC-IIe composite
and VDC / RGBI
VIC-IIe composite
and VDC / RGBI
Resolutions [9] 40x25 text
160x200 Multicolor mode
320x200 Hires color mode
40x25 text
160x200 Multicolor mode
320x200 Hires color mode
40x25 text
160x200 Multicolor mode
320x200 Hires color mode
VIC-IIe:
40x25 text
160x200 Multicolor mode
320x200 Hires color mode
VDC:
80x25 text
80x50 text
640x172 Hides color mode
640x200 monochrome mode
Interlacing available, but not useful
VIC-IIe:
40x25 text
160x200 Multicolor mode
320x200 Hires color mode
VDC:
80x25 text
80x50 text
640x172 Hides color mode
640x200 monochrome mode
Interlacing available, but not useful
VIC-IIe:
40x25 text
160x200 Multicolor mode
320x200 Hires color mode
VDC:
80x25 text
80x50 text
640x200 to 640x600 Hires color mode
640x200 to 720x750 Hires monochrome
Interlacing available where Y resolution exceeds about 300 lines.
Video RAM 1 K x 4 plus part of base memory [11] 1 K x 4 plus part of base memory [11] 1 K x 4 plus part of base memory [11] VIC-IIe: 2 K x 4 plus part of base mem. [12]
VDC: 16 KB [10]
VIC-IIe: 2 K x 4 plus part of base mem. [12]
VDC: 16 KB [10]
VIC-IIe: 2 K x 4 plus part of base mem. [12]
VDC: 64 KB
Color cell size 4x8 or 8x8 4x8 or 8x8 4x8 or 8x8 VIC-IIe: 4x8 or 8x8
VDC: 8x8 to 8x32
VIC-IIe: 4x8 or 8x8
VDC: 8x8 to 8x32
VIC-IIe: 4x8 or 8x8
VDC: 8x1 [14] to 8x32
Number of Colors 16 16 16 16 16 16
Hardware sprites Yes Yes Yes VIC-IIe: Yes
VDC: No
Yes
VDC: No
Yes
VDC: No
Sound Device 6581 8580 6581 6581 or 8580 8580 8580
Voices [13] 3 3 3 3 3 3
Built-in Drive No No Yes (1541) No Yes (1571) Yes (1571)
Notes [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

Storage solutions, approximate speeds

Using a Stock C64 unless otherwise noted. Exact speeds depend on many factors such as the program code that handles the data being loaded, exact disk format, drive model (where multiple drives have roughly the same speed), quality of the disk media (errors slowing things down), and so on. Software-loadable fastload routines which bypass the default KERNAL loader are counted separately, and do not constitute a modification.

Note: In some setups, the C128 may perform a little better than the C64, due to it's hardware-assisted burst mode and faster CPU. Similarly, adding a SuperCPU has a small but noticeable effect on drive speeds as well, but I don't have accurate measurements other than the RAMLink+SCPU measurement below.
Device Type Speed Interface Loader Notes
Datassette 45 to 60 bytes/sec Dedicated Serial line Stock Exact speed depends on binary program data.
All IEC devices 500-700 bytes/sec IEC Serial Stock Exact speed varies slightly with drive model
Datasette Up to 1 KB/sec Dedicated serial line Custom (rturbo, etc)
1541 or 1571 6 to 7 KB/sec IEC Serial Fastloader
1581 or FD2000 About 7 KB/sec IEC Serial Fastloader Exact speed depends on data layout
CMD HD or CMD ZIP 7-8 KB/sec, maybe more IEC Serial JiffyDOS JD is a replacement KERNAL ROM chip, the most commonly-used fastloader for CMD devices. Exact brand of ZIP or HDD mechanism affects speed slightly.
CMD HD or CMD ZIP 15-20 KB/sec RAMLink Parallel Bus Supplied by RAMLink There is no "stock" loader. The CMD HD/ZIP switches to parallel mode if it detects a parallel connection to RAMLink.
SFD-1001 ? IEEE/Parallel on Expansion Bus Supplied by interface There is no "stock" loader. Should be comparable to a parallel 1541.
1541 or 1571 12 to 20 KB/sec User Port Parallel Fastloader Typically the fastloader will either be a software-loadable program or a replacement ROM chip (Dolphin DOS comes to mind)
CMD RAMLink About 30 KB/sec Expansion Bus JiffyDOS (supplied by the RAMLink) There is no "stock" loader.
IBM compatible PC/interface cable About 35 KB/sec IEC Serial or User Port Parallel (?) Fastloader These types of cables use a PC as a storage device.
IDE64 About 50 KB/sec Expansion Bus Fastloader Loader is supplied by the IDE64
CMD RAMLink 200-250 KB/sec Expansion Bus, via Super CPU Accellerator Custom fastloader (not JiffyDOS) Speed estimated by Chester Kollschen

Drive sizes and capacities, in order smallest to largest

In all cases, it is possible to extend the C64's disk access routines (and hence add fastloaders, extra DOS commands, extend a floppy drive's capacity slightly, etc) without hardware expansions. These can just be loaded into memory, and often are very small (1-3 KB).
Device Maximum storage Media Type Notes
Datasette Typ. 100+ KB per 30 minute side using stock load/save routines Standard audio casette tapes Exact storage depends on tape length and specific load/save routine used.
1541 170 KB to 190 KB 5.25" SSDD or DSDD floppies Normally stores 170KB unless you extend it to 40 tracks with a custom load/save routine
1571 340 KB to 380 KB 5.25" DSDD floppies Normally stores 340K on a double-sided formatted disk. Up to 380KB if you use all 80 tracks.
1581 800 KB 3.5" DSDD floppies
SFD-1001 1 MB 5.25" DSDD 96TPI floppies
CMD FD-2000 1.6 MB 3.5" DSHD floppies Standard floppies as used for PC 1.44 MB format
CMD FD-4000 3.2 MB 3.5" DSED floppies Standard floppies as used for PC 2.88 MB format
CMD RAMDrive 512 KB, 1MB or 2MB Solid State RAMdisk Size depends on specific model
CMD RAMLink 1 MB to 16 MB Solid State RAMdisk (30-pin SIMMs) Total capacity is user-upgradeable.
CMD HD or CMD ZIP 20 MB to 4 GB Standard SCSI I/II hard disks, ZIP drives, or CD-ROM drives Hard Disk is replaceable. Additional hard disks can be added via built-in Linear RAID capability. The maintainer of these devices indicates plans to upgrade the maximum storage beyond 4 GB. External software is currently needed for CD-ROM access; the maintainer indicates plans to remedy this.
IDE-64 Up to 128 GB (128,000 MB) Standard IDE hard disks, CompactFlash cards, CD-ROM drives Hard disk and CompactFlash card are user-replaceable.
IBM compatible PC/interface cable No practical limit Uses a PC as a storage device. Maximum storage is limited only by the PC and it's software capabilities

Footnotes

  1. This is the machine everyone always called the "breadbin" or "breadbox".
  2. Filtering circuitry improved with the 8580 SID.
  3. Cassette port was removed and ROM was updated in this unit to set the default device to 8 (the built-in 1541).
  4. In C128 mode, the built-in 1571 becomes the default LOAD device. All modes on the VIC-IIe are identical to the C64 except that a few more tricks are possible using ~2MHz "Fast" mode. The VDC's modes are mildly extendable and mostly don't require active software tricks.
  5. In C128 mode, the built-in 1571 becomes the default LOAD device. All modes on the VIC-IIe are identical to the C64 except that a few more tricks are possible using ~2MHz "Fast" mode. The VDC's modes are mildly extendable and mostly don't require active software tricks.
  6. In C128 mode, the built-in 1571 becomes the default LOAD device. All modes on the VIC-IIe are identical to the C64 except that a few more tricks are possible using ~2MHz "Fast" mode. The VDC's modes are widely extendable and mostly don't require active software tricks.
  7. The SX-64's power supply is generally considered to be irreplaceable, unlike the regular C64 and C64c's power supply. Therefore, due to it's low power output, the SX is not suitable for use with a SuperCPU or a Commodore 17xx REU, due to the power needs of those devices. The CMD RAMLink and RAMDrive can be used, however, as they have their own separate power supplies.
  8. I have no clue what to put here. Can the C64C and/or the SX-64 be upgraded internally like the breadbox and the C128's?
  9. All machines feature a VIC-II, and on this chip most video modes can be either altered or completely redesigned. A large number of extended video modes are possible using software tricks.
  10. 16 KB VDC machines can be upgraded to 64 KB using a plug-in module or a permanent modification.
  11. In the C64, the VIC-II has 1024 nybbles of memory dedicated to it, for color information in certain modes, plus the VIC-II uses up to 16 KB of base memory (configurable by the programmer).
  12. Like the C64, the VIC-IIe uses a dedicated color RAM chip plus part of base memory, plus there is an extra register in the machine that controls which of the two 1024-nybble segments of color RAM is visible to the VIC. The VIC-II can also access, via a register, the entire 128 KB address space of the C128, and presumeably all the way up into the 1 MB that is possible with internal memory hacks.
  13. All C64 and C128 computers feature one SID chip. Depending on whether you're upgrading a C64 or a C128, and the method used to add more SID chips, anywhere from two (six extra voices) to thirty-one more SID chips (that is, * 93 * extra voices) can be added to the machine, with only a small amount of basic glue logic and some perfboard. It is more practical to stop at 8 chips (to keep the I/O usage to one page), but in practice most users either stick with the single on-board SID, or they add one via a plug-in cartridge (total of 6 voices). At this time, I don't know of any software that supports more than two SID chips in a machine.
  14. The VDC can do color cell sizes from 8x2 to 8x32 without software tricks. With a software trick similar to opening the upper/lower border on the VIC-II, the VDC can display 8x1 color cells.

Adding a SuperCPU to the mix introduces a number of changes to the way the machines operate. There were several other accellerators for the C64 over the years, but today only the SuperCPU really survived. Briefly, these changes are: