Facts

  • Type: Home computer
  • Release date: 1980 (VIC-1001/Japan) / 1981 (world)
  • Introductory price: US$299.95 (~$744.39 in 2016)
  • Discontinued: 1985
  • OS: Commodore BASIC 2.0
  • CPU: MOS 6502 @ ~1 MHz
  • Memory: 5 KB RAM (exp. to 21 KB, (64 KB by 3rd party))
  • Video: VIC 176 x 184
  • ROM: 20 KB
  • Sound: 3 × square, 1 × noise, mono
  • Predecessor: Commodore PET/CBM
  • Successor: C64
  • Storage: Datasette, Floppy drive, Cartridge

Released 1980/81: The VIC-20 was Commodore’s first home computer with the ability to display colors, and it was the first home computer that has been sold more than one million times. In 1982, it was the best-selling home computer and was given the “Computer of the Year” award by International Computer Magazine. At its release, it sold for US$ 299.95 (1,000.- DM) and for the price, it was a compact, user-friendly computer, even for new users.

Despite its small amount of memory, there have been numerous programs published, especially games on cassette and cartridge. There have also been many programs in the form of text for manual entry in computing magazines of the 1980s.

Its original name is derived from the newly developed VIC video chip (or, Video Interface Chip). In Germany, is was sold as the “VC-20”, the name coming from Volkscomputer, meaning The People’s Computer. Over its production lifetime, there were more than 3 million VIC-20 systems sold.

VIC-20 in school 1982
VIC-20 in school 1982.

My VIC-20 and repair

I have two of them, one is the early type VIC-20 that uses an 9 VAC external power supply. The other one is the later model, sometimes referred to as VIC-20 CR (CR=Cost Reduced). The later type uses the same power supply as the Commodore 64 (5 VDC and 9 VAC).

A friend gave me an VIC-20 CR for free. When powered on, it seemed dead with no display and not even the power light. I found that the power switch itself was faulty. Once replaced by a new one, all seemed to worked 100% … suddenly, after 4 minutes the screen turned black and it didn’t helped to turn on/off. After waiting for a while, it would work for a few minutes again. I also replaced the capacitors, but it didn’t help. After searching on Google for an answer, I decided to replace the “OCS master clock chip” 7402, I also soldered in an socket for the replacement chip. Successful, now also this VIC-20 works 100%.

My VIC-20 repaired and working.
VIC-20

Remi Jakobsen


I'm collecting classic computers and video games, stretching from the 70's into the 90's. Restoration, history, usage ...


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8 thoughts on “VIC-20

  1. Where did you source the replacement power switch? I need to replace one in a board I’ve just bought. The seller wasn’t entirely truthful about its condition!

    1. I don’t remember, I think it was from a retro-part web- shop in Sweden. First, I didn’t find original looking once with the plastic cap on top of the metal switch, so I bought “metal”switches with the same size and function. Then I got the original looking once with the black plastic switch cap. VIC 20, C64 and C128 power switches are the same, only the C128 once are stronger inside for more current I think. The new ones are good also for C128. Here you can by refurnished switch from C64: https://retroleum.co.uk/
      I bought parts from that shop before, recommended.

  2. Thank you for a well designed web-site that gives me a good flash-back on some of the early computers I used, including the VIC 20 that was the first I bought for myself, (Early version with a 4-digit serial number), and the Apple IIe. I still have the VIC, but it didn’t work last time I tried it some years ago. I was also a member of the Oslo based computer club “Dataamatørforeningen” from around 1984 till I moved abroad in 2001.

    1. Thank you very much, glad to hear. Never heard about that group before, will Google it. Apple IIe was not very common here in Norway back then I think. A remake “VIC 20” in full size is now in sale in the electronic stores here in Norway, its just like the C64 remake with USB and HDMI port, just the VIC20 look instead with more VIC20 games included. Check it out: https://www.elkjop.no/product/gaming/spillkonsoll/retrogaming-andre-konsoller/226469/commodore-vic-20-spillkonsoll

      1. Hei Remi,
        You probably won’t find much about the Daamatørforeningen anymore – it disbanded around 2002 due to a lack of financial management. Hans Arne Nakrem had the association’s old website on the Oslo university’s server for a long time, but no longer. What you find around on the web are remnants of old things. Some of the old guys are no longer among us. The club’s heyday was before the Internet became available to everyone, and a lot of communication at that time took place on BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) which was reached by modem via telephone line. Those disappeared quickly when Internet went public. Interesting that you can still buy a VIC 20 – I didn’t know – I don’t know any other computer that sells almost 40 years after first release.

        1. I see. The VIC20 in store today is modern hardware with software emulator of some sort. It started with the Mini 64 that got a small size and a fake keyboard, an abour a year ago you get the full size C64 with working keyboard, and the VIC20 now is exactly the same hardware inside with emulator, HDMI for display and USB port.

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