Now: Commodore machines Re: Teaching kids about computers...

Jim Brain brain at
Mon Nov 26 13:46:30 CST 2007

I think the C64 and/or VIC-20 are great machines to teach a kid with, 
for the following reasons:

    * Yes, BASIC 2.0 is minimal, but you can get a lot of mileage out of
      the base language, without overwhelming the child with DLOAD and
      SPRITE and such.
    * No need to open the case to get at expansion options
    * Cool games to entice the child (see what this PC will do, it just
      takes time and education)
    * The user port has predecoded and prevalidated I/O.  (However, I
      would put a 74LS something on the CIA/VIA I/O as a buffer as kids
      are kids)
    * If the child trends toward shiny-ness, the C64 graphics are very
      impressive, even for a 20+ year old machine.
    * If the child is younger, the big text on the VIC might be welcome.

But, perhaps the best reasons:

    * With 14-17 million 64s and 5 million VICs, they are dirt cheap and
      easy to replace.  Kids are kids, and they will at some point wish
      to try their hand at making the unit do things via paperclip, or
      other potentially destructive tests.  If a VIC or 64 dies, just
      pull another one out and move on.  I'm not implying we should
      encourage children to trach the machine, but I know many adults
      are afraid of computers simply because they are worried they will
      break it.  I don't want my child to be held back from learning all
      there is to know by that concern.  I trashed more than a handful
      of CIAs on my primary 64 in the day, and my son will too.

Regardless of machine type, I think external access to some IO, an 
always available BASIC interpreter, being cheap enough to have a spare 
and not care if the kids trashes one, and  reasonable graphics and sound 
are major requirements.

I'm not so sure about Apple IIs and TIs, but Atari's 8-bit line might 
have the same advantages.  TRS-80 Cocos might as well, but they were a 
niche player in these parts, so the units might be more rare.  I can;t 
think of other options, but I am sure they exist.

I would agree the 64 memory map is strange indeed, and maybe Atari and 
others had more sanity in that arena.  Still, being able to swap out 
almost all the ROMs and get to 63kB of RAM or SWAP out all the ROMs and 
replace with external ones from the cart port is a neat trick.


Jim Brain, Brain Innovations                                      (X)
brain at 
Dabbling in WWW, Embedded Systems, Old CBM computers, and Good Times! 

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