What did the Commodore Vic 20 (or contemporaries) do?

I was watching a Commodore Vic 20 commercial and was curious: what could you do with one? On the commercial they play arcade “Space Invaders” like games. Did it do word processing? And if so, did it have any internal memory or did everything have to be put on a disk? What was probably the most complex feature it had?

Just curious. I was alive and a teenager then but never used a computer until much later. Chime ins on its contemporaries are also welcome.

They had 20K of memory, which was a lot back then. You could do word processing (saving your files on cassette tapes).

I’m pretty sure you could program it to say “Hello, World!”

Maybe total. RAM was only around 5k or so.

My first computer was a Vic 20, and as I recall, the answer to the OP is ‘not much’. I played games , and typed more games in. Storage was via cassette tape, though I think a floppy drive was available.

There was a word processor, but it cost extra, and was very, very low featured. I seem to remember something like a max of 4 pages or something.

No it didn’t. It had 5K of RAM (without any expansion), and only about 3.5K was available to the user once it booted up. That was my first computer.


or, for those who like the shortcuts:

10 ? “HELLO, WORLD!”

Of course, these sorts of basic programs pretty much required the follow-up line:

20 GOTO 10

Here’s an old magazine article about some software available for the Vic-20, Commodore 64 and other contemporaries. You kind of have to scroll around because the opening of the article and the page I linked to are separated by a retro-riffic advertising section.

The C=64 was considerably more powerful but the Vic-20 itself has a word processor (Type Write) that holds 3-5 pages of text, a data manager (Rabbit Base) that holds 600 records and a spreadsheet (Praticalc).

I remember playing some games on it. And the joy of tape storage. And typing BASIC programs out of magazines which was mostly an exercise in discovering that I wasn’t very good at typing.

What kind of printer was available? Would it print on white paper or just that (sorry, can’t remember the name of it though I used enough- the kind with the holes on a perforated strip on each side that you tore off).

it had serial interface to peripherals so a number could be easily connected.

i think every home computer printer of that era was tractor feed or roll feed. plain white tractor feed paper with sheet perforations was available.

You’re thinking of a continuous feed, dot-matrix printer. You could use those. My freshman year of college, I had a Commodore 64, while my roommate had an Atari 800 computer. I only had a 300 baud modem, while he had a wicked fast 1200 baud modem. It was so fast that the text scrolled off the screen faster than you could read it. And his printer was a typewriter with a daisy wheel to make the characters. It connected to his computer and could print his papers much nicer looking than the dot matrix printers everyone else used. But it made a horrible racket when it printed.

Here’s some game screen shots (off an emulator) that give a decent idea of what the graphics were like. Games were mainly simple shoot-em-ups and side scrollers.

My father-in-law had one. I taught him how to program in Basic when he was 65, and he used it to implement some ideas he had about anticipating moves in the commodities market. He had been a commodities broker after he retired from teaching, so it wasn’t as wacky as it sounds.

He moved to a portable TRS-80 which had more power. I’m pretty.sure Commodore sold a printer for it - I had one from my C64.
You can do a surprisingly large number of things with a tiny bit of memory, if you are careful.

Its competitor had this kind.

We had a Vic-20. I was pretty young, but I remember a few things about it. Mostly playing primitive games on it, and, as has already been mentioned, typing in BASIC games from magazines. I remember one in particular - it was a ripoff of the arcade game Crazy Climber. Hours of fun! After you got it to load from the cassette machine, that is.

I also remember a few of the cartridge games we bought for it. A few text adventure games by Scott Adams, and a clone of the arcade game Rally-X called Radar Rat Race.

I also remember my dad doing the family’s finances on a spreadsheet, so I guess those must have existed back then.

The Commodore 64 was the older brother of the Vic-20 and much more capable and popular. Millions were sold. You could do many things you can do on a current computer except for fancy multimedia in a very primitive way. It had a cartridge slot so you could buy games but you could also type in your own programs from magazines or write them yourself. The Commodore 64 was a little ahead of its time in the way you could write sound and simple graphics through the built in version of BASIC it had. There were word processing programs and printers available as well as some simple office software. The floppy disk drive wasn’t included and cost about the same as the computer itself but the whole package was about $700 between the two which was revolutionary at the time and much cheaper than the competitors like the Apple IIE. The sheer numbers sold meant that there was a large amount of commercial software that was developed for it over a few years in the early 1980’s.

You could also connect to the early incarnations of the internet with it if you bought a (very slow) modem. Compuserve and AOL plus the bulletin board services offered connectivity at a (steep) price usually billed by the hour.

There is still a hobbyist movement for new Commodore 64 software and a web browser for it as well as at least one Commodore 64 web server. They were cool computers and you can run it as an emulator on a computer today to play around with it like I do.

Younger surely? Vic-20 came out a couple of years before the C64. C64 had a really long life, my friends were buying games for theirs in the early 1990s.

Moved Cafe Society --> GQ.

I had an Atari 400, which came out at the same time. The games came on cartridges. I had a word processor, which also came on a cartridge, and some other programs (I remember a checkbook registry), which came on cassette tapes. The printer was more like a typewriter. It used regular paper, but I could actually type faster than the printer could.

You ARE young, aren’t you? You saved everything on a cassette drive. It took several minutes to save anything, and much longer to load it back in.