VIC 20

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Platform - VIC.png
VIC 20
Vic 20.jpg
Released: 1980-??-??
Discontinued: 1985-??-??
Developer: Commodore
Type: Hardware

The VIC 20 is a short-lived but influential 8-bit home computer created and released by Commodore.

Subtitled "the friendly computer" and advertised by William Shatner, the VIC 20's name went through many considerations. VIC stands for "Video Interface Computer", after its defining VIC chip. Since Vic alone sounded like a truck driver, a number was added. The 20 was chosen because it sounded most friendly.

The VIC 20 did not yield many games. After peaking in 1983, it lost rapidly to its successor, the Commodore 64. However, the VIC 20 was the first computer for many users and an affordable head start. Most notably, Hiroshi Kawaguchi and David Whittaker programmed their first games and soundtracks on their VIC. Despite inferior graphics and audio, the VIC 20 was the first non-console to sell a million and the first platform to adapt Atari's (non-patented) joystick port.


Before turning the computer on, you can plug a ROM cartridge in. Otherwise, it boots into CBM BASIC V2, where you either type in software, or load some from a tape cassette or 5'25" disk.

A stock VIC 20 has only 5 KB RAM. Commodore sold different cartridges that expand the RAM, and some games require a specific one.




When Commodore saw the NEC PC-8001 in Japan, Commodore prematurely launched the VIC 20 in Japan, so NEC would improve the PC-8001 and effectively delay its US release.

The font includes Japanese characters. The number was changed to 1001 because, according to Commodore Japan, it was more friendly and the film 2001: A Space Odyssey popular.

VIC 20

Unlike the other models, Commodore spelled the original with a space. The hyphen slipped out rarely, but quickly became just as popular among everyone else.


Short for VolksComputer, the VC-20 is not an actual model, but the German name of the VIC 20, since VIC can be pronounced like a German vulgarism.

VIC 21

Not to be confused with Commodore's Blackjack game of the same name.

The VIC 21 was not an actual model, but a bundle of a common VIC 20, a common 16 KB RAM cartridge, and a "VIC 21" sticker slapped on the VIC 20 package.

The "Commodore VIC-21" was introduced by the Lechmere department store chain in The Boston Globe from Sunday, February 13, 1983, with the "20" in the photo crudely scratched out. Commodore sounded surprised at the idea, but had no problem and applauded its creativity. Today's internet suggests that everybody just wanted to clear their stock fast.

Music and Sound

Every model has a VIC chip, a 6502 CPU, and two VIA chips which provide two timers each.

The VIC has four voices and also handles graphics. Each timer can be used to play music and samples at any desired rate. Unlike on other 8-bit platforms, music is not synchronized with the screen refresh.

On the wrong region's machine, pitch is off by 8% (139 cents) and speed by up to 20%. Unusually, the NTSC chips are slower than the PAL chips. The clocks are:

Region Chips Screen refresh
NTSC 1022727 Hz 60.285 Hz
PAL 1108405 Hz 50.036 Hz


Issue - Content.svg

The content of this section should be improved.


As of August 2021, no rip format exists.