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Remembering ‘The Wonder Computer of the 1980s’ – The Commodore VIC-20

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The first home computer to sell a million units was the Commodore VIC-20, an 8-bit unit hawked by Star Trek star William Shatner and released on the market in 1981.

Sold at a very reasonable $299.99, the Commodore VIC-20 was the best-selling computer of the 1982, and described as “revolutionary.”

Or, as the ads trumpeted: “a computer like this would have been science fiction a few years ago. Now it’s reality.”


Shatner’s TV commercials were effective, in part because the marketing technique involved positioning the VIC-20 against Atari 2600 and Intellivision game systems.

“Why buy just a video game?” Shatner queried, when “the whole family can learn to compute!” A key selling point was, accordingly, that this machine had a keyboard, not just joysticks.

Still, video games were stressed pretty hard too. The Commodore VIC-20 could play “Omega Run,” “Space Invaders” and a home version of the then-popular arcade game, “Gorf.”

Here’s Mr. Shatner, hawking the Commodore VIC-20:



Here are some more Commodore VIC-20 commercials, but sans Shatner: