SX64 History


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COMMODORE SX-64 - the first portable color computer

It's one of the most sought-after items among collectors of vintage home and game computers: the Commodore SX-64. Yes, it's a phenomenon: the Commodore 64, the most popular home computer ever, in a portable shape, including built-in color screen. And it is a rare item. Of the common Commodore 64 more then 20 million units were sold, but the SX-64 didn't pass the 9000.
Although at first sight it are two totally different computers, the SX-64 performed exactly the same as the C64. The metal case of the SX-64 contained with a few exceptions the same parts. Even all C64-cartridges could be used, by means of a gap in the top of the SX-64.

5 Inch color screen
The vintage computer fan gets immediately excited when the front of the SX is lifted: the front turns out to be the keyboard. Then he is pleasantly surprised by the 5-inch color screen at the left in the computer itself. A color monitor, 5 inch, from 1983! At the right under a tiny cover there are five buttons, among others to adjust the brightness of the screen and the volume of the built-in speaker. In between is a built-in floppy drive, yes, a real Commodore 64. Above the drive there is storage compartment, apparently to store floppies, although that doesn't seem a good idea next to a monitor. 

Not for game fanatics
On the front of this beautiful machine (that means at the other side of the keyboard) is written: 'Executive computer'. So not meant for the game fanatics: They were better served by the common Commodore 64 connected to a bigger monitor or a TV.
But even if the SX-64 was only used for administrative purposes the 5-inch screen causes trouble for the eyes. That is one of the reasons for the poor sales figures, although the SX-64 could be connected to a normal monitor. But who wants to buy a portable that he needs to connect to another screen?

And there are other things that can be said against the term 'portable'. As much as 24 pounds (10 kilo) weighs the SX-64. A German computer critic wrote in 1984 that the handy handle made carrying the SX the first kilometres a piece of cake. Was he a well trained athletic, this critic? Or do I have to train more...?
Further doubts on the term portable were cast by the fact that the SX-64 had to stand next to a socket, because it didn't contain a battery.
All this, combined with the price of approximately $1000, held the SX-64 far away from the successes the Commodore 64 achieved. The manufacturing, started in 1983, was discontinued in 1986. 

SX-100 and DX-64
De SX was for the first time presented at the Consumer Electronics Show in the United States in January 1983. At that moment still under another name, the SX-100, that contained a black-and-white screen instead of a colour screen. But the SX-100 was never manufactured and the idea was replaced by the SX-64. Besides the SX there also exists a DX-64: a model with two floppy drives (for which the storage compartment was sacrificed). But the DX-64 was manufactured in very small amounts, and is thus much, much rarer then the SX!


Specifications of the Commodore SX-64

Manufacturer Commodore
Period 1983 - 1986
CPU MOS 6510
Frequency 1 MHz
ROM 20 KB (8 for Basic V2.0, 8 for Kernel and 4 for character set)
RAM 64 KB (38KB available under Basic)
Text mode 40 x 24
Graphical mode Vic-II 6569 chip
resolutions 320x200 of 160x200
Colors 16
Sound 6581 Sid chip with 3 channels
built-in speaker
I/O user port, cartridge slot, 2 joystick ports, monitor, serial port
Price Approx. 1000 dollar (May 1983)

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