Commodore’s “Inner Space” – Reloaded

At the beginning of the year, I wrote an article that highlighted the “Inner Space” of the C64, showing the different models and their respective mainboards.

One of the models missing in the overview was the C64GS, because quite simply, it wasn’t in my collection. Sure enough, from time to time these Commodore consoles show up on eBay, but they’re usually accompanied by a hefty price-tag.

I recently acquired one though and so it’s time now to fill the gap in the original article and “reload” the C64 “Inner Space” and complete it with the C64GS, Commodore’s cartridge based console system.

When you look at the C64GS, with the GS being “Games System”, the size of the case already gives a hint at what’s inside. It looks oddly enough, just big enough to hold the smaller mainboard that was introduced with the C64G. Surely, this system, that was introduced at the end of the 80s, early 90s would hold some new and exciting technology… well, opening up the systems reveals quite the opposite, as the mainboard that is inside the C64GS systems IS exactly the same generation mainboard as that of the C64G, an assembly number 250469 Rev. B.

The userport and cassette port are still there (but not exposed to the outside as these were not in use on the GS systems), and there’s even the placeholder for the keyboard connector (which is obsolete as well as the GS is a pure console, or at least was marketed as one).

For the rest, it’s all standard C64 material in there, with one notable exception, the C64GS ROM. This ROM chip contains two important differences to a standard C64 ROM. The first is that switching on the machine without a cartridge present results in an animation asking the user to insert a cartridge and showing the correct power-on sequence. The second is an additional set of windowing commands, designed to compensate for the lack of a keyboard. There is however no known software that uses it.

With the C64GS being basically a cut-down version of a regular C64, it never really caught on and only a small amount of them were made (reports indicate anything between 5000 and 10000 units). The traditional C64 could handle basically everything the C64GS could do and more, as still many games that came out on cartridge, still required some user input, so even a mere press on the spacebar to initiate a game would render the cartridge useless on the GS.

Next to that, the release of the C64GS in a time where companies like Sega and Nintendo were releasing their 16-bit consoles (i.e. the Mega Drive and the Super NES) meant that it had to deal with some very tough competition right from day one.

So, although not Commodore’s biggest commercial success, it still is one of the most sought after pieces of Commodore hardware today, partly because of the fact that it is quite rare and partly because it was the last of the C64 line of products to come out of the factories that brought us the best selling computer of all time.

The C64GS in action, hooked up to my laptop via a Pinnacle TV Tuner adapter

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2 Responses to Commodore’s “Inner Space” – Reloaded

  1. Nice! You got your hands on that as well! :)

  2. Pingback: Commodore’s “Inner Space” – Revolutions | A Commodore Geek's Blog

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