The odd one out… the MAX Machine
Since my article on “Commodore’s Inner Space” – all about the interals of the C64 models – I have been opening up some more Commodore computers (so expect some more on this in the near future). In this article already, the MAX Machine as it’s closely related to the C64.
In 1982 Commodore introduced the MAX Machine in the Japanese market and in a way, it is the predecessor to the grand C64 as it was the Japanese engineer Yashi Terakura who, when he learned about the new chipset Al Charpentier and Bob Yannes were designing for video games (the chips that would later be used for the C64), decided he was going to take the chips and use them for a dedicated video game console, which he called the Ultimax (the name was later changed to MAX Machine, as apparently the original name sounded too much like a feminine hygiene product).
As can be seen from the picture of the motherboard, most of the components are actually those that we’ll find later on in the C64.
Note however that the VIC chip is the 6566, which is an NTSC variant that was used in conjunction with SRAM and non-muxed address lines.
click on the image for a larger picture
The machine originally had 4K of RAM to keep costs down, but the team working on the machine really wanted 8K in order to produce a full bit-mapped display.
It was Jack Tramiel himself that had to settle the arguments and decide on 6K of RAM (which was more a desicion of compomise as it was still not enough for the bitmapped display).
The memory constraints later played an important role in the design of the C64, as it had to be compatible with the MAX Machine cartridges (Commodore did not want to let the cartridges go to waste, so the C64 had to be able to use these MAX Machine cartridges).
The compatibility would allow “freezer” cartridges (such as the Action Replay) on the C64, to take control of the currently running program
The only peripherals for the MAX Machine were a tape drive, and as it was never intended to be more than a game console (just try to do reular work on a membrane keyboard!) it lacked the serial and user ports necessary to connect a disk drive, printer, or modem.
It is a rarity to find one these days, so they’re quite the collectible item.