I can’t be the only nostalgic nerd to feel a flutter of excitement at the news that a home computer from yesteryear is making a comeback.
The Commodore 64, the classic retro home computer which was initially released in 1982, is reportedly making something of a return as the company is squeezing a Windows PC inside the original shell.
The new computer will ship with Ubuntu, but an emulator capable of playing classic games from the 1980s is also promised.
How neat is that!?
So, to all intents and purposes – it looks just like an old Commodore 64 computer…
..well, until you have a look around the back at least. The USB slots and HD TV connections are a bit of a giveaway in my opinion..
And memories of the Commodore 64 got me thinking. What about computer viruses?
Although viruses were largely a PC and Mac issue in the latter half of the 1980s, there was also malware written for other types of computers. And the Commodore 64 is no exception.
For instance, the C64/BHP-A virus appeared in 1986. It wasn’t just a virus capable of infecting files on Commodore 64s, it was also fully stealth – effectively exploiting the Commodore 64’s memory structure to “act invisible”.
These were the days before financially-motivated malware, of course, and the BHP virus’s payload was to display a message on the screen surrounded by a colourful border:
I’m loathe to suggest that anyone deliberately run a virus on their shiny new computer, but it would be fascinating to know if the emulator being used on the revamped Commodore 64 is capable of running C64/BHP-A.
So, can we expect a revival of Commodore 64 viruses? I seriously doubt it. But it is quite fun to remember the early days of computer viruses, when everything seemed so much more innocent.
If you want to read more about this Commodore 64 virus, I can highly recommend a technical article by security researcher Peter Ferrie, published in Virus Bulletin in January 2005.
And if you want to learn more about the “new” Commodore 64, make sure to visit Commodore’s website.
14 comments on “Commodore 64 viruses – time for a comeback?”
Is this some kind of Hoax? Never heard about this and how could this virus be spred? The C64 had no loadable os and very few had discettes. I've to read the article. From where could You got the virus?
Graham, actually the 64 will ship with Ubuntu! Later on you can use the Commodore OS 1.0 (its not windows, but am unsure if it is Linux). It also has a dual boot option and yes you can install Windows if you want, but it doesn't ship with it. I wrote a nice article on NetworkWorld about it at http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/commod…
Thanks! I will fix it – not sure where I got the Windows 7 thing from..
PS. Nice article you wrote!
Let's not forget something here – you don't have to run Windows 7 on the 'new' 64's. In fact, Commodore USA's website states that the machines will ship with an Ubuntu 10.04 LTS CD. From the site:
'Don't forget that the new Commodore 64 is a fully functional PC compatible, so you can even install and use the latest versions of Windows if you really feel you need to. We provide a beautiful graphical boot menu at start up from which Windows can be selected to run, so you needn't lose any of the functionality of the new C64's included Commodore operating systems.
Note: Commodore OS 1.0, along with emulation functionality and classic game package, will be mailed to purchasers when available. In the meantime, units come with the Ubuntu 10.04 LTS operating system on CD ready to install.'
So, a malware free experience* out-of-the-box, and after. That's the spirit! So, Ubuntu until Commodore OS comes along, itself a Linux based distro.
* Yeah yeah, everything has its flaws – but back in the real world, etc….
So the big question is… will they be selling an adapter that'll let us connect our old tape drives?
Oh I miss the tape drive! And what about our old dot matrix printers that worked when they felt like it 😉
I am already beginning to imagine the lost hours re-playing "River Raid" or "Pitfall" when this comes out.
Sure there are C64 emulators around, but its not the same as looking at the original hardware shell whilst playing them.
I so want one of these things… I am sure someone will/has come up with software that will read the old cassettes through the sound card audio input.
This is awesome – not the virus bit though, but thanks for the history lesson. I remember being jealous of people with neat new Commodore64’s back then.
Do you think they’ll bring back a modern version of my old TRS80 Model 1 Level2?
Why can’t they lock away the core C64 OS and make all subsequent software additions behind a hardware barrier that a virus cannot breach. Then create a second tier for peripheral additions. Lock that second tier up with some code that auto-over-writes to the original code if something changes the original code. In effect locking out viruses to third party additions and set up web sites that can remotely correct code in the third outer tier. That would virtually eliminate viral problems when a 4th tier, locked away switches into use temporarily until the 3rd tier auto cleans itself. You need to lock the OS into a chip with a door that goes only one way. The door will write to, but cannot be written to.
If they can squeeze a PC inside a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K (or the Spanish-designed 128K), then I'll be interested 🙂
The C64 was the Speccy's rival back in the UK during the 1980s.
I never had a Sinclair Spectrum or a Commodore 64, but I remember the old days when I used to take my computer and a portable TV around to a friend's house so we could all try out eachothers' games. I learnt to program on a 1K ZX81. It was enough to write basic computer games without fancy graphics or colour.
Then one day I had saved up enough cash to buy a 16K RAM Pack (complete with wobble), and I was off writing text adventure games for my own entertainment.
Eeh ba gum. But you try and tell the young people today that… and they won't believe yer..
I too remember putting together my ZX81 because it was a kit then. I also had the 16K memory pack. Learning those peeks and pokes was a fun learning experience.
Then came the VIC-20 and I was in color. Didn't really want a C-64 but ended up with the Commodore 128. This had both a Z80 and 6510 chips which I learned thier commands.
I loved my Spectrum, but was always secretly jealous of the C64's awesome music capabilities and sprite handling (though I hated its blocky graphics).