The Commodore 16 was a home computer made by Commodore with a 6502-compatible 8501 CPU, released in 1984. It was intended to be an entry-level computer to replace the VIC-20 and it often sold for 99 USD. A cost-reduced version, the Commodore 116, was sold only in Europe.
The C16 was intended to compete with other sub-$100 computers from Timex Corporation, Mattel, and Texas Instruments (TI). Timex's and Mattel's computers were less expensive than the VIC-20, and although the VIC-20 offered better expandability, a full-travel keyboard, and in some cases more memory, the C16 offered a chance to improve upon those advantages. The TI-99/4A was priced in-between Commodore's VIC-20 and Commodore 64, and was somewhat between them in capability, but TI was lowering its prices. On paper, the C16 was a closer match for the TI-99/4A than the aging VIC-20.
Outwardly the C16 resembled the VIC-20 and the C64, but with a dark gray case and light gray keys. The keyboard layout differed slightly from the earlier models, adding an escape key and four cursor keys replacing the shifted-key arrangement inherited from the C-64 and VIC. Performance-wise located between the VIC-20 and 64, it had 16 kilobytes of RAM with 12 KB available to its built-in BASIC interpreter, and a new sound and video chipset offering a palette of 128 colors (in reality 121, since the system offered 16 base colors with 8 shades per color, but black always remained black, with all 8 shades), the TED (better than the VIC used in the VIC-20, but lacking the sprite capability of the VIC-II and advanced sound capabilities of the SID, both used in the C64). The ROM resident BASIC 3.5, however, was more powerful than the VIC-20's and C64's BASIC 2.0, in that it had commands for sound and bitmapped graphics (320×200 pixels), as well as simple program tracing/debugging.
From a practical user's point of view, three tangible features the C16 lacked were a modem port and VIC-20/C64-compatible Datassette and game ports. Commodore sold a C16 family-specific cassette player (the Commodore 1531) and joysticks, but third-party converters to allow the use of the abundant, and hence much less expensive, VIC-20/C64-type units soon appeared. The official reason for changing the joystick ports was to reduce RF interference. The C16's serial port (Commodore's proprietary "serial IEEE-488 bus", no relation to RS-232 and the like) was the same as that of the VIC-20 and C64, which meant that printers and disk drives, at least, were interchangeable with the older machines. Partially for cost reasons, the user port (designed for modems and other devices) was omitted from the C16 (although the connections for it were still present on the system board).
The Commodore 16 was one of three computers in its family. The even less successful Commodore 116 was functionally and technically similar but was shipped in a smaller case with a rubber chiclet keyboard and was only available in Europe. The family's flagship, the Commodore Plus/4, was shipped in a similar case but had a 59-key full-travel keyboard (with a specifically advertised "cursor key diamond" of four keys, contrasted with the VIC-20's and C64's two + shift key scheme inherited from the PET), 64 KB of RAM, a modem port, and built-in entry-level office suite software. Although shipped with 16k from the factory, it was possible to modify the C16 for 64k, making it able to run all Plus/4 software except applications that required the user port or built-in programs.
Browsing the Collection
There are over 2,600 images of cassettes and disks for the Commodore C-16, C-116 and Plus 4, including games, applications, educational, public domain, and demos.