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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Tue Oct 03, 2023 6:55 am

Like most things that get posted here, I'd been looking for one of these fascinating snapshots in time for a few years.


Back in the early days of the Commodore 64, a Sales Cartridge aimed at the United States market was created and shipped out to some retail stores for use on their showfloor displays. These cartridges were produced in the same style as other Commodore-produced game cartridges with black plastic cases and text in the Microgramma Bold font on a silver sticker.

At the time, Commodore mostly focused on producing games that many might now consider simplistic. But in 1983 when most of their cartridges were made, Commodore competed more directly with early 8-bit game consoles and home microcomputers, which were also cartridge-based. There were several titles titles also focused on education, productivity and even programming.

Complete list:
C64104 - Super Expander 64
C64108 - Simons' BASIC
C64200 - Easycalc
C64228 - Financial Advisor
C64312 - Number Nabber/Shape Grabber
C64320 - A Bee Cs
C64402 - Music Machine
C64403 - Music Composer
C64601 - Jupiter Lander
C64602 - Kickman
C64603 - Sea Wolf
C64604 - Speed Math/Bingo Math
C64605 - Radar Rat Race
C64606 - Clowns
C64609 - Visible Solar System
C64610 - Tooth Invaders
C64612 - Blueprint
C64613 - Lazarian
C64614 - Omega Race
C64615 - Wizard of Wor
C64616 - Le Mans
C64617 - Pinball Spectacular
C64618 - Gorf
C64619 - Solar Fox
C64621 - Avenger
C64622 - Super Smash
C64623 - Star Post
C64624 - Frogmaster
C64631 - Star Ranger
C64632 - Dragonsden
C64635 - International Soccer
C64636 - Viduzzles
C64638 - Jack Attack
C64801 - Magic Desk I

Because it was never sold at retail, the one cartridge missing from that list is the Sales Cartridge.

This cartridge is an interactive looping animation that lasts only a few minutes, but frankly is a total joy to watch on original hardware.

The Sales Cartridge was designed to showcase some of the color and sound capabilities of the C64 as well as the ease of BASIC programming in a looping interactive demo.

Designed in a relatively simplistic but attractive fashion, the "slides" and simple animations sell parents on the multitude benefits a Commodore 64 could provide any household. Half the focus is on the educational benefits of the computer, while the other half tries to convince adults that this is a serious business machine capable of doing grown-up tasks like word processing, checking stocks, composing music, and designing and programming games (that part might have aimed at certain kids who lacked money to buy their own, too).

Did Simon and Garfunkel know they were used as a sales tool for the C64?

When I received my cartridge I decided to open it up to ensure it was genuine. There are reports of a fake reproduction floating around out there, but they are typically easy to spot due to the baffling use of incorrect typography on the stickers. While mine looked good on the outside, I wanted to check out the PCB more closely as well as the chips used. (Note: these cartridges are kind of a PITA to open, but it is possible.)

I felt pretty confident at first as the metal cartridge pins looked very well-used.

Then I opened it. At first, I wasn't sure what to think.
Erasable EPROMs? My stomach briefly flipped as I considered these chips looked to be copies. I shared photos of what I'd found, and soon breathed a sigh of relief as the chips are in fact date-stamped 1983. But why would Commodore have used erasable chips? And mine are even from two different manufacturers.

Soon, very plausible theories began to emerge. One person suggested Commodore generally had to order things in batches of 10,000 in order to be cost effective. However, there was no way 10,000 Sales Cartridges would ever need to be produced. Thus, since the number was so small the ROMs could be burned in-house. As Bart van Leeuwen said, "A mask ROM would involve too much upfront cost."

It's also possible they used erasable EPROMs in case they thought they might change or update the presentation at some point. As far as I know, though, what was produced in 1983 was never updated again. Nor was there ever a "Sales Cartridge II" or the like ever produced.

In fact, Commodore didn't produce many more titles on cartridges after 1983 as the US market moved to using disk drives quickly (there's a slide in the demo promoting the 1541). But I'm glad this sturdy little artifact exists rather than some comparably obscure slow-loading floppy disk. It would be cool to know where the store was located that used this cartridge back in the day. And I wonder if these cartridges ever magically vanished from floor displays with the help from child-sized hands?

User avatar
Zippy Zapp

Posted Tue Oct 03, 2023 11:59 am

This has been on my list for a long time. Let me know if you come across another one.

As for the EPROMs I can confirm that Commodore did use EPROMs in some of their carts. I have at least 2 that contain EPROMs. One is a Clowns cart that I have owned since it was new and didn't actually open it until about 2015 shortly after getting it out of my storage and then breaking the tabs due to not understanding how to open those stupid things. They also used EPROMs in some of the 1541s they sold too. My original 1541C has an EPROM with a revision sticker over it clearly from the factory.

Commodore had a tendency to use up parts they had on hand so it would make sense that they probably had a large stock of EPROMs for testing and even early production before they could get the mask ROMs completed.

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Tue Oct 03, 2023 2:45 pm

Code: Select all

due to not understanding how to open those stupid things.

How do you open the carts more easily? I seem to wiggle and press until I nearly burst then "pop" it comes undone.

User avatar
Zippy Zapp

Posted Wed Oct 04, 2023 10:17 am

intric8 wrote:
Tue Oct 03, 2023 2:45 pm

Code: Select all

due to not understanding how to open those stupid things.

How do you open the carts more easily? I seem to wiggle and press until I nearly burst then "pop" it comes undone.
There are four tabs in addition to the screw. I think. If you stick a screwdriver in the area where the tabs are and pry, like I did, they will break. You can instead try to push in on the side of the cart where the tabs are latched and pull them apart at the same time and that seems to work for me.

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Wed Oct 04, 2023 10:41 am

OK yeah, that's what I did and it kinda sucked but I got it. When I opened it some very thin plastic fell out from a previous owner's attempt. In fact, it looked like two of the tabs had been pushed over somehow (I guess from a screwdriver blindly prying in there).

I guess my exasperating method is the way to go! Wish there was some sort of device we could pop them on, sort of like the thing at The Gap they use to remove security devices from the clothes you want to buy, or those crazy long plastic things they used to wrap around tapes at the record store.

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Sat Oct 07, 2023 1:05 pm

How do you open the carts more easily?
I decided to contact one of the 8-bit experts I know: Thomas Christoph of Corei64. He's a very cool and helpful dude based in Canada.

These are his instructions for opening original C= cartridges, which I shall attempt to follow.
After removing the screw, hold the cartridge such that the bottom of the cartridge is facing your chest, with the cartridge fingers facing up. Then take a flat head screwdriver (something smaller that fits all the way into the slot). It can be anything that's flat and rigid. Now, holding the cartridge in that orientation, from your perspective to the cartridge, put the screwdriver in the slot on the right closest to the cartridge finger end. Holding the cartridge firmly, move the screwdriver handle to the right while with your other hands fingers pulling the top from the bottom on that end of the cartridge. Do this with finesse. No hulk hogan needed here. It should only take a little rightward pressure of the screwdriver handle to release the hold inside the cartridge at that point, and the pressure you're applying with the other hand to separate that corners top and bottom should be enough to release that corner.

Then proceed and do the same thing with the lower right.

Then the left side, you're pushing the screwdriver handle to the left if you're maintaining the same orientation to yourself.

User avatar
Zippy Zapp

Posted Sat Oct 07, 2023 4:13 pm

Yep Thomas knows his stuff. Cool, thanks for getting the low down.

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