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A.I. Programming on the Commodore 64 in BASIC

By Commodore Computer Museum     Updated Mar 1, 2024

Join us on a nostalgic trip into the world of retro computing as we explore the pioneering days of A.I. programming using BASIC on the legendary Commodore 64.

1. Programming and Debugging Basics

Hey friends, it's Justin here from the Commodore Computer Museum, popping in after a deep dive into A.I. and robotics, with something retro yet fascinating. I've channelled my energy into asking a curious question: Can a Commodore 64 think for itself?

Here's my game plan: program the C64 in BASIC to identify objects by asking questions and learning from the responses. The goal is to have it guess five different modes of transportation and educate itself from any missteps along the way.

The coding adventure begins by typing out and debugging the program—an old-school journey through trial, error, and triumph. Mistakes like jumbled letters and misplaced punctuation are not just stumbling blocks but stepping stones to mastering problem-solving in the programming world.

2. The Commodore's A.I. Capabilities

With great anticipation, we launch our A.I. program on the C64, but let's keep it real—it's more 'artificial' than 'intelligence' by today's standards. The five chosen objects put the computer to the test, it learns from incorrect guesses, and it displays its 'thought' process right on our screens.

Success isn't an overnight sensation, even in the world of 64 kilobytes. We encounter a hiccup with the program not recalling a car, leading to on-the-spot education. But hey, we're all here to learn, right?

The grand finale: as we reveal our objects, ranging from bicycles to cars, we watch with bated breath. Does it show signs of learning? It's a mixed bag, but there's delight in each correct guess. This journey with the Commodore 64 may be as basic as it gets, but it sure stirs the nostalgia pot.

3. The Allure of Retro Programming

One fellow enthusiast highlights the sheer fun of programming and debugging. There's a charm in bringing a computer to life through strings of code, far more engaging than merely consuming software on modern devices. It's all about creating and tinkering, much like the enterprising Finnish brothers who started with a 3D modeling program on the C64.

The satisfaction in retro programming isn't just about nostalgia; it's about connecting dots between the past and the present. As one viewer shares, modern A.I. coding becomes even more intriguing when reminded of its rudimentary ancestors like the games they cherished.

As another commenter keenly observes, while Commodore BASIC may not have been high-performance programming, it embodied the sprouting seeds of computer literacy and problem-solving—a sentiment echoed throughout our programming escapades.

4. Reflections and Accuracy

Accuracy is crucial, as I discovered while doing research for a book on Commodore Computers. While modern A.I. tools like ChatGPT are impressive and seem almost human, they're not always reliable. They can fabricate references and details, which is quite unnerving if you're depending on them for accurate information.

Always second-guess your sources and remember to verify information—a cautious approach echoed by community members who've encountered similar blunders. This learning applies not just to Commodore 64 programming but to the broader spectrum of information gathering and critical thinking.

There's a consensus in the Commodore community: as much as we adore our retro tech and celebrate its achievements, it's important to be aware of the limitations of early A.I. efforts and understand the vast leaps technology has made since the 1980s.


In our journey with the Commodore 64, we delve into a unique project: teaching this classic machine some basic artificial intelligence. By diving into old school programming in BASIC, we uncover the humble beginnings of A.I. and appreciate the problem-solving skills these activities can foster. We also contrast these early endeavors with modern A.I., understanding the limitations and ingenuity of technology from the 1980s.