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What can you do with a Commodore 64?

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(CNN) -- It may be hard to imagine life without that lightning-fast PC or Mac on your desktop with its 3D graphics and 200 GB hard drive, but the Commodore 64 used to be a top-of-the-line computer.

James Park of Minneapolis, Minnesota, pictured in 1984, used his Commodore 64 to program motion computer graphics that now have retro appeal.

CNN readers like Daniel Mackey of Fulton, New York, told us they still respect and appreciate the simplicity of the Commodore 64 era.

"The current state of computing is crazy," Mackey said. "Any time you buy a system it is already outdated. Back in the days of the Commodore you really didn't have to worry about that because the C64 was what it was -- other than expansion devices."

So what can you do with that brownish-beige self-contained box? Readers shared a ton of ideas for the Commodore 64 that might just blow your mind.

Just a great hobby
Maybe it's the rectangular lines on the box, or perhaps it's the dull glimmer of the TV screen reflecting in your eyes when the machine is humming along, but the Commodore 64 is simply a great hobby for many.

Robert Bernardo of Visalia, California, writes: "I'm still running possibly the last Commodore club in California, the Fresno Commodore User Group. I got my first Commodore 64 in August, 1983 and am using Commodores still. Our club sets up tables at the annual Vintage Computer Festival and/or Classic Gaming Expo. Our club also co-hosts the annual Commodore Vegas Expo, the only West Coast Commodore show."

Incidentally, Bernardo said he has "dozens of C64s in storage." He encourages people with old, unwanted computers to give them to others who are looking for them.

Music machine
Many submitters consider the Commodore 64 to be an excellent musical device because of the bleeps and bloops that it emits. Indeed, many bands and musical acts make use of the Commodore 64's music engine, noted for its unique power when it first came out.

Andrew Darovich of Parma Heights, Ohio, uses the Commodore 64 as an instrument:

"I am a 19 year old computer fanatic ... I have an odd love for the Commodore 64, even though its time was through by the time I was aware of the computer world. Despite this, I have amassed a handful of commodore 64s, various accessories and software, and I use them to make eight-bit music featured on www.myspace.com/ramrom8bit. I also used another popular Commodore computer, the Commodore Amiga, to make this music. I have an entire commodore workstation setup in my bedroom along side my current PC setup. Being the musically driven person I am, I also modified the Commodore 64 to have a second sound chip (which doubles the amount of simultaneously played instruments) inside the computer. I've also programmed on the C64, and taught myself a lot of things from it that have applied to modern computer classes that I am taking at Cleveland State University. So, all in all, the Commodore 64 was, and still is a great piece of hardware for entertainment AND educational purposes."

On the other hand, Theo Engell-Nielsen of Copenhagen, Denmark, shared his story about doing the opposite. He belongs to a rock band that plays Commodore 64 music:

"I'm a member of PRESS PLAY ON TAPE, a Commodore 64 band. We play the themes from the C64 games and have played in Denmark, Norway, Britain, Germany and have planned concerts in Spain and perhaps Croatia. The band has six members, all graduated in computer science from the University of Copenhagen. Today we are all employed within the computer games industry and have been working on games like Hitman and Kane & Lynch. We met at the university and found out that we all shared the passion for the Commodore 64's tunes and decided to form a band, not knowing that we hit a dry spot in the music scene playing 8-bit rock. We have made two CDs which have received a lot of interest as the music from the Commodore 64 is loved by a lot of people who 25 years ago spent many hours in front of their C64 playing games listening to the catchy tunes. We are currently working on a third (double) album."

Going online
Kelly Larson of Clearwater, Minnesota, writes: "I loved my C64. I remember when AOL started, and it was a C64 thing. I remember when Compuserve was a hit on the C64. I remember getting my 2800 Baud Modem for the my C64, and bragging to all my friends. WOW. The games were amazing, and still I have memories of one game in particular, 'Red Storm Rising,' which was my favorite game of all time. I miss my C64. I have an emulator on my PC; no offense, it's not the same, or even near the same. My C64 was a lifestyle. I had every version of the C64, even a C128. I had both versions of the 1541 disk drive, and I even had the tape drive. My memories are embedded in my brain forever. I will probably have thoughts of my C64 on my death bed. WOW."

Emergency response
Connor Barrett of Key Largo, Florida, writes: "A long time ago in beautiful central Florida, when we all had hair and only a few had ATM cards I was an EMT. My paramedic partner had a Commodore 64 and I asked him what does he need a computer for? He told me, 'Lots of things, but the flight sim was the most fun.' I got a Commodore 64 that week and fell in love with the new technology. A few months later I was working with a new paramedic partner named Bob S. and in between ambulance runs we went into a small electronics store to look around and I shared with Bob my dream of putting all the streets in Seminole and Orange counties on the computer for better response times ... He looked at me and said, 'Why do that? we already have mapbooks.' So I went on to describe we could list known medical histories and hazardous materials locations. He countered, 'what if the people move and we already know the hardware store has paint and paint thinner?' I continued to extoll the virtues of having a computer on the ambulance to which Bob S. was unable to see the advantage would say "BUT we already HAVE a mapbook. In 2004, I had lunch with my good friend Bob S. who by this time had become an Asst. Chief of the Orlando Fire Dept. I asked what was he up to at work. 'I'm in charge of the deployment of in apparatus CAD (computer assisted dispatch) which involves the linking of laptops in every unit in the Orlando Fire Dept.' I chuckled,smiled and said 'Do you remember when I wanted to put the streets on a computer.' He shook his head and replied, 'Connor, you were years ahead of your time.' It's all because of a Commodore 64."

The Commodore 64 saves the virtual day
Owen Johnson of Miami, Florida, writes: "I've never used a Commodore 64, but have heard endless starry eyed praise of it from others. This month's issue of Marvel's Mighty Avengers No. 5 used a Commodore 64 to save the ultra spy organization SHIELD's flying helicarrier fortress' computer network after the cyber-robotic villain Ultron crashed it."

Creating adventures
Christopher Cabuzzi of Colorado Springs, Colorado, writes: "Two words: Adventure Creator. My friend and I used to build nearly impossible maps with the game. I still remember getting stitches in my sides from laughing as the inhabitant of each room chased my friend everywhere he went, zapping each time he touched him. The rooms he made for me were far more irritating, and were nowhere near as funny ... to me at least. Of course, he'd be on the floor laughing ... just like me when he was playing!"

Educational advancement
Jerry Parker of Reno, Nevada, writes: "I have great memories of my C64 and still miss it. Bought originally to help my kids in school, they taught me how to use it! When I returned to college at age 40, the C64 faithfully saw me through three years of reports and term papers. I loved programming on it (something my PC doesn't allow me to do) and the graphics on the games (something that most PCs still can't match). In moving from one state to another, the 64 got left behind. I send my apologies to the computer gods for that mistake."

Questionable activities
Chris Faulkner of Nashville, Tennessee, writes: "I was one of a few in my area to actually have unbridled fun on this unit. I got my first C64 after owning a Vic-20 and I started getting into getting rid of the copy protection on games and making the games available to everyone that knew about it. We would have 'copy parties' in which other C64 people would bring their computers in and we would just share our wares. I ran "The Bandit's Hideout" in Nashville, Tennessee, for quite a number of years until I became a father in 1988 and I left the scene altogether. I leave behind a legacy in a few games as my intros were very basic "Broken by The Bandit" Cheers!"

Career boost
Back in the days when the Commodore 64 was a current computer, Bil Herd was a long-haired hippie already dreaming up the next big step for computing kind: the Commodore 128. He wore an old military bandanna as a headband and scratched out ideas on graph paper.

He describes the scene at Commodore as a quirky, but productive one:

"It's like Animal House with people with IQs of 160 and stuff. It's just an amazing place."

Years later, this supposedly obsolete technology is still captivating fans and Herd is a contributing I-Reporter. We also heard from others who either directly or indirectly found the Commodore 64 to be a career-enhancing machine.

Jim Park of Minneapolis, Minnesota, started his computing career on a C64 in 1984. He describes a "long career in computer programming and a very short career in 'electric boogaloo' on a large piece of cardboard."

"My interest was in programming motion-graphics synchronized to dance music, albeit primitive by today's standards. That computerized look was cool back then because it was brand new. Ironic that it's cool again for the exact opposite reason. I also ran a BBS, or Electronic Bulletin Board System, the precursor to the internet. Only one person could call into the system at a time and the visuals and information they were treated to were limited, but for those of us into that stuff, it foreshadowed what was to come about a decade later. Now, still in Minneapolis, 22 years and countless computer upgrades later, I own my own business as a software and interactive developer (www.jalcide.com). I guess you might say I have my dream job, like a kid wanting to be an astronaut and then becoming one. I really lucked out that something so obscure and nerdy has turned into the modern business and pop-culture phenomenon that it has. Technology may have changed, but not the child-like glee I still get when seeing coded instructions take life on a screen, nor my love for electronic break-dance music, they just have cooler names now."

Boys will be boys
Tony Martinez of Houston, Texas, found the Commodore 64 to be a great opportunity for male bonding:

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"A friend of mine's family had one, and we used to play poker on it. My friend's father always gave us cheats to beat the game, because he had spent all the time programming the game in. The public school system in Odessa, Texas, where I grew up, realized that computers were not just a fad and they created a required class for seventh graders. In computer literacy, you sat at your Com64 station and learned the basics of keyboarding, how a computer functioned, and did some simple programming in BASIC (the later, high school version of this class would have us at PC's programming in FORTRAN). What irony that as far as actual everyday usage, the schools adopted Macs as the computer of choice. Still, the C64 was great, and just amazing for its time. And it foreshadowed the internet, I believe. The internet today is filled with adult material, and on the day way back in 1986 when my computer literacy teacher had told my class she had hooked up a voice module to the computers, we boys let the digitized curse words fly. Boys will be boys!"

Good ol' fashioned flame wars
Geoff Goins of Red River, Minnesota, writes: "I remember that there was almost as much animosity between C64 users and TRS-80 Color Computer users, at least among my friends. I had the CO-CO and we used to have huge flame wars, almost on par with Windows vs. Macintosh, with the C64 guys. The CO-CO community thought of themselves as having "real" computers, and we thought the C64 people had overblown video game machines. I guess nothing really ever changes." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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