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Wings Over Sealand

Fuck the C64

Posted on April 29, 2012 by RevStu

The 30th anniversary of the ZX Spectrum has sparked a flurry of nostalgia pieces in the games press, many of which for some reason can't help comparing the Sinclair machine to its main American competitor. And since the games press is a dictatorship of dullards, the C64 has come out on top in most of them, invariably helped by a colossally biased selection of judges.

Eurogamer, for example, takes a big dump on the Speccy's birthday cake by calling on Julian Rignall (editor of a C64 magazine), Steve Jarratt (editor of a C64 magazine), Gary Penn (writer on a C64 magazine), Gary Liddon (writer on a C64 magazine), Jason Page (a C64 coder) and Paul Glancey (writer on a C64 magazine) – with only some three-year-old quotes from the sadly-deceased Jonathan "Joffa" Smith holding up the Speccy's end of the debate – to come to the startling opinion that it deems the C64 the superior machine. Last month's Retro Gamer reached a similar conclusion for much the same set of spastic-faced reasons. ("Whine bleat SID chip wah wah wah.")

But fuck all of them, because they're all cunts and they can suck our dicks.

Why was the Speccy better than the C64? Well, there's all the stuff about the games, sure. One shouldn't forget the amazing, groundbreaking titles that the Speccy was playing sole host to while the C64 pioneered the dull, soulless games industry of today with endless arcade ports and licences.

3D Deathchase, Chaos, Rebelstar, Lunar Jetman, All Or Nothing, Deus Ex Machina, Knight Lore, Fat Worm Blows A Sparky, Atic Atac, The Train Game, Mined Out, Hijack, Wheelie, Dark Star… the list is – well, this particular one ends here, but there are so many more games that could go on it, as predominantly British Speccy developers showed time and again the quirky originality that so often characterises them and is missing from their lunkheaded US counterparts.

We shouldn't neglect the clean, crisp artistry of Speccy graphics (reaching a pinnacle with the ultrabold minimalism of the awesome Cruising On Broadway), in bright razor-edged rainbows compared to the blobby vomit-coloured chunks of most C64 titles. That the C64 could (almost, anyway) recreate the Speccy's laser sharpness in titles like Manic Miner, but nearly always chose games that looked like they'd been drawn with a toddler's chewed-up Lego and some paint-daubed potato halves, speaks volumes for the babyish unsophistication of its audience.

We shouldn't forget the C64's 20-minutes-plus loading times in its early years, nor the terrifyingly expensive cartridge games or disc drives you had to fork out for in those days to get round them. And we should certainly make a point of recalling the Speccy's ultra-accessible, error-proofed version of BASIC, which led so many of today's coders gently by the hand into the forbidding world of programming where the C64's sent them reeling in terror – the difference between dumb, soul-sapping consumption and the life-giving spark of creation.

But most of all, the incontrovertible reason why the Speccy was (and remains) better than the C64 is this: the C64 was just so God-damned all-to-Hell ugly. A hideous, bloated, 1960's-looking design atrocity, you had to be a tasteless idiot just to be prepared to tolerate having one in your home (a fact which alone instantly renders all pro-C64 arguments worthless, as they by definition come from tasteless idiots whose opinion must be discounted accordingly).

Those grossly-wrong proportions – too wide, too shallow, too tall. Those awful, awful keys, with the much-too-deep concave surfaces, sharp raised edges and huge crevasses in between, that made your fingers hurt and were the chief reason the C64 had so many dull arcade-type games compared to the Speccy's full, deep and broad range of genres (because anything you couldn't play on the C64 with a joystick and its single fire button was an agonising, skin-shredding trial).

And as for the colour scheme (beige and brown! Mmm!) and the embarrassing Fisher-Price typefaces, well, the less said the better. In the name of Christ, even the Dragon 32 was prettier than the C64.

Compare and contrast the C64 with the Speccy, however. The original model is nothing short of a timeless design classic. Thrillingly compact, jet black, supermodel-thin. Soft, yielding keys covered in iconic, mysterious symbols in a pin-sharp, futuristic-yet-understated font, and that modest, stylish brushstroke of rainbow colours at the bottom-right colour – glance at Uncle Clive's spoof Speccy "joypad" to see just how recognisably beautiful the Speccy's design still looks today.

The original Speccy beside the C64 is like lining up an iPod against an old Dansette. Even the Plus/128 models, with their ill-advised plastic keyboards, are a joy visually, as if the old Speccy had encased itself in body armour like a shiny black version of Robocop. The C64, by comparison, is something more closely resembling a fatter, older version of Neil from The Young Ones crossed with Roy Wood of Wizzard. Directive 5: Kill All Hippies.

In fact, the C64 versus the Speccy is really prog rock versus punk rock (an analogy backed up by the way C64 apologists always whine on about the poxy SID chip, preferring its stale, sterile "musicianship" to the anyone-can-do-it punk energy, invention through necessity and function-over-form ideals represented by the Speccy). And I'll take Sid Vicious over the SID chip, the Doberman-lean 195 seconds of "Pretty Vacant" over a 25-minute Yes keyboard solo, any day from now unto eternity.

(And anyway, what they never mention is that a lot of the time having all this poncy chip music meant the games couldn't have any sound effects at all – as is the case with the otherwise-ace recent C64 port of Canabalt which is rendered COMPLETELY POINT-MISSINGLY WORTHLESS by not having the tip-tap footsteps and smashing of windows which were what MADE THE GAME GOOD IN THE FIRST PLACE. Sound-effect feedback is the atmospheric lifeblood of games, and if you're happy to sacrifice game sounds for some nerdmuzik then YOU DON'T ACTUALLY LIKE GAMES.)

So you can shove your revolting C64s up your pallid, flabby arses, you wet bunch of Woodstock refugees. Your computer – like all its crappy games – is ugly and shit, and we're so pretty, oh so pretty. And we don't care.

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  1. 16 05 12 08:18

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64 to “Fuck the C64”

  1. daneel says:

    I had an Electron. 

  2. Paul Rand says:

    This is massively funny and, at the same time, hugely embarrassing.

  3. Pencil Case says:

    Lies! Nothing is uglier than the Dragon 32! 
    Very much in agreement with the rest, though. Oh yes. 

  4. andym00 says:

    You didn't tackle the oh so delicate subject of why Speccy owners always had glasses and smelt of wee.. I'm disappointed Sir..

  5. Andreas Koch says:

    Fuck C64, long live Atari !
    40 years of Atari (1972-2012), anyone remember that ?!?
    Last not least, Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore and later chief of Atari died this year… RIP man !
    ;-) ;-) ;-)

  6. jay says:

    I was a c64 owner back in the day, but with hindsight the speccy was the better system, for many of the reasons you mention. I wouldn't totally discount the old breadbin though, it did have its moments. Cracking version of Rodland if nothing else. It's the different attitudes that were the real killer for me.
    That difference persists to this day, sadly. Retro c64 evangelists tend towards being technically obsessed wankers, worshipping joyless tech demos like Turrican when not straight out embarrassing themselves by insisting shite like the Last Ninja was ever worth playing, or that Giana sisters was better than Mario. By comparison, the Speccy crowd seem a much more cheerful, easygoing bunch, same as they ever were. And, crucially, much more likely to admit to their system's weaknesses/crapness/etc, not something you see nearly as much of on the other side.
    As hostile as this article is, it's important to note the c64 crowd are generally the first to get the knives out when the old 'mine's better than yours' argument comes around, and they can get surprisingly earnest about it even still. There's an element of that 'can't really let go' attitude there, not as much as the (god help us) Amiga lot, but it's still present.
    Actually, there's another article right there: How the Amiga crowd took a tremendous system and absolutely sucked all the joy out of it while fucking themselves over at every turn.

  7. Inn says:

    It was all about the Amstrad.

  8. Tom K. says:

    Actually, there's another article right there: How the Amiga crowd took a tremendous system and absolutely sucked all the joy out of it while fucking themselves over at every turn.

    It all started when Dick van Dyke bought one.

  9. Dave says:

    Classic Stu article, and a delight to read.

    I'm a Spec-man through and through, and truthfully, I never got the buzz around the C64, at least not at the time. I remember a friend buying one and showing it to me, expecting my eyes to roll out my head, yet there was no such enthusiasm. All I saw was a muted colour palette, squashed characters and the impact of the SID chip was nigh on insignificant post 128k.
    Don't get me wrong, nowadays I can see where the C64 shines, and can appreciate where it outguns the Spectrum, but anyone who thinks the cheaper, plucky upstart couldn't get the better of the beige monstrosity should go and fire up a game of Chase HQ, Cobra, Spacegun, Operation Wolf, Shadow Warriors, Navy Seals or SWIV, to see where the Specs brighter colors and detailed sprites could make for a better gaming experience.
    Anyway, it's all good fun, but I do agree that the roster of commentators for the Eurogamer article was horribly skewed towards the C64 crowd. I flat out refuse to believe they couldn't have featured a few more Spectrum enthusiasts, the Rev would have made a good start. :)

  10. Andy L says:

    Isn't this a tiny bit provocative? :)

  11. RevStu says:

    I have no idea what you mean.

  12. hjdoom says:

    The Spectrum was our first home computer and Hungry Horace was the first video game I ever really loved. We had some good times with that Spectrum right up until the point that my infant sister somehow managed to pry the case apart and insert jam into it. Not a good way for a machine to go.
    I must admit to still having a real soft spot for the Commodore Amiga though, if I close my eyes I'm right back into the early 90s and dying over and over again in one of Psygnosis' beautiful yet wildly unplayable Shadow of the Beast games.

  13. Andy L says:

    Love the punk/prog analogy. See also – Tiswas/Swap Shop, lager/real ale, Chopper/Racer, speed/cocaine, chewy Revels/raisin Revels…

  14. Andy L says:

    Why oh why can't I post a nice link in here?

  15. RevStu says:

    There's no reason you shouldn't be able to post a link, man.

  16. Andy L says:

    Me and Ian B did that. :) (Comment wouldn't accept a specific URL but seems happy with

  17. RevStu says:

    "You didn't tackle the oh so delicate subject of why Speccy owners always had glasses and smelt of wee.."

    It was to try to stop your mum pestering them for sex. Didn’t work.

  18. Blucey says:

    The C64 never would have produced an equivalent to Your Sinclair, that's for sure.
    Punk as fuck.

  19. Jaz says:

    C64 all the way bitch – and you fucking know it!

  20. Steve Smith says:

    I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the price as a factor.

  21. Jaz says:

    Spectrum looks shit.
    Wank, rubbery-assed keyboard
    Fucking 3 colour shithouse "ah my eyes hurt" graphics
    Beep, bop, wank sounds.
    Why is this even a discussion point – the C64 shits all over this pile of crap.
    I'm guessing the Eurogamer muppets couldn't find anyone willing to back the Spectrum. And, who can blame them.

  22. Bear or bust says:

    To be honest, the only time I played on a speccy was over at a mates house.  We  didn't realise that a Spectrum game loading in sounded just like Merzbow compared to the SID loading tunes we were spoilt with on the C64.  We also were not a fan of colour clash or its primary colours, having gotten used to the C64's muted colour scheme.
    We'll give you the clunky design though.

  23. The Atari 800 and 800XL were cooler.  Star Raiders, Pac-Man, Ballblazer, the early EA classics, 4-player MULE, and the POKEY chip.  Yeah, rock on, baby.
    I will give props to the Spectrum for its chiptunes, though.  Sounds really good in the right hands.

  24. Irish Al says:

    Oho! Yes, the C64 had a palette consisting of shades of brown but by golly the colours stayed where you put them. Only a loon could claim that Speccy sound was better, and while the C64 keyboard was clearly also better that didn't matter to 99% of kids as they only used the keys you needed to load games.
    So ultimately it comes down to the games then, and the Speccy definitely had an unrivalled portfolio of mad inventiveness and great gameplay. That's not to say the C64 didn't have a similar amount of great titles too, especially disk-based titles.

    I think the punk rock/prog rock analogy is fairly apt – the Spec was a triumph of post-war boffin attitude and soldering-iron bodgery and there's nothing wrong with that.


  25. DaveB says:

    I thought C64 v ZX Spectrum debate concluded in issue 99 of Retro Gamer? The developers predictably plumped for the C64 <yawn>. However the result from the forum, the people who used the machines and played the games as punters chose the real winner which was the ZX Spectrum with 51% of the vote.

  26. Lenny says:

    And yet the BBC B still trumps all, sine qua non iPhones, iPods, iPads, GBA, DS, Android and the modern, highly-connected mobile world! 

  27. Irish Al says:

    Elite. Revs. Some decent Acornsoft arcade conversions and a few Ultimate games. Game-wise, that was it.

  28. asdasd says:

    ^ And the best version of Chuckie Egg, which counts for something.

  29. Jaz says:

    Looking forward to the inevitable Atari ST beats Amiga drivel.

  30. Coyote says:

    Yeah but punk rock is absurdly overrated, and was invented in America.
    (I preferred the Speccy)

  31. Gary_Liddon_Is_A_COCK says:

    FUCK Gary Liddon, the self obsessed, up-his-own-arse, complete COCK.
    Hey Gary, I am downloading your company’s games, and they’re fucking SHIT, not even worth the electricity used to download them. But doing this while holding up the middle finger to you gives me great joy.

    Fucking go bankrupt and DIE, you piece of fucking scum.

  32. Goon says:

    Sinclair thanks you for your loyalty.

  33. Cab says:

    "Elite. Revs. Some decent Acornsoft arcade conversions and a few Ultimate games. Game-wise, that was it."
    "^ And the best version of Chuckie Egg, which counts for something."
    That and Repton, and the MicroPower stuff (Escape from Moonbase Alpha was a game that infringed so much IP that even at the time we thought it was dodgy but it'd just make a modern IP lawyer's head explode), and arguably the best text adventure catalogue , and Exile, and Citadel, and all the conversions of the oh so legendary games from the speccy etc. like Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner.

    Yeah, apart from those it was crap.  As long as you don't count all the other Superior Software stuff like Stryker's Run, Ravenskull etc.
    And I only had an Electron…

  34. RevStu says:

    I will never understand what’s good about Repton if I live to be 129.

  35. Captain Stylish says:

    Of course the devs loved the C64. It did all the work for them. Developing for the Spectrum or CPC you had to code from the ground up. The programmers would have to spend time coding routines just to gets a character moving around the screen.
    On the 64 it was all in hardware. Which is why so many C64 games are truly dire. The coders didn't actually need to be any good!
    Seen Chase HQ? On the Speccy and CPC it's a superb arcade conversion. Fast with great graphics. On the 64 it's a juddering abortion of a game. You see, with racing games the 64's hardware sprites and scrolling simply could not help out and the programmers were exposed as being rubbish. 
    In fact every C64 racing game was shite.
    Sure if you gave the beige bread bin a 2D play field and asked it to through things around, no problem. But it lacked the versility of the Speccy and the ability for the programmers to squeeze every last ounce out of it.

  36. Captain Stylish says:

    Repton is shit and could only be loved by people who owned a system that didn't have a proper version of Boulderdash.
    Fuck, even Lost Caves by Spec Tec himself Adam Waring is better than Repton. At least it doesn't have Ceefax style graphics and has a decent tune.

  37. daneel says:

    I don't understand the guy's obsession with Amstrad (I never knew anyone who had anything other than a Speccy or a Beeb/Electron), but these links might be of interest. Seems people are recoding arcade conversions for 8-bit machines.

  38. GeeZa says:

    This piece kinda made me realise the extent to which my gaming tastes have not really changed in 30 years (THIRTY FUCKING YEARS OH MY GOD I'M OLDER THAN I THINK I AM). I ploughed most of my time into stuff like Football Manager, the Gargoyle Games adventures, Rebelstar/Laser Squad, Lords Of Midnight, Tau Ceti, the hair-shirt beardy end of the Spectrum (ho-ho!). Never really liked arcade conversions, it was always a bit jarring playing the beautiful arcade game only to come home to an el-crappo port. I found a lot of the minimalist adventure games incredibly atmospheric and original.
    I did like a lot on the C64 though, particularly the Braybrook(sic?) games.

  39. Da5e says:

    " a Spectrum game loading in sounded just like Merzbow compared to the SID loading tunes"

    Nah, Incapacitants. And anyway, Merzbow is far more interesting than chiptune wank.

  40. Lenny says:

    What's not to like about Repton? It's a decent puzzle game, which usually lets you explore other elements of the puzzle, even though you cocked the level up right royally by dropping a stone on a gem rendering it unreachable. I never liked Repton 2, as Superior changed the format, but Repton 3 was a return to form.
    Anyway: Also Cholo, Galaforce 1 & 2, another vote for Stryker's Run, Aviator, Operation Driod, Spy Cat… loads of great games on the beeb!

  41. Irish Al says:

    Stryker's Run? Flicker's Run more like. More unplayable than Lunar Jetman, which is quite the achievement.
    Exile, I'll give you in spades however. I had forgotten that.

  42. Irish Al says:

    @captain stylish
    Every C64 racing game was shite? What about Pitstop II ? Test Drive ? Buggy Boy ?

  43. Irish Al says:

    Firetrack was great on the Beeb. I'll shut up now.

  44. Cab says:

    @Irish Al
    Stryker's run was an odd one, as I mentioned I had an Electron and the version was erm… crap, it didn't scroll, you ran to the edge of the screen and it flicked over to the next screen (and you could flick back again if you were at the edge), I loved it, it was great fun, you could strategically dodge bullets by flicking screens.  Years later I played the BBC version (might have been the Master version) which  scrolled properly, and I hated it, it wasn't nearly as much fun.
    Repton, I agree with Lenny, 2 was shocking, loved the first and third, after that they got very repetitive.


    I'll add Thrust as well.

  45. daneel says:

    How about Imogen?

  46. lrdr says:

    I reckon the Beeb version of The Sentinel was the best of the lot, having compared a few of the various ports recently using the usual emulators. 
    I liked Repton as well, but I was five at the time (looking at it now it's a bit shit). The Defender port was quite well done from what I remember too.

  47. Grumpy Smurf says:

    In further defense of the Spectrum, I present Sir Clive's wife:

  48. Irish Al says:


  49. I'm not saying this is the greatest post Stu has ever made.  No, wait, I am.

  50. marius says:

    Almost everything the spectrum did the C64 could do, only better. When spectrum-games outshone the C64-versions, it was mainly because of more talented programmers. Buggy Boy proved that racing games could look decent on the breadbin if you knew what you were doing. On the other hand, a lot of stuff the C64 did was simply not possible on the spectrum, mainly because it lacked colours and decent sound. Sure, sound is not everything…but mediocre games like Last Ninja are massively improved because of the absolutely brilliant music.

  51. Basically, what you said marius was complete fucking balls.

  52. Paul Chapman says:

    I have been and always be a C64 fan over the Spectrum, simply over my preference for gaming. However, in terms of accessibility for programming and artistic style (particularly over how the machines looked), the Spectrum wins every time for me.

    For example, if I was to hang up one of those machines on the wall, as some kind of art piece, I would go for a 48k rubber-keyed Speccy over a C64. It just looks better and cooler, despite my deep fondness for the years of gaming I got from a C64.
    The C64 was more popular in my eyes, but that doesn't make it greater than the Spectrum.

  53. John Barnes says:

    It's fun being an American and watching all these crazy game names whiz by.
    I keep meaning to check out some Spectrum games some day but never actually bother. Like a lot of yanks I was basically made aware of the whole British computer scene and how the NES wasn't really a factor over there by Rare's rise to prominence in the Nintendo 64 era and the accompanying talk about their history.

    Maybe I'll head over to Zophar and see what I can find.

  54. Ian Cognito says:

    C64 all the way. By far the best 8-bit-system ever.
    It's really time to get over your jealousy, dear Speccy-, Amstrad- and Atari-Fans.

    I'm off now, to play Prince of Persia and Canabalt on the C64. See y'all!

  55. Runner says:

    The C64 was the better machine and still is. The Spec wasend a Bad one, but it never will be the better one of both computers.
    And as Ian Cognito just Postet: There are a lot Fantastig new games and Programms still comming for the c64 wich are far better then the newer Hombrews for the Spec.
    Just try: Knight´n´Grail, Canabalt, Prince of Persia, Jim Slim ore the upcomming 4player smash hit "Space Lords"!

  56. Derek I. says:

    I'm sorry about the playground trauma that you experianced 20-some years ago.  It's really quite evident in the way you express anger and hatred towards certain things.  Luckily I had a C64 back then, and turned out alright :)

  57. retroscener says:

    Well, you've certainly aroused a response from the C64 community ;)

  58. vlad says:

    What an amusing hissyfit article. Yet again speccy fans make themselves look like complete twats.

    Yes the speccy was a cracking little machine and yes it had great games, but seriously … better than the C64, dont talk out your arse.

    I'm suprised you did use the " you can drop a speccy down the stairs and it wont break " argument i've heard many i time.

    Guaranteed the writer of this article is a fat speccy virgin who still lives with his mum. 

    Atari was the better of them all anyway.

  59. Glass Half Full says:

    The link to the C64 community's response above is wrong. Here is the correct link.

    I wonder if you'll respond to them over there, lol.

  60. Commodorius says:

    Thanks for a good laugh! Hard to believe someone could still be butthurt because the Speccy had no chance against the far superior Commodore 64 (which still is the best selling home computer of all time). Nevertheless the Speccy is a cute little home computer in its own right, why would you thrash talk the C64?

  61. Sixteen Plus says:

    Clearly, you should have bought a Commodore 16 ;)

  62. Yes-I-Did says:


    And I'll take Sid Vicious over the SID chip, the Doberman-lean 195 seconds of "Pretty Vacant" over a 25 minute Yes keyboard solo, any day from now unto eternity. [sic]

    Actually your partner said something similar to me the other night in bed (you work away an awful lot don't you) but it was actually the exact opposite…. "You know I do like our 25 minute overtures but my little Revstu can bang out those 195 second sessions with monotonous regularity, I suppose it's not his fault that the C64 is so awesome and he just can't reconcile the fact in his (petty admittedly) mind. Oh well, let yourself out and I'll see you same time tomorrow night eh?"

    Commodore 64 >>>>>>> ZX Spectrum :::: Deal with it.

  63. RevStu says:

    That’s nice, dear.

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