10 Most Popular Computers in History

Commodore 64
The Commodore 64 never caught on in Europe or Asia the way it did in the U.S., but it still reached plenty of users. Here, German children try out a model in 1985. © Karl Staedele/dpa/Corbis

The Commodore 64 is the single most popular computer system ever sold. Released in 1982, the Commodore 64 had a 1MHz CPU and two big draws: a powerful, programmable sound chip and powerful graphics for a 1982 computer. Even better, the Commodore 64 cost a reasonable $595 and had 64KB of RAM (hence the name). And the Commodore 64 could be plugged into a TV, making it a hybrid computer/video game console.

When it was released in 1982, the Commodore 64's graphical capabilities beat the pants off other popular computers like the Apple II. Thanks to its price, the Commodore 64 sold well. And it kept selling. As the computer became cheaper to produce, Commodore cut the price, keeping it popular throughout the 1980s. It continued to be produced until 1994.

Affordable modems made the Commodore 64 a great computer to get online with, and like most systems of the day it used the BASIC programming language. It was a popular software platform. By the end of its life, the Commodore 64 had sold more units than any computer before or since. Estimates vary from as few as 12 million to as many as 30 million. The Commodore 64 likely sold an incredible 17 million by the end of its life [source: Old Computers].

Author's Note: 10 Most Popular Computers in History

Picking out 10 of the most popular computers of all time was tricky, and inevitably some beloved systems like the Atari didn't make it onto the list. But writing this was fun, and highlighted just how incredible the computer market was in the 1980s. No computer in the past 20 years has had the market power of a Commodore 64 or an Apple II.

Related Articles


  • Amigahistory.co.uk. "Commodore-Amiga Sales Figures." (Sept. 10, 2012) http://www.amigahistory.co.uk/sales.html
  • Apple2History.org. "The Disk II." (Sept. 10, 2012) http://apple2history.org/history/ah05/
  • Dediu, Horace. "Apple sold more iOS devices in 2011 than all the Macs it sold in 28 years." Feb. 16, 2012. (Sept. 10, 2012) http://www.asymco.com/2012/02/16/ios-devices-in-2011-vs-macs-sold-it-in-28-years/
  • Denyer, Silas. "Sinclair ZX 81." (Sept. 10, 2012) http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?c=263
  • EBSCohost.com. "PC98 sales hit 15 million." (Sept. 10, 2012) http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/9705190046/pc98-sales-hit-15-million
  • Goldklang, Ira.. "TRS-80 Computers: The TRS-80 Model I." (Sept. 10, 2012) http://www.trs-80.com/wordpress/trs-80-computer-line/model-i/
  • Lyon, Tony. "The Toshiba MSX (HX-10) 64K." (Sept. 10, 2012) http://retrovideogamesystems.com/the-toshiba-hx-10-64k-msx/
  • McCarthy, Jack. "U.S. court to halt sales of of iMac lookalikes." Nov. 12, 1999. (Sept. 10, 2012) http://articles.cnn.com/1999-11-12/tech/9911_12_haltimac.idg_1_imac-sotec-daewoo-telecom?_s=PM:TECH
  • Oldcomputers.net. "Apple II computer." (Sept. 10, 2012) http://oldcomputers.net/appleii.html
  • Oldcomputers.net. "Commodore 64 computer." (Sept. 10, 2012) http://oldcomputers.net/c64.html
  • Oldcomputers.net. "Commodore Amiga 1000." (Sept. 10, 2012) http://oldcomputers.net/amiga1000.html
  • Oldcomputers.net. "Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 1 computer." (Sept. 10, 2012) http://oldcomputers.net/trs80i.html
  • Oldcomputers.net. "Timex Sinclair 1000 computer." (Sept. 10, 2012) http://oldcomputers.net/ts1000.html
  • Reimer, Jeremy. "Total share: 30 years of personal computer market share features." Dec. 14, 2005. (Sept. 10, 2012) http://arstechnica.com/features/2005/12/total-share/


White House Aims for Supercomputer Capable of Achieving Exascale

White House Aims for Supercomputer Capable of Achieving Exascale

Supercomputers are getting backing from the White House. Learn more about supercomputers in the U.S. at HowStuffWorks Now.