The Commodore VIC-20 was released after the groundbreaking Commodore PET, but before the legendary Commodore 64. While the VIC-20 never reached the stratospheric sales numbers achieved by the Commodore 64, it was still extremely successful with more than a million units sold — the first computer in history to do so. Despite those record-breaking sales numbers, working Commodore VIC-20 computers now fetch a pretty high price on auction websites. A clean, functional example will likely cost you hundreds of dollars. Fortunately, non-functional units are very affordable. You just need a way to revive them.
If you’re knowledgeable and lucky, you may be able to fix the original hardware. If not, you can follow Sommerfield’s lead and bring the computer back to life with a Raspberry Pi single-board computer. To do that, you’ll need a way to connect the original VIC-20 keyboard to the Raspberry Pi. Sommerfield chose an adapter designed and built by Tynemouth Software — a company that also sells adapters for a number of other retro computers. Sommerfield also added a USB hub and port extension cables to make the Raspberry Pi easier to connect to. Finally, he installed Combian64, which is an operating system for the Raspberry Pi that was designed to replicate the Commodore experience as closely as possible. The result is a very affordable and almost-authentic way to experience a icon of computer history.