You can now run Linux on a Commodore 64

Programmers get Semulux OS running on the iconic Commodore 64, with a speed boost and instructions soon.

You can now run Linux on a Commodore 64
Published by Noah @ PC Game Spotlight 3 months ago

Programmers Get Semulux OS Running on the Commodore 64

Computing hobbyists have managed to get the Semulux OS, a lightweight Linux distribution, running on the Commodore 64. It’s not the C64 itself that’s getting the update, but rather the Semu emulator, which developer Onno Kortmann used to cross-compile the OS to run on the computer. It’s a lengthy process, and you won’t be able to use your C64 to carry out daily tasks – but it’s only a matter of time before it’s up and running on real hardware.

The Commodore 64 is one of the most iconic computers of all time. Its limited memory and slow processor make running a lightweight OS a challenge, but the use of a RAM Expansion Unit is necessary. Kortmann doesn’t specify which one they used, but it’s likely that a 64K or 128K expansion was required.

The booting process takes a considerable amount of time, with a week or more (don’t forget to check on it from time to time) on a real Commodore 64. Kortmann believes there is still room for improvement, with a potential 10x speedup. However, even with a speed boost, the limitations of the hardware mean running software is difficult.

“Even with a speedup, software compatibility is still low. We will probably never be able to run Wordstar, CalcSTAR, TurboPascal, Supernova, Impulse, or any other serious software,” Kortmann says. “However, we can run small console programs, games, and demos.”

In the name of science, and because it’s an impressive feat, here’s the process to get Semulux OS running on a Commodore 64:

  1. Step 1
  2. Step 2
  3. Step 3

Only the most dedicated programmers would attempt this feat. The accomplishment deserves respect and appreciation from fans of the Commodore 64. While it’s not practical, it’s still fun, and that’s the important thing.

Check out more incredible feats of programming in our list of the best programming games, or take a look at the best games you can play on a Commodore 64.

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