I see a very large fan-base and hear a lot (especially here on retrocomputing) about how great the Commodore 64 was. Growing up in the Windows 95/98 era, I seemed to have missed a great era for computing and was wondering what might be the best way to experiment with the Commodore 64. I honestly don't see myself finding a physical one (unless that's what needs be), so how would I use an emulator (such as VICE) and start programming for the Commodore 64?

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    1. To me, How to get started with Commodore 64? is way too broad of a question. What are you looking to do with it? Gaming? Evaluating software or hardware? 2. so would my best bet be with emulators to give you an emulator recommendation, we need to know more about what system you plan on running the emulator on.
    – JAL
    Aug 22, 2017 at 18:03
  • I just want to poke around with the terminal interface really. If I had to choose, probably evaluating software and hardware. I want a comprehensive experience. Aug 22, 2017 at 18:28
  • @JAL I modified my question. I hope that helps gauge an answer. Aug 22, 2017 at 18:32
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    I suggest heading over to the Lemon64 forums for questions like these. lemon64.com
    – cbmeeks
    Aug 22, 2017 at 19:28
  • @RetroGamer Adding more sub-questions without removing others tends to make questions broader, not narrower. I think the title is the only place a broad question is left, however.
    – wizzwizz4
    Aug 22, 2017 at 20:28

3 Answers 3


As an example of minimalistic IDE for C64 development, you'll need just cross-assembler like ACME and your favourite monospace text editor. Quite useful and detailed C64 doc is this one. VICE emulator you've mentioned has some extensive debugging capabilities and is also cross-platform. There are also myriads of C64 programming resources around, as there are some complete cross-IDEs for the development. I won't mention any specific ones since I've never dug that deep.

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    I actually think that kickass is the best 6502 Assembler
    – user6734
    Aug 26, 2017 at 9:53
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    And I would suggest ca65 from the cc65 project -- it allows easy modular structure because it comes with a linker designed to work for C programming (and can export lables in vice format for easy debugging). Just for completeness :) Oct 31, 2017 at 16:11

The absolutely minimalistic approach would be to just start the Commodore 64 emulator, the C64 then greets you with its starting message and a blinking cursor. Here, you can already start programming in BASIC. There are many tutorials out there for programming the C64 in BASIC, for example here.

When you want to write more performant programs, you either need to learn 6502 Assembler or use C. Please note that with C you will be still a bit limited on what you can achieve, but if you already know C programming, it is probably a good compromise. For programming in C, look out for cc65, which is a cross-development tool: you write and compile your code on the PC and then open the compiled program with the emulator.


I would recommend:


Sublime Text with the KickAssembler package.

C64Debugger for running and debugging the code.

It takes a smallish bit of setup but it's excellent overall.

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