28. May 2024

International Conference on “Commodore 64” International Conference on “Commodore 64”

A special conference will be held on this iconic home computer from over 40 years ago at the University of Bonn on July 5–6.

The 8-bit Commodore 64 home computer—affectionately known by its fans as the “bread box” because of its shape—came out in 1982 and is one of the best-selling computing platforms in IT history. The Commodore’s impact on pop culture, technological development and computer science education lives on in the present day. The University of Bonn’s Media Studies section will be hosting an international conference to discuss the past, present and future of the Commodore 64, on Friday and Saturday, July 5–6. Professor Jens Schröter, University of Bonn Chair of Media Theory, and his colleague Professor Stefan Höltgen of SRH University Heidelberg, have invited experts from media studies, computer science, museology, musicology and cultural studies to speak, as well as historical computer collectors and hackers to the conference in Bonn. The event will be held in English.

Computer archaeologist Professor Stefan Höltgen
Computer archaeologist Professor Stefan Höltgen - amidst Commodore 64 home computers—the subject of an international conference at the University of Bonn. © Photo: Volker Lannert/University of Bonn
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Professor Schröter points out the historical significance of the C64: “For many people it was the first computer they ever interacted with outside the workplace. Through this machine, awareness of what a computer even is began to spread, giving rise eventually to a broad and diverse computer culture.” The C64 is the very root of today’s computer culture, and thus eminently suitable as a research object in media studies, Professor Schröter contends, who will be giving a talk at the conference on the emergence of subversive computer usage (cracking), which got started with technical gadgets on the C64.

Gaming researcher and computer archaeologist Stefan Höltgen, who teaches media and cultural studies courses using C64s at a C64 Lab he set up specially for the University’s Media Studies section, emphasizes how the platform is still usable today. The computer’s accessible architecture affords a didactic reduction that facilitates teaching the principles of hardware and software to students of non-technical subjects and the general public, he says, which remain the same principles underlying the systems in use today. “Actively using historic hardware furthermore enables ‘hands-on’ teaching of computer history, going beyond mere text, diagrams and museum pieces on display.”

At the conference, the Commodore 64 will be considered in its identity as pop culture icon, alongside presentations of a technical nature. The defining influence of the C64 on aesthetic practices, a persisting legacy, will be the subject of lectures on its pixel graphics and chip sounds, with an SID chiptunes lecture performance to be held on the first evening of the conference revealing the C64 to be a musical instrument. The content of the conference is to be documented and disseminated in book form.

The conference will be held in Bonn on Friday and Saturday July 5–6 in the Media Studies section at Lennéstraße 1, which is just across from the Arithmeum building. A hands-on workshop will then be held in the C64 Lab on Sunday, July 7 for anyone interested to learn how to program a C64, applying some of the things discussed and learned at the conference. The conference will be held in English, and all talks and lectures will be live streamed on the internet.

Admission to the conference is free of charge, which may be attended in person or online (the lectures only in the latter case). Registration and program at: http://rtro.de/c64

Computer archaeologist Professor Stefan Höltgen
Computer archaeologist Professor Stefan Höltgen - programming a Commodore 64 home computer. © Photo: Volker Lannert/University of Bonn
Flashback to the 80s:
Flashback to the 80s: - at a conference workshop, anyone interested can learn how to program a C64. © Photo: Volker Lannert/University of Bonn

Prof. Dr. Dr. Stefan Höltgen
Phone: +49 173 9025982
Email: stefan.hoeltgen@uni-bonn.de

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