Retro Home Computers – Commodore 16

Commodore 16,

The Commodore 16 was intended to compete with other sub-$100 computers from Timex Corporation, Mattel, and Texas Instruments (TI) in much the same was as was intended with the Commodore 264.

Timex’s and Mattel’s computers were less expensive than the VIC, and although the VIC offered better expandability, a full-travel keyboard, and in some cases more memory, the Commodore 16 offered a chance to improve upon those advantages.

Commodore 16

Above: Commodore 16

The TI-99/4A was priced in-between Commodore’s VIC-20 and C64 and was somewhat between them in capability, but TI was lowering its prices. On paper, the C16 was a closer match for the TI-99/4A than the aging VIC-20.

These attempts to stop competitors, while successful in the VIc-20 and the Commodore 64, proved to very very costly for Commodore leaving it unable to properly innovate and prepare for the future. Eventually, they were able to purchase Amiga Corporation, but they did not have enough money to properly develop the technology.

Texas Instrument's TI-99

Above: Texas Instrument’s TI-99

Additionally, Commodore president Jack Tramiel feared that one or more Japanese companies would introduce a consumer-oriented computer and undercut everyone’s prices. The VIC-20 was Commodore’s first pre-emptive strike; the C16 was the second.

Although the Japanese would soon dominate the U.S. video game console market, the feared dominance of the home computer field never materialized. Additionally, Timex, Mattel, and TI departed the market before the C16 was released.

It is interesting, however, to observe that in Europe, Sinclair continued to produce machines such as the ZX Spectrum that were vastly more popular than the C16/116 and Plus/4. One might argue that had Timex actively marketed the Sinclair ZX Spectrum family in the US, it would have enjoyed far greater market acceptance than the C16.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum

Above: Sinclair ZX Spectrum

The C16 was designed to compete against he likes of Timex Sinclair, which had pulled out of the market. Little software was written for the computer and along with low sales, the product was discontinued shortly after it’s release.