Flav-R-Straws were a form of drinking straw with a flavoring included, designed to make drinking milk more pleasant for children. They were first marketed in the United States in 1956 by Flav-R-Straws Inc.[1][2] The product became highly successful.[3] They were widely promoted through an advertising campaign that included double-page advertisements in LIFE magazine.[4]

Flav-R-Straws were withdrawn from the market in 1961 due to their relatively high cost compared with Nestlé Quik and other relatively low-cost milk additives such as Bosco Chocolate Syrup and Hershey’s Syrup.[citation needed] In recent years, newer variations of the original idea have been resurrected in forms such as Sipahhs, and Magic Milk Straws that contain hundreds of flavored pellets encased within a stiff plastic straw.



Commodore 64



Commodore 64 – 1982
By Commodore International, Ltd.

Although it looks like an unimpessive keyboard-like box, the Commodore 64 was incredibly popular. More C64s have been sold than any other single computer system, even to this day. That’s about 17 million systems, according to the Commodore 1993 Annual Report.

In a 1989 interview, Sam Tramiel, then-president of Commodore, said that “When I was at Commodore we were building 400,000 C64s a month for a couple of years.”

The C64 looks nearly identical to the Commodore VIC-20, released in 1981. They are similar, but the C64 is more powerful with more features.

The C64’s microprocessors support two high-resolution graphic modes, smooth scrolling, “sprites”, bit mapping, character collision resolution and character mapped graphics, not to mention three channels of complex sound. All this make it an excellent game machine, which is what it excelled at the most, with thousands of software titles release and numerous peripherals to extend its capabilities.

Originally, the only method of storing your own data was on the proprietary Commodore Datasette recorder. It was rather slow, transferring data at only 300 baud.

A floppy drive was eventually released – the famous 1541. Famous for being very slow (serial), noisy, and prone to failure.

Also available were rebranded C.Itoh or Epson dot-matrix printers, as well as daisy wheel printers and color plotters.

Commodore offered a number of inexpensive modems for the C64, allowing quick and easy access to the thousands of dial-up public bulletin board systems (BBS), the precursor to the internet, for chat, downloads, and online games.

Due to its advanced (for the time) programmable sound generating chips, the Commodore 64 became popular for generating computer-generated music, one of the first home computer to have such capabilities built-in. Referred to as the 6581 SID (Sound Interface Device), the chips contains three sound channels, each with its own ADSR envelope generator, ring modulation and filter capabilities.

Commodore continued to improve reliablilty, as well as reduce manufacturing costs. Eventually, it cost only about $25.00 to manufacture the C64, and the consumer price dropped to around $200.00.

In 1984, Commodore released the SX64, the *portable* C64, with a built-in monitor, floppy drive and power supply.


Commodore 64

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Commodore 64
Type Home computer
Release date August 1982[1][2]
Introductory price US $595 ($1,500 today)
Discontinued April 1994
Units sold 12.5[3] – 17[4] million
Operating system Commodore KERNAL/
Commodore BASIC 2.0
GEOS (optionally)
CPU MOS Technology 6510
@ 1.023 MHz (NTSC version)
@ 0.985 MHz (PAL version)
Memory 64 kB RAM + 20 kB ROM
Graphics VIC-II (320 × 200, 16 colors, sprites,raster interrupt)
Sound SID 6581 (osc, wave, filter, ADSR,ring)
Connectivity CIA 6526 joystick, Power, ROM cartridge, RF, A/V,IEEE-488 floppyprinter, digital tape,GPIO/RS-232
Predecessor Commodore VIC-20
Successor Commodore 128

The Commodore 64, commonly called C64, C= 64 (the “equals” sign suggesting the right half of the logo graphic on the case), occasionally CBM 64 (for Commodore Business Machines), or VIC-64,[5] is an 8-bit home computerintroduced in January 1982 by Commodore International. It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest-selling single computer model of all time,[6] with independent estimates placing the number sold between 10 and 17 million units.[7]

Volume production started in early 1982, with machines being released on to the market in August at a price of US $595(equivalent to $1,500 in 2014).[8][9] Preceded by the Commodore VIC-20 and Commodore PET, the C64 takes its name from its 64 kilobytes (65,536 bytes) of RAM, and has favorable sound and graphical specifications when compared to contemporary systems such as the Apple II. While the Apple cost around $1,200, it was sold as a complete system withdisk drive and dedicated monitor—the C64’s $595 price included only the computer itself. The Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer was initially priced at $399, but has only 4kB RAM and cannot match the C64’s graphics and sound abilities.

The C64 dominated the low-end computer market for most of the 1980s.[10] For a substantial period (1983–1986), the C64 had between 30% and 40% share and two million units sold per year,[11] outselling the IBM PC compatibles, Apple Inc. computers, and the Atari 8-bit family of computers. Sam Tramiel, a later Atari president and the son of Commodore’s founder, said in a 1989 interview, “When I was at Commodore we were building 400,000 C64s a month for a couple of years.”[12]

Part of the Commodore 64’s success was because it was sold in retail stores instead of just electronics- and/or computer stores. Commodore produced many of its parts in-house to control costs, including custom IC chips from MOS Technology. It is sometimes compared to the Ford Model T automobile for its role in bringing a new technology to middle-class households via creative mass-production.[13]

Approximately 10,000 commercial software titles were made for the Commodore 64 including development tools, office productivity applications, and games.[14] C64 emulators allow anyone with a modern computer, or a compatible video game console, to run these programs today. The C64 is also credited with popularizing the computer demoscene and is still used today by some computer hobbyists.[15] In 2008, 17 years after it was taken off the market, research showed that brand recognition for the model was still at 87%.[6]


The Commodore 64 startup screen

In January 1981, MOS Technology, Inc., Commodore’s integrated circuit design subsidiary, initiated a project to design the graphic and audio chips for a next generation video game console. Design work for the chips, named MOS Technology VIC-II(Video Integrated Circuit for graphics) and MOS Technology SID (Sound Interface Device for audio), was completed in November 1981.[8]

Commodore then began a game console project that would use the new chips—called the Ultimax or alternatively theCommodore MAX Machine, engineered by Yash Terakura from Commodore Japan. This project was eventually cancelled after just a few machines were manufactured for the Japanese market.

At the same time, Robert “Bob” Russell (system programmer and architect on the VIC-20) and Robert “Bob” Yannes (engineer of the SID) were critical of the current product line-up at Commodore, which was a continuation of the Commodore PET line aimed at business users. With the support of Al Charpentier (engineer of the VIC-II) and Charles Winterble (manager of MOS Technology), they proposed to Commodore CEO Jack Tramiel a true low-cost sequel to the VIC-20. Tramiel dictated that the machine should have 64 kB of random-access memory (RAM). Although 64 kB of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) cost over $100 at the time, he knew that DRAM prices were falling, and would drop to an acceptable level before full production was reached. In November, Tramiel set a deadline for the first weekend of January, to coincide with the 1982 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).[8]

The product was code named the VIC-40 as the successor to the popular VIC-20. The team that constructed it consisted of Bob Russell, Bob Yannes and David A. Ziembicki. The design, prototypes and some sample software were finished in time for the show, after the team had worked tirelessly over both Thanksgiving and Christmasweekends.

The machine incorporated Commodore BASIC 2.0 in ROM. BASIC also served as the user interface shell and was available immediately on startup at the READY prompt.

When the product was to be presented, the VIC-40 product was renamed C64 to fit the contemporary Commodore business products lineup which contained the P128 and the B256, both named by a letter and their respective total memory size (in KBytes).

The C64 made an impressive debut at the January 1982 Consumer Electronics Show, as recalled by Production Engineer David A. Ziembicki: “All we saw at our booth wereAtari people with their mouths dropping open, saying, ‘How can you do that for $595?'” The answer, as it turned out, was vertical integration; thanks to Commodore’s ownership of MOS Technology‘s semiconductor fabrication facilities, each C64 had an estimated production cost of only $135.

Winning the market war[edit]

Game cartridges for Radar Rat Race and International Soccer

The C64 faced a wide range of competing home computers at its introduction in August 1982.[2] With a lower price and more flexible hardware, it quickly outsold many of its competitors. In the United States the greatest competitors were the Atari 8-bit 400 and 800, and the Apple II. The Atari 400 and 800 had been designed to accommodate previously stringent FCC emissions requirements and so were expensive to manufacture. The latest revision in the aging Apple II line, the Apple IIe, had higher-resolution graphics modes than the C64.[16][17] Upgrade capability for the Apple II was granted by internal expansion slots, while the C64 had only a single external ROM cartridge port for bus expansion. However, the Apple used its expansion slots for interfacing to common peripherals like disk drives, printers and modems; the C64 had a variety of ports integrated into its motherboard which were used for these purposes, usually leaving the cartridge port free.

All four machines had similar standard memory configurations in the years 1982/83: 48K for the Apple II+[18] (upgraded within months of C64’s release to 64K with the Apple IIe) and 48K for the Atari 800.[19] At upwards of $1,200,[20] the Apple II was about twice as expensive, while the Atari 800 cost $899. One key to the C64’s success was Commodore’s aggressive marketing tactics, and they were quick to exploit the relative price/performance divisions between its competitors with a series of television commercials after the C64’s launch in late 1982.[21]The company also published detailed documentation to help developers,[22] while Atari initially kept technical information secret.[23] At a mid-1984 conference of game developers and experts at Origins Game Fair, Dan Bunten, Sid Meier (“the computer of choice right now”), and a representative of Avalon Hill all stated that they were developing games for the 64 first as the most promising market.[24] In April 1986 Computer Gaming World published a survey of ten game publishers which found that they planned to release forty-three Commodore 64 games that year, compared to nineteen for Atari and forty-eight for Apple II,[25] and that year Alan Miller stated that Accoladedeveloped first for the C64 because “it will sell the most on that system”.[26]

Commodore sold the C64 not only through its network of authorized dealers, but also through department stores, discount stores, toy stores and college bookstores. The C64 had a built-in RF modulator and thus could be plugged into a television set. This allowed it (like its predecessor, the VIC-20) to compete directly against video game consoles such as the Atari 2600. Like the Apple IIe, the C64 could also output baseband composite video and thus could be plugged into a specialized monitor for a sharper picture. Unlike the IIe, the C64’s baseband NTSC output capability included separate luminance/chroma signal output equivalent to (and electrically compatible with) S-Video, for connection to the Commodore 1702 monitor.

Aggressive pricing of the C64 is considered to be a major catalyst in the North American video game crash of 1983. In January 1983, Commodore offered a $100 rebate in the United States on the purchase of a C64 to anyone trading in another video game console or computer.[27] To take advantage of this rebate, some mail-order dealers and retailers offered a Timex Sinclair 1000 for as little as $10 with purchase of a C64, so the consumer could send the TS1000 to Commodore, collect the rebate, and pocket the difference; Timex Corporation departed the computer market within a year. Commodore’s tactics soon led to a price war with the major home computermanufacturers. The success of the VIC-20 and C64 contributed significantly to the exit of Texas Instruments and other smaller competitors from the field. The price war with Texas Instruments was seen as a personal battle for Commodore president Jack Tramiel;[28] TI’s subsequent demise in the home computer industry in October 1983 was seen as revenge for TI’s tactics in the electronic calculator market in the mid-1970s, when Commodore was almost bankrupted by TI.[29] Computer Gaming World stated in January 1985 that companies such as Epyx that survived the video game crash did so because they “jumped on the Commodore bandwagon early”.[30]

In Europe, the primary competitors to the C64 were the British-built Sinclair ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro computer and the Amstrad CPC 464. In the UK, the Spectrum had been released a few months ahead of the C64, and was selling for less than half the price. The Spectrum quickly became the market leader and Commodore had an uphill struggle against the Spectrum. The C64 debuted at £399 in early 1983, while the 48K Spectrum cost £175. The C64 went on to rival the Spectrum in popularity in the latter half of the 1980s. Adjusted to the size of population the popularity of Commodore 64 was the highest in Finland where it was subsequently marketed as “the computer of the republic”.[31]

By mid-1986 Commodore had sold 3.5 million C64s, with about one million sold in 1985. Although the company reportedly attempted to discontinue the C64 more than once in favor of more expensive computers such as the 128, demand remained strong.[32][33] That year Commodore introduced the 64c, a redesigned 64, which Compute! saw as evidence that—contrary to C64 owners’ fears that the company would abandon them in favor of the Amiga and 128—”the 64 refuses to die”.[34] Its introduction also meant that Commodore raised the price of the C64 for the first time, which the magazine cited as the end of the home-computer price war.[35] Software sales also remained strong; MicroProse, for example, in 1987 cited the Commodore and IBM PC markets as its top priorities.[36]

By 1988, Commodore was still selling 1.5 million C64s worldwide,[37] although Epyx CEO David Shannon Morse cautioned that “there are no new 64 buyers, or very few. It’s a consistent group that’s not growing … it’s going to shrink as part of our business”.[38] One computer-gaming executive stated that the Nintendo Entertainment System‘s enormous popularity—seven million sold that year, almost as many as the number of C64s sold in its first five years—had stopped the C64’s growth, and Trip Hawkinsstated that Nintendo was “the last hurrah of the 8-bit world”.[39] Although demand for the C64 dropped off in the United States by 1990, it continued to be popular in the UK and other European countries. In the end, economics, not obsolescence, sealed the C64’s fate. In March 1994, at CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, Commodore announced that the C64 would be finally discontinued in 1995.[40] Commodore stated that the C64’s disk drive was more expensive to manufacture than the C64 itself.[40] However, only one month later, in April 1994, the company filed for bankruptcy.

The C64 family[edit]

1982: Commodore released the Commodore MAX Machine in Japan. It is called the Ultimax in the United States, and VC-10 in Germany. The MAX was intended to be a game console with limited computing capability, and was based on a very cut-down version of the hardware family later used in the C64. The MAX was discontinued months after its introduction, because of poor sales in Japan.

1983 saw Commodore attempt to compete with the Apple II‘s hold on the U.S. education market with the Educator 64,[41] essentially a C64 and “greenscale” monochrome monitor in a PET case. Schools preferred the all-in-one metal construction of the PET over the standard C64’s separate components, which could be easily damaged, vandalized or stolen.[42] Schools did not prefer the Educator 64 to the wide range of software and hardware options the Apple IIe was able to offer, and it was produced in limited quantities.[43]

In 1984, Commodore released the SX-64, a portable version of the C64. The SX-64 has the distinction of being the first full-colorportable computer. While earlier computers using this form factor only incorporated monochrome “green screen” displays, the base SX-64 unit featured a 5 in (130 mm) color cathode ray tube (CRT) and an integrated 1541 floppy disk drive. The SX-64 did not have a cassette connector.

Also in 1984, Commodore released the Commodore Plus/4. It had a higher-color display, a newer implementation of Commodore BASIC (V3.5), and built-in software in what was positioned as an inexpensive business oriented system. However, it was incompatible with the C64, and the burgeoning influence of the IBM PC on the personal computer market market rendered the limited business software of the Plus/4 system of marginal value. The Plus/4 lacked hardware sprite capability and lacked a SID chip, thus under-performing in two of the areas that had made the C64 successful.

Two designers at Commodore, Fred Bowen and Bil Herd, were determined to rectify the problems of the Plus/4. They intended that the eventual successors to the C64—the Commodore 128 and 128D computers (1985)—were to build upon the C64, avoiding the Plus/4’s flaws.[44] The successors had many improvements (such as a structured BASIC with graphics and sound commands, 80-column display ability, and full CP/M compatibility). The decision to make the Commodore 128 plug compatible with the C64 was made quietly by Bowen and Herd, software and hardware designers respectively, without the knowledge or approval by the management in the post Jack Tramiel era. The designers were careful not to reveal their decision until the project was too far along to be challenged or changed and still make the impending Consumer Electronics Show (CES) show in Las Vegas.[44] Upon learning that the C128 was designed to be compatible with the C64, Commodore’s marketing department independently announced that the C128 would be 100% compatible with the C64, thereby raising the bar for C64 support.[45] In a case of malicious compliance, the 128 design was altered to include a separate “64 mode” using a complete C64 environment to ensure total compatibility.

Commodore 64c with 1541-II floppy disk drive and 1084S monitor displaying television-compatible S-video

In 1986, Commodore released the Commodore 64c computer, which was functionally identical to the original. The exterior design was remodeled in the sleeker style of the Commodore 128.[33] The modifications to the C64 line were more than skin deep in the 64c with new versions of the SID, VIC and I/O chips being deployed—with the core voltage reduced from 12V to 9V. In the United States, the 64c was often bundled with the third-party GEOS graphical user interface (GUI) based operating system. TheCommodore 1541 disk drive received a matching face-lift resulting in the 1541c. Later a smaller, sleeker 1541-II model was introduced along with the 800 kB 3.5-inch microfloppy 1581.

In 1990, the C64 was rereleased in the form of a game console, called the C64 Games System (C64GS). A simple modification to the C64C’s motherboard was made to orient the cartridge connector to a vertical position. This allowed cartridges to be inserted from above. A modified ROM replaced the BASIC interpreter with a boot screen to inform the user to insert a cartridge. Designed to compete with the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Master System, it suffered from very low sales compared to its rivals. It was another commercial failure for Commodore, and it was never released outside of Europe.

In 1990, an advanced successor to the C64, the Commodore 65 (also known as the “C64DX”), was prototyped, but the project was canceled by Commodore’s chairmanIrving Gould in 1991. The C65’s specifications were very good for an 8-bit computer, bringing specs comparable to the Apple IIgs. For example, it could display 256 colors on screen, while OCS based Amigas could only display 64 in HalfBrite mode (32 colors and half-bright transformations). Although no specific reason was given for the C65’s cancellation, it would have competed in the marketplace with Commodore’s lower end Amigas and the Commodore CDTV.

C64 clones[edit]

In the middle of 2004, after an absence from the marketplace of more than 10 years, PC manufacturer Tulip Computers BV (owners of the Commodore brand since 1997) announced the C64 Direct-to-TV (C64DTV), a joystick-based TV game based on the C64 with 30 games built into ROM. Designed by Jeri Ellsworth, a self-taught computer designer who had earlier designed the modern C-One C64 implementation, the C64DTV was similar in concept to other mini-consoles based on the Atari 2600 andIntellivision which had gained modest success earlier in the decade. The product was advertised on QVC in the United States for the 2004 holiday season. Some users have installed 1541 floppy disk drives, hard drives, second joysticks and keyboards to these units, which give the DTV devices nearly all of the capabilities of a full Commodore 64. The DTV hardware is also used in the mini-console/game Hummer, sold at RadioShack mid-2005.

C64 enthusiasts still develop new hardware, including Ethernet cards,[46] specially adapted hard disks and flash card interfaces (sd2iec).[47]

Brand re-use[edit]

The C64 “Web.it” Internet Computer

See also: Commodore 64x

In 1998, the C64 brand was reused for the “Web.it Internet Computer”,[48][49] a low-powered (even for the time) Internet-oriented, all-in-one x86 PC running Windows 3.1. Despite its “Commodore 64” nameplate, the “C64 Web.it” was not directly compatible with the original (except via included emulation software), nor did it share its appearance.

PC clones branded as C64x sold by Commodore USA, LLC, a company licensing the Commodore trademark,[50][51] began shipping in June 2011.[52][53] The C64x has a case resembling the original C64 computer, but- as with the “Web.it”- it is based on x86architecture and is not compatible with the Commodore 64 on either hardware or software level.

Virtual Console[edit]

Several Commodore 64 games were released on the Nintendo Wii‘s Virtual Console service in Europe and North America only. The games were removed from the service as of August 2013 for unknown reasons.


Main article: Commodore 64 software

In 1982, the C64’s graphics and sound capabilities were rivaled only by the Atari 8-bit family, and appeared exceptional when compared with the widely publicised Atari VCSand Apple II.

The C64 is often credited with starting the computer subculture known as the demoscene (see Commodore 64 demos). It is still being actively used in the demoscene,[54]especially for music (its sound chip even being used in special sound cards for PCs, and the Elektron SidStation synthesizer). Unfortunately, the differences between PALand NTSC C64s caused compatibility problems between U.S./Canadian C64s and those from most other countries. The vast majority of demos run only on PAL machines.

Even though other computers quickly caught up with it, the C64 remained a strong competitor to the later video game consoles Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) andSega Master System, thanks in part to its by-then established software base, especially outside of North America, where it comprehensively outsold the NES.[citation needed]


Main article: Commodore BASIC

The Simons’ BASIC start-up screen. Note the altered background and text colors (vs the ordinary C64 blue tones), and the 8 kB reduction of available BASIC program memory due to theaddress space used by the cartridge.

As was common for home computers of the early 1980s, the C64 incorporated a ROM-based version of the BASIC programming language. There was no operating system as such. The KERNAL was accessed via BASIC commands. The disk drive had its ownmicroprocessor, much like the Atari 800. This meant that no memory space had to be dedicated to running a disk operating system, as remained the case with earlier systems such as the Apple II.

Commodore BASIC 2.0 was used instead of the more advanced BASIC 4.0 from the PET series, since 64 users were not expected to need the disk-oriented enhancements of BASIC 4.0. The company did not expect many to buy a disk drive, and using BASIC 2.0 simplified VIC-20 owners’ transition to the 64.[55] “The choice of BASIC 2.0 instead of 4.0 was made with some soul-searching, not just at random. The typical user of a C64 is not expected to need the direct disk commands as much as other extensions and the amount of memory to be committed to BASIC were to be limited. We chose to leave expansion space for color and sound extensions instead of the disk features. As a result, you will have to handle the disk in the more cumbersome manner of the ‘old days’.”[56]

The version of BASIC was limited and did not include specific commands for sound or graphics manipulation, instead required users to use the “POKE” commands to access the graphics and sound chip registers directly. To provide extended commands, including graphics and sound, Commodore produced two different cartridge-based extension to BASIC 2.0 — Simons’ BASIC and Super Expander 64.

Other languages available for the C64 included Pascal, Logo, Forth, and FORTRAN. Compiled versions of BASIC such as Petspeed 2 (from Commodore) and Turbo Lightning (Ocean Software) were also available. While the first generation of C64 software may have used one of these or even the standard BASIC, after 1983 almost all professionally produced programs were written in assembly language, using a machine code monitor or an assembler. This maximised speed and minimised memory use.

Alternative operating systems[edit]

GEOS for the Commodore 64

Many third party operating systems have been developed for the C64. As well as the original GEOS, two third-party GEOS-compatible systems have been written: Wheels and GEOS megapatch. Both of these require hardware upgrades to the original C64. Several other operating systems are or have been available, including WiNGS OS, the Unix-like LUnix, operated from a command-line, and the embedded systems OS Contiki, with full GUI. Other less well known OSes include ACE, Asterix, DOS/65 andGeckOS.

A version of CP/M was released, but this required the addition of an external Z80 processor to the expansion bus, so is not considered a true C64 OS. Furthermore, the Z80 processor was underclocked to be compatible with the C64’s memory bus, so performance was poor compared to other CP/M implementations. C64 CP/M and C128 CP/M both suffered a lack of software: although most commercial CP/M software could run on these systems, software media was incompatible between platforms. The low usage of CP/M on Commodores meant that software houses saw no need to invest in mastering versions for the Commodore disk format.

Networking software[edit]

During the 1980s, the Commodore 64 was used to run many bulletin board systems using software packages such as Bizarre 64, Blue Board, C-Net, Color 64, CMBBS, C-Base, DMBBS, Image BBS, and The Deadlock Deluxe BBS Construction Kit, often with sysop-made modifications. These boards sometimes were used to distribute cracked software. As late as December 2013, there were 25 such Bulletin Board Systems in operation, reachable via the Telnet protocol.[citation needed]. In an attempt to address the need for a citation, a list of Commodore BBS systems currently in operation, along with others that are known to be offline is maintained by hobbyists and can be seen athttp://cbbsoutpost.servebbs.com [57]

There were also major commercial online services, such as Compunet (UK), CompuServe (US – later bought by America Online), The Source (US) and Minitel (France) among many others. These services usually required custom software which was often bundled with a modem and included free online time as they were billed by the minute.

Quantum Link (or Q-Link) was a U.S. and Canadian online service for Commodore 64 and 128 personal computers that operated from November 5, 1985, to November 1, 1994. It was operated by Quantum Computer Services of Vienna, Virginia, which in October 1991 changed its name to America Online, and continues to operate its AOLservice for the IBM PC compatible and Apple Macintosh today. Q-Link was a modified version of the PlayNET system, which Control Video Corporation (CVC, later renamed Quantum Computer Services) licensed.

Online gaming[edit]

The first graphical character-based interactive environment was Club Caribe. First released as Habitat in 1988, Club Caribe was introduced by LucasArts for Q-Linkcustomers on their Commodore 64 computers. Users could interact with one another, chat and exchange items. Although the game’s open world was very basic, its use of online avatars (already well-established off-line by Ultima and other games) and combination of chat and graphics was revolutionary. Online graphics in the late 1980s were severely restricted by the need to support modem data transfer rates as slow as 300 bits per second (bit/s). Habitat’s graphics were stored locally on floppy disk, eliminating the need for network transfer.


CPU and memory[edit]

Main article: MOS Technology 6510

The C64 uses an 8-bit MOS Technology 6510 microprocessor. This is a close derivative of the 6502 with an added 6-bit internal I/O port that in the C64 is used for two purposes: to bank-switch the machine’s read-only memory (ROM) in and out of the processor’s address space, and to operate the datasette tape recorder.

The C64 has 64 kB of RAM, of which 38 kB are available to built-in Commodore BASIC 2.0 on startup.

There is 20 kB of ROM, made up of the BASIC interpreter, the kernel, and the character ROM. As the processor could only address 64 kB at a time, the ROM was mapped into memory and only 38,911 bytes of RAM were available at startup.

If a program did not use the BASIC interpreter, RAM could be mapped over the ROM locations. However, this meant the character ROM would not be available, and the RAM in its place was instead used for the character glyphs. Normally, this RAM was uninitialised, which would then result in nothing but random patterns appearing on the screen. This was solved by copying the character ROM into RAM. This had two benefits – the standard typeface could be rewritten, and character codes could be rewritten as picture elements.

Most C64 games were written in this way, using low resolution, which required much less processor time and saved memory. Furthermore, picture elements could be reused, saving even more precious memory. The same technique was used on the NES.


Main article: MOS Technology VIC-II

The graphics chip, VIC-II, features 16 colors, eight hardware sprites per scanline (enabling up to 112 sprites per PAL screen), scrolling capabilities, and two bitmap graphics modes. The standard text mode features 40 columns, like most Commodore PET models; the built in character encoding is not standard ASCII but PETSCII, an extended form of ASCII-1963.

Most screenshots show borders around the screen, which is a feature of the VIC-II chip. By utilising interrupts to reset various hardware registers on precise timings it was possible to place graphics within the borders and thus utilise the full screen.[58]

There were two low-resolution and two bitmapped modes. Multicolor bitmapped mode had an addressable screen of 160 × 200 pixels, with a maximum of four colors per 4 × 8 character block. High-resolution bitmapped mode had an addressable screen of 320 × 200 pixels, with a maximum of two colors per 8 × 8 character block.

Multicolor low-resolution had a screen of 160 × 200 pixels, 40 × 25 addressable with four colors per 8 × 8 character block; high resolution “low resolution” had a screen of 320 × 200 pixels, 40 × 25 addressable with two colors per 8 × 8 character block. Most video games were multicolor low-resolution; this allowed only block-by-block character animation due to the limited addressable space. However, further innovation allowed video chips to automate sprites and vertical and horizontal scrolling pixel-by-pixel, allowing graphics to work smoothly and quickly regardless of the video mode. Some animation, like bullets, used character animation when sprites were unavailable.


Main article: MOS Technology SID

The SID chip has three channels, each with its own ADSR envelope generator, ring modulation and filter capabilities. Bob Yannes developed the SID chip and later co-founded synthesizer company Ensoniq. Yannes criticized other contemporary computer sound chips as “primitive, obviously…designed by people who knew nothing about music”. Often the game music became a hit of its own among C64 users. Well-known composers and programmers of game music on the C64 are Rob Hubbard, David Whittaker, Chris Hülsbeck, Ben Daglish, Martin Galway and David Dunn among many others. Due to the chip’s three channels, chords are played as arpeggios, coining the C64’s characteristic lively sound. It was also possible to continuously update the master volume with sampled data to enable the playback of 4-bit digitized audio. As of 2008, it became possible to play four channel 8-bit audio samples, 2 SID channels and still use filtering.[59]

There are two versions of the SID chip, the 6581 and the 8580. The MOS Technology 6581 was used in the original “breadbox” C64s, the early versions of the C64C and the Commodore 128. The 6581 was replaced with the MOS Technology 8580 in 1987. The 6581 sound quality is a little crisper, and many Commodore 64 fans prefer its sound. The main difference between the 6581 and the 8580 is the supply voltage. The 6581 uses a 12 volt supply—the 8580, a 9 volt supply. A modification can be made to use the 6581 in a C64C board (which uses the 9 volt chip).

The SID chip has a distinctive sound which has retained a following of devotees to such a degree, that a number of audio enthusiasts and companies have designed SID-based products as add-ons for the C64, x86 PCs, and standalone or MIDI music devices such as the Elektron SidStation. These devices use chips taken from excess stock, or removed from used computers.

In 2007, Timbaland‘s extensive use of the SidStation led to the plagiarism controversy for “Block Party” and “Do It” (written for Nelly Furtado).

Hardware revisions[edit]

Cost reduction was the driving force behind the C64’s motherboard revisions. Reducing manufacturing costs was vitally important to Commodore’s survival during the price war and leaner years of the 16-bit era. The C64’s original (NMOS based) motherboard would go through two major redesigns, (and numerous sub-revisions) exchanging positions of the VIC-II, SID and PLA chips. Initially, a large portion of the cost was eliminated by reducing the number of discrete components, such as diodes and resistors, which enabled the use of a smaller printed circuit board.

The case is made from ABS plastic which may become brown with time. This can be reversed by using the public domain chemical mix “Retr0bright“.

An early C64 motherboard (Rev A PAL 1982).

A C64C motherboard (“C64E” Rev B PAL 1992).


The VIC-II was manufactured with 5 micrometer NMOS technology[8] and was clocked at either 17.73447 MHz(PAL) or 14.31818 MHz (NTSC). Internally, the clock was divided down to generate the dot clock (about 8 MHz) and the two-phase system clocks (about 1 MHz; the exact pixel and system clock speeds are slightly different between NTSC and PAL machines). At such high clock rates, the chip generated a lot of heat, forcing MOS Technology to use a ceramic dual in-line package called a “CERDIP”. The ceramic package was more expensive, but it dissipated heat more effectively than plastic.

After a redesign in 1983, the VIC-II was encased in a plastic dual in-line package, which reduced costs substantially, but it did not totally eliminate the heat problem.[8] Without a ceramic package, the VIC-II required the use of a heat sink. To avoid extra cost, the metal RF shielding doubled as the heat sink for the VIC, although not all units shipped with this type of shielding. Most C64s in Europe shipped with a cardboard RF shield, coated with a layer of metal foil. The effectiveness of the cardboard was highly questionable, and worse still it acted as an insulator, blocking airflow which trapped heat generated by the SID, VIC, and PLA chips.

The SID was manufactured using NMOS at 7 and in some areas 6 micrometers.[8] The prototype SID and some very early production models featured a ceramic dual in-line package, but unlike the VIC-II, these are extremely rare as the SID was encased in plastic when production started in early 1982.


In 1986, Commodore released the last revision to the classic C64 motherboard. It was otherwise identical to the 1984 design, except for the two 64 kilobit × 4 bit DRAMchips that replaced the original eight 64 kilobit × 1 bit ICs.

After the release of the C64C, MOS Technology began to reconfigure the C64’s chipset to use HMOS production technology. The main benefit of using HMOS was that it required less voltage to drive the IC, which consequently generates less heat. This enhanced the overall reliability of the SID and VIC-II. The new chipset was renumbered to 85xx to reflect the change to HMOS.

In 1987, Commodore released C64Cs with a highly redesigned motherboard commonly known as a “short board”. The new board used the new HMOS chipset, featuring a new 64-pin PLA chip. The new “SuperPLA”, as it was dubbed, integrated many discrete components and transistor–transistor logic (TTL) chips. In the last revision of the C64C motherboard, the 2114 color RAM was integrated into the SuperPLA.

Power supply[edit]

Joystick ports, power switch,power inlet

The C64 used an external power supply, a conventional transformer with multiple tappings (as opposed to switch mode, the type now used on PC power supplies), encased in an epoxy resin gel which discouraged tampering but tended to increase the heat level during use.

This saved space within the computer’s case and allowed international versions to be more easily manufactured. The 1541-II and1581 disk drives, along with various third-party clones, also came with their own external power supply “bricks”, as did most peripherals leading to a “spaghetti” of cables and the use of numerous double adapters by users. These power supplies were notorious for failing over time,[60] usually because of overheating.

Commodore later changed the design, omitting the gel. The follow-on model, the Commodore 128, used a larger, improved power supply that included a fuse.


Internal hardware[edit]

I/O ports and power supply[edit]

Commodore 64 ports (from left: Joy1, Joy2, Power,ROM cartridge, RF-adj, RF, A/V, 488, Tape, User)

  • I/O ports:[65]
    • ROM cartridge expansion slot (44-pin slot for edge connector with 6510 CPU address/data bus lines and control signals, as well as GND and voltage pins;[66] used for program modules and memory expansions, among others)
    • Integrated RF modulator antenna output via a RCA connector. The used channel could be adjusted from number 36 with the potentiometer to the left.
    • 8-pin DIN connector containing composite video output, separate Y/C outputs and sound input/output. Beware that this is the 262° (horseshoe) version of the plug, not the 270° circular version. Also note that some early C64 units use a 5-pin DIN connector that carries composite video and luminance signals, but lacks a chroma signal.[67]
    • Serial bus (serial version of IEEE-488, 6-pin DIN plug) for CBM printers and disk drives
    • PET-type Commodore Datassette 300 baud tape interface (edge connector with digital cassette motor/read/write/key-sense signals, Ground and +5V DC lines. The cassette motor is controlled by a +5V DC signal from the 6502 CPU. The 9V AC input is transformed into unregulated 6.36V DC[68] which is used to actually power the cassette motor.[69]
    • User port (edge connector with TTL-level signals, for modems and so on.; byte-parallel signals which can be used to drive third-party parallel printers, among other things, 17 logic signals, 7 Ground and voltage pins, including 9V AC)
    • 2 × screwless DE9M game controller ports (compatible with Atari 2600 controllers), each supporting five digital inputs and two analog inputs. Available peripherals included digital joysticks, analog paddles, a light pen, the Commodore 1351 mouse, and graphics tablets such as the KoalaPad.
  • Power supply:
    • 5V DC and 9V AC from an external “power brick”, attached to a 7-pin female DIN-connector on the computer.[70]

The 9 volt AC is used to supply power via a charge pump to the SID sound generator chip, provide 6.8V via a rectifier to the cassette motor, a “0” pulse for every positive half wave to the time-of-day (TOD) input on the CIA chips, and 9 volts AC directly to the user-port. Thus, as a minimum, a 12 V square wave is required. But a 9 V sine wave is preferred.[71][72]

Memory map[edit]

Address Size
0x0000 32.0 RAM [73]
0x8000 8.0 RAM Cartridge ROM [73]
0xA000 8.0 RAM Basic ROM [73]
0xC000 4.0 RAM [73]
0xD000 4.0 RAM  I/O Character ROM [73]
0xE000 8.0 RAM KERNAL ROM [73]

Note that even if I/O chips like VIC-II only uses 64 positions in the memory address space, it will occupy 1,024 addresses because some address bits are left undecoded.[73]


Burger Chef



Burger Chef was an American fast-food restaurant chain founded in 1954 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The chain expanded throughout the United States and, at its peak in 1973, had 1,050 locations.[1] The chain featured several signature items such as the Big Shef and Super Shef hamburgers.

In 1982, the General Foods Corporation, then-owners of the Burger Chef trademark and name, divested itself of the restaurant chain, gradually selling to the owners of Hardee’s. The final restaurant to carry the Burger Chef name closed in 1996.

Picture 008

GA sept 70 3

In 1954, Frank and Donald Thomas patented the Flame Broiler in their parent company General Equipment Corporation located on Stadium Drive and started their own restaurant in Indianapolis, Indiana. Another of their trade names from that company was “Sani Serv”. In 1957, they opened their first Burger Chef. Their first hamburgers sold for 15 cents. In the late 1950s, they created the first “value combo” as a 15¢ hamburger, 15¢ fries, and 15¢ vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry milkshake. It was known as the “Triple Treat.” Free Triple Treat coupons were often given as promotional items. Note that the total price was no less than if the items were purchased individually.

Burger Chef was popular and spread across both the West Coast and the East Coast, eventually becoming second only toMcDonald’s in terms of number of locations. They offered a signature double-burger called the Big Shef, and later the quarter-pound hamburger Super Shef. Subsequently, they pioneered the “Works Bar”, where customers could dress their hamburgers with condiments and vegetables exactly as they wanted. The “Works Bar” required that customers now order their hamburgers “with” or “without”. “With” hamburgers were dressed by the kitchen staff and “without” were dressed by the customer.

In 1968, the chain was purchased by the General Foods Corporation, which continued its rapid expansion. The chain’s mascots were called Burger Chef (voiced by Paul Winchell) and Jeff (the chef’s juvenile sidekick). In the early 1970s, the chain introduced first the Funburger, followed by the Funmeal, with specially-printed packaging that included stories about Burger Chef and Jeff’s adventures and friends (including the magician Burgerini, vampire Count Fangburger, talking ape Burgerilla, and Cackleburger the witch), with riddles, puzzles, and small toys. Other premiums included flexi-disc recordings with more stories, and a token that could be redeemed for a frozen treat. When McDonald’s introduced their similarly themed Happy Meal in 1979, the chain sued McDonald’s, but ultimately lost.

General Foods proved unable to support the company’s growth. In 1982, the corporation sold Burger Chef to the Canadian company Imasco, which also owned Hardee’s. Many locations were converted into Hardee’s restaurants, except those located near existing Hardee’s.

The franchisees of those locations were allowed extra time to convert to other brands; one Burger Chef in Cookeville, Tennessee, through the courts, was able to keep its original name until 1996, when it finally changed its name to Pleaser’s. Several Burger Chefs in southern Indiana had converted to the Pleaser’s name after the initial buyout. The Pleaser’s in Cookeville remained open until 2002, while the building itself was destroyed by fire in 2008. (An apartment complex now sits on the site.)[2] A Burger Chef in Danville, Illinois, was still open as of July of 2014 operating under the name Schroeder’s Drive-In, with many of the Burger Chef burgers and a works bar.[3]

Hardee’s brought back the Big Shef hamburger on a limited-time basis in 2001 at select Midwestern locations, and has done so again as of April 2007


Advertisment for the Big Shef at Burger Chef


BurChef006 e

American Flyer Trains


American Flyer



The Chicago era, 1907–1938[edit]

Although best remembered for the S gauge trains of the 1950s that it made as a division of the A. C. Gilbert Company, American Flyer was initially an independent company whose origins date back nearly a half century earlier. Chicago, Illinois-based toymaker William Frederick Hafner developed a clockwork motor for toy cars in 1901 while working for a company called Toy Auto Company. According to the recollections of William Hafner’s son, John, he had developed a clockwork train running on O gauge track by 1905.

Hafner’s friend, William Ogden Coleman, gained control of the Edmonds-Metzel Hardware Company, a struggling hardware manufacturer in Chicago, in 1906 or 1907. Hafner and Coleman began producing toy trains using Edmonds-Metzel’s excess manufacturing capability after Hafner was able to secure $15,000 worth of orders. By 1907, two American retailers, G. Sommers & Co. and Montgomery Ward, were selling Edmonds-Metzel trains. In 1908, Edmonds-Metzel adopted the American Flyer brand name for the trains, and by 1910, Edmonds-Metzel was out of the hardware business and changed its name to American Flyer Manufacturing Company.

Initially American Flyer—aka “Chicago Flyer”—was something of a budget brand, undercutting the prices of Ives, which was at the time the market leader. The trains proved popular, and American Flyer was soon expanding its product line. However, the company’s rapid growth led to strains in the relationship between Hafner and Coleman.

In 1913, Hafner left the company. Believing he would be given a significant portion of the company if the trains proved successful, Coleman refused when Hafner asked to exercise this option. Hafner started the Hafner Manufacturing Company, which sold a line of trains called Overland Flyer. Sommers immediately stopped carrying the American Flyer trains in favor of Hafner’s brand. Initially, the Hafner and American Flyer product lines were very similar, suggesting they may have been built using the same tooling. This suggests the possibility of the two companies continuing to collaborate. Hafner’s business survived as a manufacturer of clockwork trains until 1951, when he sold his business to All Metal Products Company.

American Flyer’s business grew during World War I, which locked out the German manufacturers that had dominated the U.S. toy train market to that point. During this time, American Flyer also introduced bicycle and motorcycle toys, segmented its market by creating both a low-priced and a high-priced line, and began to depart from its earlier designs by William Hafner.

In 1918, American Flyer introduced its first electric train, an O gauge model that was simply a windup model with an electric motor in place of the clockwork motor. This was a common practice at the time. The same year, William Coleman died and his son, William Ogden Coleman, Jr., took over the company. At that time the factory and administrative offices of the American Flyer Manufacturing Co. were located at 2219-2239 South Halsted Street in Chicago. The factory had its own railroad sidings and dock so cars could be slid inside the building for unloading/loading.

In 1925, American Flyer began offering Wide gauge electric trains at a premium price, attempting to compete with Lionel Corporation at the high end of the market. Like most of its competition, American Flyer did well in the 1920s, selling more than half a million trains in its best years, but suffered in the Great Depression, during which the company’s focus shifted back to the more economical O gauge trains.

In 1928, American Flyer’s competitor Ives went bankrupt. American Flyer and Lionel jointly purchased and operated Ives until 1930, when American Flyer sold its share to Lionel. During this time of joint operation, American Flyer supplied Ives with car bodies and other parts.

During the early 1930s, American Flyer struggled under increased competition, especially at the low end of the market. In 1931, Flyer announced it would not produce an electric train set to sell for less than $4 like its competition had. However, within three months, it relented and released a train without transformer that sold for $3.95, and in 1932, it released a set with transformer that retailed for $3.50. Sales increased, but the company was not profitable. Expansion into other toy arenas also failed.

A. C. Gilbert Company, 1938–1966[edit]

In December, 1937, W.O. Coleman sold American (Chicago) Flyer to Alfred Carlton Gilbert, a former Olympic pole vaulter who first made a name for himself in the toy industry earlier in the century when he created and manufactured Mysto Magic sets for youthful magicians. Circa 1913, his A. C. Gilbert Company also became the makers of Erector Set metal construction toys, which were ‘inspired’ by the English-made Meccano sets of which it was a U.S. distributor. The two toy magnates were just finishing shooting on Gilbert’s game reserve in New Haven when Gilbert casually mentioned he was thinking about manufacturing toy trains. Instead, Coleman said he’d give his struggling American Flyer Co. to Gilbert in return for a share of the profits. Gilbert quickly agreed.

Gilbert soon moved the company from Chicago to New Haven, Connecticut, and re-designed parts of the product line. The initial changes included substitution of the ‘slot & tab’ couplers with link and pin semi-automatic ones on the higher priced 10″ freight cars and steam engine tenders. Three significantly detailed & overall scale length O gauge steam engines were introduced in the 1938 catalog: Atlantic (4-4-2), Pacific (4-6-2-) and an 0-6-0 switcher. The years 1938 through 1941 saw the production of Gilbert’s “Tru Model” 3/16″ O gauge trains. The engines offered in this line were fairly accurate scale replicas of the locomotives they were modeled after. An Atlantic, Pennsylvania K5 Pacific, a NYC Hudson, a Pennsylvania Torpedo (Royal Blue), a Northern (4-8-4) and an 0-8-0 Switcher. This line would later become the postwar 3/16″ scale or S gauge line with two rail tracks. Also, its HO product line was introduced in the 1938 catalog. The design of the initial version of the HO track was significantly different from that of typical electric trains: the rails were mounted on lithographed roadbed.

Gilbert was not the first American company to offer 3/16″ ‘S’ scale trains. The Cleveland (Ohio) Model & Supply Company had been offering theirs (known as “C-D”) by ’37. But the smaller scale (1:64) became much more prominent with its introduction in the 1939 catalog, which features World’s Fair imagery on the yellow, black & white cover. The relatively expensive, heavy and highly detailed engines and cars had had diecast zinc alloy bodies. As were the HO rolling stock, the engines and cars were offered in completely manufactured and kit forms. Additional engines, cars and accessories were added in the 1940 catalog. These included less costly engines with tinplate tenders, and less costly freight and passenger cars, also made of painted tinplated steel. The 3/16 scale trains were designed to run on O gauge track whose curved sections had 20″ radii (formed 40″ circles). Importantly, the trains featured fully automatic coupling and uncoupling that were functionally comparable to Lionel’s. Unlike Lionel’s costly and sophisticated design (each truck contained a solenoid and electrical pickup shoe), the A.F. ‘link & pin’ (a.k.a. ‘harpoon’) couplers were gravity based.

Except for updated versions of the 1937 whistling billboard and trackage, all of the products offered in the 1941 catalog had been designed under Gilbert’s ownership. The ‘Chicago’ products had been expunged. The scale accuracy was emphasized in the catalogs and packaging. Already experiencing materials shortages (due to Lend Lease), no new products were introduced in the 1942 catalog, which was only slight different than the previous edition. Prices were printed on an accompanying unstapled sheet but not on the bound pages. Even the set numbers (i.e. 4117) were not changed. The cover of the ’42 edition is distinguished from the ’41 by a caveat about erratic availability printed in small red fonts.

During Summer, 1942 Gilbert (as were many manufacturing companies) was compelled by Federal wartime restrictions to cease manufacturing (and even servicing!) its electric train and other metal consumer products. It did not again publish American Flyer catalogs until 1946. The manufacturing hiatus offered the company the opportunity to further differentiate the products from those of the market leaders (by sales volume) Marx and Lionel. By Summer, 1945 it was able to resume limited manufacturing of the 3/16s scale O gauge trains. While it did so, the same sized products were re-engineered to run on much more realistic two rail (with a “T” profile rail) track. The fine detail of the diecast engines, tenders and cars that had debuted in the ’39 catalog reappeared. The engines and tenders continued to be made of diecast metal, but the cars’ bodies were made out of plastic. Two pages of the spectacular 1946 catalog emphasize the running advantages of the lighter cars. Ironically, they soon realized that they had to add weight. Metal car bottoms & chassis were necessary to prevent the too-light cars from tipping over. The ‘link & pin’ automatic couplers that had been introduced on the 3/16s O products were reduced in size, with plastic replacing the sintered metal of the originals. They too, later had metal weights added because they would fail to descend to the locking position needed for cars to couple. The chugging mechanisms of the premium O gauge tenders were redesigned to also generate smoke, which was conveyed to the engines’ smokestacks via a black rubber tube that protruded out of the rear of the cab so that it could connect to the front of the tender.

Because of the relatively accurate scale of the rolling stock and two rail track, these trains (not yet referred to as “S” gauge by Gilbert) were significantly more realistic than their 3 rail O gauge counterparts.

Gilbert apparently ceased offering O gauge rolling stock by ’47, but did continue to offer O gauge parts.

The product line continued to be refined and expanded. The chugger / smoker was redesigned and moved from the tenders into the engines. The advantages included eliminating the separate motor (power drain and cost) and ensuring precise (geared) synchronicity of the chugging with the rotation of the drive wheels. DC versions of the engines were offered in the 1949 line. Two different engines (the other AC) could be controlled with nominal independence on the same track. Diesels, not offered since 1940 were offered in the 1950 line.

In 1946 Lionel also debuted its post war trains. They too featured smoking but also its ingeniously designed (also solenoid based) and realistic knuckle coupler. With the improved coupler, it also introduced its very realistic sintered metal trucks. In 1952, a few premium sets featured the A.F. version of the knuckle coupler and sintered truck. By the next year, the ‘link & pin’ coupler and stamped steel trucks had been discontinued. Gilbert offered conversion kits so that the new couplers could be mounted on the old trucks.

This American Flyer S gauge 4-4-2 (Atlantic type) steam locomotive and tender dates from 1960. It is descended from the O gauge version #565

Although popular, American Flyer was always the second-ranked brand to Lionel in terms of market share at the high end of the market. With Marx and a handful of other brands relegated to the low end of the market, Lionel and American Flyer shared premium status. A rivalry emerged between both companies’ fans that continues today.

Gilbert also renewed offering its HO trains shortly after the War, but aside from changing to DC motors and making the cars lighter by using plastic, the products were not updated to conform with the increasingly popular NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) coupler and track standards until 1951. Despite its relatively long experience with HO Gilbert’s share of that market steadily waned.

Cultural and technical changes, and competing interests (television, the space race, slot cars, etc.), soon relegated indoor larger-than-HO trains to an out-of-date perception. Additionally, the increased prevalence of discount stores ravaged the toy train companies’ traditional distribution network (i.e. mom-and-pop hobby shops, and hardware and department stores). The discount stores demanded train sets at wholesale prices so low that the profit margins of the traditional manufacturers became unsustainable. Additionally, they did not offer the personal attention and repair services of traditional hobby shops. By trying to accommodate the demands of the retail discounters, Gilbert and other toy train manufacturers cheapened their lines. Their “Pikemaster” line exemplified the corruption of the products. This accelerated their downward economic spiral. Longtime train collectors and hobbyists were offended at this newer production, dismissing the new products as “cheap junk”, an accurate description.

These problems were compounded by the death of its founder, A.C. Gilbert in 1961. With the popularity of toy trains and construction toys declining, and without another successful product line to buoy the company’s finances, Gilbert found itself in serious financial trouble. Finally, a majority of the company was sold by the family to a holding company, the Wrather Group, in 1962 with A.C. Gilbert, Jr., acting as CEO. Within a few months, though, A.C. Jr., died. The company continued to manufacture trains of limited appeal due to the diminished quality.

Under the new ownership, the A.C. Gilbert Co. continued to struggle, although the new owners took a more aggressive approach to advertising and marketing than when the firm was headed by the more conservative A.C. Gilbert. It manufactured a wide variety of poorly designed and poorly conceived toys (dolls, racing sets, games) that sold slowly, if at all, and was nearly overwhelmed by store returns of defective merchandise. Gilbert took an especially hard hit when a majority of a poorly designed and manufactured red James Bond 007 slot car racing set flooded back as returns after component failures. [Because of the number of returns, these sets are rare and very collectible, some selling “pre-crash’ for an average of $1000 on eBay]. Additionally, the company sold many of its toy line products to discounters with a “100% sale guarantee.” When the merchandise didn’t sell, it ended up back in Gilbert’s warehouses. The company discontinued the American Flyer train line in 1966 and finally declared bankruptcy in 1967.


Lionel, 1979–present[edit]

In May 1967, Lionel Corporation announced it had purchased the American Flyer name and tooling even though it was teetering on the brink of financial failure itself. A May 29, 1967 story in The Wall Street Journal made light of the deal, stating, “Two of the best-known railroads in the nation are merging and the Interstate Commerce Commission couldn’t care less”. Former Lionel treasurer Robert A. Stein said Lionel did not initiate the deal; both companies had farmed out their accounts receivable departments to Arthur Heller & Co., who initiated the transaction. While various accounts published over the years valued the deal at $150,000, Stein’s recollection was that Lionel simply liquidated $300,000-$400,000 worth of American Flyer inventory for Heller in exchange for the tooling, which, by some accounts, sat unused and neglected in a parking lot for some period of time. Lionel Corporation never manufactured American Flyer trains.

Within two years, Lionel Corp. was bankrupt itself and had sold its train lines to General Mills, including the unused American Flyer tooling. In 1979, General Mills’ Lionel division started to reissue Flyer products under that name employing a mix of previously unused railroad heralds and traditional Gilbert American Flyer designs.

In 1984, General Mills sold the Lionel Co. to Kenner, a toy manufacturer. One year later, the company was sold to Richard Kughn, a Detroit toy train collector who made his fortune selling and developing real estate. For over a decade, Kughn moved both the Lionel and American Flyer brands forward, getting a shot of momentum from a resurgence in the toy train hobby in the early 1990s. In 1996, Kughn sold a majority interest to Wellspring Partners LLD, a Chicago-based national turnaround firm headed by Martin Davis. Kughn retained a small percentage, and rock star Neil Young, another toy train buff, also became a minor investor. Young’s contributions include designing a sound system for trains (RailSounds) in 1992, as well as the Trainmaster Command Control (TMCC), a unique radio control system. The new company is known as Lionel, LLC.

The American Flyer brand name survives today under the guidance of Lionel, LLC, although Lionel’s advertising and marketing emphasis seems to remain locked on promoting its own O and O27 gauge product lines. True American Flyer aficionados claim this narrow focus is a conflict of interest and prevents the growth of S Gauge among new train operators. Most of the American Flyer-branded product sold by Lionel, LLC today is reissues of 1950s designs utilizing refurbished old Gilbert tooling, decorated in traditional road names and paint schemes used by Gilbert, as well as an influx of some of today’s modern railroad heralds. One complaint by longtime American Flyer devotees is that Lionel isn’t creating Flyer products that appeal to the toy train masses—rather, focusing instead on a small market of Flyer collectors.

However, winds of change are blowing. Each year since 2002 Lionel has increased the number of American Flyer offerings, a sign the demand for 3/16″ S gauge is growing. In late 2004, Lionel finally debuted a new steam locomotive—a highly detailed, 2-8-2 Mikado in multiple road names. Utilizing all new tooling and issued under the American Flyer name, the Mike is the first original American Flyer steam locomotive design since the late 1950s. Complete with TMCC (Lionel’s proprietary wireless remote control technology) and a superb sound chip/system (TrainSounds), the Mikados proved to be a hot seller and their success has led to future similar issues. In late 2006, Lionel began delivering an updated remake of its largest steam locomotive, the famous 4-8-4 Northern, as well as a gray Union Pacific Northern with smoke deflectors (elephant ears); both new versions have digital sounds. Due in late 2006 or early 2007 is a new high-detail Pacific (4-6-2) with both TMCC capability and RailSounds. Additionally, Lionel has just released, in 2006, the first newly tooled passenger fleet. These heavyweight style cars are neither a refashioning of older Flyer designs nor a repurposing of Lionel 027 rolling stock (as some earlier Lionel/Flyer freight cars had been.) Also in 2007 Lionel started to sell American Flyer track, the popular 19″ radius curve remaining unavailable to this day. Due late 2008 is an American Flyer Big Boy with TMCC and Railsounds.

The license to manufacture the track had been held by Maury Klein, whose K-Line brand of 0 gauge trains competed against Lionel in the toy train renaissance of the 1980s and 90’s and into the 21st. century. When K-Line fell upon hard times in recent years, it was purchased by Lionel LLC, who then got the Flyer track as well as the tooling for two 0 gauge locomotive designs; the UP Big-Boy and the C&O Allegheny. Both of these engines had been tooled to 1/60th. scale so that 0 gauge operators with small layouts and narrow radius curves would be able to enjoy what would otherwise be behemoth engines. Their closeness to 1/64th. scale, however, made these engines naturals for development into the American Flyer Line, particularly since Lionel already possesses tooling for these locomotives in their 0 scale product lines. After considerable delay the company finally delivered the Big Boy in December 2009. No offering has yet been made as to the Allegheny, though collectors and aficionados hold out hope that a sell-out success with the current offering will stimulate the company to proceed further.

Lionel’s investment in new tooling is being interpreted among many S-scalers as a sign of commitment by the manufacturer to their market segment, as well as the brand, the gauge, and the hobby in itself.



Lionel Trains



Lionel Corporation

Lionel Corporation is an American toy manufacturer and retailer that has done business since 1900. Founded as an electrical novelties company, Lionel specialized in various products throughout its existence, but toy trains and model railroadswere its main claim to fame.[1] Lionel trains, produced from 1900 to 1969, drew admiration from model railroaders around the world for the solidity of their construction and the authenticity of their detail. During its peak years, in the 1950s, the company sold $25 million worth of trains per year.[2] In 2006, Lionel’s electric train, along with the Easy Bake Oven, became the first two electric toys to be inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. They published a television advertisement in the mid-1980s with a very well known and remembered jingle, “Lionel Kiddy City, turn that frown [clap, clap] upside down.”

Lionel remains the most enduring brand name associated with model trains in the United States, its products prized by collectors. Lionel, LLC now owns all of the trademarks and most of the product rights associated with Lionel Corporation; there is, however, no direct connection between the two companies.


The original Lionel Corporation was founded in 1900 by Joshua Lionel Cowen and Harry C. Grant in New York City.[3] The company’s devotees disagree over the date of incorporation, as the official paperwork gives a date of September 5, but the paperwork was not filed until September 22, more than two weeks later. Initially, the company specialized in electrical novelties, such as fans and lighting devices.[4]

In 1929, Lionel opened a factory in Hillside, New Jersey where it produced trains until 1974.[5]

Pre-war era [1900 – 1942][edit]

Lionel’s first train, the Electric Express, was not intended for sale to consumers, but rather, as a storefront display. Delivered in December 1900, it operated on a brass track and was powered by a battery and a motor Cowen originally intended to use in an electric fan. Cowen hoped to use the public’s fascination with railroads and electricity to capture the public’s attention and direct it to the goods for sale. Members of the public started approaching store owners about buying the trains instead, prompting Lionel to begin making toy trains for the general public. Lionel ended up selling 12 examples of the Electric Express.[6][7]

Lionel’s earliest trains were larger than the sizes commonly available today, running on two-rail track with the rails 278 inches apart. In 1906, Lionel began offering a three-rail track that simplified wiring of reverse loops and accessories. Its outer rails were 218 inches apart, which did not match any of the existing standards that other manufacturers had been using since 1891. Whether this was an accidental misreading of Märklin‘s Gauge 2 specifications or an intentional incompatibility is unclear, but Lionel marketed this non-standard track as “The Standard of the World”, and soon adopted the name in its catalogs as Standard Gauge, and trademarked the name. When other U.S. companies began using Lionel’s standard, they usually called it wide gauge. Starting in 1915, Lionel followed most of its U.S. competitors and adopted the smaller O gauge standard for its budget-level trains.[7]

By the end of World War I, Lionel was one of three major U.S. manufacturers of toy trains, and it grew rapidly due to shrewd marketing. Cowen began getting department stores to incorporate his toy trains as part of their Christmas tree displays, linking toy trains to Christmas and making them into popular Christmas presents. Lionel made its trains larger than anyone else, making them appear to be better values. When competitors criticized the realism of Lionel’s trains—Cowen had been unwilling to invest in the equipment necessary for lithography, so its early offerings were simply painted with solid colors of enamel paint with brass detail parts—Lionel targeted advertising at children, telling children its products were the most realistic toy trains. Additionally, Lionel criticized the durability of competitors’ products in ads targeted at parents.[7]

William Walthers, a large seller of model railroads, asked Cowen in 1929 why Lionel painted its trains bright and unrealistic colors. Cowen said the majority of trains were purchased by mothers for their children, and the bright colors attracted women buyers.[8] In 1929, Lionel opened a factory in Hillside, New Jersey where it produced trains until 1974.[5]

By the 1920s, Lionel had overcome Ives to become the market leader, selling metal trains with colorful paint schemes. Lionel’s fierce ad campaigns took their toll on Ives, which filed bankruptcy in 1928. Lionel and American Flyer bought Ives and operated it jointly until 1930, when Lionel bought Flyer’s share. Lionel operated Ives as a subsidiary until 1932.[7]

The Great Depression badly hurt Lionel. In 1930, Lionel’s operating profit dropped to $82,000—its operating profit in 1927 had been more than $500,000—and in 1931, it lost $207,000.[6] The trains were considered a luxury item, and at the height of the Depression one of Lionel’s more extravagant locomotives cost as much as a used FordModel T. In an effort to compete with companies that were willing to undercut Lionel’s prices without diluting its premium Lionel and Ives brands, Lionel introduced a line of inexpensive electric toy trains under the Winner Toys or Winner Toy Corp. brand name, which it sold from 1930 to 1932. The starting price for a set was $3.25, including a transformer. These and other efforts to improve its financial standing were unable to keep Lionel from going into receivership in May 1934.[7]

The product widely credited with saving the company was a wind-up handcar featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse that operated on O gauge track and sold for $1. Lionel manufactured 250,000 units but was still unable to keep up with demand. At a wholesale price of 55 cents, the handcar’s sales would not have provided enough profit to pay off Lionel’s debts of $300,000, but it nevertheless provided much-needed cash. Lionel avoided bankruptcy and emerged from receivership the next year. By 1939, Lionel had discontinued its standard gauge products, concentrating instead on the more-affordable O gauge and 00 gauge, which it had introduced in 1938.[7]

Lionel ceased toy production in 1942 to produce nautical items for the United States Navy during World War II. The company advertised heavily, however, promising new and exciting products and urging American teenagers to begin planning their post-War layouts. It also introduced the so-called paper train, a detailed set of cut-and-fold models of Lionel trains printed on cardstock that was notoriously difficult to put together.[7]


Since 1901, Lionel had competition with Hornby and Bachmann since the late 1800s and early 1900s. Since 1919, Lionel had competition with Louis Marx and Company; Toy and train manufacturer. Since Since 1947, it had competition with American Flyer trains.

Pre-War Era [1900-1942][edit]

Lionel was founded in 1900 and produced Standard gauge trains since 1903 but were phased out in 1939 because of the room size required for them to run. In 1942, Lionel had to stop train manufacturing to produced parts for the US Army and other branches of the military. 1942 to 1945 were known as Lionel’s “War Era”.

Post-war era [1945 – 1967][edit]

Post War Lionel trains and accessories

Lionel resumed producing toy trains in late 1945, replacing their original product line with less-colorful, but more realistic trains and concentrating exclusively on O-gauge trains. Many of Lionel’s models had a new feature: smoke—produced by dropping a small tablet or a special oil into the locomotive’s smokestack.[7]

Modern Era [1967 – 2000][edit]

After Lionel sold their rights to General Mills in 1967, the Modern Era began with train products being reproduced and introduced. Some detail was lacking from the original post-war models and as a result the sales never went back up as quick until the late 1970s arrived.

Lionel MPC [1977 – 1990][edit]

In 1977, Lionel put chips in their engines to make them sound more realistic than the bland whistle and chuffing noises of the pre-war era. In 1983, Lionel made a 783 Hudson to replace the 1964-1966 hudson, and it’s predecessor, the 1950s 773 Hudson . In 1990, Lionel got rid of MPC sounds and replaced it with TMCC RailSounds.

Lionel RailSounds and TMCC [1990 – 2006][edit]

In 1990, Lionel put RailSounds chips and TMCC chips in their engines which made the engines more realistic. Many Hudsons from Lionel got the best hype and attention from this since the #490 C&O Hudson, #777 NYC Commodore Vanderbilt, and the #5340 NYC Hudson were the most famous of the Hudsons from that era. Also, returning from the post-war era, the Texas Special. Which got a RailSounds and TMCC treatment in the mid-1990s. During the late 1990s, Lionel articulated engines left the factory. Those being the N&W A Class, C&O Allegheny 1601, and the Union Pacific’s Big Boy.

Lionel Legacy [2006 – ?][edit]

In 2006, Lionel went beyond breathtaking technology and unveiled Legacy in 2006. First engine to have it was the Big Boy and it still is being used as of today.

Legacy Era [2001 – ?][edit]

After the Modern Era, Lionel started producing TMCCII RailSounds in 2001. In 2005, They started producing Legacy RailSounds and it is still used in production as the High-End line of Lionel products. The Low-End line only had basic RailSounds features.

Construction set[edit]

During this period Lionel produced a construction set, utilizing a unique component set. While competitive sets used nut and bolt fasteners, the Lionel set employed round-head aircraft rivets, retained with rubber grommets, eliminating the need for tools. The structural elements were hollow beams of square cross section made from folded and quite thin sheet aluminum, as a consequence subject to destruction if stepped upon. A more substantial folded aluminum base plate was used to form the foundation of most constructions and additional circular plates could be used to construct larger wheels or pivots. Pulleys, gussets, and splices were also included. The deluxe kits included an electric AC motor with a worm drive and reduction gearset that was powered from household power. While innovative, the lack of general purpose beam members with lots of holes limited the adaptability of the set to complex constructions. Finished assemblies also lacked the robust durability of its principal competition at the time, the Erector Set.[7]

Outsells American Flyer[edit]

During the 1950s, Lionel outsold its closest competitor, American Flyer, nearly 2:1, peaking in 1953. Some Lionel company histories say Lionel (more than just trains) was the largest toy company in the world, by the early 1950s. Had that been the case, it was a short-lived greatness: Lionel’s 1955 sales were some $23 million, while rival Marxtoys (more than just trains) sales were $50 million.[7]

The 1946–1956 decade was Lionel’s Golden Age. The Lionel 2333 diesel locomotive, an EMD F3 in the colorful Santa Fe “Warbonnet” paint scheme, introduced in 1948, became the Lionel company icon and the icon of the era, yet Lionel declined rapidly after 1956. Hobbyists preferred the smaller, but more realistic, HO scale trains and children’s interest shifted from toy trains to toy cars. The shift caught Lionel off guard, and, in 1957, they hastily introduced a line of HO-scale trains licensed from Rivarossiand a line of slot car racing sets. Neither product line was as popular as its O-gauge trains. Efforts to increase train set profitability and/or sales by cheaper manufacture (largely by replacing castings and folded sheet metal with unpainted injected—molded colored plastic) were largely unsuccessful; 1957 was Lionel’s last profitable post-war year.[9]

In 1959, Cowen and son sold their interest in the Lionel company and retired. The buyer was Cowen’s grand nephew Roy Cohn (businessman and attorney to Sen. Joseph McCarthy), who replaced most of Cowen’s management. The business direction of the Lionel company changed; it added subsidiary companies unrelated to toy train sets, among them, Dale Electronics, Sterling Electric Motors, and Telerad Manufacturing.[10] Lionel train enthusiasts consider 1959 the end of the “true Lionel train”. Cohn’s unsuccessful tenure of Lionel lost the company more than US$13 million in his four years of running the company.[7]


As part of this diversification, Lionel formed a relationship with the Porter Chemical Company, whose owner Harold M. Porter was a member of the Board of Directors of Lionel.[11] Lionel began making a variety of scientifically oriented, hands-on educational toys, designated “Lionel-Porter.” The product line, cataloged from 1961 to 1968, included Chemcraft chemistry sets, Microcraft microscope sets, Biocraft biology sets, and sets teaching about mineralogy, physics, geology, mathematics, and industrial science, along with a junior line of tool sets.[12]

Decline and bankruptcy[edit]

Lionel’s efforts to diversify failed to compensate for the public’s declining interest in its toy trains. By 1966, Lionel’s revenue was $28 million, 40 percent from government contracts.[2] Meanwhile, Lionel’s closest competitor also was fading: in January 1967, the parent company of rival American Flyer, the A. C. Gilbert Company, went bankrupt. Lionel bought the American Flyer brand name and product line in May of that year in a $150,000 deal; however, Lionel lacked the money to exploit them, and filed bankruptcy less than four months later, on August 7, 1967. In 1969, Lionel Corp. sales had declined to just over $1 million per year. Lionel Corp. sold the product die tooling for its struggling train line and the rights to the Lionel brand name to the cereal company General Mills. The Lionel brand name continues today, owned by Lionel, LLC, yet most Lionel train enthusiasts consider 1969 the end of the “true Lionel trains”, because the design and manufacture changed, sometimes for the worse, under Lionel’s new owners.[7]

Lionel Morsan[edit]

In the early 1970s Lionel bought Morsan Tents from founder Mort Jarashaw. It was a small chain of sporting goods stores based in New Jersey, which became Lionel Morsan.

Bankruptcy and buyout[edit]

After the sale of its train product lines, Lionel Corporation became a holding company that specialized in toy stores. By the early 1980s, Lionel operated some 150 stores,[13] under the names Toy City, Lionel Kiddie City, Lionel Play Town, Lionel Playworld, Lionel Toy Warehouse, and Lionel Toy Town. For a time it was the second-largest toy store chain in the United States. Lionel entered financial troubles during the early 1980s recession and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 1982. After reducing to 55 stores, it emerged from bankruptcy in September 1985.

By 1991, the chain had regrown to 100 stores and was the fourth-largest toy retailer in the country, but it once again ran into trouble[clarification needed] due to a combination of factors. In 1989, Robert I. Toussie L.P., a partnership of several retail executives, attempted to buy the company. Lionel resisted and the fight drained the company of cash. Meanwhile, non-specialty discount stores expanded their toy sections and undercut the prices of specialty toy chains.[14] Additionally, Lionel found it difficult to compete on price with the larger Toys R Us, and it attempted to expand too rapidly in a weakened economy.[15] After a string of unprofitable quarters, it filed for Chapter 11bankruptcy on June 14, 1991. In 1992, Lionel again tried to reverse its fortunes by merging with the bankrupt Child World, the United States’ #3 toy retailer, but was unable to secure financing.[16] By February 1993, Lionel had closed all but 29 stores in six states, concentrating on the markets of Philadelphia, central New Jersey, Baltimore,Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and south Florida.[17] Unable to reach an agreement for reorganization with its creditors, on June 2, 1993, Lionel announced its intention to liquidate all of its stores and go out of business.[18]

2010 in a Lionel store in New York

The Lionel trademarks were purchased by Richard Kughn, a Detroit real estate magnate who had bought the Lionel product line from General Mills in 1986. See Lionel, LLC.

On April 15, 2004, fire destroyed the former Lionel train factory located in Irvington, New Jersey. According to a report from the local fire department, it took 100 firefighters to extinguish the blaze. The building had been vacant for ten years, and was in a state of disrepair, according to Fire Chief Don Huber.

The old Lionel factory in Hillside, New Jersey, where Lionel Corporation manufactured trains from the early 1920s up to 1969 still stands. Photos of the Factory can be seen at the ihorse.com website.[19]

The former Lionel factory at 28 Sager place, Irvington, NJ; and the Hillside, NJ factory are the front and back doors of the same building. The building that housed the last Lionel office, located at 26750 23 Mile Road, Chesterfield, MI, is currently for sale. The former Lionel assembly factory was located at 50625 Richard W. Blvd., Chesterfield—a short drive from the office building.




Brownie Camera



In 1900, the Eastman Kodak Company introduced a low-priced, point-and-shoot, hand-held camera, called the Brownie. The Brownie camera, simple enough for even children to use, was designed, priced, and marketed to have wide appeal. It made photography accessible to the masses.

What Was the Brownie Camera?

The Brownie camera was a simple, black, rectangular box covered in imitation leather with nickeled fittings. To take a “snapshot,” all one had to do was hold the camera waist height, aim, and turn a switch. Kodak claimed in its advertisements that the Brownie camera was “so simple they can easily [be] operated by any school boy or girl” (excerpt from an ad in

Cosmopolitan Magazine , July 1900). Though simple enough for even children to use, a 44-page instruction booklet accompanied every Brownie camera.

Making Photography Affordable

The Brownie camera was very affordable, selling for only $1 each. Plus, for only 15 cents, a Brownie camera owner could buy a six-exposure film cartridge that could be loaded in daylight. Kodak promised to develop the film for the camera’s owner, rather than the owner having to invest in materials and a darkroom.

Marketed to Children

Kodak heavily marketed the Brownie camera to children. In ads, the camera was accompanied by the very popular Brownie characters, elf-like creatures created by Palmer Cox. Ads for the Brownie camera appeared in popular magazines, rather than just trade journals. Children under the age of sixteen were also urged to join the Brownie Camera Club, a free club in which they could earn prizes for good photos and receive a Photographic Art Brochure.

Lots and Lots of Brownies

No longer was taking photographs just for the professionals and only of grand events, the Brownie camera allowed the capturing of birthdays and other family events. In just the first year, the Eastman Kodak Company sold over a quarter of a million Brownies, forever changing the future of photography.

Brownie User

A girl taking a photograph with a Kodak box Brownie camera (circa 1935).


Princess telephone



The Princess telephone was introduced by the Bell System in 1959. It was a compact telephone designed for convenient use in the bedroom, and contained a light-up dial for use as a night-light. It was commonly advertised with the slogan “It’s little…It’s lovely…It lights”, which was suggested by Robert Karl Lethin, an AT&T employee.

The Princess was initially designed by the famed industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss, having designed previous Western Electric models with the Bell Labs engineers. Later redesigns involved Donald Genaro of the Dreyfuss design firm. Genaro redesigned the case so that it could be more easily picked up.

Contemporary advertising demonstrates that this telephone was marketed to women, hence its feminine model name. The model was available in a broad range of colors, including pink, red, yellow, moss green, black, white, beige, ivory, light blue, turquoise, and gray.

The telephone was produced at the Western Electric Indianapolis, and later Shreveport Works plants, also the production location of 500 and 2500 series telephones. The Trimline telephone is often confused with the Princess because the Trimline dial lights up, even though the dial on the Trimline is in the handset.

The Princess required an external electric transformer to power the lighted dial. The dial was mounted in the center on the base of the telephone. When Western Electric commenced production they did not yet have a ringer small enough to fit inside the case. The phone was introduced without containing a ringer, but an external ringer box could be added.

Early versions of the Princess, those not containing a ringer, had the model number 701B. Customers complained that the phone was so light that it would slide on surfaces while dialing, so an optional lead weight was added to fill the space intended for the ringer.

Later models included the M1A ringer. The rotary dial version with ringer was known as the 702B, while the modular cord variant was labeled 702BM. The model 711B had a slide switch or push-button and was a two-line phone with exclusion on the first line. The ten-button Touch Tone version was known as the 1702B, and when twelve-button keypad were introduced the phone was labeled as 2702B. The modular cord version of this was the 2702BM. Several other variants existed.[1]

The Princess underwent several changes in its production run:

  • In 1963, the Bell System introduced touchtone dialing, and Western Electric began production of a touch-tone model, with 10 numerical keys, lacking today’s * and # keys. The internal network of the Princess was reduced in size the same year, allowing a small, quiet bell ringer to be placed to the left of the touch-tone dial.
  • In the mid 1970s, AT&T introduced modular connectors for the line cord and handset cords, requiring the RJ11 standard home telephone jack. Most customers who had Princess telephones were converted to modular jacks.
  • In 1983, AT&T was preparing itself for divestiture of the Bell System. It started American Bell, a separate sales subsidiary of Western Electric and the Bell Operating Companies. AT&T introduced a non-light up dial with white keys to be sold in Phone Center Stores. These sets were marked CS on the bottom, for consumer sales. Post-divestiture colors added after 1984 included peach, dark gray, slate blue and cameo (light) green.

Signature Princess telephone
  • In 1993, the Princess was extensively redesigned. Although it retained the same handset & oval footprint which it had since its introduction, it now used a new dial. This dial still required an external transformer for night-light use. A handset volume control was added to the dial pad. The phone number card was moved from below the dialpad to the location of the cradle for the transmitter. This model was called theSignature Princess, and was freely available for lease; only available for purchase at AT&T Phone Centers, which closed in 1996.

In 1994, AT&T ended production of the Princess telephone. It continues to lease the Signature Princess model. Due to its removal from production, and its attractive design, the Princess has become a collectible phone. Princess telephones in pink, turquoise, and black are among the rarest colors of the phones and most valuable.

During the 1960s and 1970s toy telephone were usually modeled based on the Princess design.

Automatic Electric offered a lighted-rotary-dial model of similar proportions but with a rectangular, rather than elliptical, footprint, called theStarlite Phone, and later offered a non-lighted 12-key touch-tone model simply called the Desk Compact.