2000 Commodore 8-bit Users Survey Results

sponsored by Computer Workshops, Inc.

This reporting is preliminary. We are currently awaiting results from non-Net-enabled Commodore users, which I will compare with this current group both separately and together. This will probably take several months, so I am posting these results now. Hernan Vergara and I are organising this. If you want to help get responses from non-Net-ready folks in your local users group, please mail me.

Well, folks, it's finally here: the Y2K Commodore 8-bit Users Survey. It's been 23 years since Commodore's original PET first graced the halls of technology, and there's still plenty of Commodore spirit out there! Almost three hundred people participated this year and submitted information, and we're expecting at least that many more from the by-mail campaign. Thanks for your participation and support! This survey represents a significant achievement, hopefully in accuracy :-), over the 1997 survey, which you can still refer to and bask in its amateurish glory.

First, let's get to the fine print, before we start on the survey results:

I thought it was kind of obvious that to be a current user, you had to at least own a Commodore 8-bit. Unfortunately, this was not so obvious as it might seem and three surveys were from people who did not currently own one. I appreciate your taking the time to fill out the survey (you know who you are) but I cannot use your information for the purposes of this analysis. Another survey was dropped for non-compliance (some information was conflicting and I could not get a response from the respondent because the E-mail address they had supplied was not valid). Some values were also manually tweaked based on information you specified in your comments that you added into the plain-text fields in the survey.

Statistics Notes
Those of you who don't know an arithmetic mean from a confidence interval can skip this section safely. :-)

Ranges, when reported, are 95% confidence intervals except where noted. n=275. Survey results were calculated with the proprietary ksurvey system and the raw stat digest, including mean, CI, mode and set percentage, is available upon request (standard error and standard deviation can also be derived from the raw digest).

And now, without further ado, the survey.

The Big Picture
Here's what the survey says, in a nutshell.

The average Commodore 8-bit user of today is male, aged 28-31, lives in either North America or Europe, and got his first Commodore 13 to 14 years ago. He owns four to seven Commodore 8-bit computers of varying kinds, and anywhere up to six other computers besides. He owns between five and eight disk drives, and probably has a couple of Datasettes too, and about four to six joysticks. He primarily uses BASIC as his OS, and uses a PC or other kind of "more modern" computer to access the Internet. He probably also uses an emulator of some sort. His Commodore is not his primary computer, but when he's using it it's most likely for games or, less often, programming and actual work. :-)

Commodore users are also a very loquacious bunch.

Let's get down to brass tacks.

The numbers were overwhelmingly from men: 96.7% of respondents were male, and of the 98.1% who answered, probably around 30 years of age. The most common age was 25. Yes, there are some younger women who are still using Commodores. No, I won't give out their phone numbers.

Worldwide, the biggest concentration of Commodore users appears to be North America (49.4%) but Europe is very close (42.5%). In distant third place is Australasia (this includes New Zealand and Australia) at 5.8%, South America at 1.8%, and a very lonely one respondent from Africa. No one responded from Asia, although I do know of someone in Japan personally.

Of the 99.6% responding, most of you got your first Commodore between 13 and 14 years ago. This would, of course, be right smack dab around the height of the 64's popularity. The most common figure was 15 years ago (17.8%). There is definitely new blood, however: someone got their first one just last year. Someone else said twenty-seven years ago, which definitely seems suspect since the PET came out in 1977 (i.e. 23 years ago), but maybe they were talking about the calculators or got the date wrong on a KIM-1.

100% of those surveyed own a Commodore 8-bit (duh). You probably own between four and seven of them. Someone out there has eighty-nine (and they all work?!), but interestingly the most common number is just one (16.7%). Of those owning a Commodore 8-bit, the percentage of you possessing each type of computer is as follows:

44% of you own another Commodore computer besides (and most of them have around one to three of them). Of that 44% of you who own one: Peripherals
Peripherals are listed in descending order of commonality (i.e., most commonly owned ones, first).

95.6% of you own a disk drive. (Egad, I feel sorry for the other 4.4%.) Most of you have around five to eight of them, but someone out there claims to have sixty-three. Of that 95.6%, the percentage of them possessing each type of disk drive is as follows:

94.5% of you own joysticks, usually five or six (and some person with lots of closet space has sixty-one). Interestingly, 23.8% of you just own one, so I guess they don't have many friends to play two-player games with, do they? I didn't ask about particular brands.

79.2% of you own a Datasette or some clone, usually just two (but the high score is twenty-one). Of that 79.2%, the percentage of them possessing each kind of Datasette/clone is:

54.9% of you own a Commodore monitor (I didn't ask about others). Most people have two or three (high 19). Within that 54.9%: 54.1% of you own a Commodore-compatible printer (we'll talk interfaces shortly), usually two or three (high 23). Within that 54.1%: (For those of you writing printer drivers, it looks like the 1525 compatibles are still the ones to support. :-)

53.8% of you own a modem. Someone has 42, but most of you own around three. Within that 53.8%:

51.6% of you own a mouse, and usually just one (high of 19). Within this 51.6%: As far as printer interfaces go, 41% of you own one (and I assume with a printer to match), usually one to three (high 22). Within that 41%: 40.3% of you own an REU or some kind of RAM expansion, usually two (high 11). Of that 40.3%: 18.1% of you own hard drives. Naturally, virtually everyone has just one. Within that 18.1%: Some less common peripherals, in no particular order: People also reported trackballs, scanners and light guns.

CPU Accelerators
I gave this its own section since many people are probably curious to see how the SuperCPU has impacted the Commodore community, but there are other important accelerators to be aware of.

Only 15.6% of you have CPU accelerators of any kind, including SCPUs, Flash8s, and Turbo Masters. However, the bulk of these are SCPUs, at a startling 90.6% (Flash8, 11.6%; TurboMaster, 6.9%; other, 4.6%). Given the rapid rise of the 16-bit capable Commodore community in the last few years, SCPU-only commercial software may become viable after all. Interestingly, most people have only one accelerator, except for someone with six Flash8's. I forgot the TurboProcess here, which is apparently the Flash8 predecessor.

Enhancements, Fastloaders and OSes
76.3% of you own a fastload device or upgrade of some sort. Of that 76.3%:

I probably should have gotten composite counts instead for the Final Cartridge, Super Snapshot and Action Replay versions, since the older versions are still surprisingly popular.

Operating systems Commodores run (besides BASIC, of course):

Despite GEOS' wide availability, people overwhelmingly prefer good ol' BASIC as their primary OS (76%). Only 15.6% prefer GEOS (8% Wheels, 7.6% other GEOS). CP/M and alternative OSes were each preferred by 2.9%.

Other Computers
92% of you own one of the other computers I asked about. Most of you own three to six of them. Of that 92%:

It would have been useful to find out how many people own other 6502-based systems, just to see if there's any correlation. In that case, I should also have asked about the BBC systems. And probably the wonderful Archimedes, yet another computer I must adore from afar, even though it's not a 6502 architecture.

Commodore users access the Internet in all sorts of ways. Most of them gravitate around PPP or, occasionally, SLIP (66.1%), but quite a few still use shell (20.3%). Unfortunately, only 19.6% of you can access the Net from an actual Commodore. Of that 19.6%:

Of the 86.1% of you that can also do it from a non-Commodore access point, here's the breakdown: I should have also asked about WebTV and other "network computer"-like devices. Getting a composite figure for "hardline" access to the Net, like ISDN, T1, DSL, cable modem, etc., might also have been useful.

26.9% of you don't emulate. You use the real thing. Congratulations!

Of the 66.1% of you left, emulation can be broken down into platforms preferred and emulators used. Under platforms:

Under emulators: Emulators I forgot include VC20, Power20, PCVIC, Pfau Zeh, ComeBack 64 (which is becoming increasingly widespread), and Win64. C64Alive, ALE64 and Sally64 are so disused that I intentionally did not include them.

Commodore Living
This is sort of a catch-all category, where I find out what you still do with your 64, community support, etc.

29.4% of you subscribe to a current Commodore publication. Of that 29.4%,

What do you use your Commodore 8-bit for? You said: Is your Commodore 8-bit your primary system? 17.4% of you say yes. There were a lot of apologetic comments along the lines of, "well, I use my PC more, but the 64 is still my favourite!"

Would you buy new Commodore 8-bit software? 70.1% of you, surprisingly, said yes. However, the real shock is that even more of you (77.4%) would buy new Commodore 8-bit hardware. The Commodore software/hardware market is not dead yet! Hope you programmers and designers are listening!

That's the survey. Now for the ruminations.

Conclusions and Trends Analysis
The last survey conducted, in 1997, had only sixty-five respondents and was not conducted in any manner even remotely resembling statistical relevance. (Hah, as if this one were.) The range of questions and investigations was also much smaller in scope. Nevertheless, we can still draw some conclusions about how the Commodore user landscape has changed and stayed the same. For the next survey, I plan to: Finally, your comments count. Please check out what everyone wrote me and read comments from your fellow users.

That's a wrap for the 2000 survey. Tune in, as the next survey should be out in a few months. Keep the Commodore computers alive into the 21st century!

Cameron Kaiser #20710