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The VIC-40 and the 6562/3 Video Chip

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Intending to use pictures or text from this page? Please read this notice. Last modify 1 July 2007.

Thanks to Dave Seiter for the original information on the 6562, and to Mike Stein for the VIC-40 "proof" in Cursor backissues.

.jpg Image of the 6562 Video Chip (7K, courtesy Dave Seiter)

Introduced Never officially. Originally announced as an upgrade to existing VIC-20s, and a prototype version was known to exist in November 1981 (reference Cursor).
Hardware Unknown. Likely VIC-20 with altered Kernal for the new screen editor. The prototype was reputed to have 16K RAM as well.
Graphics and Sound 6562/3; 40-column text with VIC-I palette and sound capabilities.
Eventual Fate Scrapped prototype.

Commodore, and in particular Jack Tramiel, was very happy with VIC-20 sales (not least because it was sweet, sweet revenge upon Texas Instruments for the entire calculator debacle), but the system's "toy" image stung badly. This may have been the reason behind this strange and short-lived chapter in the VIC-20's lifetime.

The enhanced graphics capabilities of the Colour PET were the progenitor of the "VIC1.5" 40-column 6562/3 video chip, confirmed by Al Charpentier in On the Edge; for the original history, see that entry. Developed in 1979 based on MOS data sheets kindly provided by Dave Seiter (who actually has a 6562 in possession), these "VIC1.5" chips are identical to the VIC-I 6560/1 chip except they're 40 column, not 22, and also have the same pinout. This means the 6562/3 chips will work as-is in a VIC-20 (although you need to adjust the Kernal, which still thinks the machine is 22-column), and Dave has built these units and demonstrated them. Dave remembers three of its registers; the chip maps to $9000, like its more primitive sibling, and enters its reset sequence by setting register 0 to $0d, register 1 to $1e and register 2 to $28.

The 6562/3 was exactly what Commodore wanted to pull its little goldmine to the next level, and in an easy drop-in replacement, no less. In November 1981, Commodore announced the VIC-40 prototype, which was a VIC-20 with the new video system. Dave's chip may well be from these early prototype production runs; the markings allege 7th week, 1981, which coincides well with the announced rollout date. For current VIC-20 owners, Commodore also announced upgrade kits, which according to Cursor it planned to release April 1982, and the final rollout of the VIC-40 as a total standalone system with the added bonus of 16K RAM sometime later that year. This is notable as On the Edge reports the VIC-40 as the code name for the Commodore 64 rather than the VIC-30, which is widely reported elsewhere, but the VIC-40 was also used as a code name for the P500 as well in at least one market (q.v.). It is unclear whether parallel C64 code names were used for marketing purposes, but either way, the 40-column VIC-20 disappeared after the emergence of the 64 in 1982 and was not resurrected.

Bagnall comments in Edge on a 6564/5 VIC chip as well, but it was plagued by development and management problems and eventually foundered.