80x25 text mode for the Commodore 64 BASIC/KERNAL environment
Assembly Makefile Python
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80columns is a tool that provides a 80x25 text mode on the Commodore 64 in the KERNAL/BASIC environment. It supports all PETSCII control codes (including color) and is optimized for speed.

The code is based on 80COLUMNS.PRG by an unknown author. It has been reverse-engineered into structured, maintainable code and optimized for speed and size.


Building requires a UNIX environment and cc65 and exomizer. Running make toolchain will download and build cc65 and exomizer, assuming that you have a basic C development environment available. (If your system has packages of cc65 or exomizer, it is probably better to use those, e.g., with brew install cc65 exomizer on MacOS) Running make will produce 80columns-compressed.prg, which is about 2.2 KB in size and can be started using LOAD/RUN. If the c1541 program is available, it will also create a disk image 80columns.d64 containing the main program and the alternative fonts.


  • The meaning of the KERNAL's COLOR variable ($0286/646) is extended: The low nibble encodes the foreground color, and the high nibble encodes the background color.
  • Changing the VIC-II background color by writing to $D021 gets detected. The background color gets applied to the screen, and put into the upper nibble of COLOR.

Character Sets

The source contains four character sets (charset.s, charset2.s etc.) from different 80 column software solutions, which can be selected by changing the reference to the filename in the Makefile.

You can also LOAD/RUN a new exomizer-compressed character set into memory, though this destroys the currently-loaded BASIC program.

charset.s: 80COLUMNS

charset2.s: COLOR 80 by Richvale Telecommunications

charset3.s: Highspeed80 by CKtwo

charset4.s: SCREEN-80 by Compute’s Gazette

Memory Layout

The object code resides at $c800-$cfff. The two character sets are located at $d000-$d7ff. The virtual 80x25 Screen RAM (in order to read back screen contents) is at $c000-$c7ff. The bitmap is at $e000-$ff40, and the color matrix for bitmap mode is at $d800-$dbe8. All this lies beyond the top of BASIC RAM, so BASIC continues to have 38911 bytes free.


  • Support LOCK and UNLOCK codes. (On the C64, these are 8 and 9, on the C128 they are 11 and 12...)
  • Support C128 codes: BELL (7), TAB (9) etc.
  • Support C128 ESC codes
  • Support a 80x33 mode as a compile time option.
  • Add new character sets:
    • existing 4x8 fonts from other projects (including hinted TrueType fonts!)
    • new ones that combine the respective strengths of the existing ones


Original author unknown. Reverse-engineered and maintained by Michael Steil, mist64@mac.com.


Contributions to this project are very welcome.