Apple rejects Commodore 64 emulator app

Apple rejected a fully licensed emulator of the venerable Commodore 64 (C64) based on the SDK rules that specifically prohibit interpreted or executable code.

David Martin
David Martin has more than 20 years of experience in the industry as a programmer, systems and business analyst, author, and consultant.
David Martin
3 min read

Apple rejected a fully licensed emulator of the venerable Commodore 64 (C64) based on the SDK rules that specifically prohibit interpreted or executable code. Manomio's application, also called C64 (c64iphone.com), allowed users to play classic C64 games, run applications and use Commodore BASIC.

"The rejection letter simply stated a violation of section 3.2.2 of the iPhone Developer's Agreement," said Manomio. According to developers we know, section 3.2.2 reads as follows. "An Application may not itself install or launch other executable code by any means, including without limitation through the use of a plug-in architecture, calling other frameworks, other APIs or otherwise. No interpreted code may be downloaded and used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple's Published APIs and built-in interpreter(s)."

The rejection is odd considering that there are some apps in the iTunes App Store that emulate programmable calculators. Also, one app called Frotz (iTunes link) is a Z-machine interpreter.

The rejection makes even less sense when you consider that two games, Gold Axe (iTunes link) and Sonic (iTunes link), are apps that emulate old game console ROMs, which is exactly what the emulator is doing for old C64 games.


Manomio has to do the following before Apple will accept the C64 emulator .

  • Remove access to BASIC--instead of booting up, the emulator just shows a blank screen and is not interactive until you run a game. Prior to this, you could actually interact with the BASIC interpreter.
  • Remove the RESET button from the virtual keyboard
  • Renamed the "C64 Shop" to "More Games"

Yet, Manomio disputes the last point. "It was never officially confirmed from Apple this[C64 Shop] was an issue, but many comments thought this was our own store for selling games," the developer told us. "It now clearly shows that it will link to additional C64 titles in the App Store."

It appears as if Apple is concerned that Manomio was trying to circumvent iTunes App Store sales, something that Apple usually doesn't take to kindly to. Granted, we think that it was a poor choice for Manomio to use the word Shop in the app, particularly if you consider all the other crazy reasons for app rejections. We'll never know for sure, but that word alone may sum up the reason for Apple's rejection. Indeed, we think that it's a good theory considering the aforementioned apps that already support interpreted or executable code.

Hopefully, Apple will accept the C64 app with the above changes so we can enjoy some of our favorite C64 games again. We'd also like to see the return of Commodore BASIC at some point so we can try out some of our favorite POKE and PEEK commands.

A YouTube video demonstrating the C64 emulator is shown below:

Personally, I'd like to see some if my old BASIC and machine language C64 programs will run under the emulator on my iPhone. The C64 was the first computer that I ever wrote about (for Compute! magazine) and I developed C64 games and applications. The computer even turned a hobby into a career spanning decades which is partially chronicled in my Switcher's Manifesto.

Commodore International released the Commodore 64 (WikiPedia) in 1982. Originally priced at $595, sales eventually totaled 30 million units, making it the best-selling single personal computer model of all time. The 8-bit home computer featured advanced video and audio hardware as well as a whopping 64K of RAM and a zippy (for its time) 1.02 Mhz CPU.

Are you are former Commodore 64 user who is interested in reliving the past by coding in Commodore BASIC, spending long hours typing a program in from your favorite magazine or running a favorite retro game? Let us know in the comments.

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