But It’s Not a Commodore 64 April 11, 2011Posted by Peter Varhol in Architectures, Software platforms.
As a young adult, I was intrigued by computers, but didn’t have that focus to actually learn more about them. A part of the problem was that computers were largely inaccessible to individuals at the time, and I lacked the ability to purchase one early in life.
So I largely missed out on the Commodore 64 revolution. Sure, I had friends with them, but we mostly played games; I first encountered Zork on a Commodore 64. I used timesharing systems in undergraduate and graduate school, but my first computer was an original 128KB Apple Mac (which I still have, and which still boots). Commodore remained in business until the 1990s with the popular though niche Amiga, eventually folding for good.
Now it seems that the Commodore 64 is rising from the dead. It looks like a Commodore 64, with only a keyboard in a small form-fitting console. The original Commodore 64 had an eight-bit processor, 64 kilobits of memory, and required external units for display and storage.
This unit, manufactured by a licensee of the name called Commodore USA, is basically providing a low-end Intel machine in the Commodore 64 form factor. It includes an Intel Atom processor, Nvidia graphics, an HDMI port, and optional Wi-Fi and Blu-ray drive. A new and potentially interesting distro of Linux is promised, but not yet available, so the company may initially ship Ubuntu Linux. Alternatively, once you get one, you can load Windows on it, but it doesn’t come with a Windows license.
The announced price is $595, the same as the original Commodore 64. The linked article above describes how the most difficult part of the process was replicating the exact color of the case, and the enormous cost in doing so.
It’s potentially an interesting concept if it had a functional niche. As it is, it’s a PC; Linux, it’s true, but a PC nonetheless. The niche seems to be simply nostalgia for my generation, to remind us that we were young once, when the world was simple and we played computer games. Commodore USA thinks they can sell a lot of them, simply with the name and an exact replica of the system case.
I’m not nostalgic. I know there are people who will buy into this, but it simply doesn’t make any sense to me. A computer is a tool, not an icon (well, you know what I mean). It doesn’t get style points (unless it’s from Apple). I imagine that some will be sold, but the attraction will wear off as the technology ages still further. Um, just like its buyers.