Commodore 64 Returns from the Dead, Sort Of
Back in 1982, a little computer revolutionized the industry. Unlike its predecessors and its competition, the Commodore 64 had only one configuration for all the machines. While this may seem limiting, it also meant that if it worked on one, it worked on all of them (with a few minor exceptions). This gave developers a much easier time developing for it, without having to worry about requirements. Once you bought the c64, you were sure that it would run whatever game was out for it, kind of like buying a PS3 and knowing that all PS3 games will run on it. You didn’t have to worry about memory levels, whether it had 8 or 16K (yes, that’s kilobytes). They all sported a whopping 64K. The small computer could do word processing, games, spreadsheets, and it did them pretty well.
But the C64 gave way to the Amiga and after awhile they stopped making them. Now Commodore hopes to return to its previous glory by reintroducing a modern version of the Commodore 64, but can that same theory work again?
The new Commodore 64 looks a lot like the old one as far as style. It has a tan rounded case that is a bit bigger than the original, a dark brown keyboard (which has been redesigned) and what was the red power light, is now a light and the power button. Also new on the outside on all units is 4 USB port, and an HDMI port for hooking the computer to a monitor or HDTV, 6 channel audio jacks, a DVI connector, a VGA connector, an Ethernet plug, and finally a plug for a standard PS/2 keyboard/mouse. It also has a slot for a DVD recorder/Blu-Ray which is included in some units. So it’s not exactly the same as computer historians will remember. But that’s the outside.
What is included inside depends on the configuration and the price. The basic includes a dual core 1.8GHz Atom 525 processor, 2 Gig of 667/800 DDR2 RAM, an nVidia Ion2 graphics chipset (with DDR3 512 Meg), mini-ITX motherboard and power supply, a multi-format card reader and 160 gig drive for $595, the original price of the classic Commodore 64. The standard ($695), deluxe ($795), and ultimate ($895) versions add in a DVD R/W drive (tray or slot or Blu-Ray drive (Not R/W) respectively), the same or more RAM (2 Gig, 4Gig, and 4Gig) and a 250Gb hard drive or 500Gb or 1Tb depending on the model. These three higher models also include a built in wi-fi 802.11b/g/n access point.
There is no particular operating system for the 64 available yet, so they are distributing Ubuntu Linux in the mean time. Later on, they will release Commodore OS 1.0 which will be a proprietary system that will include a C64 emulator for those who may still have games around. The machine is also capable of running Windows 7, but no version comes with it installed.
Commodore hopes to once again make this the little engine that could, but with so many configurations and unfamiliar OS choices, we doubt it will spread beyond those nostalgic for the old days, even though their first run has already sold out a couple of days after the announcement. The question will be whether it can reach the mainstream computer market or remain a novelty from a past age.
Look for the Commodore 64’s to start shipping in May or June.