Living Fossil: New Commodore 64 Trades On Nostalgia

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News Posted: Thu, Apr 7 2011 1:47 PM
It's been nearly 17 years since the Commodore 64 was officially discontinued, but the iconic system is being prepared for a relaunch. The Commodore brand was acquired last September by Barry Altman, with the specific intent of providing a system that no longer exists. "Thirty years ago computers were an all-in-one product, with the keyboard, memory and components built inside," Mr. Altman explained. “Over the years that has changed, and we believe there is a huge potential to revive the early format."

Since a depressingly large number of you weren't old enough to play with a C64 when it was one of the hottest products anyone could buy. Commodore's decision to include top-notch graphics and sound  capabilities set the C64 apart from IBM's PC or even Apple's products. It remains the most popular computer ever sold; a total of 12.5 - 17 million units were shipped.

The updated C64x is based on Intel's Atom D525 and Nvidia's Ion 2 graphics. That might prove a bit sluggish for anyone with mainstream computing needs, but it's certainly more than enough to effectively emulate the C64's OS. There's no information on how much RAM ships with the system by default but the chipset supports up to 4GB of RAM. Altman claims that the project has developed a substantial following. "There are a lot of really young computer users who want to own a retro-looking computer," he said. "And of course there are those 30- to 40-year-olds who owned the original Commodore 64 and want the nostalgia of their first machine."

The new keyboard layout and the classic chassis. Hopefully it'll be a little lighter this time around

The new C64x differs from the original in one important way—its keyboard. The new layout tries to keep faith with the classic design while simultaneously offering a modern, multimedia-friendly layout. The results are mixed. The left-hand side of the keyboard is more-or-less identical to modern designs, but the right hand ends up stumbling through unfamiliar territory. Anyone who wants to use the new C64x will have to learn how to type on it.

Will It Blend Sell?

If there's a weak link in Altman's plan, it's his target market. Nostalgia, while powerful, is a notoriously fickle mistress. Commodore 64 emulation programs, meanwhile, have existed for years. The real question here is whether or not people will opt to purchase a new machine purely for the look/feel of the original. It's far from certain that they will.

The 64x is purportedly ready for preorder with a target ship date of May - June of this year. We say puportedly because the website is currently down (Google cache links here). Furthermore, there are no actual photos of the system. All of the images available are 3D renders.  Prices range from $250 (C64x barebones) to a ludicrous $895 (C64x Ultimate). Given the sparse list of options, Altman's gross margin on the high-end systems would make Apple blush.

Veteran computer owners--would you buy one or not?
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AKwyn replied on Thu, Apr 7 2011 1:59 PM

Well it'll certainly sell out with Commodore fans and fans of retro looking computers but I may or may not buy one. Don't get me wrong, it looks nice but I'm more of a gaming user then a mainstream user.

Still, I appreciate Commodore's effort to create a retro looking PC. I mean thousands of people have created Apple II PC's but we barely see corporations going back in time to create a modern PC in a retro looking case, which is what Commodore has done.

Still, good luck to Commodore!


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I was too young, praise the lord. "There are a lot of really young computer users who want to own a retro-looking computer," - What??? Most of the people my age want something like the maingear shift they are giving away! Good luck to them but I don't expect to purchase one for myself.

Now you're just mashing it!

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DBrown1 replied on Thu, Apr 7 2011 2:21 PM

I remember my old Commodore computers with a sort of first-love fondness. I had a Vic-20 first, and then a Commodore 128. I still have the old brochure with William Shatner's picture on it. Nevertheless, I don't see myself buying a retro-look computer.

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I also do not see myself purchasing one of these machines and my first machine was a Commodore 64. Good luck to Barry Altman in this adventure.

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Barry Altman will surely hit a target market however it may be smaller then he intends. I doubt its success with the posted prices.


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KAdair replied on Thu, Apr 7 2011 3:13 PM

I don't see myself buying this just because I am younger and want a real rig... LOL

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3vi1 replied on Thu, Apr 7 2011 3:21 PM

It'll flop.

My first computer was a C=64 that I mowed yards all summer to get. I joined in as one of the first members of a local users group, and got years of fun out of that thing. I even have an original C=128 and Amiga 1000 in my closet, and the Amiga Kernel/ROM developers manuals staring at me on my bookshelf. The Commodore 64 will forever be the system I had the most fun using, because I was learning so much back then. I *am* their target audience.

But even I have no interest in buying one of these.

It's just not a C=64. It's a PC, with a knock-off keyboard that's not even an exact reproduction.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?


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3vi1 replied on Thu, Apr 7 2011 3:30 PM

tl;dr: People nostalgic for the C=64 want a real one or will settle for an emulator.

This thing is a zombie eating at the memory of the original. It should go over well with owners of the new VW Beetle.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?


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rapid1 replied on Thu, Apr 7 2011 6:32 PM

Yes this was my first PC to (us kids had a C=64, and mom had an Apple IIE for her work (Board of Education) upstairs with those monster floppies rofl. I would not buy one we have moved on as well as ahead in computing. It is an interesting memory but that it.

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OSunday replied on Thu, Apr 7 2011 9:10 PM

I never used these when I was younger and im not even sure I was around when they were the computer of their day but the Commodore 64 hits my nostalgia button with the familiar gray color scheme that reminds me of my childhood computers:)

Not to mention I love taking new technology and putting a retro spin on it!

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HHGrrl replied on Thu, Apr 7 2011 11:29 PM

Not sure I'd actually buy one of these, but it's fun to think about how far we've come and look back on my first computer. Fond memories :-)

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Joel H replied on Fri, Apr 8 2011 12:02 PM

I loved the C64 but learned the hard way that the original floppy drive was prone to overheating. Playing the Lord of the Rings game on that system would make the drive overheat until it stopped functioning.True to form, I didn't stop playing--I just shut the drive off in between battles. ;)

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realneil replied on Sat, Apr 9 2011 11:30 AM

No thanks, I'd rather look forward than fall back,.....and I like shiny new bling the best.

When the PT Cruiser came out with hoards of people lining up to pay 10 thousand dollars over the car's sticker price just to get one, I was belly laughing at them. It is just a Dodge Neon after all. When many dodge dealers went Bankrupt after that, I thought that they deserved it for gouging people for those PT Cruisers the way that they did.

This is just an electronic PT Cruiser.

Dogs are great judges of character, and if your dog doesn't like somebody being around, you shouldn't trust them.

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jonation replied on Mon, Apr 11 2011 11:18 AM

It would probably sell better if they just made a solid mechanical keyboard with the chassis, not an actual whole computer. You'd be able to mix your old school with your gaming rig.

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