Chair Force Engineer

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Blast From the Past

As a child of the 80's, I have fond memories of an older generation of computers. It started with my first Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989. I learned the basics of BASIC programming on a second-hand Commodore 64. Old computers and retro games utterly fascinate me. So I reacted with utter joy when I saw that Commodore computers are back on the market. Well, sort of.

The original Commodore Business Machines was liquidated in 1994, owing to the company's inability to properly market their innovative Amiga line of computers. While the Amiga brand name and intellectual property have changed hands numerous times since then, Commodore's trademark apparently belongs now to Commodore USA. (This should make for an interesting courtroom battle with the current owners of the Amiga brand, Hyperion Entertainment.)

Commodore USA has contracted with CyberNet to produce PC's that are completely contained within the keyboard. The flagship model is their new Commodore 64, in a case designed to match those distinctive beige cases and black keys of so long ago. Commodore offers other all-in-one PC's based on existing Cybernet computers are available now; the Commodore 64 has already sold out.

The chips inside the keyboards have no lineage to the Commodores of yore (while a small but dedicated group tries to keep the Amiga platform alive on Power PC hardware.) While these new Commodores have PC hardware inside, they can run the classic Commodore software using emulators once Commodore USA finishes its "Commodore OS." If I were a betting man, I'd say that "Commodore OS" was based on the open-source port of the Amiga OS to the Intel architecture.

I'm very interested in buying a new Commodore, but the $595 price tag for the Commodore 64 without monitor seems a bit steep. After all, it only has an Atom CPU (although the NVidia ION graphics chipset puts it head-and-shoulders over netbooks with otherwise similar specs.) The "classic" Commodore keyboard design wasn't that great to begin with, and it led to terrible wrist strain during periods of extended typing. But if Commodore USA brings back the more ergonomic Commodore 64C or Commodore 128 I'd probably place a pre-order the instant they were available.