16 April 2011

[tech] The Return of the Commodore 64 - And More?

2604.Everything old really is new, again.

Meet the Commodore 64 again, for the first time:

Commo 64

With a new Intel Atom D525 processor and the ability to read DVDs and various smart cards/SD cards/Memory sticks built in, PC compatibility and modern graphics, this is not the C=64 you programmed on back when all your friends had Apple ][s.

It can support up to 4GB of memory. C=64 is a brand, after all. Good luck shoving that Photoshop into 64 KB …

While the case looks largely the same there's supposed to be improved key action, and the F keys on the right there have media control functions (FF, REW, PLAY, PAUSE, Volume up and down, et. al.) and a key I'd never thought I'd see on a C=64: Internet.

This isn't your old Commie. This isn't even your dad's.

A group has licensed the old Commodore name and seems to be quite serious about reviving the brand, and that includes the Amiga, as well as a line of VIC models that have about as much to do with the old VIC20 as a jackhammer has to do with a can opener. The site, http://commodoreusa.net, is a pretty place to look. They have amazing current ambitions and very lofty near-term goals. Not only will the new C=64 be "PC Compatible" (and that term is beginning to look dated but just works so wonderfully well here) but will also apparently have a legacy C=64 compatibility mode and they're going to be coming out with a "Commodore OS" which is Linux based (and there's nothing not to like about that).

But the problem in concepting the new C=64 wasn't so much finding components that would fit inside the classic form factor. No, indeed. The problem really was in coming up with the classic case color … seems Pantone doesn't have a "Commodore gray".

I don't know how much of a niche is available for the new Commodore USA - marketing tastes are famously fickle. This may fizzle - or it may take the country by storm. There is a significant market for retro hardware, or at least that's my impression. But that this company cares as much about exterior design as interior design (and went to the expense and bother) is a very Apple-esque attitude, and it bodes well. It may not dominate the industry but if they price it right, they'll sell enough to be a solid, sustainable, minor player, and I don't think that's bad at all.

Now if y'alls 'll excuse me, I got to jet: there's an Everything But the Girl concert down at the Paramount and if I don't leave know I'll miss the opening act …

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