Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Commodore 64 Back In Production?!?

Well, sort of.  This has slipped under my radar for a while -- and now that I know about it, it is either the coolest hardware I've seen lately, or the most insane business plan ever conceived.  Probably both.  I learned about it via my wife, who opened up a copy of Disney's TRON: Legacy DVD and found a very well-targeted paid advertisement in the enclosed brochure, for Commodore USA.

See, this new company called Commodore USA has the rights to produce Commodore computers, including the Commodore 64, the VIC-20 and the Amiga.  Isn't that cool?

Yes, it's 2011.  But they're not completely loony -- they're actually putting a PC compatible in a C-64 shell, with emulation of the original machine built in.  They're supplying a new Commodore OS, eventually; initial shipments will arrive with the Ubunto 10.04 LTS operating system onboard.

I wish the hardware was closer to real -- the company isn't taking advantage of the amazing work done by Jeri Ellsworth to fit a C-64 on a chip, and many people would love to see a new run of SID sound chips in production, rather than relying on emulation (though with modern manufacturing techniques the varied and unique sounds characteristic of the original design might be lost anyway.)  And of course, there's no Commodore 1541 disk drive in production, and no cartridge slot, so getting vintage games into the machine will shatter any illusions of authenticity quickly.

The company's only in the preorder stage, so much remains to be proven.  But if I were in the market for a desktop PC, I'd definitely be taking a look at the new Commodore 64.  It's just cool that somebody is doing this, and if it crashes and burns, it will still have been a noble effort.  They also plan to release Amiga-compatibles, though those are even less "coming soon" than the C-64 and VIC-inspired machines they're soliciting pre-orders for.

Visit www.commodoreusa.net for the details.


  1. I would definitely consider getting one if they came with disk drives and cartridge slots.

  2. I have a bad feeling that a lot of people that buy it are going to be disappointed... I've been using Linux (which Ubuntu is one 'brand' of) as my OS for 3 years, and our Commodore/Amiga emulators aren't something I'd aim a beginner at. :-/

  3. I think you've hit on the big catches here -- the stuff that would REALLY make it feel like an authentic Commodore 64 just isn't going to be there, and even a well-integrated emulator isn't going to feel the same as the real thing. And the reliance on Ubuntu, to be replaced by the "coming soon" and unproven Commodore OS, is likely to make Windows look relatively friendly and bug-free from the average user's perspective. No real information on the price-point yet, either -- I'd rather see good, solid, cheap C-64 and Amiga clones than these hybrid machines, but revived originals would probably not really have a market in 2011. These allow some nostalgic appeal while still being functional modern PCs; it's a compromise but I'll be interested to see how the effort plays out.