IT BLOCKBUSTER: Commodore 64 awakes from slumber with makeover

The Commodore 64 is being primed for a comeback

The vintage Commodore 64 personal computer is getting a makeover, with a new design and some of the latest computing technologies, as the brand gets primed for a comeback.

The Commodore 64 was a home computer running on an 8-bit processor released by Commodore International in 1982. The computer was one of the most popular models of all time, selling close to 17 million units between 1982 and 1994, according to the Computer History Museum.

The revamped computer will be available through the Commodore USA online store, which is set to open June 1, according to the company's Web site. The computer will be an all-in-one keyboard, with Intel's 64-bit quad-core microprocessors and 3D graphics capabilities, according to the site.

To conform with the times, the PC also offers up to 500GB of hard drive storage and 4GB of RAM. Also included are a DVD-RW drive, a touchpad, four USB ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a DVI (Digital Visual Interface) port to connect monitors. No price information was given on the Web site.

Commodore USA is a new company that has licensed the Commodore name from Commodore Gaming, which makes games for PCs and consoles. The PC company is trying to invoke the glory of the Commodore 64's past to promote the new PC. On its Web site, the company shows an image of the old Commodore 64 with the caption "you loved us then," and then an image of the new PC, with the caption "you'll love us again."

The device is small, measuring 17.5 inches (0.44 meters) wide and 2 inches (0.05 meters) tall, Commodore said. "It's designed to take up far less room -- and use far less energy -- than any other desktop computer," Commodore USA said. The PC will run the Linux, Windows and Mac OS X operating systems.

But will it find buyers? The glorious past of Commodore PCs might not be repeated for its successor, said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

"It's a weird legacy thing with modern inerts," Kay said. Commodore PCs had a heavy following in the 1980s among hobbyists, but the glory days may not translate to better sales with price-conscious customers today, Kay said.

Commodore started selling Commodore 64 in 1982 for US$599 and managed to reduce the price to $199 over time, a revolutionary price then, said Jack Tramiel, former chairman of Commodore International, during a panel discussion in late 2007.

During the same panel, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said he and Steve Jobs approached Commodore with the latest Apple II prototype, which was much more advanced in color, graphics, sound and games. Apple didn't have the money to make and sell the latest Apple II prototype, and was hoping Commodore would push the design to market. Commodore, however, preferred to develop the Commodore 64, which it was then envisioning as a simpler, lower-cost, black-and-white-only machine. Commodore ended up releasing the original Commodore 64 with support for 16 colors in 1982. Apple, which started selling the Apple II in 1979, later released the Apple IIe model in 1983 at a higher price than the Commodore 64.

Commodore wanted to serve the "masses," not the "classes," Tramiel said during the discussion. Commodore kept updating the original Commodore 64 design and became the first to sell more than a million PCs, but the company filed for bankruptcy in 1994 and liquidated its assets. In the meanwhile, Apple managed to survive, and the Apple II became one of the most recognized computers in the 1980s.

Commodore computers were made for enthusiasts and came with fairly arcane software and hardware elements, Kay said. Kay bypassed a Commodore and bought an Apple II in the early 1980s, as it had software that made the computer easier to use.

"It wasn't so easy [to use a Commodore], the way Apple always understood the experience should be," Kay said. That made the Apple II computer better for new users entering the computer market.

FILL IN THE SURVEY - AND YOU COULD BE A WINNER: ARN wants to hear from YOU. Tell us how you run a successful business and you could win an adrenaline-fuelled adventure of your choice. COMPLETE THE ARN SURVEY.

Tags Commodore

More about AppleIntelLinux

ARN Directory | Distributors relevant to this article

77 Comments

C64fan

1

"Commodore, however, preferred to develop the Commodore 64 as a simpler, lower-cost, black-and-white-only machine."

That's news to me - I must have imagined all those years using colours on my C64.

"Apple co-founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs approached Commodore with an Apple II prototype, which was much more advanced in color, graphics, sound and games"

The Apple 2 was introduced in 1977, well before Commodore had even started on the Vic 20, let alone the C64. The Apple 2 at launch was far less capable than the C64 (and never caught up to its sound capabilities)

Simon

2

Get the facts straight.

The C64 was a 16 colour machine; the Apple II was a lovely shade of black and green...

undermine

3

marketing hype to buy a new 64bit pc.

Jack T

4

The Commodore was a 16-colour machine not black and white as the story says. And it was far superior technically to the Apple ][ especially with its advanced music SID chip.
Whether the Apple based on Pascal was easier to use than the C64 based on BASIC is a non sequitir. They were both CLI machines on boot. However WIMPs UIs such as GEOS were added later that made the machine much like a modern PC to use.
Most users didn't notice any difficulty because fast loaders and other tools were routinely deployed to ease their way. In many ways, the C64 was far easier to use than the easiest-to-use machines today.
The C64 also has a massive following in Eastern Europe and is the most widely distributed VM - there's even a version for the iPhone.

wizdude

5

@Jack T the apple based on Pascal?? It was also based on BASIC, the first release being Integer Basic (written by Woz) and later they licensed BASIC from Microsoft and put it into a system ROM.

Paul

6

I think the black and white machine referred to was the Commodore 16 which was released as a low cost little brother to the C64. It was a green screen, but looked the same as the C64 except black instead of beige, and had a massive 16k of memory, and only about 2 good games.

Rufus

7

"17.5 inches (0.44 meters)"

Have you ever heard of centimetres?

Who the hell would measure a computer in metres. We're in 2010, not 1960.

On a more article related note, I wish Commodore had pushed the envelope like they did all those years ago. Instead of just releasing a PC in a miniature form factor, they should IMPROVE computing like they did in the 1980's. Nobody who understood Amiga back then will buy a "Commodore" now, and I'm sure that the enthusiasts of today wouldn't think twice about walking past a Commodore today when they can get a non-branded equivalent for less price.

GregW

8

I think what the article's author means is that during the discussions with Apple, the future Commodore 64 spec was initially black and white, but by the time the C64 came out, they had changed it to color.

John

9

Um...You guys are obviously not familiar with the computers before the VIC 20. It was not the first. I remember using the Commodore PET computer way before the VIC 20 was out. Check your FAQ's before you slam someone.
http://oldcomputers.net/pet2001.html

Ron

10

"Get the facts straight."

Wouldn't you be embarassed if what became the C64 was originally designed to be B/W?

DrFoo

11

Get in the right era guys!

The BW Commodore they are talking about is the PET which came out in January 1977, a few months before the Apple II. Though it was a similar machine (also using a 6502 and somewhat based on the KIM-1), it sold for somewhere in the neighborhood of half what the Apple cost and it included a monitor. It was designed to be as cheap as possible and yet be a fully functional machine. It was, in fact, the very first real personal computer.

http://www.commodore.ca/products/pet/commodore_pet.htm

Mike

12

What a terrible article for a terrible idea, if it is even real. Agam, please do proper research before cutting and pasting inaccurate information and claiming it as your own. It is almost as embarrassing as developing this non-expandable, unmodifiable monster hoping to cash in on a label.

June K

13

Am I getting my retro machines confused...?

C64 fan, that's the info i have too... Maybe I need to d more research?
Or maybe the person who wrote this article is totally disinterested in the hardware/software and just wanted to do their 'boring job' and move on with their day?

usotsuki

14

The B&W machine would have been the PET-2001 (which came out around the same time as the Apple ][), not the C64 (which came out 5 years later).

ET

15

Now, the C16 had more available colours than the C64. The Commodore computer from the same period as the Apple II was the Pet.

tinto brass

16

omg they announced it's OSX compatible... although they don't support it....

i smell trouble

DrFoo

17

Get in the right era guys!

The BW Commodore they are talking about is the PET which came out in January 1977, a few months before the Apple II. Though it was a similar machine (also using a 6502 processor), it sold for somewhere in the neighborhood of half what the Apple cost and it included a monitor. It was designed to be as cheap as possible and yet be a fully functional machine. It was, in fact, the very first real personal computer.

http://www.commodore.ca/products/pet/commodore_pet.htm

psergiu

18

It's a hoax.

They took the image from Cybernet Zero-Footprint-PC's site.

http://www.cybernetman.com/en/products/zero-footprint-pc/

Avvid

19

Yes - this article is riddled with errors.

Sean

20

What? No embedded C64 original system? No instant-on? What a waste of an opportunity. You could have single-handedly revived 8-bit gaming.

Won't buy one until it'll run Summer Games out of the box.

Ghasping Gary

21

Oh my. This is truely horrific... I bet they sell exactly 4 of them.

spike1

22

The commodore 16 wasn't released until MUCH later and most certainly wasn't monochrome. (maybe you just saw it plugged into a mono monitor). No computer manufacturer in 1985 or later would contemplate releasing a MONOCHROME home computer.

The computer that coincided with the Apple ][ release was of course the exceedingly monochrome commodore PET.

Aiden

23

The author simply got it backward. The C64 was the color machine w/ advanced graphics and sound. The Apple was the primative B&W machine. Commodore obviously saw the Apple computers as a step backward, which they were in a way. The only advantage the Apples had was when they came out with the Macintosh and it had a mouse and included the GUI interface ... where the C64 you had to know a bit about your computer in order to do that.

Christian

24

This article is littered with inaccuracies! The C64 was colour, 4 bit 16 colour! Had advanced graphics handling (at the time much lauded for its fast scrolling speeds and its 8 hardware sprites) and an advanced sound chip (SID), which was not surpassed by any 8 bit machine as I remember... the SID chips is legendary for that age of computing!

Christian

25

I'm sorry but:

It wasn't so easy [to use a Commodore], the way Apple always understood the experience should be," Kay said. That made the Apple II computer better for new users entering the computer market.

Jeese! Have you ever used an AppleII? How was the apple II easier to use? The author has no idea on what he is talking about!

nukky

26

(snip)...said Jack Tramiel, former chairman of Commodore International, during a panel discussion in late 2007.
During the same panel, Apple co-founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs approached Commodore with an Apple II prototype,(/snip)

Really? Woz and Jobs approached Tramiel in 2007?

Along with the other errors already pointed out, this is one shoddy piece of journalism.

Jim MacKenzie

27

The black-and-white machine referred to in the article had to be the Commodore PET. It came out around when the Apple II did (I can't remember the ordering) and it was assuredly monochrome. No bit-mapped graphics, either.

Still, it got a lot of people hooked on computing, including me, and my experience with PETs at school made me want (and get) a Commodore 64 at home. I bought my C64 new in 1984.

Fred in IT

28

For a good, albeit biased, history on Commodore Business Machines - all the way from the PET/CBM machines through the Amiga and finally liquidation, I suggest you read "On the Edge: The spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore" by Brian Bagnall

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Edge-Spectacular-Rise-Fall-Commodore/dp/0973864907/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1269441323&sr=1-1

Some interesting things with regards to the Apple / Commodore relationship:
Woz couldn't get the 6510 to work without one of the lead C= engineer's help.
C= had their own chip designers and fab. Hence, they had the SID long before anyone else - they invented it, along with the 6502, 6510 and a number of other chips. See MOS Technologies - the fab C= purchased and developed.
For the Apple ][, the boot rom was bunk - couldn't do anything until you loaded an OS. C=64 you could at least get somewhere when you powered it on, even though the comand syntax was a bit strange.... load "blah blah blah",8,1.

Going from my VIC20 to my C=64 through my C=128 (CP/M anyone?) then finally Amiga 2000 (which I still have) was quite the experience.

The author definitely needs to go back and check their facts. Now, if the new machine came with a C=64, C=128 and Amiga emulators, that would be something.

Fred in IT

Squeek

29

No the C16 was also a colour machine only teh comodore PETs were 2 colour screens. The confusion comes from the fact that teh C16 default colour settings were a white screen with black text.

S

Myrrdyn

30

Woah, a lot of factual inaccuracies in this article, as already other comments have pointed out. At this point I am skeptical of the whole story...

JustMe

31

There is no mention of OS X on the company website. Perhaps the author misread the OS/2 reference?

Gunnar

32

Paul,

I learnt BASIC on a C16. It certainly had color support, and even a much gentler and more complete BASIC than C64's. There was even a Commodore Plus-4, that was basically the same as C16 but with massive 64K RAM.

kimbee

33

the mistake in the article is that it refers to the black & white display commodore PET as the 64. the PET came out in 1977, same year as the apple II.

kimbee

34

the black and white commodore is the PET. it came out in 1977, same year as the apple II.

Vince Hodges

35

Just to clear things up, the monochrome (green on black) machines mentioned in the article was the Commodore PET line released in 1977. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodore_PET

The PET 4032 was the first machine I ever wrote code for.

The Vic-20 was released in late 1980 or early 1981 and was also colour, but with only 5K RAM and much lower resolution than the C64. Early ads for the Vic-20 featured Bill Shatner

I skipped the C64, moving from my Vic-20 to an Amiga 1000 in 1987.

Eric

36

Nope.

The black and white machine was the Commodore PET,
introduced in 1977. The author should check his sources.

The PET family had various models, develooped before
Commodore came with the VIC-20 in 1981 and the
Commodore 64 in 82, which were both color macines.

Erik

37

Programmed both the Apple II and the C64. The C64 used the CMOS 6510, which was the follow on processor to the 6502 (Apple). Graphics on even the IIe were far below the ability of the C64. The IIe's double high res mode was a joke. Once you got past the pixel placement limitations, it was less than what the year older C64 could do.. The C64 also had the raster interrupt. We could time the screen buffer updates so that any animation created would not flicker. The Apple flickered like mad.

As for sound: On the Apple you peeked a memory location and the speaker was clicked. Tone was generated by spacing, with a loop, the peeks and the duration was another loop. In machine language, to get a whole note of many pitches you had to use two bytes as your loop counter. For the C64, we had the SID chip. You picked the wave form (sawtooth, square, triangle, tone, or noise). You set the attack, sustain, decay, and release to create the wave envelope. Hell, you could even do polyphonic tones.

The thing with the Apple is that Woz created a hardware hacker's dream.

Gern

38

How incredibly irrelevant. How does slapping a venerable old brand onto a dime-a-dozen all-in-one PC make any marketing sense? Some hope for nostalgia? Give me a break. It must be a Chinese company that bought the brand. They seem to "get it" less than most.

And yes, very few facts are correct in this article.

Chad

39

"Inerts?" I think you mean innards. Unless the inside components are non-functional.

user

40

How will this legally be able to run OSX? Is this article just complete marketing hype?

Tweeks

41

Sooo.. Where's the cartridge port, and DIN/1541 serial port for hooking up my legacy 1541 drive to load up my old games.. ;)

Tweeks

SteveH

42

Thats the first time I've ever heard something being described as 0.05 meters tall!

Andrew

43

Commodore launched its PET CP/M computers in early 1977. These were 8-bit CMOS 6502 chips.

The Apple ][ boxes also used 6502 chips. So, it is possible that Apple Computer sought financing from Commodore back in 1977.

Sack

44

the Commodore 16 had *more* colours than the 64 - 121 vs 16.

Al

45

At the time the Apple II was developed, Commodore was marketing the PET Computer.

The Apple II was certainly much more advanced than the PET, and much more expandable.

So, in that regard there may be some truth to that part of the story.

phil

46

Hey ARN, is this revisionist history or simply lousy research?

With the quality of your historical data, i expect this is probably just an April fools joke you stumbled upon early.

Jules

47

Commodore 16 black & white? No, the CBM16 was 16-colour too, with some limited palette-selection control.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOS_Technology_TED

Fargus Toopenjammer

48

I am going to start up my BBS again. 120 baud, overclocked to 150 bps!

Fred

49

Very poor reporting, can't even read facts correctly...

Can run OS/2 NOT OSX!!! Jeeze

dar7yl

50

This is bogus.

If they wanted to resurrect a Commodore computer, they would have concentrated on the Amiga.

'nuff said

Ubik

51

The "Black and white" commodore machine, that they produced at around the same time as the Apple ][ and in preference to it having been offered the chance to make it by Jobs and Woz, was the PET.

All the other computers they made - VIC20, C64, plus/4 and C16 (and their now mostly-forgotten line of IBM PC clones) were colour machines, and much later.

Larry

52

No, the Commodore 16 was also color. It was the low end version of the Plus4 and not the C-64. It is also a new version of computer than the C-64 but never caught on since such a large software base already existed for the C-64. So much mis-information here.

Mustakari

53

You obviously know nothing about the subject. Commodore 16 was a 128 colour machine. 16 colors and 16 shades of each color. All shades of black are black so the effective number of colors is actually 121.

Bill

54

Actually it would have been cool if they released a all in one thing that behaved exactly like an original commodore 64 with a crapload of programs and games already loaded onto it and just had some audio/video outs for modern tvs/monitors. Would need virtually no hardware to run that old stuff and 1GB of storage space would sufficently hold just about commodores entire catalog of games and programs.

That I would pay for some money for, old commands and all.

David

55

Do people really not remember ? The earlier Commodore was the PET series, starting with the 2001 with the nasty keyboard. This was black and white, text only (+ a few non redefinable graphics characters). That was sort of contemporaneous with the Apple ][.

The VIC-20 which looked exactly the same as a C64 but had a much lower specification (22 characters wide by 23 deep on the screen, 5kb RAM) was from around 1980 and the C64 came about a year later. The C16 and Plus-4 came a couple of years after the C64.

As one of the other posters said, the Apple ][ always had BASIC. It was also used quite often with a p-machine Pascal, but that cost extra. And yes, integer BASIC was written by Steve Wozniak - the ¨other¨ Steve who started Apple, and who is often forgotten these days - but he was the talented one who actually knew how to put a computer together.

Lonster

56

The factual mistakes in this article are amazing. What prototype Apple II had better sound and graphics than a Commodore 64? If the Apple was so much better for new users, why is the C64 the best-selling pc ever made??
Apple's success was marketing the Apple II to schools, they sold a lot of machines this way, and no doubt influenced parents to get the same machine at home. But this article makes it sound like Commodore was some kind of also-ran, when in fact it was one of the leaders, a superior product with a price point Apple never came close to.

Jacob

57

I'm immediately disappointed just for case design reasons. Aside from the overall form factor, the case does not recall the C64 in any way. Low-travel Windows-style keyboard without any graphics characters printed on the keys, boring silver color instead of classic C64 colors, not even a C= logo.

It would have been awesome to include a fully licensed C64 emulator (maybe even in the BIOS, so you could instant-on to C64 mode!), a custom case with the Commodore name in bold relief, a large color logo splashed across the "hood" below the keyboard, and a traditional shiny "Commodore 64" moniker along the top. A cartridge port to play your old C64 games on would have been amazing (and these things exist for PCs, so don't say it's out of the question). But heck, just throwing in a red LED protruding from the upper-right corner would be *something*.

This just doesn't hold any interest for a C64 fan.

fdameronut

58

So they've shoe horned a pc into a keyboard and called it a 64. Why not just call it minipc or something else. It's not a 64. I will admit that if the price is right, it might be a viable alternative to the PC's that we give a corner of our homes to. After all, many hd tv's have connections that will work for this. It's also small enough to be portable, just get an lcd monitor to go with it. Not really sure what my final opinion is about it, but to me it is a slap in the face to advertise it with Windows OS and still call it a 64.

- Floyd

MAL

59

No Paul, for the 30th consecutive year a reporter has done a C64 story without doing more than jumping to a site with misinformation and doing a cut-paste sort of report.

I find the easiest way to tell if a reporter is a lazy butt is whether they point out that the c64 was originally to be the CoCo for radio Shack, which walked away to design their own beast, at least then they have done some research. Beast and CoCo being interchangeable words....

Jon H

60

The computer Commodore had out at the time when Jobs and Woz were prototyping was the PET, the weird looking one with the built-in monochrome CRT perched up on top. Looked more like a cash register than a PC. This was in the 70s, before the VIC-20.

http://www.cs.cuw.edu/museum/CommodorePet2001.html

Dave

61

Has anyone pointed out that the pic is really a ZPC-GX31 Cybernet (with the Commodore logo photoshopped in) which has been available since 2008? Check out the pic:

http://www.cybernetman.com/en/products/zero-footprint-pc/zpc-gx31.cfm

Even the technical specs were copied and pasted right from that website to the "official" Commodore site which is also clearly fake. This is a joke, people. And I think Agam Shah is a little too gullible.

Eddie Monge

62

So they are basically releasing a screen-less laptop?

Richard

63

OK, this is so poorly written I had to check the date, but it turns out April 1 is next week.

Mustakari

64

Commodore 16 has 128 colors of which 121 different. All shades of black are black.

Howie

65

Try to get your facts straight guys. This product is a ZPC-GX31 sold by Cybernet and released two years ago in March 2008. The website itself doesn't even look real (one of their employees is a dog): http://www.commodoreusa.net/about.html

You can find the original product here: http://www.cybernetman.com/en/products/zero-footprint-pc/zpc-gx31.cfm

I can't believe so many people are falling for this hoax.

Tim

66

Perhaps he's referring to the Commodore PET? Did it have color?

Anj

67

The Commodore 16 was the little brother of the Plus/4. Neither was a good games machine (although the 64K Plus/4 has in time acquired some classics like Elite) but they did have 121 colours vs. the C 64's 16.

Chromeronin

68

2xDDR2 SDRAM sockets, populated up to 4GB. Supports PC2-5300 667MHz & PC2- 6400 800MHz.
If this is a 64 bit console, limiting it to 4 GB defeats the purpose.
I had a Commodore 128 and that was pretty good. Parallel devices rather than serial and could run C.P.M.
This new device however is nothing but a laptop without a screen. the price comes out anywhere near $600 then a Mac Mini is a better buy as that will actually run OSX as TFA claims.

Paul

69

obviously I was wrong, maybe I remember my C16 being black and white because I could only afford a green screen monitor.
I do remember that the only person able to program a decent game on the C16 was Udo Gertz

Bouncyones

70

Very poor article. Why bother if you nothing about the subject.
As for the idea- why not resurrect the Amiga? Anyone who today knows what a C64 was, will not be interested in this machine.. everyone else will be scratching their heads.

Dave

71

Maybe the writer is an iPhone owner, we all know they can't see past Apple!

path0s

72

Total hoax. OR commodore is really gonna sell this thing as a rebranded cybernet. Either way, congrats on the retarded article though, you made it on slashdot with this drivel.

laughingman

73

if they were going ahead with this, perhaps it should be called the 'Commodore x64'...

Luke

74

64 bah! bring back the vic 20.

broadbean

75

Had to wait till the IIgs before Apple had good sound. They were hampered not by technology but by the ongoing issue with Apple Corps (Beatles), which later granted Apple the ability to beef up the Apple II line but not others (including the Mac's) until more recently.

kboggs

76

Isn't this really more of an update to the Amiga 500 rather than the C-64? Maybe the author is a bit under informed.

about lady gaga

77

I think about, that you are mistaken.

Comments are now closed

 
Computerworld
CIO
Techworld
CMO

Latest News

02:52PM
Australians are aware, educated about Big Data: MapR
09:45AM
Synnex named Apple’s third iPad distributor
09:27AM
Oakton: Most organisations have dug themselves an ERP hole, according to survey
08:12AM
Datacom Australia takes a hit, while group profits and revenue grow
More News
08 Sep
ITIL Foundation (incl. Exam)
10 Sep
CPX 2014
10 Sep
IT Leaders Lunch
16 Sep
Ingram Micro SMB Favourites Roadshow
View all events