Nearly every American male who is today a 40-ish-year-old geek was, sometime in the 1980s, a 14-ish-year-old computer geek. Which means that nearly every 40-year old American male computer geek, at one point in the ’80s, coveted a Commodore 64.
For those not of a certain age, it might seem incomprehensible that a computer with a mere 64 KB of RAM and a graphics chip capable of handling a total of 16 colors could be considered the height of technology. Yet, in 1982 it was exactly that. Amazingly, to this day the Commodore 64 is still the best selling single model of home computer in history.
So to all those whose most cherished childhood Christmas memory involved running downstairs and finding a Commdore 64 under the tree, we have some very cool news: a new version of the Commodore 64 is now for sale!
What’s New About the New Commodore 64
Here’s what cool about the 2011 incarnation of the Commodore 64: It’s a real, useable desktop computer!
Of course, to achieve useability the Commodore 64 needed a major technological upgrade. The old 8-bit MOS microprocessor is now an Intel Atom D525 1.8GHz Dual Core CPU. The new Commodore comes with up to 4GB of RAM (a 6,249,900% increase over the original) and an nVidia ION2 graphics card.
Most of the standard features of modern desktops are now available on the Commodore 64 too, including wifi and Bluetooth connectability, an optional Blu-ray drive, 1080p HD video output and a hard drive with up to 1 TB of storage.
All those modern features make the new Commodore 64 look different from the original on the sides and in back. Surprisingly, the 1984 Commodore 64 didn’t have the USB ports, the Ethernet connector, the audio jacks and the memory card readers that the 2011 version does.
What’s the Same About the New Commodore 64
The best and most important feature that hasn’t changed about the Commodore 64: the look. Interestingly, recreating the basic exterior shape of the original C64 was relatively easy; it was getting the colors to exactly match that was the tough bit.
For better and for worse, the keyboard on the new Commodore is the same as the original. How the keys are labeled aren’t identical—the original C64 didn’t have an “internet” key, for example. (Go figure). But the look of the keys is the same, as is the deep push stroke and distinctive click one gets while typing on them. (In this way, we might have preferred a more modern design—typing on the new C64 is a bit of a slow and tiring experience).
In a nice bit of marketing, the basic configuration of the 2011 C64 costs the exact same as the 1985 Commodore: $595.
While the new Commodore can run a full version of Windows 7, it also comes with an emulator of the Commodore OS 1.0 that the C64 ran in 1985. Of course, getting a working monitor that also looks like it’s from 1985 might be more tricky.