The Commodore 64 and other classic Commodore home computers are back, roughly 30 years after becoming a watershed in the evolution of desktop entertainment and productivity. Under the aegis of new management, brand-new PCs with retro styling and modern-day hardware will begin rolling off assembly lines in late May.
Almost identical to the original visually, the updated Commodore 64 sports the same beige box and clunky brown keyboard aesthetic millions of former hackers, nerds and joystick-addled adolescents will remember. But beneath the hood, the technology is all up to date. Varyingly priced configurations will offer up to a 1.8Ghz dual-core Atom processor, Nvidia Ion 2 graphics, 4GB of RAM and HDMI output for projecting multimedia onto an HDTV. Options range from a $250 plastic case for PC builders who prefer inserting their own parts to an $895 tricked-out Ultimate edition with Blu-ray drive and 1TB of storage for movies, music and photos.
Base models retail for $595, the same price the original C64 sold for at launch, with extras also including wireless networking (WiFi), USB connectivity and a multi-format memory card reader. As in the early days of personal computing, though, a mouse and monitor are sold separately.
The new Commodore 64 runs on the Ubuntu operating system, but it’s also compatible with Windows and the Commodore 1.0 OS. A software emulator and disc of digital diversions will additionally be offered for classic 8-bit gaming. Commodore’s vaunted Amiga line, a massive hit with graphic artists, programmers and video gamers in Europe, will also be resurrected via a new line of PCs shortly. The company’s 8-bit VIC PCs are getting an overhaul, as well, appearing as all-new self-contained VIC-Pro and VIC-Slim “keyboard computers” that pack a CPU, memory and hard drive into one small desk-friendly unit.
Millions of thirtysomethings who grew up playing early gaming classics like Turrican and The Last Ninja may appreciate these systems’ nostalgic leanings. But for now, those hoping to relive the glory days without the cost or wait can simply cop downloadable software emulators such as Frodo and C64 Forever for an instant trip back to their wayward youth.