Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Retro-Futurism 11: The New Commodore 64

Computers were never so cool. The CommodoreMAX keyboard (a predecessor to the 64) in 1982. Image Source: Wiki.

This month, the Commodore 64, home computer extraordinaire, which first launched 1982, is being rereleased with the old shell but new tech, as the Brits say, under the bonnet.  From a NYT report:
The new Commodore 64, which will begin shipping at the end of the month, has been souped up for the modern age. It comes with a 1.8 gigahertz dual-core processor, an optional Blu-ray player and built-in ethernet and HDMI ports. It runs the Linux operating system but the company says you can install Windows if you like. The new Commodore is priced between $250 to $900.

The company’s Web site says that the new Commodore 64 is “a modern functional PC,” and that although the guts of the device have greatly improved, the exterior is “as close to the original in design as humanly possible.” Most people would not be able to visibly tell the old or new versions apart, it says.

“The response has been completely dramatic,” Mr. Altman said. “We’ve been averaging about five registrations per second on our Web site. This is from people giving us their name and e-mail address to be kept abreast of updates on the new Commodore.”
Never underestimate the selling power of nostalgia.  Ironically in a field like high tech, it's even more pleasing to consumers. A fansite has already been set up to hail the arrival of old-new Commodore and Amiga (which Commodore is also reviving - see here) computers. This is typical Millennial Retro-Futurism, where the combination of old and new tech makes a product hot again. According to the Commodore site, the new version lets you open the old blue BASIC screen and play all the "8-bit era" games. I have a feeling that Commodore just made a lot of Gen X men very happy, along with everyone else.

The new C64. Image Source: Commodore.

1980s' Commodore 64 UK advertisement. Video Source: Youtube.

Commodore advertisement for a new device called the mouse (1986). Video Source: Youtube.

Classic Commodore Games. Video Source: Youtube.

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  1. I've just finished watching the three hour mini-series documentary "Electric Dreams" on U.S. PBS. It followed an experiment in which a British nuclear family of six are forced to relive three decades (1980-2000) at the rate of one year per day. They can only wear the clothes, eat the food and use the technology extant by that year. Every 'decade' their house's interior is refurbished and their television(s) can only receive programming from that year, piped in by the tech team conducting the experiment.
    Predictably, there were nostalgic gasps from the adults as each day's package of 'new' technology arrived and bemused reactions from their kids. There were too many variables for a formal experiment. Still, it beat out whatever was on the other networks.

    Given the number of custom keyboards I've seen (everything from steampunk-y brass polished wood) this seems like the next logical step. But more than those, it reminds me of those combination stereo units that house playback equipment for vinyl, cassettes, CD's and mp3's yet choose a casing that resembles a Victrola.

  2. Thanks for the comment pblfsda - this mini-series may merit a post of its own, if I may hat tip you? It sounds fascinating.

  3. I would be VERY happy if I had any money. I never owned the original but my cousins did.

    I recognize the supernatural chess game, the Dig Dug clone, the joust, and the Olympics.

  4. Thanks for your comment, Jay. I think for people of a certain age group, this computer, its programs and games, are deeply ingrained in personal identity and memory. For me, the Commodore 64 is situated somewhere between Battlestar Galactica, Dr. Who, Buck Rogers, Star Wars and (yikes) the Smurfs.

  5. I remember the Christmas that I received mine. It was like getting a magic wand in the mail. After hooking it up to the television and switching the channel knob to channel 3 my giddiness waned as I made fruitless efforts at attempting BASIC programming. My glee soon returned after inserting 5 1/4" disk resulting in the stunning display of Summer Games. The olympic diving was the best. I don't miss those GOTO statements and nested loops though. Guidon