A blast from the past set to make a comeback?
The Commodore 64 was a great 8-bit machine, and the second computer of my youth (Commodore 16 was the first). The C64 managed to out perform business class computers of the day on graphics while remaining relatively affordable. That meant kids got them for Christmas and video games were a favorite on the system. For some it was also the first time they got a taste for programming by entering BASIC code and getting simplistic programs running.
The machine went through a number of revamps ending with the C64 Games System in 1990 which was meant to take on the NES and Master System. After that, it became a part of history never to be put on sale again, or so we thought…
The Commodore 64 is set to make a comeback in 2011 it seems. It looks almost exactly the same as the original unit, but the hardware inside is very different and a few decades more powerful. It has also been renamed the C64x.
What Commodore USA has done is fitted a Mini-ITX board inside the casing allowing a modern OS such as Windows or Linux to be run, but also they managed to include a Commodore operating system for that authentic experience.
When you boot the C64x a menu appears allowing a choice between the Commodore OS or your modern OS of choice. Loading Commodore OS 1.0 gives you access to C64 emulation, a classic selection of games, productivity apps, and lots of open source software. It looks like that option may only come later, though, and for now the machine ships with a copy of Ubuntu 10.04.
So how does this new model compare to the original? For pure processing power, graphics performance, and sound capabilities the new C64x easily wins:
C64 (Price: $595 in 1982, the equivalent of $1367 today)
0.985MHz 8-bit MOS Technology 6510 processor
64KB RAM (38KB for BASIC programs)
MOS Technology VIC-II graphics chip (16 colors, 112 sprites maximum)
MOS Technology SID sound chip
C64x (Price: starting at $595)
1.80GHz Intel Atom processor
Up to 4GB RAM
Nvidia ION2 graphcis chip (unlimited sprites we’d guess)
Realtek 6-channel HD audio
While the original has ports for a cartridge expansion, composite video, serial bus, tape interface, and a user port for modems, the new model has what you’d expect from a modern machine including a card reader, USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet, DVI, VGA, and HDMI.
How much you pay for a C64x depends on the model you choose, with 5 being on offer (Barebones, Basic, Standard, Deluxe, Ultimate). The options per model include more RAM, a DVD or Blu-ray drive, and larger hard drives. The Barebones unit only gives you the case, chassis, keyboard, and card reader and costs $250. A usable system shoots the price up to $595 for the C64x Basic, and then prices escalate right up to the C64x Ultimate at $895.