Tag Archives | Commodore

Before PCs, There Were Digital Watches

This is my new watch. If you ever owned a Commodore 64 or an Amiga, you recognize that insignia below the display: It belongs to Commodore, the company that sold vast quantities of personal computers in the 1980s before petering out in the early 1990s.

My new watch is also an old watch: It’s a Commodore Time Master, manufactured in 1976 or thereabouts. I bought it from a specialist called LED Watch Stop, which has a supply of new-old-stock Time Masters that never got sold back in the 1970s. (It’s selling them for $229 apiece at the moment, although the price was $129 just a few days ago–I guess I lucked into a sale when I impulsively ordered one.)

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Beige is Back: The Commodore 64 and Its Amazing Keyboard Return

It’s back! The Commodore 64 computer you may fondly remember from your youth (assuming you were a youth back in the early 1980s) has returned from the place where old computers go to die, reborn as something that looks the same, but acts very different.

The outside is still deliciously two-tone brown, with huge clickety-clackety keys that you can type on as if typing were the only thing that could save your life, rescue fair maidens from the clutches of evil geniuses, and prevent dastardly arrays of nuclear warheads from detonating in all the great cities of the world. Yeah, that kind of typing:

The new Commodore 64 features genuine Cherry brand key switches, which provide a feel much better than the original, with a lovely IBM classic mechanism and click sound. The keys are the exact same shape as the original and are color matched. No expense has been spared. This is the ultimate hackers keyboard on which to wield your key-fu.

But inside…inside it’s a different beast. The new C64 comes with a 1.8GHz Intel processor, up to 4GB RAM, runs Windows 7, and even plays back Blu-ray discs.

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Amiga: 25 Years Later

Twenty-five years ago today, a new personal computer was unveiled at a black-tie, celebrity-studded gala at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York’s Lincoln Center. It debuted to rave reviews and great expectations–heck, InfoWorld said it might be the “third milestone” in personal computing after the Apple II and the IBM PC.

The computer was Commodore’s Amiga. In an era in which the most common form of microcomputer was an IBM PC-compatible system with a text-only display and a tinny internal speaker, the Amiga had dazzling color graphics and stereo sound. Its Intuition user interface looked like the Mac, but offered an advanced feature known as “multitasking.” The machine was a stunner, especially given that it came from a company previously known for rinkydink home computers such as the VIC-20 and Commodore 64.

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Twitter 1980s Style

I’m sorry, but I just can’t resist any news story involving Commodore’s fabulously feeble early home PC, the VIC-20. The Personal Computer Museum in Brantford, Ontario plans to celebrate its fifth anniversary this Saturday by using Twitter from one. And no, it’s not a VIC-20 that’s been modded for the purpose–it’s a stock unit with a whopping 5KB of RAM and a tape drive.

The VIC will Tweet using TweetVER, a software platform which the Museum hopes to port to other classic computers. (Me, I’ll be even more excited when it becomes available for the TRS-80 Model I, or at least the Atari 400.)

It’s not the first time that PC enthusiasts have used a very old machine for a very new purpose–here, for instance, is an Apple II browsing the Web. But there’s something particularly appropriate about Twitter being the subject of this stunt.

It’s one of the few popular modern services that really doesn’t need to be dumbed down for the VIC: The machine’s display shows 23 rows of 22 characters apiece, so up to three 140-character Tweets could fit on it at one time. And the system’s crummy graphics–176 by 184 with 16 colors–aren’t really an issue, because, hey, Twitter doesn’t let you post images. Twitter can be Twitter on a computer that’s nearly thirty years old; that just wouldn’t be true of Facebook, YouTube, or Gmail. Probably not World of Warcraft, either.

I’ve always said that Twitter isn’t that much different from the BBSs I was dialing into back when the VIC-20 was new. This is proof. I predict that there’s at least a fifteen percent chance that the VIC-20 will perform like a champ but that something will go wrong with Twitter itself during the experiment…


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A 1980s Home Computer Family Celebration

Computers: The Heart of the 1980s Home

Familiar holiday tales tell of a time in the late 19th century when loving families would gather around the hearth to give thanks for their many blessings, sing songs, read Dickens, and roast chestnuts. But by the early 1980s — if you believed computer ads of the day — the home computer had become the center of the traditional nuclear family. Chestnuts  were replaced by joysticks and computer manuals.

With the holidays just around the corner, let’s carefully peel back the fabric of time and examine ten vintage advertisements from a more civilized age when dazed, zombified android families found themselves irresistibly drawn to home PCs.

As you look through these ads, keep this in mind: When was the last time more than two people sat around your computer?


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Commodore 64 iPhone App Comes, Goes

Developer Manomio developed a fully-legal Commodore 64 emulator for the iPhone, struggled to get it approve by Apple, then succeeded when it disabled the BASIC interpreter. Except it didn’t. From Wired’s Gadget Lab blog:

In order to win Apple’s approval the developer Manomio pulled the BASIC interpreter form the application. It turns out that it was still in there and could be activated with a few keystrokes. It took all of a few minutes for Apple to hear about this and pull the application yet again. For a developer that went to such lengths to secure copyright permissions, this seems a bit dumb.

I can’t believe that there’s any drama associated with running an early 1980s BASIC interpreter on the iPhone in late 2009–can anyone explain to me a scenario under which sandboxed Commodore 64 BASIC could present dangers to iPhone users or to Apple? But if you wanna keep your app on the iPhone store, hiding a feature you’d told Apple you’d disabled as an Easter Egg does feel like an act that’s destined to backfire big-time. Wonder if Apple will simply approve the new de-BASICed version that Manomio says it’s re-resubmitted, or whether it ever penalizes developers for being sneaky?


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The Commodore 64 vs. the iPhone 3G S: The Ultimate Showdown

Sad news: Apple has rejected a Commodore 64 emulator for the iPhone. It’s not surprising, and arguably not an utter outrage given that the iPhone developer agreement expressly forbids emulators, and the C64 app’s creator knew that when he began work on his brainchild. I’m still unclear on how a Commodore 64 emulator–one fully licensed by the relevant copyright holders–hurts the iPhone, iPhone owners, or Apple, though. Especially since other iPhone apps that use emulation techniques and which sound less delightful have apparently snuck their way into the App Store. Thinking about all this got me to thinking about the fact that the Commodore 64 was considered to have a lot of RAM (64KB) at a surprisingly low price ($595) back in 1982. The iPhone 3G S  has 4,000 times the RAM (256MB) for one-third the price (with an AT&T contract), and that’s not even taking into consideration the fact that it also has an additional 250,000 times as much memory (or 500,000, if you spring for the 32GB model) as the C64 in the form of its flash storage. Or that the starting price of $199 for an iPhone 3G S is really more like $90 in 1982 dollars. Did I mention that that the 3G S fits in your pocket? After the jump, what is almost certainly the most comprehensive comparison of the Commodore 64 and the iPhone 3G S that anyone has done to date. I’ll let you decide which one comes out on top. Continue Reading →


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Where No Pitchman Had Gone Before

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Star Trek movie opened tonight. Which, here on Technologizer, is an excuse to bring you a YouTube clip that never gets old:

Oh, and if you didn’t catch Ed Oswald’s story on Star Trek technology that’s no longer science fiction when we published it a few weeks ago, check it out here.


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