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Old is not all it's made out to be you know!

Posted by ZX KNIGHT on Jun 21, 2011 20:36 (Jun 21, 2011 20:36)

Just because something gets branded with the label or look of being 'retro' doesn't make it worthwhile.

One of the things I love about Retro Fusion is the opportunity to see the various mods, hacks and games that retro enthusiasts come up with in the comfort of their own home.

When something does go into production, like the various SD card adapters for the C64, it’s often on a budget and obviously done for the love of the system rather than a serious profit-making enterprise.

Therefore I feel a bit conflicted seeing Commodore USA – not the original Commodore company it should be noted – licensing the brand of the C64 and creating a new Commodore PC64, using the old C64 chassis and lumping a relatively middle of the range PC inside.

The idea behind it is obvious enough; marry the best bits of old and new and sell it to retro enthusiasts at a good price.

To be honest though, in my opinion it’s actually marrying the worst of both worlds.

To put it bluntly, just because its retro doesn’t mean it’s good. The reasons desktop computers look as they do today and not as a C64 did 30 years ago are because the design of home computers has been continually improved upon.

We all look back fondly at the rubber keys of a ZX Spectrum 48k but there is a reason that modern keyboards eschew the rubber look, as kinky as it may be. The fact the Commodore PC64 explicitly states that it has souped up the keys to be kinder on the hands for typing while retaining the classic sound at least acknowledges this aspect of progression from the previous eras.

The Commodore PC64 essentially lumps a netbook inside the body of a Commodore 64, providing you with a desktop PC that is not as powerful as other desktop PCs (and, I suspect, more difficult to upgrade and renew) and a Commodore 64 body that doesn’t contain a Commodore 64.

The sad thing is if this was the product of one geek in his parents’ bedroom I’d salute his ingenuity and slightly bonkers air, but as it’s a business I can’t help but wonder what on earth their business plan is.

Looking at their website they are also relaunching the Amiga name as a line of Home Theatre PCs (HTPC) and the VIC-20 in a similar way to the Commodore PC64.

You can see the idea – buy a recognisable brand to give you a kickstart onto a crowded market. However surely the flaw is that fans of the Amiga won’t be interested in a device that has little to do with the Amiga (and may in fact shun it if they sense the name to which they attach so many memories and emotions is being abused for commercial gain) and everyone else won’t give a damn in the first place.

Maybe I’m being too cynical, after all the comments on various tech sites highlighting the Commodore PC64 have generally been positive and I feel a bit harsh writing this as I do get a kick out of seeing the weird and wonderful things people do with their old computers and consoles. The customised Dreamcasts, the portable N64s, the Guitar Hero devices for the C64, they’re all weird and wonderful and I salute them all.

Again though, I salute a home-made portable Dreamcast but baulk at the idea of paying several hundred pounds for one. It’s difficult because obviously these ventures lack the mass production capabilities readily available to the likes of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo so it’s natural that the costs would be higher.

Nonetheless I fail to see how a $600 netbook in a C64 body is a worthwhile enterprise as a business or a product. Sure, you’d get a kick loading it up, playing around with it and showing it off to your friends but once the warm glow of self-satisfaction fades what are you left with?

A C64 that needs an emulator to be a C64 and a netbook PC that is stuck on your desktop.

Not much cop for $600.

ZX KNIGHT also blogs at
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#7 Jul 6, 2011 13:00:50 ( Jul 6, 2011 12:00 )

 @Whizzbang - And of course I forgot the classic flexible USB rubber keyboard! I've not seen rubber-keyed laptops but I'd be interested to know why they chose them and also what, if any, improvements have been made over the original Speccy rubber keys.
#6 Jul 4, 2011 11:40:03 ( Jul 4, 2011 10:40 )

Digital Ninja

I agree with ZXKnight's sentiments entirely. My main flaw with the idea is that it's relatively simple to make one of these yourself for cheaper. The only difficult part is the keyboard interface but i've thrown Atom boards into PS2s and N64 cases which were much smaller than the C64 one.

#5 Jun 30, 2011 00:59:01 ( Jun 29, 2011 23:59 )

 Of course just cos something is retro it doesnt mean its good. Plenty of retro stuff I look at and think what a load of crap.  Or they try and invent something with similar retroness to it and again I think what a load of crap.  Would be like a person opening up a video rental shop (strickly VHS only) and charging £3.50 a night just to rent a film.  Never going to happen
#4 Jun 22, 2011 19:23:52 ( Jun 22, 2011 18:23 )

 You say "We all look back fondly at the rubber keys of a ZX Spectrum 48k but there is a reason that modern keyboards eschew the rubber look" but I have seen several modern laptops that have in fact adopted the ZX Spectrum rubber key idea, albeit with slightly flatter and wider rubber buttons but still a single piece of rubber under a metal plate.
#3 Jun 22, 2011 13:56:25 ( Jun 22, 2011 12:56 )

 You can see the attraction, but I agree - I'd never buy one. Too expensive for what you get really, but it doesn't really serve a proper purpose, hence why I think it's a flawed business model. If you want a PC you're not going to get this - so why would you own it except as a sort of comedy thing?

I feel a bit bad cos the guys obviously gone to a lot of effort to do it, but I just don't see how it would succeed!
#2 Jun 21, 2011 22:18:51 ( Jun 21, 2011 21:18 )

I sort of would like one of these - but I would never buy one. Maybe they will be in car boot sales in the future next to the real Commodore machines. 
#1 Jun 21, 2011 22:06:54 ( Jun 21, 2011 21:06 )

Agree. Far too overpriced for what's under the hood.
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