By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
The Commodore 64 was the very first computer I ever owned, and I have fond memories of learning how to type with it. It doesn’t hold a candle to a proper typewriter but if people weren’t playing video games, just what this machine is used for was limited. For myself, I learned how to code in BASIC and tinkered in GEOS (a graphic user interface) to teach myself elementary graphic design before I finally learned C on an Apple Mac in high school.
Nostalgia is more than likely to drive sales as this machine makes a comeback as a retro gaming device. Amusingly enough, Retro Games Ltd is the maker. Having this focus can be a detriment when I recall the original packaging suggested this computer can do a whole lot more!
Tucked inside this update is additional memory and firmware to let users access pre-installed games and other emulation modes (The C64 also functions as a VIC-20). Flash drives (32gb is the limit) doubles as storage instead of plugging in a 1541 disk drive and if programmers can hack the two USB ports and HDMI, then more power to them! I also learned Machine Language with this machine, so in theory it’s possible to hack this machine. This “computer” is nicely modern, avoiding the use of propriety input-output connectors–namely the cartridge and user port–to get your Impossible Mission on. As for what people can do with it depends on whether there’s any hardware level security on it.
Anyone expecting they can do a lot with this machine out of the box may feel disappointed. I loved creating and translating sheet music to chiptunes. In what made this machine a classic to this day is the SID chip–where all the sound is created. A movement was born when this machine was first introduced and there’s plenty of new wave composers grinding out lovely techno! This microchip was typically found on top end electronic keyboards and I believe to have this chip in a computer helped define part of the 80s sound.
Sadly, this update does not have the additional connectors to hook up all the classic peripherals like cartridge games or print documents. You need an original Commodore 64 for that. Users wanting a second unit to play their old wares will find this perfect in the entertainment room. But to move any of those old games over, you will need an original Commodore 64 and a third party hardware hack. It’ll be interesting to see where this release will go as when original units become scarce, and we have to depend on rereleases to get our retro on, games not included.
Postscript: 64 pre-installed games is more than enough to keep retro gamers satisfied. On this list are California Games, Paradroid, Boulder Dash, Attack of the Mutant Camels, Hover Bovver, Iridis Alpha, and Gridrunner. A complete list can be found at https://retrogames.biz/thec64/europe/