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The Commodore 64 Is Back

The Commodore 64 is being re-released for the modern computer user.

Commodore 64
New Commodore 64

I was 12 years old when the Commodore 64 computer went on sale in the summer of 1982. I didn’t really know what it was, but I knew I had to have one. It cost way too much at the time, so I had to wait until I found a friend that had one. Fortunately,  my friend Scotty’s Dad who lived down the street bought one.

At the time of its release, the Commodore computer cost $595 and came with a whopping 64 kilobytes of memory. It also contained a graphics and sound card that stood apart from other computers of the day.

Now, nearly 30 years later, the Commodore brand has taken on new management and is re-releasing its flagship computer, this time with all the amenities of a modern-day computer packed inside.

In its heyday, the Commodore 64 was one of the most successful home computers made, shipping more than two million units a year for almost a decade after its release. Although exact numbers don’t exist, experts estimate that the company sold between 15 and 30 million Commodore 64 computers.

But the Commodore 64′s success was short-lived. Commodore International, the maker of the computer, declared bankruptcy in 1994 after several bad business decisions and aggressive competition from I.B.M. and Apple.

The new Commodore 64 comes with all the modern amenities needed to surf the Web and play video games.

Barry Altman, president and chief executive of Commodore USA, said he purchased the Commodore trademark in September of last year with the goal of reviving the company and offering a product that no longer exists.

“Thirty years ago computers were an all-in-one product, with the keyboard, memory and components built inside,” Mr. Altman explained. “Over the years that has changed, and we believe there is a huge potential to revive the early format.”

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, the website 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.”

Some may wonder why someone would want to purchase this type of computer when a world of iPads and laptops exists.  Mr. Altman says he sees two types of customers for the new computer.

“There are a lot of really young computer users who want to own a retro-looking computer,” he said. “And of course there are those 30- to 40-year-olds who owned the original Commodore 64 and want the nostalgia of their first machine.”

I happen to be one of them, although I think I will wait and see if Scotty get’s one.

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