Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Commodore and Amiga are back!

I can't remember the exact date - some time in the 90's, but it was a number of years ago that I visited the last time Commodore made its appearance at CES (Consumer Electronics Show). I remember the booth was way in the back of the convention area by the Chinese made serial port adapters, next to the employee bathrooms.

The casino I'd worked for purchased the year before an Amiga 4000 and a Video Toaster for animation and graphics to display at the night club. At that time Video Toaster also included Lightwave 3D, a 3D animation program.

I wanted to see if there were any updates to the software and when the new Amiga was coming out. What I found was incredibly sad and foreshadowed the coming disaster that would hit the computer industry.

The company had divested itself from it's core customers, game and graphics users. It was now going to market the Amiga as a business computer. To that end, they pushed it's only successful peripheral, Video Toaster to the way back of the room by an open electrical box.

Dazed and confused by the poorly designed spreadsheet and word processor screens displayed on pathetic Amiga and Commodore computers I made my way back to Video Toaster. There were two lonely guys sitting a small table with one monitor showing the new Kiki wipes.

They told me Amiga engineers were incapable of stopping vast piracy of software and that not only was Commodore not make any money from software sales but developers were no longer going to support the Amiga chipset. Executives at Commodore felt business users were far less likely to pirate software than kids and they quickly developed a core business package that was more expensive and less functional than Microsoft.

And that was the end of Amiga and Commodore - or so I thought.

Commodore USA is Reborn!

Commodore USA is back and selling Amiga, C64 and Vic computers. As far as I can tell the  Motorola 68000 series is gone, replaced by an Intel NM10 chip emulating the OS and Motorola chipset. That's okay. I really didn't expect them to be so daring as to develop a new OS on a new chip. Even Apple has gone Intel.

The C64 Standard is a little expensive for what you get - Cost = $695 w/o monitor:

Intel Atom D525 1.8GHz Dual Core CPU
NVIDIA ION2 Graphics (DDR3 512MB)
2Gb Memory (DDR2 667/800)
WiFi(802.11 b/g/n) and Bluetooth 
DVD Tray Drive (R/W)
 250Gb Hard Drive

You can get a very similar system from TigerDirect for around $350.00. Granted no stylish keyboard or cool retro games.

I have very fond memories of the C64 and Amiga. At the time Amiga was the King of graphics computers. Even Apple couldn't compete with the animation and graphic production capabilities of the Amiga 500 and 1000.

I really hope that Barry Altman, the new founder of Commodore has a grander vision than just producing cool retro computers. My wish is for Commodore to create it's own OS focused on graphics, video production and games. Partner up with video game developers and offer features that are not available on a regular PC. Can you imagine a fully integrated Steam platform or an OS adapted to maximize all of World of Warcaft's features? How about a fully Android enabled PC - that works in conjunction with Android tablets and phones. For instance - a tablet could be turned into a jog/shuttle for video editing software. Or pictures from an Android phone are automatically uploaded to the C64.

Maybe dreams will come true ...

Visit the C64 Store ---> Commodore USA
Read about the demise of the old Amiga ---> Temple of Technology
Video Toaster 4000 promo video ---> Toaster video
Great article on the Video Toaster ---> HalfSquatch

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