When Apple Computer introduced the Macintosh SE in 1988, it was widely praised for its all-in-one design. However, Apple was not the first to manufacture an all-in-one personal computer. That title belongs to Commodore.
It was Commodore who introduced the first all in one computer, the PET (Personal Electronic Transactor) in 1977. The follow up was the VIC-20, a personal computer contained entirely within the keyboard itself. This was the first computer of any kind to sell more than a million units.
Commodore’s big hit came in the form of the Commodore 64, first introduced in 1982. Boasting superior graphic and sound capabilities over the VIC-20, the Commodore 64 went on to become the best-selling personal computer in history with over 22 million sold.
During this time, the personal computer market was exploding and competitors began rolling out newer models with even better graphics and sound capabilities. By the late 1980s, Commodore had lost nearly all of its market share to IBM PCs and Apple Computer. The company continued to linger before finally declaring bankruptcy in 1994.
Since then, a number of companies have tried rebooting the Commodore brand yet none have come close to the success of the original Commodore 64.
Now, a start-up company called Commodore USA is hoping to change that with their new line of all-in-one personal computers. Founded in 2010 by Barry Altman, the new Commodore USA is seeking to bring the magic of the original C64 to a new generation of computer users.
The website for Commodore USA (site down as of November 2013) advertises the C64x, a full-featured modern computer system contained entirely within an oversized keyboard enclosure. It features an Intel Atom 1.8GHz dual core CPU, nVidia ION2 graphics, and 2 GB of DDR3 memory (expandable to 4 GB). It also has the everyday essentials like built-in Wi-Fi, a memory card reader, and USB ports.
All models will also include a Commodore emulator that will allow users to enjoy their favorite classic games and programs.
The new computer is available in four different configurations: Basic, Standard, Deluxe, and Ultimate. Prices range from $595 at the low end to $895 at the high end. For those who prefer to add their own Mini-ITX motherboard and CPU, a barebones version that includes only the case, chassis, and keyboard is also available for $250.
One significant feature offered on the new C64x that was never available on the original is an optical disc drive. Standard models come with a tray-loading DVD±RW drive, while Deluxe models include a slot-loading DVD±RW drive. Users who pony up the cash for the C64x Ultimate edition will find a Blu-ray drive included with their machine.
The addition of an optical disc drive will allow users to play audio CDs and DVD movies as well as record their own CD-R and DVD-R discs. Ultimate users will be able to do all of that plus play back Blu-ray movies.
Are people going to throw out their Dell and HP computers in favor of the new C64x? Probably not. However, this computer offers a great way to enjoy modern computing power for hobbyists and original Commodore 64 users with a soft spot for retro-modern tech devices.
The fact that Commodore USA offers optical disc drives on three of its four models says something about the market for compact discs: like the Commodore itself, they are anything but dead.