The legend strikes back

When Commodore filed for bankruptcy in 1994, everyone wondered what potential buyers would do with the brand and whether there was actually still a market for the 8-bit machines.
In 1995 Escom paid USD 14 million for Commodore and in the build-up to the acquisition, rumours started flying that Escom would indeed rerelease the C64.

Fans all over the world were excited and the hope was there that the best selling computer of all time would get a second life.
As it turned out however, Escom only had plans for the Asian and East-European market and in reality were only interested in the brand name, under which they started selling PCs.
A year later, Escom itself went bankrupt.

Was this then the end for the C64 and would there be no first revival of this epic machine, in a PC dominated market.  It sure looked like it, especially with the multi-million dollar campaign for Windows 95 just around the corner, aiming to get everyone onto the PC.

Luckily, the fans of this quintessential home computer had gathered in a global “now more than ever” feeling and continued to push their breadboxes to the limit.  Companies like CMD continued their support by releasing hard drives with a capacity of up to 1 GB, fully compatible with GEOS.

To top it off, at the “Hobbytronic’95” fair in Dortmund, Germany, the biggest news was all about Commodore: a “new” Commodore, called the PC64 would see the classic in a PC mini tower, complete with external keyboard and many other goodies.

When you look at the machine, it is difficult to distinguish it from a PC.  With its C128-based external keyboard it looked the part and also on the inside, there was lots to see.
The PC64 came with 2 operating systems: the classic C64-mode and the newer, Exos-based OS.  The turbo-switch at the front allowed you to switch easily between the 2 modes, with the display showing then either respectively 64 for the classic OS or 65 for the new OS.
For an additional cost, a 1541-II drive would be integrated, or if you preferred the 3,5” disks, a 1581 drive (although this was not Commodore’s original drive – it was a 1,44 MB TEAC drive – it was fully compatible).

Next to that, it came equipped with a standard Sub-D bus as its userport.  This made the parallel connection of Centronics printers a breeze and if needed, you could hook these up in serial mode to an optional Wiesemann W&T 92000 interfase.

To hook things up to the expansionport required a screwdriver, as this port was hidden from sight inside the case.  Most carts could be connected effortlessly, like the Action Replay, Final Cartridge, GeoRAM, …  but sadly, RAM-expansions like the 1750 or 1764 simply did not have enough room inside the case.
Since the inside is still very much “C64” you could not hook it up to a VGA/SVGA monitor, as the C64 only “talks” with your TV or monitor like the 1084S.

A nice feature was also the integrated power supply, which delivered 200 Watt to the C64 and the built-in peripherals and it also came with a built-in power plug for your monitor.

The only downside to this fantastic machine was its price… the basic configuration would cost then roughly 350 Euro, expanding it with a 1541-II or a 1581 compatible and additional 60 or 90 Euro.
The deluxe edition would set you back 500 Euro, but then you got all of the above with integrated speakers.

Sadly, given the prices, it was not a huge success (for that kind of money you could already buy a 486 PC), but it did show that the C64 still had a lot of life left in it and that it would still speak to the imagination of a large group of fans world-wide for many years to come!

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One Response to The legend strikes back

  1. Pingback: A PC keyboard for the C64 | A Commodore Geek's Blog

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