As someone who grew up with the Commodore 64 and Amiga, spending far too much time in the ‘scene’ and going on to run a highly popular Amiga bulletin board before the Internet killed off BBSes, I should be incredibly excited about the news that Commodore ‘is back’.
So why is it I could I not give a damn, any more than when all the other companies have tried and failed to resurrect the Commodore brand over the years?
Because, like so many other half-assed attempts to cash in on the once fine reputation of a company that ultimately went out of business because of a series of bad decisions – it is seriously flawed.
Even as a once incredible (and likely extremely annoying) fanboy, but lacking the Internet to have huge public flame wars with Spectrum, and later, Atari ST fans, this will never mark the return of an iconic brand that took up so much of my childhood.
It will only mark the attempt of a small company to buy an off-the-shelf smartphone from China and ship it with a white casing and a slightly weird looking take on the Commodore logo. To justify selling under the Commodore name, it will come with a pre-loaded emulator. One that could be installed on any Android phone. (Edit: It seems it will also include an Amiga emulator too, but everything I’ve said here about the C64 equally applies there too).
It does apparently have some customisations, which might make it a little more unique, but I’d wager it’s nothing significant or impossible to replicate elsewhere.
That the phone has very decent spec (I can’t deny that one bit), and according to people who have seen the device, runs most titles very well, is almost immaterial. Plus there are emulators for just about every computer platform anyway.
It’s not as if someone who loved the Commodore 64 won’t have already found a way to get their fix, if they really wanted to.
There’s a reason why most people with fond memories of their childhood probably haven’t even bothered to install an emulator on a phone or desktop PC, and likewise won’t buy this phone either.
Memories are great (however much they fade over time), but it usually doesn’t take long to realise that not everything was quite as great as you remember it. Sometimes playing old games can actually ruin those memories.
Okay, so perhaps that’s a bit harsh, as there are countless classic games for the C64, and there was also a thriving demo scene that provided me with hours of enjoyment (there was no MTV – in the UK at least – back then), but if you want to get that fix then I suggest checking out the videos on YouTube instead.
You can then enjoy all the classic games, many of which are played through in their entirety (and leading you to go ‘oh, so that’s how you got off that level’), listen to hours of music from Hubbard, Galway, Follin, Dunn, and others (even some Whittaker if you must), or view compilations of the best demos from the many scene parties held (mostly) around Europe.
The same applies to the Spectrum, Atari ST and in fact every computer and games console you can think of. Yes, you can even watch play throughs of Atari 2600 games, many of which had about as much depth as a puddle in the desert.
It’s the perfect way to reminisce without hassle (or cost), and when you get tired of it all, you go back to normal life – and perhaps wait until someone else comes along in a year or two with another amazing way to bring back Commodore. Or perhaps the Sinclair Spectrum.
Okay, so you can’t actually play a YouTube video of a game, but I’ve taken the time to install many emulators over the years and spend more time installing, configuring and then searching for games than I ever do playing the games. It’s possibly not helped by the fact that there are so many games, you end up just playing each one for a few seconds before rushing on to the next one.
And, finally, why is it called the PET? Besides an odd take on the logo, the phone is surely all about the Commodore 64? I cannot see anyone that used a PET being a likely purchaser of this phone. Mind you, I can’t see anyone wanting to purchase one of these phones unless it turns out to be so cheap you buy it for that reason along.
I’m sure it will be a perfectly good Android phone in its own right, but there are plenty of other choices on the market.
To me this is yet another Commodore return that will never be. Nobody will ever make Commodore into a common household name again. That ship has sailed and it’s time to move on.
Nobody will ever get Amiga OS back into the mainstream and to take over Windows (but fair play to all those who have worked tirelessly to advance the old Amiga hardware and software in ways you wouldn’t believe), and future generations who want to learn all about the time when Commodore was on top form will get all the information they need from Wikipedia, YouTube, reading this book, or downloading an emulator themselves.
Doomed to fail
In terms of all the attempts to bring back Commodore, this is perhaps the least financially risky (it may well be possible to sell a few phones to people who don’t even know who Commodore is, or its past), but I predict that following a surge of Internet attention in the last few days, all talk with die down very soon and it will slowly fade away.
Unless the new company has plenty of money to spend on marketing, which I somewhat doubt if the current website is anything to go by.
Even people on Facebook pages dedicated to talking about the old days seem to be in agreement, so I really do have to wonder who the target market and if the ‘new’ Commodore Business Machines actually did any proper market research before it set out to resurrect a name that has been a curse to everyone who has tried to bring back the company that failed back in 1994.
Perhaps it’s now time to simply let Commodore rest in peace for good, and leave us to remember the good old days with YouTube or listening to classic tunes on SID Player. Oh and remembering the actual computers that made Commodore what it was.
- More info: Commodore Business Machines LTD (it should be noted that the address on the website is that of a virtual office mailing service, with the ‘company’ itself operating out of Italy).
Update: More information can be found here about the differing stories about the emulator being used, and supposed plans to get unnamed developers to re-release classic C64 and Amiga titles for the phone. It all sounds rather, erm, interesting…