VCF: The Guys Keeping Up With Commodore

This year at the Vintage Computer Festival, war was beginning. The organizers of the con pulled a coup this year, and instead of giving individual exhibitors a space dedicated to their wares, various factions in the war of the 8-bitters were encouraged to pool their resources and create the best exhibit for their particular brand of home computers. The battle raged between the Trash-80 camp and the Apple resistance. In the end, only one home computer exhibit would remain. Are you keeping up with Commodore? Because Commodore is keeping up with you. This exhibit from [Anthony Becker], [Chris Fala], [Todd George], and [Bill Winters] among others is the greatest collection of Commodore ever assembled in one place.

This year’s Commodore exhibit was a free for all of every piece of the hardware Commodore (or Zombie Commodore) has ever produced. Remember netbooks? Commodore made one. Remember when people carried dedicated devices to play MP3s? Commodore was there. Did you know you can spend $20,000 USD on a 30-year-old computer? That’s Commodore.

Zombie Commodore exists, and you’ll run into them if you ever try to sell some retrocomputing equipment with the chicken lips on it. Someone holds the trademark to Commodore, and that means there have been some weird officially-licensed commodore products over the years. There’s a netbook, a crappy video player, something worse than a Zune, and most interestingly, the closest thing we’re ever going to get to a modern Amiga running on real hardware.

Sitting inside an unassuming standard desktop PC case is a Pegasos motherboard. This is a PowerPC MicroATX motherboard with AGP, PCI, Ethernet, USB, and Firewire. This isn’t all that different from a translucent blue PowerMac, but this boots with Open Firmware, meaning it runs Amiga 4.0 natively.

By far, the rarest, most exotic, and most expensive computer on display at the Commodore booth was the legendary Commodore 65. Only about 200 prototypes of this machine were produced, making their way out of the QVC studios in West Chester and into the hands of collectors. When one of these rare machines ends up on eBay, ending bids of $20,000 are not uncommon.

Other rarities and oddities of the Commodore camp include nearly all the TED machines – ‘cost reduced’ versions of the C64 designed in part by our own [Bil Herd] that had a few interesting features. Piles of VIC 20s reached the ceiling, and a few of the IBM PC-compatible Commodores made an appearance. Nobody cared about the PC-compatibles.

In this battle royale between the Trash-80s, Apples, and Commodores, who would win? The elite panel of expert judges chose Commodore. They kept up with Commodore, because Commodore is keeping up with you.

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