Return of the spirit of 64?

THE 64 and console
THE 64 and console

This has been a week of surprises for the retro computing community, not least of which has been the exciting and unheralded arrival of both a brand new retro computer together with a matching handheld console, both emulating the spirit of  a phenomenally popular and much-loved games computer of the 1980s.

And yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, that computer really does look like a Commodore 64!

Little and large

Which is the idea really, because although the splitting up of intellectual property and brand name licensing after the fall of Commodore has presumably not permitted UK-based makers Retro Games Limited to actually brand the new kid on the retro block as a Commodore 64, they have managed to officially license the original 64’s BIOS and ROMs from IP rights holders Cloanto Inc. Which means ‘THE 64™’, as the makers have dubbed and trademarked it, is actually a somewhat more compact  modern technology version of the C64 by any other name.

 

THE 64 desktop
THE 64 desktop

Not a problem really, as it is an, apparently highly-compatible, re-imagining of the world’s best-selling home computer rather than an out-and-out clone, with similar but slimmer looks to the original ‘breadbin’ C64 plus hdmi video out, modern SD card removable storage and built-in games as well as USB ports – rather than having to use old-fashioned TV sets and obsolete (albeit nostalgic) and slow, expensive floppy disk drives. We’ll hopefully be able to take a closer look at the technology in THE 64™ at a later date, but for the moment check out the pictures shown here.

There’s also a mini version of THE 64™ packaged as a small, hand-held games console, a popular concept these days. That should give the competition something to think about as well…

THE 64 handheld
THE 64 handheld

Equally popular in many quarters is the mode of launching and funding this latest retro project – on Indiegogo – and THE C64™ and it’s miniaturised sidekick appeared there earlier this week. The company are inviting Commodore 64 fans from across the world  to back the campaign to bring to life THE 64 ™ computer. Interestingly, despite being a British company, they are quoting prices in US Dollars, apparently to make costing easier to understand world-wide, which makes sense as they’re looking for a wide market.

Homage to a classic

The company’s PR team told Retro Computing News: “The 64 ™ is a homage to the greatest selling home computer of all time, the Commodore 64 ™. Retro Games Ltd brings together a team of highly experienced and passionate industry professionals who have collectively been in the games industry for many decades.  The team have been united by their passion for all things retro but specifically their love of the Commodore 64 ™. With the experiences of creating and shipping both AAA console titles and physical retro inspired consoles and computers to market, the team have worked tirelessly to bring THE 64 ™ to the world.

“THE 64 ™ project is being designed, built and marketed by a team of people who are utterly passionate about the Commodore 64 ™ and retro gaming.  The team were previously involved in bringing to market consoles and products such as the C64DTV ™, and the Nintendo Wii ™ C64 ™ games.”

The company has produced a short introductory video:

Bundle

THE 64 ™ computer will come bundled with a joystick, a selection of classic games and also some brand new content which will be exclusive to the launch version.  It is being designed and developed by a team led by a’ world class software and hardware engineer’. He is aided by a technical team from around the world.

Who’s doing it for Retro Games Ltd?

THE 64 ™ project is headed up by video game industry veteran Darren Melbourne who conceptualized and bought to market the C64DTV ™ console as well as dozens of other game related products during a video games career that has spanned over thirty years.

THE 64 ™ gaming team is apparently built around a group of people with many years of games creation and intellectual property licensing experience, say the makers.  The foundation of the team is ‘…their love of the Commodore 64 ™ and it is this passion that shines through with the creation of the games software for THE 64 ™. Key team members are also integral parts of the C64 ™ community, working tirelessly to preserve and maintain the C64 ™, keeping the scene vibrant and alive.’

Why Indiegogo?

The Indiegogo campaign is intended to raise the necessary funds to manufacture the first production units of THE 64 ™ which will be shipped to the  backers of the campaign., The campaign will also enable the company to prepare for the global retail production launch of THE 64 ™

Isometric view of the new kids on the retro block
Isometric view of the new kids on the retro block
More goodies!

As well as a chance to get their hands on THE 64 ™ computer or handheld version, the crowdfunding campaign also offers a range of other THE 64 ™ Indigogo campaign backers perks, including: signed limited edition concept art, originals, posters, limited edition chrome computers, and even getting your name on the PCB alongside the team! All the fun of the Indiego crowdfunding fair, in fact.

We’ll certainly be watching the campaign with interest and not a little excitement, and hope to get our hands on the new THE 64™ dynamic duo for review in due course!

More info

For more information, why not  head over to the campaign page on Indiegogo:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-64-computer-and-handheld-console#/

 or the company website:  www.the64.computer

There’s also a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/The64computer/

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Retro Computers Limited officers resign

The Vega, fresh from its nostagically-styled box
The Vega, fresh from its nostagically-styled box

Shock news has reached Retro Computing News tonight as we hear that two of the prime movers in UK company Retro Computers Limited have resigned, leaving the company’s future  uncertain.

Managing Director Paul Andrews and Chief Technical Officer Chris Smith have left the company, leaving Sir Clive Sinclair and Dr David Levy the sole remaining members of the original management team. Mr Andrews and Mr Smith resigned on 8 April 2016.

We understand that Mr Andrews’ company has sent an email to everyone that has licensed games for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega console, which we reviewed in February. In this email the company states, we hear,  that it will no longer be managing game licensing royalties, and that from now on Retro Computers Limited will manage them directly.

Dr Levy is apparently now solely responsible for everything related to the Vega console, including royalty payments to game authors (or donations to charity).

The company website has already been updated to reflect the changes in management, and details of the firm registered at Companies House show a change of address from the company’s original Luton addresss to 34 Courthope Road, London, England, NW3 2LD – the correspondence address of Dr David Levy.

Mr Andrews and Mr Smith also no longer feature on the company’s Indiegogo campaign pages.

No further information is available as yet, but we have our ears to the ground on this one and will report back as soon as we know more.

Happy Birthday Apple!

Apple's first logo, drawn by Ronald Wayne, features Sir Isaac Newton and the apple tree
Apple’s first logo, drawn by Ronald Wayne, features Sir Isaac Newton and the apple tree

Today is the 40th birthday of the Apple Computer Company, which is now the world’s most valuable firm, but back when they started up their world-changing venture in Los Altos, California, USA, on 1 April, 1976, they were just three guys with a dream – to make computers for the rest of us.

Incorporated as Apple Computer, Inc. on 3 January, 1977, Apple was renamed Apple Inc. on 9 January, 2007, to reflect its shifted focus toward consumer electronics. The technology firm has risen from early days in a Californian bedroom and Steve Jobs’ family’s garage to being worth more than £486 billion ($700 billion USD).

Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne (who was to leave the company before it became a major success) joined forces to make and sell the Apple I personal computer kit. Electronics engineer and computer programmer Wozniak (now affectionately known as Woz) was the man who single-handedly designed the first and much of the second early Apples of the 8-bit era.  Jobs was to become the company’s now legendary (if occasionally controversial) inspirer and marketing guru. Wayne provided administrative oversight of the fledgling start-up. He also drew the first Apple logo, wrote the three men’s original partnership agreement, and wrote the Apple I manual.

The Apple I computer kits were first shown to the public at the Homebrew Computer Club in Silicon Valley, California. Strictly a hobbyist machine, the Apple I was sold simply as a motherboard (with CPU, RAM, and basic textual-video chips), which left the buyer to sort out a power supply, keyboard and monitor. Some even built their (now exceedingly rare and valuable) Apples into wooden boxes – kind of an Apple crate, in fact!  The Apple I went on sale in July 1976 and was at $666.66 ($2,772 in 2016 dollars, adjusted for inflation).

Apple I at the Smithsonian Museum, USA (Pic by rebelpilot - click to view page)
Apple I at the Smithsonian Museum, USA (Pic by rebelpilot – click to view page)

Forty years after starting up, the company now has a massive space-age headquarters in Cupertino, California (with another being built) as well as more than 480 retail stores in 18 countries worldwide and reported income of more than $18 billion US dollars – £12.4 billion – for the first quarter of this year.

Come in number ][

The Apple I became the inspiration for one of the first mass-produced home, educational and business computer systems, the Apple II (or Apple ][ )range, and the shoulders upon which the later Macintosh range, still selling in its modern incarnation today, was to stand.

Apple II computer on display at the Musée Bolo, EPFL, Lausanne (pic RAMA, click for info)
Apple II computer on display at the Musée Bolo, EPFL, Lausanne (pic RAMA, click for info)

Of course no company has ever had a straight line course to success, and Apple had its own ups and downs, including problems with machines such as the Apple III and sales of the later incarnations of the Mac itself in the 1990s.

Revolutionary
The original Macintosh 128k, affectionately known as the Mac, 1984
The original Macintosh 128k, affectionately known as the Mac, 1984

The Macintosh 128k was introduced in 1984 as ‘the computer for the rest of us’.  It was Steve Jobs’ pet project– a friendly alternative to the corporate, user-unfriendly, business machines, typified by the DOS-based IBM PC. The ‘Mac’, as it has been affectionately known ever since, despite then being relatively underpowered, and expensive, built upon and popularised the WIMP concepts (Windows, Icons, Mouse, Pointer) which have since inspired other companies. It was the beginning of a revolution that brings us to where personal computing is today.

Of mice and men

It’s been a decades-long roller-coaster ride that almost came off the rails in the late 1980s-1990s, when Steve Jobs was pushed out of the company in the mid-1980s after the Mac range struggled and he attempted to oust then chief executive John Sculley.

That later period also saw faltering sales, too many similar models and miniscule market share compared to IBM PC’s and the myriad cheap clones which flooded the market, but after some years spent wandering in the wilderness (Pixar and NeXT, actually) Jobs returned in triumph in 1997 at a time when Apple was suffering a financial crisis, and bringing British design guru Sir Jony Ive’s (now Sir Jony for services to design), launched the colourful and fruity iMac the following year.

Years of innovation and style icons
iMac G3 ad (Apple Computer Inc)
iMac G3 ad (Apple Computer Inc)

The iMac (aka iMac G3), effectively a return to the original Mac, albeit in a colourful and more powerful new incarnation, as the ‘computer for the rest of us’, started to turn the whole ship around, and became phenomenally popular, but was to be just the first in a string of hardware products that includes successor LCD-screen based iMacs, Power Macs and Mac Pro’s, the iPod, iPhone and iPad, as well as the iTunes Store that cemented Apple’s place as an industry leader. The non-computer products have helped buil wider acceptance and interest in the Macs, especially the new-generation iMacs, and so the wheel turns.

New generation iMac ad (Apple Inc)
New generation iMac ad (Apple Inc)

In the late 20th and early 21st century, the company that was born in a bedroom and a garage and that eventually gained a remarkable reputation for refining existing technologies, adding inspiration and top design, and making them mainstream, has gone from strength to strength.

The company recently revealed that there are now more than one billion active Apple devices being used around the world.

End of an era
Steve Jobs (pic Steve Jurvetson)
Steve Jobs, 2007 (pic Steve Jurvetson, click to visit site)

Sadly, the inspirational marketing genius and saviour of Apple, Steve Jobs, passed away in 2011 of pancreatic cancer; the company might have wobbled a somewhat then, but has since carried steadily on with new CEO Tim Cook at the helm.

Steve Wozniak (pic Michael Bulbenko)
Steve Wozniak (pic Michael Bulbenko)

Engineer and programmer Steve Wozniak, creator of the first Apples and pioneer of the personal computer revolution, is still about, doing his own thing and being surprisingly accessible through his website www.woz.org and social media. Since being one of the top partners at Apple in the early years, he’s still technically a stipended employee and is also an Apple shareholder, but has gone on to run several companies and other ventures as well as working in academia.

Today, forty years after the firm was official incorporated as The Apple Computer Company Apple has changed the world and the way we see, hear and communicate with it.

And what about the Mac, the computer which built on Apple’s early success, struggled for a while and has now become ubiquitous? It may not be so obvious as the iPhone in millions of hands and the iPad in millions of homes, but since the arrival of OS X in 2001 there has been a steady increase in sales in its hi-tech iMacs and MacBooks in spite of a global drop in PC sales. The wheel turns.

The future

Where the future of Apple lies has still to be determined. There’s a good chance they’ll lead the way in technology for the rest of us, one way or another. The iWatch, for one latest example, has surely been a sign of the times. Technology is all around us, worn by us, and in some cases, is inside us.

In the words of Steve Jobs, though, as long as they can keep on coming up with just ‘one more thing’, they’ll continue to be the amazing success that seemed so far away and so unlikely all those years ago.

Happy Birthday Apple, and many happy returns of the day.

 

Retro Computing News is produced and edited using a 2008 Mac Pro 8-core. Our editor and publisher Stuart Williams has been a Mac user since 1995, and being of a retro disposition, is currently in the process of acquiring an Apple IIe for the very first time.