Portable Commodore 64 Turns 30, And You're Invited To The Party!
Commodore wanted to attract business types to their blazingly successful Commodore 64 home computer by creating a portable version. Sort of. January 2013 is the "luggable" version of the C64's birthday. Sort of. But we're going to party anyway. Definitely.
The Commodore 64 still stands as the best selling personal computer ever, with something like 30 million units sold. It was THE gaming machine. If a title was available on multiple platforms, the magazine screenshots and TV commercials would unfailingly feature the C64 as the best of the best. With Commodore building 400,000 units a month at its peak, they thought about boosting sales with a "serious" version of the Commodore 64 for business.
We've written about the SX-64 before here on Retro Thing. The SX-64 was what we could begrudgingly call "portable" (sort of like taking a sewing machine to the beach) with a built in 5" color display. Significantly, the SX-64 was the world's first color portable. The built-in floppy (expandable to two) and the keyboard doubling as the lid made for a nice looking portable package.
The SX-64 was announced in January of 1983, and finally released in 1984. After a string of successes, it would have looked like Commodore had another potential winner with the SX-64, but sadly there were problems. Rejigging the motherboard and ports meant that certain accessories and cartridges didn't work correctly. At $995 it was quite an expensive proposition. Still less than the $1200 an Apple II would set you back, but Commodore made its mark with computers "for the masses, not the classes" (according to Jack Tramiel). The regular "breadbox" C64 cost only $595.
The main problem was that there just weren't as many popular business programs on the C64 as on other platforms. The C64 made it's bones as the best home computer and awesome game machine. A business user probably wouldn't take the SX-64 seriously, when for a bit more of his boss' money he could get an Apple II (or splash out $2500 for a sexy new Mac, or $4000 for a PC, etc. etc.)
So the SX-64 became more of a curiosity than anything. Another expensive (but really, really effective) doorstop on the way to discovering what portable computing was really going to look like. Today they are a cherished collectible in the Commodore crowd, hence a multinational effort to party on January 20th to celebrate what could have been...
Here's the idea. You visit THIS website and register your location. Then on January 20th, bring your SX-64 and meet up at the specified time at your local coffe hangout and set up shop. Play some games, show off some music demos, you can even update us all via Twitter using your C64. Let's show those hipsters with their 2.2 ounce laptops see what it meant to bang the iron back when "portable computer" meant the same thing as "blunt force trauma".
So far, only three cities are registered, and I'd love it if we could give this event the Retro Thing boost it deserves and get a couple more meet-ups organized. I don't have an SX-64, but there has got to be someone in Chicago who does? What about in your neck of the woods? If you do get together with some C64 guys on January 20th, and can pull yourself away from Lode Runner for like five friggin' minutes, take a couple of pictures and we'll post them right here on Retro Thing.