Commodore is a very powerful name in gaming, but a very old one. Most known for its record shattering Commodore 64, the company helped usher in a whole generation of gamers with its impressive (for the time) specs and widespread availability. The system is almost 32 years old, and is still remembered fondly as many people's first gaming machine. The company itself has been in a weird state of limbo for much of the following years after the 64's dominance faded, and recently the current iteration of the company announced a smartphone. But what's weirder is it really drives home how far the technology sector has come.
The smartphone, affectionately named the Commodore PET after one of the company's earlier computer systems, comes with a custom version of Android 5.0 Lollipop, and includes emulators for both Commodore 64 programs and Amiga programs. On top of that, the phone comes in black, white and beige colours, meaning whether you want something stylish or tackily retro, the phone has you covered. I know I'm pumped as hell for a Commodore licensed beige phone.
But the most interesting thing is the specs, and how they compare to the original Commodore 64. It's not surprising to anyone that technology has gotten better and smaller, and over a 32 year time period you'd expect it to have improved. But being able to directly compare the company's biggest hit and their newest product leads to some interesting facts.
For example, the phone has two versions - A $300 model with 16gb of storage and 2GB RAM, or a $365 model with 32GB of storage and 3GB RAM. Even the smaller, cheaper model boasts 31,250 times more RAM than the original Commodore 64. The older system also sported an 8-bit MOS Technology 6510 microprocessor, which in PAL territories clocked in at just under 1MHz. The smartphone is showing off a 64-bit octa-core processor, reaching a comparatively dizzying 1.7GHz, 1700 times what the 64 achieved. With an extra 7 processors to its ancestor, you should have no worries about the phones emulators running slow.
The Commodore PET emulating the Commodore 64's Ghosts 'n' Goblins (Uploaded by the Commodore Business Machines youtube channel)
The phone is also coming with a 3,000 mAh battery, beating out the majority of newer smartphones and ensuring you can be playing Maniac Mansion late into the night. There's also a nice 13-megapixel camera that can shoot up to 1080p video, with an 8-megapixel front shooting camera as well. On paper, the phone can certainly compare to others on the market.
But the real question is can the smartphone live up to the sales of its older brother? With a target of 17 million to overtake the classic computer, it'll be no easy task in a market already dominated by Samsung and Apple, with several big brands vying for third place. With Commodore 64 emulators already on the Google Play store as well, it's going to be hard for the Commodore PET to make a splash. But with some clever marketing and playing on the nostalgia of those who remember the hardware giant from its early days, it could be a sleeping hit when it releases later this week in Italy, France, Germany and Poland, and in the near future in the UK and US.
Whether the Commodore PET is a success or not however, I find it fascinating to look at the differences between it and the Commodore 64. The leaps in technology can sometimes go unappreciated, as we only ever see smaller, incremental upgrades announced each year. Looking at how much we've done over a large timescale is a fantastic way of looking at our progress. Maybe, in thirty years, we will look back at the Commodore PET smartphone and be amazed that it managed to do what it did with the specs it had, as we play an emulated version of The Last Of Us on our watches.