A lot has happened on the Commodore scene the last year. Commodore USA is bringing back good retro memories by producing and selling a new line of Commodore computers. These computers are state of art with powerful Intel processors and DDR3 RAM etc. The new line of computers are not natively compatible with the old games and applications, but the new Gnu/Linux Mint based operating system Commodore Vision is packed with emulators and applications/games with the look and feel of those old Commodore gems.
I installed Commodore Vision in a virtual environment, and this video shows some of the features, look and feel of the new “Commodore OS”.
I was lucky to get an interview with Chief Technology Officer of Commodore USA Leo Nigro! I was a bit curious about where Commodore USA wants to go now with the Commodore line of computers and not the least the new operating system Commodore Vision.
The Interview with Leo Nigro :
When did Commodore USA start, what was the intentions and who were the people starting it?
Commodore USA, LLC was founded by Barry Altman in April of 2010, with the express purpose of reviving and re-establishing the famous and much loved Commodore computer brand in the desktop PC arena. The computer in a keyboard concept is synonymous with Commodore and seemed like a great way to differentiate the company’s products.
When I heard about the Commodore brand’s revival, I became one of their first customers with the purchase of a VIC-Pro, one of Commodore USA’s first products, and one that I continue to use and enjoy. I sent a few e-mails which offered strategy suggestions which led to numerous discussions with Barry on the phone over the course of several months. I became involved as a technical advisor as well as liaison to the Commodore/Amiga retro community, which I had participated in for several years, and was later offered the position of Chief Technology Officer. I have since managed the refining and expansion of our online presence, advertising materials, packaging, videos, and the development of Commodore OS Vision. I also initiated and was involved in the design of various aspects of the C64x project.
What is Commodore USA allowed to develop for the new C64 and Amigas?
We have exclusive rights to computer keyboard all-in-ones and non-exclusive rights to practically anything else. The exclusivity clause for the keyboard form-factor was essentially formulated as a non-compete with our licensors, who at one time also sought to enter the PC business.
Is it possible to develop USB peripherals like USB 2 Seriell ports – using the classic joysticks for the new computers? USB Floppy drives for the C64/Amiga floppy’s we have stored away – and so on?
There are a few existing hardware projects which do this and we discussed the possibilities with them. However, at the end of the day, we had to make a determination about their compliance fitness for world-wide distribution. It must be said however, that it is unrealistic to expect floppies from the 80s to still be functional, and today, disk images which are available from various sources online and stored on your computer, would be the only medium worth considering. Also, many current joysticks and joypads (even retro remakes) are orders of magnitude more reliable and functional than they were in the 80s.
What is your history regarding the retro computers? Did you own C64 and Amiga’s yourself? Were you involved with Commodore in the 80-90′s?
Barry ran his Cabletech Satellite Systems business on C64s and C128s in the 80s. Later his company also utilised the Amiga Video Toaster. I grew up with the VIC-20(a neighbour’s), the C64 and a later the Commodore Amiga models. All of which had a profound effect on me and buoyed my passion for computers and technology leading to a career in that field. When the original Commodore went out of business, I, like many, found it necessary to switch to PC compatibles.
The original Commodore VIC 20 – will the new line of VIC’s be as popular as the original?
What is your personal best memory from the C64 and Amiga in the 80-90′s?
The joy of opening up the box, setting up and running the C64 for the first time one Christmas.
I experienced similar pangs of joy when I received my new Commodore 64x model. When the Amiga came on the scene when I was just a teen, I used to always rush to the department store display to see it in action. I was always gob-smacked by the demos and the power and possibilities of the machine. We hope to bring this sense of power and possibilities back with our forthcoming Commodore Amiga line.
How is the market responding to the new computers from Commodore USA?
The market is responding well and we are continuing to scale up production to meet demand. We were very surprised to discover that our high-end configurations vastly outsold the lower configurations, to the point where it made little sense to continue building the lower, more cost conscious, configurations.
Many of our customers find the sleek looks of the VIC series most appealing, while others prefer the retro looks of the new Commodore 64. It is clear that our customers want as much power crammed into their C64x cases as possible and our barebones systems, which consist of the C64x case, custom cherry keyboard and memory card reader, are fit for that purpose and continue to sell well. We love seeing the amazing things members of the new Commodore community accomplish with our products.
To address this need for more power, we recently launched our C64x Extreme edition, which includes a 2nd Generation Intel i7 processor capable of running at speeds of 3.3Ghz. The original Atom/Ion2 based C64x Ultimate is already surprisingly powerful, but this takes the power into another realm. Nothing compares to the realisation that all the computing power is sitting right in front of you, in this tiny keyboard.
What can we expect from Commodore USA in the future? New computers, new peripherals? I think the marked would love to have new Commodore joysticks along with their new Commodore 64x computer!
New peripherals and accessories will happen soon enough. It is just a matter of priorities.
The Amiga line will consist of very powerful high-end personal computers in a similar horizontal pizza-box like form factor to the originals. We are determined to make the new Commodore Amiga line something to drool
We are also in negotiations with a few interesting technology companies for some remarkable technology.
While these are progressing a lot slower than we thought, I think they will bear fruit which will add another dimension to the company.
Commodore USA’s business and its products and offerings continues to evolve and grow.
The best is yet to come.
Big thanks to Leo Nigro for answering my questions!
PS: Dear Santa – I really really really want a C64x Extreme edition this Christmas… I’m willing to trade in all of my family’s wishes for this wish alone – please!