Chris J Powell

OS Sunday – A True Blast From the Past

If you grew up with computers that needed to use a cassette tape for storage and a collection of 5 1/4″ Floppy’s were common around the room then you remember the amazing power that the Commodore Vic20 and Commodore C64 had to bring us into the mix and make computing very, very personal.  I remember being 11 or 12 years old and thinking that this was the coolest thing ever as I saved up change to buy a Commodore Magazine so that I could copy the lines of code and create my own version of a game!

Not only did this bring back many memories of the earliest days of Personal Computing, it brought back wonderful memories of me and my friends huddled around the 13 inch TV playing Activision’s Decathlon.  But I digress as this stroll down memory lane has me longing for those simpler times when a joy stick and 1 hour of waiting for the game to load off of the floppies were all par for the course.

I recently stumbled across a revamped version of my beloved Commodore OS…yes that is right Commodore is back and it has Linux under the hood.  How can this be you ask well if you head over to CommodoreUSA and grab both DVDs to ensure you have maximum nostalgic fun!

I have been holding back on this one for a few weeks mainly because it has been so darn fun having the Commodore OS running.  The download is a tad large (two DVDs totaling over 7GB so check your ISP usage before starting).

What is so great about this OS…it is a blend of what I truly loved about the Commodore (both the Vic-20 and the C-64) and in this case…the Commodore OS is actually a 64 bit kick ass display of what can be done if you put your mind to it.  When I first started the Live Disk…and it started to talk to me I knew I was in for some fun!   The thing that I especially like is that Commodore USA is even back in the business of producing some really cool hardware too reviving the Vic, the C64 and the Amiga Brands!

So what do you get with this “new” CommodoreOS? The system is based on Linux Mint 10, one of the most user friendly Distros out there but has had a full and complete GUI overhaul.  I would say it is best described as a combination of Retro Computing meets the Future!

Commodore OS VisionThe install was simple and straight forward but when I set up the Virtual Machine I needed to add an extra IDE drive so that I would be able to install the additional Software that comes with Disk 2.  All said and done, the initial install went by splendidly and I was at the first boot in under 15 minutes.

That is when the times of my youth came flooding back to me with the retro start up screen.  All I needed was the computer to ask “Do you want to play a game?” (a reference to the 1983 Hacker movie WarGames).  But for all this Retro Styling…there is quite a powerful connection to the modern world.  I set things up with the standard 4GB of RAM and 20GB Virtual Drive things that back in 1985 were not even a pipe dream that it would be possible.

Included with the OS is:

  • FireFox for Web Browsing
  • LibreOffice for Productivity
  • Picasa for Photos
  • Rhythm Box for Music
  • Retro Games Galor
  • and much more

The initial Boot time after the install was a little mired in an odd update issue (the system wanted to boot to a command prompt only) but after a quick check on the Commodore Support forums…this was a quick fix.  A restart and I was back in business and the glorious world of Retro Computing.  The sound effects were amazing and brought back memories at every click…but sadly…that is were the fun ended.

After a while, the novelty wore off.  As much as I love thinking back to the good old days…it comes down to being able to do the things I need to do.  The OS does all of these well, and I was able to turn off the sound effects  so that was all good but I just could not get used to the Extreme Blue of the background and the menus.  I have gotten used to the slick interfaces of today’s modern OSes and while the CommodoreOS does come with a slick AWN Dock…it was still missing something that would not put it over the top.

Updating the system is no problem as it uses the LinuxMint and Ubuntu Repositories for all software and included with the system is several unique Emulators that let you bring those classic games of yesterday back to life (and if you really wanted to…I am sure there is an old copy of Lotus 1-2-3 kicking around if you get really nostalgic).

I have been using the system for well over 2 weeks and while I have grown accustomed to the hiccups and tweaks needed to make CommodoreOS my own…I think it is time to return to the Ubuntu that I know and love.

All in all, the system is solid and stable, I think I would more likely leverage it more if I had one of the CommodoreUSA boxes (the Commodore C64x really looks BAD ASS) but at $1295 USD…it won’t be happening any time soon!

For rating this…as I mentioned I really enjoyed the setup for many reasons but there was something that was missing that I just can’t put my finger on and for that reason:

Cheers and have a great day everyone!

Chris J Powell

1 thought on “OS Sunday – A True Blast From the Past

  1. Great trip down memory lane. Actually, the Commodore 64 was a fairly late arrival. I learned computing on a locker size unit that used 8 toggle switches and a push button to enter each byte, with a single 7 segment LED display. A year later, the school purchased a mainframe with 16 kilobytes of RAM and used dot matrix printers for output (no visual displays). My first computer was a MicroBee with 16 kB of RAM, and used cassette tapes to load programs. When the Commodore 64 came out, it was a real hit with many, though beyond my budget at the time. Eventually I was able to purchase my first PC – with a 286 CPU, 512 kilobytes of RAM, dual 5.25″ floppy drives, and a green text only display. The first 5 Megabyte hard drives back then cost $10,000 !! Times have certainly marched on. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

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