Many people are rediscovering the Commodore 64 and 128 computers, as
mentioned in the current Foreword. In that
spirit, here are the Forewords I've written from previous Products Lists.
Roger J. Long
July 1994 - March 1995 - May 1996 - August 1997 - June 1999
Interesting things have been happening in the 8-bit world lately. There are more rumors than fact right now about the fate of Commodore Business Machines. This should not be a concern to most C64 and C128 owners, because we've been doing fine while CBM concentrated on its Amiga Line.
User groups and companies are, for the most part, sticking with the 64 and 128 because they love their computers. If they didn't, they would have made a "business decision" to quit before now.
There is also more of a spirit of cooperation between companies now. Would you have seen an article describing RUN inside of Ahoy? No. The first issue of Commodore World had four articles written by other companies in it. I know of at least three other cases where one company is in contact with other companies so that their products will all work together.
This list is my addition to that spirit of cooperation. Hopefully, by showing that you can still get products for your computer, it will encourage you to keep it for a while longer, encourage these companies to stick with us, and perhaps even encourage new companies to start up.
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No matter how much I plan ahead, sometimes I still fall behind. I decided to delay putting this list together until February so that I would have time to contact a few more companies, to do the list properly. As I type this, it's March 4th, 1995, about three weeks past when I wanted to mail out completed List #4.
I want to thank all the companies that took the time to write or call back to me to verify their information. Many of them even sent me catalogs or fliers, which I appreciate and will share with my club.
What's happened since Products List #3 was released in July 1994? Let's see...
But, on the brighter side, we've seen the following:
[Thanks to a suggestion by Harry Blake-Knox of Canada, verification marks were placed on each entry.]
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Last year at about this time (May 1995), the assets of Commodore Business Machines was bought by Escom AG of Germany who primarily wanted the name "Commodore" to help them expand their market in Europe. A limited number of brand names can do business there. Prior to the actual sale, Escom learned of a neat computer named Amiga which they would be getting as part of Commodore's holdings. They liked it so much they started a whole new company: Amiga Technologies. The parent company, Escom, could then concentrate on their IBM-compatible line of computers, using the Commodore name.
Amiga Technologies probably did more between June 1995 and February 1996 than the mis-management of Commodore did in its last three or four years: press conferences, making more Amiga 1200's and 4000T's, computer fairs, Internet software, a new Amiga (the Walker), and announcing the use of the PowerPC series of processors in the 1997 Amigas.
During that time, it was hoped that the C64 and C128 could be reintroduced. There were plans to continue selling them in Europe and to start selling them in China. Neither one materialized. The only news of significance has been that Activision licensed the C64 ROMs so that one of their "nostalgia" packs of games could be made more easily.
Recently, the market for IBM-compatibles has declined. There's a glut of product and fewer buyers. This has affected Escom as well, and they've decided to sell Amiga Technologies. The likely buyer is VIScorp of Chicago, though a newly-formed company named PIOS may complicate that. VIScorp has some of the people that helped design the original Amiga and seems to want to continue the Amiga's rebirth. [Info added August 1997: VIScorp wound up complicating their own deal: they didn't offer a lot of cash, mostly stock. The deal fell through when they couldn't make any payments. QuikPak made an offer in February 1997, but Gateway 2000 snuck up on everyone and bought the Amiga in March.]
So, what does this mean to us, the C64 and C128 owners?
Most likely nothing.
Even without a company making new machines, there are more new, really neat items being made today. We can now run 28.8K modems (up to 57.6K, actually), send and receive faxes and scan in documents via the fax, put in a gigabyte hard drive, and outrun a 386-equipped IBM-compatible with the Super64 CPU 20 MHz accelerator by Creative Micro Designs. Want more? The Internet is waiting.
Exploring the Internet is part of what I've been doing lately, and is part of the reason why this list got delayed two months. The other part is I'm also the editor for an Amiga club now. It's turned out to be even more work than I had anticipated.
The Internet is immense. Just trying to keep up with the newsgroups can eat up several hours a day, especially when your news server keeps marking yesterday's messages as unread.
But, it also can help immensely. I was able to gather information for this List via E-mail and from the World Wide Web (noted as "Web page" in the key.) If I can get your help in notifying me of new C64-supporting clubs and places, as well as letting me know when they shut down, we should be able to turn this web site into an excellent place to turn to for current information.
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Over a year later, not much has changed. The Amiga went through another transition, from Escom in Germany over to Gateway (formerly Gateway 2000) in South Dakota with an aborted detour through VIScorp in Chicago.
Note: the rights to the Commodore 8-bit line (C64, etc.) belong to a company called Tulip somewhere over in Europe. Details to follow.
I'm still trying to meet all my deadlines, self-imposed or not, and not making all of them. Yup, not much has changed.
And yet, everything has changed.
Change #1: Expansion
New products continue to be made for a supposedly "dead" computer. Last year we saw the introduction of faxing software, gigabyte hard drives, a 20 MHz accelerator, and an interface to drive a modem at 230.4 Kbps. Name any other system where you can spend $200 and get a 20x performance increase. Can you take an IBM 386 system and upgrade it to a Pentium MMX level, run a benchmark program, see a result of 20x higher than it was before, all for $200?
That ain't all, folks. In the next 12 months, we can look forward to a SuperCPU accelerator specifically for the C128, memory expansion with 16 megabytes of continuous memory (ask any IBM user about the 640K DOS barrier and you'll see why this is a big deal), and a new version of GEOS. More work has also been done on adapting the TCP/IP protocol of the Internet to the Commodore, with rumors of a HTML-based browser program.
Change #2: Rebirth
Guess who is the typical new owner of a Commodore system these days? Someone who owned one many years ago.
Besides new people finding them at thrift stores, many of the people who owned a C64 or C128 back in the 1980s are rediscovering them. Many of them said they got rid of the Commodore and went on to "a real computer". Now, however, they find that they miss the ole Commie and either go out and buy a full system from a thrift store or else run one of the many C64 emulators that are available for the Amiga, IBM, Mac or other system. Or it's the other way round: they get the emulator and then find out how much they miss the C64.
Today's C64 emulators work very well. If you don't have a real C64, they do quite well in masquerading as one. Given a fast enough machine, they will even run faster than a stock C64. Put a SuperCPU on a C64 however, and it would take at least a 400 MHz Pentium II IBM (which doesn't exist yet) with 64 megabytes of RAM to equal its speed.
Change #3: World-wide recognition
I mentioned last year that the Internet allowed me to gather more information easier for the Products List. Since then, its grown even more, and many more Commodore-specific sites have been put up. Some of these sites, however, are using HTML commands (the language that describes how a web page should look) that would only be accessible on an IBM or Mac. Go figure.
What else is there? A book entitled The Internet for Commodore Users, now in its second revision, describes how to connect to the Internet with your Commodore. User groups put club info and/or back issues of their newsletter on the Internet for all to see. Even Yahoo!, one of the most widely-known search engines, has a section specifically for the Commodore.
Last year, I put the Products List up on the Internet both to make it easier to access worldwide and to make it easier to update. Since then, I've logged many hundreds of hours. A majority of those were spent waiting for web pages to finish loading all their fancy graphics. And sounds. And music. And Java scripts. Most of which don't really do anything for the page.
At the same time, I've also seen that my pages looked a little bland. So, they're getting a face-lift. Centering to make things look classy. Header graphics for the major sections to add a little bit of color. (If anyone can tell me why the transparency isn't working on those graphics, I'd appreciate it.) Little things that won't slow down reading the pages. (After writing up the "bandwidth-friendly" pledge, I better not break my own rule.)
In the past, I've kept my focus to North America. With the author of the aforementioned book being in Australia, that may change. And, there are a number of Internet-only places that contain valuable information. Who knows what next year's List will look like. I still don't know what this year's List will look like!
So, let me know what you think.
Roger J. Long
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In the last Foreword, I wrote about how many people are rediscovering the Commodore 64 and 128. This nostalgia has since spilled over into a couple of interesting areas. Not only have the Commodore-related websites and the C64 emulators grown in number and quality, but there is now a computer being sold using some of the same strategies that made the Commodore 64 such a success: it has a low price tag, can use a TV as a display, and has ROM-based utilities, one of which is a C64 emulator. This "Web.It" computer is made by a division of Tulip Computers, the European company that bought the rights to Commodore's 8-bit line. (The Amiga line is in the hands of Gateway, and their Amiga division has recently relocated to the Silicon Valley area.
The little hand-held computers are maturing also. While there isn't a C64 emulator for them yet, I wouldn't rule that as impossible. After all, the best way to get a C64 programmer to create a program is to tell them, "You can't do that on a Commodore." The games Wizardry and Starflight were initially deemed too complex for the C64 to run, but eventually Sir-Tech and Electronic Arts produced C64 versions. Nick Rossi blew the "Z-modem will never be in a C64 terminal program because the Z-modem code is 50K long" argument out of the water when he released Novaterm 9.6 with the Z-modem protocol.
What is running on these hand-held computers are the Infocom text adventures. At the time Infocom first translated their mainframe Zork program to home computers, just before 1980, home computers did not have very detailed graphics or sound. So Infocom chose to make the words the programs used more descriptive, and let the horsepower inside your imagination fill in the picture and provide the sound. The result was programs that ran on a wide range of computers, back when every computer had its own way of doing things. And they run just fine on today's hand-held computers.
While I was looking through some old magazines for articles about Infocom I discovered that even my own Products List falls into the "everything old is new again" category. INFO Magazine used to have in their issues a "Product Roundup", listing which programs and hardware were available for the C64/C128 and which dealers sold their magazine. But, as more companies made items and the magazine added in Amiga coverage (and later switched over to just Amiga coverage), this was discontinued. Tenex did the same thing on a larger scale with their "Everything Book"--a full catalog that showed what was available.
It wasn't after 1990 that the first glimmers of the Commodore Products Source List showed up, and at first it was just a small list inside the Tri-City Commodore Computer Club's newsletter. The third time that I printed the Products List, it had grown large enough to require its own issue. Each year, it's grown bigger. Issue #6 in August 1997 contained 190 entries of people, businesses and user groups that supported the C64 and C128 computers.
Products List #7 is even bigger than List #6. While a few places have gone out of business, the Commodore-supporting Internet sites have increased. There are many more Commodore-related web sites than what are listed here. The sites that are here in the Products List offer more than the usual collection of links to other Commodore sites. In the case where a personal site is listed, it might be because it contains the programs that that person has written over the years, or because it offers something unique, like Commodore 128-specific information.
Some of the sites in the Internet Resources provide a similar service as the Products List. The Products List differs from these sites in that it's main purpose is to locate places where you can still purchase Commodore items, and to personally verify the information as best I can. That won't prevent outdated information from creeping in, but it will cut back on some of it. Read the Products List Info for further details.
At this point, I'd like to take a moment to say thanks to the Tri-Cities Commodore Computer Club. They loaned me several months' worth of exchange newsletters to look through for places to add into this issue. In the past when I was editor for that club, the exchange newsletters played a major part in my research for the Products List. I still host the TC-Cubed web site, which is located at http://home1.gte.net/longrj2/tc-cubed/.
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