Commodore 256 under construction

Commodore made the world's most successful 8-bit personal computer, the C64, and its most iconic 16-bit one, the Commodore Amiga. But the latter was a weird, complicated, two-faced beast, dooming a badly-managed company to a dead end of its own making. What if it had instead made a simple but powerful monster machine more like its earler models? Meet the C256.

Stefany Allaire is building the Commodore 256, what she believes should have been the successor to the Commodore 64 and 128, the best-selling computer line in history. Stefany – who has designed hardware for $60 billion companies, startups, and everything in between – also shared insights into her design process, including the PCB design tools she uses, and how she integrates electronics and mechanical design.

It has a 65C816 Western Digital CPU, 256 colors and up to a megabyte of RAM. And SID chips, supply permitting. The project's homepage is c256foenix.com.

I believe that restriction is the mother of creativity, so I’m trying to restrict myself to keep it limited to what would have been available back then.

Commodore did attempt something vaguely similar to this, the Commodore 65, but they waited until the 1990s, pitching it as budget upgrade for C64 users, and it was so obviously late to the party it never got past prototyping. A more relevant comparison might be the Sinclair QL, a poor mangled beast (albeit a 16-bit one) rushed out in 1984 to beat Apple, Atari and Commodore to the shelf. Read the rest

Samia Halaby is an 81-year-old Commodore Amiga artist

"Use a material for what it's capable of doing," Samia Halaby says. "You don't make something out of wood that should be made out of Iron."

She's not dinking around in Duluxe Paint either like that hamfisted hack from Pittsburgh did back in the 80s. Halaby is coding generative, animated art in AmigaBasic!

The Guru Meditation: "Samia Halaby is a world renowned painter who purchased a Commodore Amiga 1000 in 1985 at the tender age of 50 years old. She taught herself the BASIC and C programming languages to create "kinetic paintings" with the Amiga and has been using the Amiga ever since. Samia has exhibited in prestigious venues such as The Guggenheim Museum, The British Museum, Lincoln Center, The Chicago Institute of Art, Arab World Institute, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Sakakini Art Center, and Ayyam Gallery just to name a few."

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The Commodore 64's "secret colours"

Commodore's C64 had a famously decisive, if drab set of 16 colors to choose from, a note of artistic intent amid the unthinking mathematical extremities of other 8-bit color palettes. But did you know there were secret colors? Aaron Bell writes up a discovery that blew his mind many years ago and which, 26 years later, he's finally figured out.

If you swap two colours rapidly enough - say at 50 or 60 frames per second - you can fool the eye into seeing something that isn't there. On a machine with sixteen colours, just one or two extra can add a lot to a scene. Since today we all live in the future and you are reading a fully programmable document on a supercomputer, let's try it.

The sad part is that the trick doesn't work for most pairings due to the obvious strobing/flickering effect it generates. But now wily coders can add a whole host of new grays to their vivid Commodore palettes. ("The tartan for the clan McPuke" is definitely the best description of the C64 palette I've ever read. I doubt it'll be topped.)

I read somewhere this is more or less what's done on cheapo monitors to make you think you're getting 24-bit color.

Previously: How the hell did they get 1024 colors out of a 1981 PC? Read the rest

Viva Amiga! Watch a documentary about the best computer

The Commodore Amiga, ahead of its time and murdered by corporate mismanagement, etc., remains in fairly common use thanks to an enthusiast community and sheer physical longevity. And now a documentary is here so everyone can know how totally awesome it is, reports Ars Technica's Jeremy Reimer.

Viva Amiga is a wonderful look at the the history of the platform, the people who built it, and the users who loved it. The opening title says it all: "One Amazing Computer. One chance to save the company. One chance to win the PC wars." This message sets the stage nicely for a dramatic and passionate tale.

The trailer's embedded above and you can watch the whole thing on Amazon and other platforms. It's just an hour long so there are no excuses. I'm hitting it right now and will begin reviewing retired engineers' haircuts and Hawaiian shirts forthwith. Read the rest

Kickstarting new cases for old Amigas

Philippe Lang is looking for $140,863 from fellow Amiga enthusiasts, which he'll spend producing a run of new cases for Amiga (and Amiga-alike) computers, in 12 colors of UV-resistant plastic. Read the rest

Watch: How "oldschool" computer graphics worked back in the eighties

In part one of a series, the limitations of color on eighties-era computers and early game consoles like NES and Commodore 64.

Commodore PET cellphone

Before the Amiga, before the C64, there was Commodore's PET, its first great 8-bit machine. Now it's being resurrected, in spirit, as a cellphone.

Although nostalgia is not the core of the product, there is of course room for retro gaming. The Commodore PET runs a custom version of Android 5.0 Lollipop and two preinstalled emulators. They weren’t finished on the prototype I used, but I’m told they’ll be customized versions of the VICE C64 emulator and the Uae4All2-SDL Amiga emulator. The team also is working with unnamed software houses to bring some of the 1980’s best games on the PET before shipping.

When it launches later this week across Europe, the Commodore PET should come in two different versions, a light one (costing around $300) with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM, and a regular one (costing around $365) with 32GB of internal memory and 3GB of RAM. Both will have a 32-gig microSD card included—though the dedicated slot will support cards up to 64GB, too. Users can choose a white, black, or classic biscuit-beige case, though I’m told green, blue, and other colors might be added.

Whereby "in spirit" means "BRANDING" yelled in a booming Daniel Plainview voice.

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Small world, tracker music edition

I love to hang out with online pal Cabel Sasser, founder of Portland software company Panic, whenever our paths cross in real life. But I only just realized that he was an early 90s tracker musician whose work I listened to in England as a kid, on my Commodore Amiga, decades before we met. Read the rest

Commodore 64 creator dies

"We need to build computers for the masses, not the classes" — Jack Tramiel [Mercury News] Read the rest

Commodore is beautiful

Boing Boing reader Byron shares this photograph of one of our ancestors in the National Museum of Scotland:

An old Commodore PET computer (complete with tape deck for loading and saving programme and a built in monitor). I think this model was the very first home computer (as we know them) that I ever saw, when I was a wee boy, late 1970s. My dad's friend was an amateur meteorologist, had a room full of (for the time) hi-tech equipment like a HAM radio, a print out that fed him data right from a weather satellite and the like. He got himself one of these and knowing I like science fiction he thought I'd like it so he got dad to bring me round. Two or three years late I'd have my own home computer, a Texas TI-99 4/a and I've pretty much had a computer of some sort right through till today.

Thanks for sharing it in the Boing Boing Flickr pool, Byron! Read the rest