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Commodore 64 is back, and goes open source with Ubuntu Linux

After close to 30 years in hibernation, the Commodore 64 was relaunched with its retro design, this time with an Intel processor and the open source Ubuntu Linux.

The prices vary -- a barebones box is $295, minus the processor. A $895 version includes the works -- a 1TB hard drive, an Atom processor, Ubuntu Linux, an Nvidia graphics processor, 4GB of memory, a Blu-ray drive.

All components are integrated in a keyboard form factor, and the systems do not include a monitor. The machines are available on Commodore's website.

For the younger Facebook generation, this machine will be just another weird PC form factor that will fail. They may even wonder why I'm writing about this. Well, the C64, which came out in 1982, spawned the PC revolution.

Starting with the PET, and then the C64, Commodore machines battled fiercely with Apple's II and Macintosh computers for market share. It later battled IBM's PC, whose open-source design allowed geeks to build computers based on their components in garages.

Commodore and Apple bought many innovations such as color screens, mice, the graphical user interface, which are commonly found on computers today.

Commodore 64 in particular was the first affordable computer for the masses. It was priced at $595 at launch, and ultimately sold around 17 million units, making it one of the most popular PCs ever. At that time $595 was high, but for computers priced above $1,000 at that time, it was a groundbreaking price. The company's aim was to make the Commodore affordable for the masses, and the people responded.

The Commodore also had an impact on the operating systems. It set the stage for Amiga, the OS used in Commodore's followup Amiga series of PCs.

As Commodore made incremental improvements to PCs and the Amiga OS in the 80s and 90s, IBM's PCs implemented DOS, and then went on to PS/2 and OS/2 (all those OSes were joint development effort between IBM and Microsoft at the time). Ultimately IBM took control over OS/2, which it ultimately dropped in favor of Windows.

But in the age of tablets, the new Commodore will fail. People would rather invest in PCs, and the new machine will be attractive only to the retro audience. The retro audience loves open-source software, and Ubuntu Linux will go down just well. But profitability counts, and we'll see how long this machine survives this time round.

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