The Commodore 64 Is Back, Running Ubuntu!

The return of the venerable keyboard computer could finally usher in Linux on the desktop

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Commodore 64 rides again! This time with Ubuntu. 

If you are over the age 40 and have been into computers for a while, chances are that one of your first computers was a Commodore. Whether a VIC or better yet, the legendary Commodore 64, these keyboard computers (all in ones) represented the platform that many of us cut our teeth on. Along with the Amiga, they were the cat's meow back then. Back in the early 80's if you had asked people who would lead the computer revolution (if they thought there would be a computer revolution), I bet most would have picked Commodore, while a decent amount would have picked Apple and some maybe even Altair. Few might have said IBM.

But shortly thereafter it all went downhill. The IBM PC standard became the standard. Microsoft DOS became the OS and Commodore and Altair disappeared . Apple held on by the skin of its teeth for some of those years, only to rise like a Phoenix on the strength of its music players and phones.  Of course IBM exited the PC business a while ago, but Microsoft is still there. Now it looks like Commodore is back.  A relaunched version of the Commodore company is about to release the Commodore 64 again. The company will also release new versions of the PET and get this, an Amiga computer!

The company has done its best to recreate the look and feel of the original Commodore 64 as close as humanly possible. But the new version is a fully functional PC inside. It runs Intel chips, PCI Express slots and large hard drives.  Best of all the computer ships with Ubuntu. So it is a Linux box! Commodore says they will ship Commodore OS v 1.0 shortly after the boxes begin to ship.  I am not sure what the new Commodore OS is based on, but it will have an emulator that lets you run the old Commodore games and software.  If I had to bet, I would bet the Commodore OS is probably a Linux variant as well.

Of course if you want you can still run Windows on the 64.  In fact the computer supposedly has a nift multi-boot screen that will let you pick which of multiple OSs you want to run. I imagine it won't be long until you can have a VM that will have you running multiple OSs at once.

But the underlying look of the 64 is still there.  It is a keyboard with a computer inside. Of course now you can get a blue ray DVD player built in and all of the other modern comforts of a PC.

I think most people who opt to relive their youth or want to try a 64 for themselves are not going to run Windows on it on general principle. It could very well be, especially if the Commodore OS is a Linux kernel, that the 64 could usher in the long prophesized Linux desktop era.

Wouldn't that be delicious irony. To knock Windows off and get Linux on the desktop we had to turn to the Commodore 64!

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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