The Commodore 64 lives on
I thought that this was kind of interesting. I never had one, but a lot of my friends did.
FRESNO â€” Robert Bernardo spent a week this spring traveling the Pacific Northwest, trying to save part of yesterday’s future.
The high school English teacher swung through Portland and Astoria, Ore., and then on to Ethel, Wash., to drop off a collection of antiquated computers â€” a PET8032, three VIC-20s, an SX-64 portable and a Commodore 128D.Then on his way home to the Central Valley town of Visalia, Bernardo packed his white Crown Victoria with three more SX-64s, boxes of software and a couple of printers.
With any luck, this agglomeration of decades-old circuit boards and dusty disk drives will allow Bernardo to reboot a handful of computers made by the long-defunct Commodore Business Machines.
In an era when a home computer’s power is measured in gigabytes, Bernardo still counts kilobytes as a devoted Commodore user 12 years after the last machine was assembled.
Once the largest personal computer maker in America, the company behind the VIC-20 and the Commodore 64 introduced millions of people like Bernardo to the digital age. The company went out of business in 1994, but its legacy survives in dozens of Commodore clubs around the country.
Bernardo presides over the Fresno chapter.
Never mind that the VIC-20 has so little usable memory â€” just 3.5 kilobytes â€” that it can store only a couple of pages of text in its buffers. Or that Commodore hardware was notoriously clunky and buggy. Bernardo still manages all his e-mail on a 1980s-vintage Commodore 64.
“I’ve never considered the Commodore obsolete,” Bernardo said. “I can still do many things with it â€” e-mail, browse the Web, word processing, desktop publishing and newsletters. I still do games on it: new games that are copyright 2006, ordered from Germany.”
Like classic car fans, Bernardo and other Central Valley Commodore devotees lug their gear every month to the Pizza Pit restaurant and put the hoods up, so to speak. For many, a Commodore machine was their first computer. They cherish their machines the way some guys pamper their high school hot rod.