Umm, no, that’s not Commodore, and that’s not an Amiga

Some stories floating around are suggesting that Commodore is still around, and they just released a new, overpriced Amiga.

Well, there’s a company slapping “Commodore” and “Amiga” labels on PC cases that look kind of like Apple Mac Mini cases and stuffing off-the-shelf components in them, but they’re Commodore Amigas in name only.
Commodore, the company founded by Auschwitz survivor Jack Tramiel in 1953 that progressed from assembling typewriters to calculators to computers, went out of business in 1994. The Commodore of the 1980s, that brought us the affordable Commodore VIC-20 and C-64 8-bit computers and the revolutionary Amiga, has been gone for a very long time.

When Commodore went bankrupt, its assets scattered to the winds, and most of the companies that bought ex-Commodore assets are gone now too. Today, “Commodore” and “Amiga” are just undead brand names, licensed to companies who want to slap a recognizable name on a product in hopes of making it more marketable. In that regard, it’s no different from my Crosley-branded clothes dryer. Crosley’s been dead and gone as a company since the 1950s; my Crosley was made by Whirlpool in 2010, and the only difference I can see between it and a Kenmore (also made by Whirlpool) is that I didn’t buy it from Sears.

So what about this new Amiga?

It looks a lot like I’d imagine a modern-day Amiga would look like if Commodore had managed to survive this long. But that’s an Intel motherboard inside and it’s running a custom distribution of Linux. Any computer enthusiast could buy a high-end case, put $2,400 worth of hardware in it, and make something that will look just as nice and perform even better. It just won’t say “Commodore” and “Amiga” on it.

Confusingly, there actually is a modern implementation of the old Amiga OS, developed under license that runs on modern-ish hardware. Unfortunately, it runs on PowerPC, and only on specific boards that are difficult to find and expensive to purchase, so it’s not like you can just go pick up a used G5 Macintosh and turn it into an Amiga either.

Now, if this new Amiga had one of these scarce Power PC boards in it and ran the modern implementation of Amiga OS, I’d give it a 13th and a 14th look. I’m a weak-willed Amigaholic, after all. But the $2500 price tag–$2,000 or $2,500, depending on the story you believe–is still high even for that.  It turns out a 1.15 GHz PowerPC-based Amiga system, made by a different licensee, sells for around $1,000. I can hear it calling my name, and I’m sure I’ll dream about it tonight.

But a $2,000 Linux PC with a top-of-the-line CPU and 16 GB of RAM married to a dated graphics engine and bottom-of-the-line 1 TB hard drive does nothing for me. Absolutely nothing.

Unfortunately, this modern-day Commodore is guilty of what the original Commodore hated in the 1980s: Slapping together a bunch of commodity, off-the-shelf hardware and charging a $1,000 premium for it because it had a name like Apple or IBM on the case.

And Commodore doesn’t have that cachet. This is like someone licensing the W.T. Grant brand name and setting up shop next door to Saks Fifth Avenue and trying to get Saks Fifth Avenue prices.

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1 Comment

  1. PerryM

     /  March 25, 2012

    Long time reader, long time since I commented…

    I agree with you completely. Somebody is trying to cash in on the name, but they are definitely NOT providing a product that the old Commodore would have stood for. Way too expensive, and not even close to what I hoping for when I heard they were “reviving” the Amiga and C-64.