Not long ago, I covered the somewhat troubling story of a school system that’s using a vintage Commodore Amiga computer to run its HVAC system. And in the summer of 2015, I figured that’d be the end to any Commodore-related news for now. That’s why I was surprised to discover that there will soon be a new smartphone branded with the Commodore logo.
It’s worth noting that this new device has no direct ties to the Commodore computer company we all remember from twenty (or more) years ago. This “new” Commodore is headed by a group that managed to secure the Commodore trademark in the UK. And most importantly, along with that trademark, they’re able to use the classic Commodore logo. Hence, the world’s first-ever Commodore smartphone.
The new PET phone will run the Android operating system and it’ll feature a 5.5-inch IPS 1920×1080 pixel resolution display made of Gorilla Glass 3 along with a 1.7 GHz Mediatek 64-bit octa-core processor with ARM Mali T760 GPU, 16 GB RAM, a 3000 mAh battery and a 3-megapixel camera using a Sony sensor with a bright f/2.0 aperture, creating images up to 4096×2304 pixels, and videos up to 1080p HD.
While the phone itself is packed with modern hardware and software, it can still serve up some real feelings of nostalgia. The Commodore PET will ship with customized versions of the VICE C64 emulator and the Uae4All2-SDL Amiga emulator, allowing users to play all of those classic Commodore games right there on the phone.
The Commodore PET smartphone is expected to retail for around $300. It will be released first in Europe with other territories (including the U.S.) to come later.
My first ever family computer was a Commodore 64. I still remember how excited I was when my dad brought one home for Christmas, 1984. We spent hours putting that machine thru its paces. Which really means, we used it to play video games. Lots and lots of video games. And sometimes, we’d take a break from those games to do something more computer-y like make a database or manually input some code (probably for a game!) from one of the day’s prevalent computer magazines.
A few years later, we replaced that C-64 with a shiny new Amiga 500. And while we lost all of those great games, we gained 16-bit color and sound as well as the ability to add things like hard drives and other I/O. Around this time, I was able to take a media production course thru a vocational school. The school had a small lab of the A500’s bigger brother, the Amiga 2000. This is where I was first introduced to things like the Newtek Video Toaster as well as digital audio production. Oh, how I lusted after one of those Amiga 2000’s (or for that matter, the Amiga 3000 and 4000!). I desperately wanted to own one but alas, it never happened.
All of those memories came flooding back to me when I recently came across this article about a school district in Michigan that’s still using an Amiga 2000 to control its HVAC systems. I’m unsure if this is a testament to the reliability and quality of Commodore products or a sad statement on the nature of public school funding. Regardless, the Grand Rapids Public School District is using an Amiga 2000 working in concert with a 1200-bit modem and a radio system that sends signals to the school district’s buildings, turning on/off heaters and air conditioners as needed.
Apparently, the wireless frequency used by this system overlaps with the same radio frequency used by district maintenance, which sometimes creates problems. Maintenance crews have to maintain radio silence for periods of up to 20 minutes whenever one of these communication problems arises.
If voters approve an upcoming bond measure, the school district should be able to raise enough funds to replace the vintage computer system. If the bond does pass, I hope there’s a museum or something that can house that Amiga 2000. After nearly 30 years of venerable service, it deserves more than to just be sent to the recycler.