For the last five years, I’ve collected all sorts of retro computers and console hardware, everything from a sleek and compact Apple //c to a classy Amiga 1000 to a venerable Game Boy Color. I originally thought that each system would take its place in a monstrous basement boycave full of ye olde games of yesteryear, but the reality of work and family has more or less eradicated that dream. So, instead, I thought I would have some fun as I give away, sell off, and trash some of the systems that have collected dust in my basement over the years.
The first in this series of retro photo shoots is a Commodore 64c. The C64c was a re-release of the original C64. The new, angular, grey case was modelled after the Commodore 128, and featured some design changes to the main board that shrunk the number of chips used by integrating them into the new VLSI chip. The original C64 keyboard – which was brutally difficult to type on – was replaced by a slightly different keyboard with lighter springs, while maintaining the familiar hollow clack!-clack! of each keypress. In Canada, the system was sold for $299.99 CAD at Canadian Tire (a national tool and automotive chain), along with the 1541-II disk drive for a whopping $399.99. The matching Commodore 1802 monitor would run you another $399.99.
This particular machine looks like it sat in some young gamer’s room for years, with fingerprint dirt smudges caked on the * and 8 and 1 keys, and finger grease gunked up around the power switch. Well-loved would be an understatement. I dig through the diskette box: this particular gamer was a fan of side-scrolling action games like Bop’n'Wrestle, Epyx Winter Games and California Games. Interspersed with the action games, there are a fair number of AD&D Gold Box games like Pool of Radiance and Hillsfar. A well-worn copy of Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny even has the original cloth map and the Codex coin. I get the sense that I am either looking at the artifacts of one very well-versed gamer, or perhaps two gamers sharing one computer: one who likes their slow-moving RPGs and the other into fast-paced action. A copy of Gortek and the Microchips tells me that mom and dad insisted that the child learn a programming language. Whoever they were, their parent(s) shelled out over $1100 to put together a very slick system, not to mention one heckuva game collection.
I slide MECC’s Odell Lake into the 1541-II’s disk drive, and flip down the locking lever with a satisfying snick! I type LOAD”*”,8,1 and walk away to grab a coffee. I have enough time to pull a shot of espresso, steam some milk, and grab a handful of cookies. When I come back into the living room, the disk drive is still humming away quietly. Odell Lake appears on the screen, with MECC’s particular style of edutainment.