Is The Asus EeePC The New Commodore-64?

I was just reminded that the Asus EeePC is also being sold in Toys R Us (so far UK-only, I think).

Toys R Us (in the U.S.) is where I bought my own first computer: the Commodore-64!

Here’s some interesting bits from the wikipedia entry:

The Commodore 64 is an 8-bit home computer released by Commodore International in August, 1982, at a price of US$595.

Oh yes. When it debuted, it was actually being sold in computer stores at the time. That’s where I first got a demonstration — from a snooty woman in pinstripes who really did not like me touching her demo unit.

It was only a matter of months later, I think, that the price was dropped to $200 and it was at Toys R Us. What a relief to go into a store, grab it off a shelf, pay for it at a supermarket-like cashier, and go home without encountering any of those pinstriped zombies hunting for corporate bodies to feed on!

This I didn’t know and astounds me:

During the Commodore 64’s lifetime sales totaled 30 million units, making it the best-selling single personal computer model of all time.

Asus still has a long way to go to come near that.

I think it was a little over a year after I got my C-64 that the computer and video game markets both crashed. Many magazines went under and so did Commodore. The market consolidated around the Apple II, the scarily-expensive Macintosh ($2,500!), and the boring and fugly IBM PC (which had a keyboard guaranteed to cause RSI!).

Me, being both perverse and poor still frugal then, took another turn off the main path and wound up with an Atari 1040ST! Otherwise known as the Poverty Mac. It was ghastly! Really! I think I must have bought it at Toys R Us too! I was able to sell it to someone just before no one ever wanted to buy one ever again.

What Asus has in its favor that Commodore didn’t: the EeePC can run a popular operating system.

A C-64 couldn’t emulate a PC (then MS-DOS), so people were stuck.

The EeePC is now being offered with Windows XP. That — along with its ability to be hacked into running other OSes too, including Mac OS X! — guarantees a longer life than the Commodore-64.

But Asus needs to follow that Commodore pricing model.

Ditch the worthless 2G Surf model and make the 4G 701 $200.

Make the 8G 701 $250.

And make the new 900 $400.

And if they can improve the keyboard in future models, perhaps the EeePC will reach the number of sales the 64 attained.

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4 Comments on “Is The Asus EeePC The New Commodore-64?”

  1. jhall Says:

    Bravo, way to tell it like it should be. The eee pc can do alot of thing for little money. This is a value propsition I would like to see happen.

  2. mikecane Says:

    I keep banging my head against the wall over what to buy. The entire point of the Asus is its low price. As I see Asus itself inch up the price with the e900 and hp exploding the price of its Mini Note, I think the original charm factor is being lost.

  3. Bernard J. Sussman Says:

    I used to be a deep-dyed devotee of the C64 until late 1999, when my wife needed internet access and PC software for her job. Broke my heart to give up my very extensive C64 set-up, with lots of good equipment, lots of software and lots of books and magazines. I sold it as a set to another devotee who flattered me greatly by remembering my name from some software I had published.

    There are a number of reasons the C64 finally died on the market. A biggie is that MS and IBM were simply offering goodies that Commodore couldn’t equal. But another problem was the Commodore Business Machine mentality. They had sold 30M C64s — that does not, however, mean to 30M individuals, I am sure at least a million bought a second or even third C64 set-up because of various failures (including trying to hook up to a telephone line). Well cared for, the C64 could last five years before its microchips would go sour. But CBM couldn’t wait that long to make more money; it had saturated the market with C64s so it tried to attract its own clientele into dumping their perfectly good C64s for something else made by CBM.

    The first such something else was the Plus-4. This had no better memory or speed than the C64 but it had four buttons on its keyboard that would “instantly” load, from firmware, a word processing program, a spreadsheet program, a graphics program, and a fourth I cannot remember. That was the dubious advantage – four built-in programs. Except they were very similar to programs already on C64 market if you were still willing to use floppies and wait sixty seconds. The trade-off for the instant loading of the four programs – the Plus-4 would not run ANY C64 software, you’d need all new Plus4 software. When this was realized, very soon after the Plus4 first appeared, you couldn’t give the Plus4 away. Literally — six months after it hit the market, one magazine offered a Plus4 as the prize for a contest and almost nobody entered.

    CBM supposedly re-tooled to make C64s again, but soon its unveiled the C-128. This was faster and with more memory than the C64 and it could do really nice programs. It could also run C64 software — but only if you downshifted so the speed and memory were reduced to C64 levels. This might have succeeded, except CBM introduced it only about four years after the C64 took off, and so few C64s needed replacement – C64 fans were not the kind to toss out perfectly good C64s just to upgrade to the 128. CBM lost patience.

    Then CBM went for the Amiga. It was gorgeous. And elaborate. And expensive. Too expensive for the sort of people who had already chosenCommodore over IBM. It also sputtered out.
    CBM made a brief attempt at an IBM clon (the Pony), which hardly anyone remembers – or purchased. The end of Commodore Business Machines.

    I miss my old C64. I wrote programs for it. I understood it (well, some of it). All I can do with my PC is run software made entirely by other people and I cannot change a byte of it.

  4. joecassara Says:

    You’ve got things a little backwards here. Commodore didn’t go under during the video game crash of the 80s, though it’s argued Jack Tramiel’s price war was a contributor to the crash. It wasn’t until 1994 that they declared bankruptcy for reasons a lot more complex than most shallow accounts would have one believe. (See: Cadtrak lawsuit.)

    The C64’s lack of MS-DOS compatibility was never an issue, as the machine was designed to be a low end home computer. Keep in mind we’re treading in an era when the consumer marketplace could support a machine like the C64, as PCs were still a decade away from becoming commodity items. Families and even small businesses yearned for an alternative to the overpriced “serious” computers. For a while, it even outsold the IBM PC. And the Apple II series never came close to the C64’s sales. (See: http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2005/12/total-share.ars/4)

    The C64 was still popular when Commodore killed it.

    No one machine has matched the C64’s unit sales, and I doubt any machine ever will.

    @Bernard J. Sussman: Your account reads like the history of Commodore put through a blender. (The Pony? You mean the COLT, which was one of many PC clones Commodore sold.) I suggest you, Mike, and anyone else interested in a more clear and precise history of the company and its products to read Brian Bagnall’s book, “On the Edge” (renamed to “The Commodore Story”).


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