Collectors Corner – Bo Zimmerman

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Being part of the retro gaming community has really opened my eyes to some of the amazing collections and collectors. Occasionally there are collections that really need to be highlighted to a wider audience. Once such person is Bo Zimmerman from Texas, a member of the Facebook group “Retro for Show” who recently posted some amazing pictures from his Commodore collection.

His huge collection that contains some very rare and desirable items, but rather than me telling you about them let’s go over to Bo himself.

Bo Zimmerman talks about his collection.

Over the years, a large number of Commodore Intl. products have found their way to my home in central Texas. Since the day I got to play with PET computers at school in 1982 until today, they’ve been my hobby and passion. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s, however, when millions of Americans began tossing out their old 8-bits in favor of Internet-ready machines, that I began collecting them, at first for variety and convenience, and later for its own sake.

As you might imagine, the Commodore PET is featured heavily in my collection. The PET 2001-8 was first introduced in 1977 along with the rest of the “Big Three” pioneers of home computing (Apple II and TRS-80), and this line was soon expanded into a dizzying array of models and variants. An original PET 2001-4 (4k) with metal badge and original BASIC-1 roms is probably the most unique of my items in this set.

In 1980 Commodore tackled the low-end home computing market with the VIC-20, which was the first computer to sell 1 million units. It was introduced first in Japan as the VIC-1001, and its waning years saw attempts at strange bundlings disguised as new models, such as the VIC-21, which was a VIC-20 with 16k ram expansion.

The C64 is, of course, Commodore’s most successful product, and the best-selling home computer of all time. The variations on its popular architecture included game consoles like the Max Machine and C64GS, Japanese versions, the PET-cased Educator 64 and PET 64/4064, the cost-reduced 64C and “Aldi” 64, and even a gold-colored “Jubilee” 64 to celebrate the millionth C64 sold in Germany.

In 1983 Commodore introduced a line of computers based on their 121-color video and sound chip called “TED”. This series, known as the “264 series”, was initially intended to include the inexpensive Commodore 116, the 232 with 32k, the 264 with 64k, and the 364 with built-in speech synthesis. Of these, only the 116 made it to European markets, along with a “breadbin” version called the C16, and a variant on the 264 called the Plus/4.

Around the same time, with the PET line disappearing from businesses in favor of the IBM-PC, Commodore attempted its own proprietary high-end business computers, called the CBM-II series. These included some very stylish machines such as the CBM 256-80 and even a home-friendly version of this series called the P500. Very few of these machines ever officially made it to market, however, and most were either sent to landfills or liquidated by mail-order companies. From this period on, Commodore Business Machines would sell its own line PC-compatibles to its business customers.

Having learned the price of incompatibility from the TED and CBM-II debacle, Commodore next released the familiar Commodore 128, followed by the desktop variants 128D and 128DCR with built-in 5.25″ disk drives. At one point, they even worked on a version of the 128D with a 3.5″ drive, which we call the 128D/81.

The Amiga series of computers was also developed and released around the same time. From the light and friendly A600 to the “boat anchor” weight of the 3000T, the variation in case styles, chipsets, and features on this series of computers is also quite large. Unique case-designs included the Amiga 500 “New Art” series, while more substantive bundlings, such as the Unix-friendly 3000UX found their own niches. Commodore even released a game-console version of the Amiga, called the CD32, with which it met some late but inadequate success.

In the early 90s, TV set-top boxes were expected to be the future of home entertainment. Commodore answered this speculation with the Amiga-based Commodore CDTV, and before the pre-maturity of this trend was realized, also began prototyping a cost-reduced version with built-in 3.5″ drive called the CD500 or the CDTV/CR.

It was also in the early 90s that Commodore abandoned its last attempt at a low-end 8-bit home computer, which would have been the C64 compatible Commodore 65. Featuring stereo sound chips, Amiga-quality graphics, upgraded BASIC language, a built-in 3.5″ disk drive, and the ability to use C64 peripherals and its own proprietary external drive, the C65 was a marvel of features and efficient design. The few prototypes of this machine were liquidated by a company called Grapevine in the mid-1990s.

To collect Commodore computers is really to collect the products of two different companies: Commodore, and Amiga, due to their radically different designs and goals. Within those spheres, however, I’ve found a continuity and familiarity that has made each new machine a puzzle-piece fit in the history of a company so many of us knew and loved growing up.

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