A fantasy without the C64

Debunking: A world without the Commodore 64

Oh dear… the author is trying his hand at writing fiction or at least writing something he’s actually labelling as fiction rather than trying to pass it off as fact as he’s done previously.  Most of the piece is presented as a series of quotes from news sources but the timeline is badly skewed… and two can play at the “what if” game.

“Here is the computer news. Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore Business Machines has been killed in a car crash! He guided his company from selling typewriters, to calculators, then finally on to computers, including the Commodore PET range, finally leading to the Commodore VIC-20 with a colour display, aimed more at the games market. We’ll never see another computer with a specification by Jack Tramiel appear on the market now.”

This fantasy timeline really could’ve done with some fleshing out or at the very least planning, but we can fairly safely assume that, since the VIC 20 is on sale in this piece, the event took place at some point during 1981; the C64 was already underway by that point so, since Tramiel was a businessman rather than involved with the hardware design, a lot of the input he had into shaping the C64 would’ve already happened and it would still have arrived in at least roughly the same shape.

The author obviously hasn’t thought through the more far reaching consequences of removing Jack Tramiel from the timeline though, because it would probably have been a more significant blow for Atari than Commodore in the long run; without Tramiel there to take over the Atari reins it easy to believe that there wouldn’t have been an XE line of 8-bits or anything after that point such as the Atari ST, Lynx or Jaguar. In fact it’s remarkably easy to imagine Warner selling bits and pieces of Atari to the highest bidders, possibly even former competitors with absolutely no intention of continuing production.

Without Jack Tramiel there to oversee the dumping of XL stock in the UK, your correspondent and many others wouldn’t have ended up with an 800XL.

“Interestingly enough, Atari with their new XL range is trying to move beyond its games image, although their hardware is almost a copy of their arcade machines.”

On our version of Earth the Atari 8-bit hardware isn’t a copy of the arcade hardware so, since the only radical change to the timeline is Commodore and they weren’t a market factor when the Atari 8-bits were designed, it’s an impossible leap to say that this fictional Earth had a totally different machine.

“There are also rumours of a new standard for home computers being developed in Japan. Individual companies would pay for a licence to make computers to this new standard, to be called MSX. More details of this when we get them, but insiders have claimed prototype machines look something like an Atari, or a Texas Instruments TI99, while Spectravideo is claiming they’ve copied their 318 and 328 range of computers”

It’s interesting to note at this point that, despite the author having gone over his old moans about the C64 earlier in the same piece, he utterly fails to mention that the TMS9918 driving the video of the MSX series was by that point about two years old and was originally used in the Texas Instruments TI-99/4a. Your correspondent does find himself wondering why the author feels this kind of recycling of existing parts somehow isn’t noteworthy unless it’s done by Commodore, but has to presume that it’s the kind of irrational, puerile bias that leads someone to writing childish fantasy stories where someone or something they don’t like doesn’t exist.

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