Book review: The Story of the Commodore 64 in Pixels

1I’m going to preface this review by saying that my exposure to the Commodore 64 over the years has been, well, limited, shall we say. But for today I’m setting aside my largely irrelevant Sinclair bias to take a look at the latest offering from Chris Wilkins and Fusion Retro Books.

Put together following a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign last year, it’s a hefty old tome: 260 pages plus change packed with full colour illustrations and history of the C64 and some of the minds behind it, all tucked away behind a nice embossed cover in Commodore Blue. This is a book any Commodore fan would be happy to leave out on their coffee table.

The book starts out with Jack Tramiel’s back story and a brief history of Commodore, the PET and Vic-20, before getting into the real subject at hand. It is likely that hardcore Commodore fans will know this stuff already, but the ‘history’ articles go off at interesting tangents, looking at loading screens and cartridge games as well as the obligatory SID chip piece.

Chris Wilkins also rounded up a host of 8-bit heroes to add their C64 memoirs to the mix, some of whom I’ve even heard of – the Oliver Twins and Andrew Hewson from their Spectrum games, Archer Maclean and Jon Hare from their later work on the Amiga – and a bunch of others less familiar to me at least, but whose individual contributions go to make this a bit more than an academic history of the world’s best selling home computer. At least one of the contributors – PRESS PLAY ON TAPE – I’m going to have to get to know more about.

Admittedly, you do have to be a certain kind of geek to get a kick out of most of this so far, and if that’s you, great! Buy this book now! But fear not, for there is still a big chunk in the middle for the more casual retro fan to dip into, cunningly entitled ‘The Games’.

2Each game gets a two page spread, featuring a few screenshots and the original games cover, plus a quick precis of the game itself. (And I’m afraid it has to be said, although this part of the book does look great, some of the pages do have rather a lot of brown on them.) If you ever had a C64 back in the day, this section will be 70 odd pages of pure nostalgia, as will the many full page hardware and software adverts, magazine covers and game cover art scattered liberally throughout the book.

Actually, forget what I said earlier; don’t let this anywhere near your coffee table. It’s too good to risk spilling anything on.

The Story of the Commodore 64 in Pixels is available for pre-order from Fusion Retro Books, along with their other retro themed books.

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