Photo of the Week - Know your History! (05 - Commodore SX-64 Executive Computer (1984))

Bill Loguidice's picture

Welcome to the fifth of the ongoing series of exclusive photos here at Armchair Arcade from my private collection, the Commodore SX-64 Executive Computer from 1984.

The photo's main page.
The full-size image.

Without further ado, here are some neat facts about this week's photo (feedback welcome!):

With the Commodore 64 (C-64) beginning to gain momentum after its release in 1982 due to agressive pricing, highly capable graphics and sound, and mass market appeal, Commodore began looking for ways to expand the platform. One of these was the Commodore 128 series of backwards compatible systems that increased the power of the original 8-bit platform, while another was a late life game-centric system called the Commodore 64GS that never saw release in the US. Besides the classic breadbox design of the original C-64, Commodore also released a repackaging with a sleeker case called the C-64c. Perhaps the most conceptually intriguing of these original C-64 offshoots though was the transportable system shown in the photo, the SX-64 Executive Computer, released in early 1984 less than two years after the original breadbox design. While this transportable system could not run on batteries, it was otherwise self-contained, requiring just a power cord and AC outlet. As seen in the photo, and truly important to a system such as the C-64, the built-in monitor is color, making this one of the first ever transportables with a color screen.

With its built-in 5.25" disk drive and cartridge port, the SX-64 was able to run all but cassette-based software. While the system had most of the C-64's standard ports, including a display output, it lacked a cassette interface. Unlike in Europe, the US quickly moved away from the cassette format so this was not a serious omission here, but the fact that the SX-64 was marketed as a business system was. While the C-64 platform had a huge range of productivity software, it was hardly an ideal business system, particularly with its slow disk drives. Nevertheless, taken out of its original marketing plan and into today's world of collectibles, the system is highly sought after as an easily transportable complete C-64. Add a standard Atari joystick or two as shown in the photo, and you're pretty much good to go with the vast majority of software.

While the system is highly collectible and often sells for well north of $100, a latch or two is often broken and sometimes the keyboard cable is missing. My particular system shown here is fairly pristine, save for some minor scratching on the plexiglass outer covering of the monitor and the fact that some keyboard keys require a bit of effort to press and suffer "bounce", i.e., a single press will often generate a few extra characters. I have another SX-64 that I'll need to test to see if I can cobble together a 100% perfect system, but again, if you're going to collect this system, keep in mind the keyboard can be an issue and finding a replacement is very difficult. Actually, what you will often see are the keyboards without the cable, so strike when you can in the various scenarios.

The screen itself is very sharp and the C-64's fine graphics pop when shrunk on that screen. Sound is nice and clear and just like the various monitor settings is fully adjustable with dials to the right of the disk drive. Unlike stand-alone 1541 disk drives, the way the drive is packed in, noise is greatly reduced. All-in-all, it's a very quiet, very efficient system.

END

Commodore's classic systems and many others are mentioned in my upcoming book, along with exhaustive looks at many other systems. Be sure to keep visiting Armchair Arcade for ongoing coverage as well. See you next time!

Comments

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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BBS

I knew a guy in Louisiana (Winnfield, to be precise) who used one of these to run a BBS system for years back in the 1980s and maybe into the early 1990s. His name was Michael May, but I can't remember what he called his BBS. I thought it was an odd choice for a BBS computer, but apparently it was ideal for him.

That reminds me, I finally got around to watching my Terminator 2 DVD last night and saw that Atari portable...Geez, already forgotten its name again. I really do wonder if you could use something like it to actually hack an ATM machine, or if that was pure fantasy.

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Bill Loguidice
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Atari Portfolio
Matt Barton wrote:

That reminds me, I finally got around to watching my Terminator 2 DVD last night and saw that Atari portable...Geez, already forgotten its name again. I really do wonder if you could use something like it to actually hack an ATM machine, or if that was pure fantasy.

Atari Portfolio. I have one (and several different accessories) and it will be the future subject of a "Photo of the Week". Nifty semi-DOS-compatible PDA/portable computer. And no, the ATM machine hack was pure fantasy, but it certainly gave the obscure Atari system a memorable image for posterity.

By the way, in regards to your other comment, I imagine form-factor-wise the SX-64 makes a fine BBS system, but I wouldn't want to run the built-in monitor all that time and I"m not sure how heat distribution was in there. For BBS work, I'd much rather use an individual piece setup.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
======================================

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Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
PP
Bill Loguidice wrote:

Atari Portfolio. I have one (and several different accessories) and it will be the future subject of a "Photo of the Week". Nifty semi-DOS-compatible PDA/portable computer. And no, the ATM machine hack was pure fantasy, but it certainly gave the obscure Atari system a memorable image for posterity.

That's what I figured. :-) I wonder if Atari paid to have their unit in the movie...? There's certainly blatant PP with Pepsi in that film.

BTW, I *really* enjoyed the ultimate DVD special edition Terminator 2 I picked up in Wal-Mart's bargain bin for a mere $5. It's worth that just for the awesome documentary, with Peter Jackson (as well as T2's director and some of the other special effects team). I was hoping to catch an Amiga, but T2 was apparently all done with Macs and a very early version of Photoshop.

Quote:

By the way, in regards to your other comment, I imagine form-factor-wise the SX-64 makes a fine BBS system, but I wouldn't want to run the built-in monitor all that time and I"m not sure how heat distribution was in there. For BBS work, I'd much rather use an individual piece setup.

It's a shame it's not a more sturdy unit and more widely available. It'd be great to have something like this on hand just to tinker with. I guess if I were shopping today I'd probably go for the Commodore 64C you mentioned. I just wish Jeri's C64-in-a-stick had more games on it.

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Mark Vergeer
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different pallette?

Didn't the SX-64 have a different palette from the regular c64?
Have you played any games on it yet?



Editor / Pixelator - Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
SX-64
Mark Vergeer wrote:

Didn't the SX-64 have a different palette from the regular c64?
Have you played any games on it yet?

Nope, it's exactly the same. The startup screen has different default colors (the BASIC/DOS screen, which you can see in the photo) that can be changed (after startup), but otherwise it's the exact same machine, basically a C-64 with a 1541 disk drive and 1702-style monitor. There's even a way to remove the cover and put in a version of JiffyDOS. I'm not brave enough to try that, but I do have JiffDOS for the much easier to maneuver inside C-128DCR. The only things the SX-64 can't handle like a regular system really are the aforementioned cassette-port devices (no port) and most cartridge-based memory expansions, since they typically require a beefier power supply (the SX-64 has an internal power supply).

I played Tapper and some Fisher-Price and CBS Software (Sesame Street) software on it, both cartridge and disk. Amelie enjoyed the latter for a time, but it wasn't particularly compelling as far as such things go.

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
======================================

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