If there’s one thing that really excites the hardcore collecting community, it’s prototype products. Because they were never made for mass release, they’re exceedingly rare and tend to fetch high prices at auction if they ever leak out. The Commodore 65 is just such a product, having been designed as a successor to the enormously popular C64 during 1990 and 1991 before ultimately being scrapped. While concrete reasons for the cancellation aren’t known, common causes cited include hardware problems, cost and the success of the Amiga.
Much like the Commodore 128 before it, the Commodore 65 was designed to be backwards compatible with the C64. However, it wasn’t quite up to the task in its normal operating mode, and had to be switched into C64 mode with a physical button. The machine was heavily improved over the C64 too, with a built-in disk drive, 128KB RAM (expandable to a whopping 8MB!), a faster CPU, updated BASIC and greater graphical capabilities, including the ability to display 256 colours from a palette of 4096.
When Commodore was liquidated in 1994, a small number of the machines made their way into the hands of the public. Not all of them are working, but they all tend to command a high price today regardless – previous auctions have reached closing prices as high as €17,827 (around £13,215). The current auction is for a working machine and is presently at €12,000 (around £8,880), but with two days to go we’d expect that to rise considerably. Good luck if you’re bidding!
If you’re partial to the obscure and unreleased, you might just be interested in Retro Gamer’s feature on the Gaming Illuminati, which covered prototype games and hardware as well as the people who collect them. If that takes your fancy, you can buy digital copies of issue 34 (part one) and issue 35 (part two) now from GreatDigitalMags.com.