Users loyal to simple device Commodore: To many, the elderly computer is slow and unsophisticated. To some others, the machine is both those things -- and lots of fun.

September 21, 1997|By Bonita Formwalt | Bonita Formwalt,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A lot of people would call the Commodore computer a dinosaur -- old, slow and obsolete. Dedicated members of the Brooklyn Park Users' Group, however, have a different view.

They say the very simplicity of the Commodore is its best feature. And while Commodores are challenged by modern graphic-intense computer programs, they admit, the old computers still can provide hours of enjoyment.

"I have an IBM, and if I have work to do I use it. But when I want to have fun, I use my Commodore," says Don Graham, a charter member of the group.

A buyer-analyst for a local homebuilder, he owns several computers. One of his favorite applications is a music program that lets him create and share compositions without benefit of a single music lesson.

Fellow Commodore user and club member Tom Grabowski stresses, "We're not weirdos, we're enthusiasts."

As enthusiasts, the half-dozen active members of the group find the monthly meetings an opportunity to share software, hardware and technical support. All of which can be tricky because the manufacturer of their beloved machine went out of business five years ago. Only a handful of programmers throughout the country create new software. Redoing systems means combing through pickings at flea markets and swap meets, and in magazine ads.

Last week, for example, Grabowski found a "VIC" switch at a flea market. The switch permits several computers and printers to be connected, creating a network.

Total cost? Two dollars.

"Occasionally we'll read about something in a magazine and decide we can do that," says Grabowski. "By the next meeting, one of us usually has found a way."

It is the very opportunity to take the Commodore to the edge that keeps club members so loyal to it.

The Commodore VIC hit the shelves of local computer stores in the early 1980s, when the home market was being courted not only by Commodore but Apple, Atari and Texas Instruments.

"In time, through incredible marketing, IBM began to take over the home market. Commodore countered with some incredibly stupid marketing," Graham says.

But while IBM and Apple eventually secured the stronghold in the home market, a few holdouts remained who believed the Commodore was a good, solid basic computer.

"We enjoyed the Commodore. For a while in the late '80s, we thumbed our noses, [saying,] 'Go ahead, buy your IBM. Buy a new upgrade every 18 months as the technology leaps forward," says Graham with a laugh.

Technology for the Commodore is not exactly in the Jurassic era. Even the original VIC model is capable of performing daily tasks.

"My Commodore still performs many basic functions," says Graham, adding, "You don't need a $4,000 computer to write a letter."

Grabowski adds, "It can do just about everything an IBM can do, only slower."

Speed is an issue for many computer users. Grabowski likens the difference in speed between the Commodore and a new IBM to that of a bicycle and a race car.

"Don is always saying a computer spends most of its time waiting for the user to do something," says Grabowski.

Fortunately, the Brooklyn Park Users Group is committed to making the wait worth the effort.

The Brooklyn Park group welcomes prospective members to its next meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Brooklyn Park library, 1 E. 11th Ave. Information: Grabowski, 410-636-1446; or Graham, 410-761-2119.

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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