By Jack Masterson Newman
August 30, 2020
The Commodore SX-64 Executive was the technological forerunner of its time and a complete business failure, despite being the first color portable computer following in the footsteps of history’s most profitable computer (the Commodore 64)only 85,000 were made over its cut-short 2-year production. The SX-64E’s failure eventually resulted in Commodore shuttering all its operations 11 years later in 1994 1.
It is clear through the analyses of online databases, archives, and secondary source documents that the numerous shakeups Commodore underwent in 1984, namely Commodore’s founder Jack Tramiel leaving after falling out with Irving Gould the company chairman and the Commodore Plus/4’s lackluster sales and performance. Leading the SX-64E, the first color portable computer with the best performance of the time, to be a mismarketed failure as it was targeted towards businesspeople (despite its lack of business-related software) rather than as a gaming platform (with over 10,000 titles) 2.
The departure of Jack Tramiel from Commodore left it without a cohesive vision, Commodore no longer understood the technology they were selling which prevented them from investing in new product lines that could fulfill the needs of their customer base. Commodore struggled for years with limited success against Apple’s user-centered Macintosh computers and IBM’s business-focused computer line, only to financially collapse in the 90s competing against Jack Tramiel’s new company Atari Computers.
The information in this paragraph is derived from Commodore Computer, Commodore Portable SX-64 Color Computer User’s Guide (West Chester, PA: Commodore Business Machines, Inc., 1983), 1-12, https://archive.org/details/Commodore_SX-64_Users_Guide_1983_Commodore/page/n1/mode/2up; Michael Steil, Ernest February, Peter Rittwage, Daniel May, and Rob October, “How Many Commodore 64Computers Were Really Sold?” pagetable.com, February 1, 2011, https://web.archive.org/web/20160306232450/http://www.pagetable.com/?p=547; SN Database, https://web.archive.org/web/20060615053711/http://www.sx64.net/sn_database/sn_database.htm; and “Commodore,” Centre For Computing History, https://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/8239/Commodore/↩
Information in this paragraph is from the User’s Guide, Centre For Computing History, and pagetable.com entries cited above. See also Tekla S. Perry and Paul Wallich, “Design Case History: The Commodore 64,” IEEE Spectrum (March 1985), 1-11, https://archive.org/details/commodore64_mar1985/mode/2up; Ian Matthews “Commodore 64 – The Best Selling Computer In History,” Commodore Computers, May 19, 2003 (revised February 1, 2020), https://www.commodore.ca/commodore-products/commodore-64-the-best-selling-computer-in-history/; Barbara Wierzbicki, “Longevity of Commodore 64, VIC 20 Questioned,” InfoWorld, Vol. 5, No. 49 (December 5, 1983), 24 and 27, https://books.google.com/books?id=6C8EAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA23&pg=PA24#v=onepage&f=false; Tom Rugg, Phil Feldman and Western Systems Group, More Than 32 Basic Programs for the Commodore 64 Computer (Beaverton, OR: Dilithium Press, 1983), 6-14, https://archive.org/details/More_Than_32_BASIC_Programs_for_the_Commodore_64/page/n3/mode/2up; Jason Scott, “Software Library: C64,” September 1, 2018, https://archive.org/details/softwarelibrary_c64; “To Protect and Preserve,” C64.COM, https://www.c64.com/; and Super username0, “Newest Files,” Commodore Software - New Files, https://commodore.software/.↩