Commodore made millions of dollars on the back of the successful Commodore 64. Like any sensible company, they wanted more money (You can never have too much, right?) so they invested some of their spare cash in research.
The idea, of course, was to find new markets and to expand upon their existing ones.
Along the way, Commodore created some pretty damned cool machines (Well, at least, if it's in your nature to find such things cool). The majority of these machines though, only ever had small potential markets and sold in tiny quantities.
Many research machines never even made it out of the labs and into production, either superseded by newer designs or turning out to be too expensive to be commercially viable.
It's not surprising then, that people who collect rare Commodore hardware covet these machines more than any other. Here's my mini-guide to the most wanted.
This was to be the king of 8-bit computers. Although sort of Commodore 64 compatible, it featured a modified 3.54 MHz 6502, 128KB of RAM, advanced graphics (640x200x256 colours) and TWO SID chips for stereo sound. It was finally canned in 1991 when it became clear that no-one in their right mind would actually buy one by 1991.
Of course, the story is somewhat different now, with collectors around the world who would probably sell their internal organs in exchange for one of the prototypes.
Commodore Executive 64
This one did make it onto the market, in both the USA and in Europe. Essentially it's a portable C64, and it's rumoured to be the first colour portable computer to make it to market. I'm not sure if this part is true though...
Its high cost, and no doubt its weight, kept sales figures low. Plus of course, with no tape drive, executives couldn't play some of their favourite games. Again, very popular with collectors.
To mark the 1,000,000th C64 sold in Germany, Commodore made around 150 'Gold' C64s. Apparently they're not just sprayed gold, so making your own is not an option...
Commodore executive 1: "Nobody wants a keyboard anymore, kids want consoles!"
Commodore executive 2: "We can make a console. Just take the C64 and rip it about a bit!"
And so it was done: A Commodore 64 minus the keyboard, tape port, disk port, etc, etc until all you have left is a cartridge slot and a couple of joystick ports.
Predictably, a bit of a failure. 80,000 were made and only 20,000 of them sold (apparently).
More to come...
When I've done some more research. Although this node is in my own words, some of the numbers are taken from the rather excellent http://www.retrobits.com/ckb/secret/
On the same subject, see WWWWolf's writeups on the Commodore 64GS and the older UltiMax consoles!