Gen­er­a­tion 64

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I’ve long been in­volved with the UK’s Com­modore 64 scene, but the com­puter’s im­pact out­side English­s­peak­ing coun­tries has been lost on me. When au­thor Jimmy Wil­helms­son and de­signer Ken­neth Grön­wall an­nounced they were work­ing on a cof­fee-ta­ble book about the Swedish Com­modore 64 scene, en­ti­tled Gen­er­a­tion 64, I saw a chance to ob­serve eight-bit life out­side this green and pleas­ant land. Well, ex­cept for one small prob­lem: the book was in Swedish.

En­ter Sam Dyer. The founder of Bitmap Books, in­ter­viewed back in Is­sue 136, has been hard at work since launch­ing Com­modore 64: A Vis­ual Comm­pendium – a pun on ‘Com­modore’ rather than a typo – and his lat­est crowd­funded project is a trans­la­tion of Jimmy and Ken­neth’s book from Swedish to English. Fol­low­ing a near-£30,000 Kick­starter cam­paign, Sam worked to trans­late the book and re­pub­lish it un­der the Bitmap Books im­print as a high-qual­ity, full-colour hard­back suit­able for any eight-bit fan’s cof­fee ta­ble.

In­side the cover, which is pro­tected by a hard black sleeve adorned with the ti­tle and com­pany logo, the con­tents are largely un­touched: the lay­out and pho­tog­ra­phy is iden­ti­cal to the orig­i­nal, re­pro­duced in full matt-fin­ish colour, and the text has only been trans­lated. It’s the clos­est you’ll get to the orig­i­nal book with­out Swedish lessons.

That’s good, be­cause Jimmy can re­ally write. There are de­tailed in­ter­views with ev­ery­one from game de­vel­op­ers and mu­si­cians to gamers and hack­ers. Like the ZX Spec­trum and the Com­modore 64 in the UK – a ri­valry that will never die – many in the Swedish tech in­dus­try credit the Com­modore 64 with giv­ing them their start, and it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see where it’s taken them. From a choir leader to a chip ar­chi­tect, the book leaves lit­tle doubt about the ma­chine’s im­pact on the na­tion’s youth at launch.

The book’s slav­ish ad­her­ence to the orig­i­nally pub­lished for­mat can, how­ever, make it awk­ward to read at times. It’s par­tic­u­larly ob­vi­ous in the way quotes are han­dled: rather than us­ing quo­ta­tion marks, which clearly de­lin­eate where the speech be­gins and ends, the book starts a quoted para­graph with an em-dash, then some­times in­cludes a comma fol­lowed by a tra­di­tional ‘as In­ter­view Sub­ject Name re­calls’ ci­ta­tion, which my brain kept in­ter­pret­ing as a con­tin­u­a­tion of the quo­ta­tion un­til sev­eral words into it.

It’s a mi­nor nig­gle, though, in an other­wise great book. From the in­tro­duc­tion by Chuck Ped­dle, who de­signed the MOS 6502 pro­ces­sor that pow­ered many of the eight-bit mi­cros, and the founders of Bat­tle­field cre­ator DICE, to shots of Swedish ad­ver­tis­ing and even an in­ter­view – on the sub­ject of the Com­modore Amiga – with Pi­rate Bay founder Pete Sunde, Gen­er­a­tion 64 is packed with fas­ci­nat­ing de­tails of a mi­cro­com­put­ing revo­lu­tion that was mir­rored in coun­tries all around the globe.

Even if sit­ting down and read­ing the ti­tle cover-to-cover sounds a lit­tle dry (although I can as­sure you it isn’t), the book serves well as a cof­fee ta­ble dec­o­ra­tion. The full-colour lay­out is eye-pleas­ing on ev­ery page, and with the sub­ject mat­ter is split into easy bite­sized seg­ments, mak­ing it a fun pub­li­ca­tion to sim­ply flip open and read when you have a few min­utes.

The English trans­la­tion of Gen­er­a­tion 64 is avail­able from http://gen­er­a­ for £19.99 (VAT ex­empt)

Read­ers of a cer­tain age will recog­nise the name Fairlight

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