What a treat we have for you all this time. For this installment of the SUYC series, we are off to Belgium to visit a self-confessed Commodore geek, nuclear physicist (yes, really) and CEO of OriCon (www.oricon.eu) Robby Boey. This really is a jaw-dropping collection of epic proportions and a must-see for all fans of the Commodore marque.
Please note: we have not included the Commodore calculators, monitors, disk drives, printers, datasettes, controllers and other peripherals that make up his extensive collection. To see these and more please visit Robby’s website listed at the bottom of this article.
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Q and A with Robby Boey
When did you become interested in video games and what was the first video game you played?
Robby: Ooh, that’s ages ago! No seriously, the first video game I had was Munchkin on the Videopac. It was a Pac-Man clone, but a good one.
What was the first games console or computer you owned and how old were you?
Robby: The first console I owned, a G7200, had a built-in black and white monitor. This was back in the early 80s. Because it was black and white, my parents tried to connect it to our TV through a SCART video cable so I could play the games in color from time to time. As it turned out, our TV was a bit too old for the SCART connector, so I had to stick with the black and white screen. At the same time, I also got the Nintendo Game & Watch Mario Bros game, so I had my console at home, and always a video game ‘on the road’ when we went for our annual vacation to Spain. I must have been 8 years or so.
What got you into collecting Commodore computers?
Robby: I think it’s mainly because of all the treasured moments in life that had the C64 involved (strangely) in some way or another.
My fondest childhood memories for instance are the many gaming nights my dad and I spent on the C64. My dad wasn’t all that much into computers, but he did like the games the C64 had to offer. My dad was a real champion at Pit Stop, Test Drive (never could beat him) and a very addictive game of John Lowe’s Ultimate Darts that I got on the cover tape of Commodore Format, the splendid UK games magazine.
I even kept on using the ol’ breadbox through university, where I even created AI algorithms on the old machine. I also made the college newsletter entirely on the C64, giving me a first taste of DTP.
I also remember one of the most interesting assignments at the electronics lab was to get one working C64 out of 4 faulty ones. Needless to say, the Programmer’s Reference Guide became sort of my bible.
As a kid, the Eurosong contest was always on the Saturday after my birthday. It was on that day that my grandparents, aunts and uncles came over to our place and celebrate (and give me lots of presents of course). I would always prepare some scorecards and keep track of the scores on my C64 when the countries voted. So I guess it’s all those moments, that have kept the C64 “alive” in my mind.
A couple of years ago, I got the old C64 from my parent’s attic and was surprised to see it still worked after all those years. I wanted to play some of the old classics again so next to cleaning the disk drive and playing the originals, I downloaded some emulators and played the games on my PC. My kids noticed this and started to ask what their dad was doing with that strange computer. As I got talking to them and wanted to tell them a little more about the history of this machine, I started browsing the web and learned a lot about the machines, the company that made it all possible, the visionaries Chuck Peddle and Jack Tramiel and I basically got hooked. It was then that I decided I would get at least one signature Commodore machine of the different “eras”. The first Commodore I bought for this little collection was the PET 2001 from someone in the Netherlands who would have thrown it on the dumpster otherwise. An Amiga CD32, a VIC-20 and a Plus/4 quickly followed. What started of as an idea to just have a couple of Commodores quickly turned into a healthy addiction and needless to say, I’ve been collecting ever since. It’s become far more than just a collection of a “few” Commodore machines.
Where do you source most of your retro purchases from (ebay, flea markets etc) ?
Robby: For the rare items, eBay is the best place to get them. I’ve been lucky to find a couple of C64s at thrift stores and some other gems like the 8032-SK via an add in a local paper (again, it was basically a free pick-up or dumpster deal).
What is your most prized Commodore item and how much did it cost you?
Robby: Well, the one that’s closest to my heart is of course my own original C64 that I had as a kid. I wouldn’t sell it, ever.
Apart from that, my most prized items have to be my “holy trinity”, one that most Commodore collectors seek to obtain as well (no, I am not talking about the prototypes like the Commodore 65, although I would love to have one).
The trinity I am talking about is the C64 Silver label, the Max Machine and the C64GS (Games System). The C64GS was the most expensive to get at about 400 Euro (which is still a bargain given its rarity).
What is your favourite hardware manufacturer next to Commodore?
Robby: If its hardware for the Commodore, it has to be CMD. Those were the ones that gave us a hard drive for the C64, RAMLink, … they basically single-handedly prolonged the lifetime of the C64.
If its other hardware manufacturers in general, then it’s Philips, because that’s the systems (the Videopacs) that I collect alongside my Commodore collection.
What would you collect for if Commodore had never existed?
Robby: On the tech side, I would probably have my Videopac collection as I have now. Next to that, I’m also an avid board gamer, so I often buy boardgames (and have a yearly trip to Essen in Germany to attend the largest board game fair in Europe and stock up on new games). I have 300+ board games in my collection.
Where do you want to go now with the collection?
Robby: There are still a few “missing” items. These I know are also the hardest and most expensive to get. The C65 I mentioned before is very high on my list, next to a Commodore 64 Educator (which was basically a C64 inside a PET case).
Have you any tips for budding retro games collectors?
Robby: Yes, don’t spend too much to get to a reasonably sized collection in the shortest possible time. That’s not what you should be collecting for. It has to be about fun, about nostalgia, about respect for the tech pioneers that started it all. When I browse eBay and search for some items, it can be tempting to just pay xyz Euro and get the system that’s on sale. For me, part of the fun is also trying to get the items as cheap as possible. I know some of my friends who are also into collection retro machines and games spend a lot on their equipment. If I tell them how much I paid for some of the items they’re a bit jealous, but that’s part of the fun collecting stuff.
Also, don’t put the stuff you buy in boxes, but put it on display. I’ve got all my Commodore machines on display and play on them from time to time. When you keep them in storage, they’re just that… storage boxes. These old machines need to be on display, be touched, have electricity flowing though their transistors. They were built for our entertainment back then, and they’ll continue to do so for decades to come.