by Steven B. Combs, Ph.D.
It’s the 2022 holiday season and I’m going to help with your shopping by giving you a list of ten sure-fire purchases that will make your retro computing fan ecstatic Christmas morning. These are all items I used and featured on the channel or blog this past year. I guarantee each to be a hit for those gift recipients not on the naughty list. Speaking of lists, I include a comprehensive list of links in this post. Most of the suggestions are available from Amazon and I include both US and UK links (these are affiliate links) since my readers hail from both sides of the pond. Let’s get started!
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Title: 10 (+2) holiday and Christmas gifts retro computing fans will love!
2022-11-26: Removed MEGA65 ship date information.
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Here’s my list of ten gifts that will put a smile on any retro computing hobbyist for fan.
The Cloner Alliance Pro is a device that has been with me since I started my retro computing journey. While there are many devices to capture old format video, the Cloner Alliance Pro captures them all! The devices include capture inputs for HDMI, VGA, RGB, and AV.
This stand-alone device records directly to a USB drive and has an HDMI out port. Windows users can capture directly from the device, but Windows and Linux users will need an inexpensive capture device like this inexpensive 4K HDMI Video Capture Card.
I run the HDMI out into an ATEM Mini Extreme ISO to integrate retro computing footage into my live streams. For prepared videos, I can either capture the footage to the USB drive or have the ATEM capture and record the input.
Even if you are not a YouTuber, retro computing fans can use the device to capture footage of games or single screens to save, analyze, or share on social media platforms.
The device has a clunky UI but I’ve found it to be indispensable since it includes settings to change the format from 4:3 to 16:9 since many capture devices stretch the original image in favor of the native 16:9 HDMI format. For even more fun, you can use this device to capture any HDMI out and even use it to play back video. Even includes a remote but remind Santa that, “batteries are NOT included!”
I love books for Christmas and The Computers that Made Britain provides eighteen stories about the most influential computers in Europe in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
From the Research Machine 380Z (wasn’t that a sports car?) to the Acorn Archimedes, Tim Danton explore the history and influence of each computer. Pick up a chapter individually to learn about your favorite or mow through each chapter sequentially to explore the rich history of British computers.
This Yank learned more about the British computer scene while learning more about the computers that influenced my journey in the states during the early 1980s. Get this book and watch your recipient find a place next to the fireplace for a spot of tea and Christmas Day reading.
There’s no doubt that this next selection made a controversial mark on the retro computing community. First released as the TheC64 mini, this Commodore 64 recreation didn’t include a working keyboard which made using the device with software awkward, was as the name implies mini, had a horrible joystick, and had a carousel motif with a few games that many found off-putting.
Later, to quell the keyboard criticism, a full-size keyboard was included and on a “maxi” variant and even another “maxi” based on TheVIC20. A new joystick for both TheC64 and TheVIC20 included mechanical switches. Firmware updates allowed the user to put all the world’s Commodore 64 and VIC-20 games on a single USB drive besides the included and licensed games.
No matter which side of the fence you sit on, you have to agree that the “TheSeries” made an impact. It brought a no longer manufactured platform back to the market. I have a TheC64 mini and was lucky to snag a TheVIC20 that included VIC-20 titles and color scheme. No matter which variant you pick, your retro computing friend or family will love any of these under their tree. Make sure they don’t have one, though!
Speaking of the “TheSeries”, if your retro computing fan is more 16 rather than 8 bit, get them a TheA500 mini. A “TheSeries” recreation of the Amiga 500. This first generation suffers from a lack of a keyboard but makes up with a CD32 style game controller and a 1351 style two-button mouse (more on TheMouse later). Like its sibling devices, TheA500 mini can use a USB drive to add more games to the limited selection of games included in the carousel interface.
Can we expect a “maxi” version of TheA500? Probably, but there’s no reason to wait this holiday season. Put one of these under the tree and watch your retro fan go crazy playing Amiga 500 games on a large screen television using the included HDMI port.
One last “TheSeries” option that makes a great gift option is to purchase a TheMouse. Retro Games has made TheJoystick, TheMouse, and TheController available separately. These are all USB devices and work great on “TheSeries” devices and modern PCs; however, what if you want to use TheMouse on an original Atari or Commodore computer? RetroHax has the adapter for you.
Plug the mouSTer into the 9 pin DIN connector found on many 8-bit computers, plug in a USB mouse, in this case TheMouse, and then use TheMouse in place of a 1351 mouse which is almost impossible to find. As a plus, no more pulling lint out of the track ball hole found on the original Commodore mice because your mouse now uses lasers!
BUY: Boxed Software from Poly.Play - Prices Vary
I’ve covered two boxed MEGA65 software titles from PolyPlay; Hibernated 1 The Director’s Cut and Showdown - Collector’s Edition. However, PolyPlay has a whole selection of boxed titles available for almost any platform of retro computers. Why boxed software?
Retro computing fans remember a time when you purchased your software not from an online store, but off the shelves. We then took our purchase home, opened it, read the instructions, and enjoyed bonus items in the box, such as stickers and posters.
Poly.Play brings back those days by packing new titles for retro computers in original and fun boxes. This gift will put a smile on almost any retro computing fan. You’ll have a blast shopping on their site trying to decide which game will be the hit Christmas morning and you’ll smile when they open their gift.
Poly.Play even stocks retro computing hardware for main gifts or stocking stuffers. Poly.Play could be your one-stop shop for retro computing holiday shopping. You are welcome!
BUY: Clockwork Pi Cyber Deck - Starting at US $239
This next pick is a mix of modern tech with a retro design loosely based on the Tandy TRS-80 Model 100. This is another device that would take more time, but you can learn more here, than I have in this list to describe but think “cyber-deck.”
The Clockwork Pi comes in a couple of different hardware variations, but the fun on Christmas morning comes when the receiver opens the box to learn that they get to put this “snap-tight” computer together. No tools are required and once you complete the assembly, you have a 65% sized, but infinitely more powerful, replica of the Tandy TRS-80 Model 100, but running Linux, which lets you install retro emulators to expand the experience.
For more TRS-80 Model 100 nostalgia, remind your recipient to install the TRS-80 Model 100 emulator, Virtual T. Then, they can relive those days of one of the most popular portable computing devices of the 1980s. Complete with word-processing and BASIC!
Retro computing fans collect a bunch of PDF files and scans of technical documents, user’s manuals, and out-of-print books. And while this is convenient, reading them on a computer is not comfortable on the eyes and annotating in the margins or on the pages is difficult. A Kindle provides an e-ink display that’s easy on the eyes but lacks annotation abilities. The new Kindle Scribe adds annotation in natural form via the use of a pen and an extra large 10.1-inch screen. It will prove to be the closet experience yet for PDF file reading and writing.
There are more features and you can check them all out on the Kindle Scribe page. Mine is on pre-order and I’ll let you know what I think about it in future videos, so make sure and hit that subscribe button below so you don’t miss it.
BUY: YouTube Premium - US $12
I don’t know a retro computing hobbyist who doesn’t watch YouTube; however, YouTube, without a premium membership, can sometimes subject viewers to multiple ads. I get it, creators need to monetize and ads are how we pay for our content. But if you want to get rid of ads AND continue to support content creators, gift of a YouTube Premium membership.
As a bonus, YouTube Premium provides the ability to download YouTube video for those long travel sessions where connectivity is an issue. You also get “background play” that keeps the content flowing whether you flip to another app or lock the screen. Finally, a YouTube Premium membership includes YouTube Music! It’s the prefect package for your retro video and music loving friend or family member this holiday season.
Oh, and if you are giving a Pixel Phone, snag the Fi Unlimited mobile service with YouTube Premium starting at US $45
BUY: MEGA65 - Highly Advanced C64 and C65 Compatible Computer US $690.00
If you want to make your retro computing fan thrilled this Christmas, get them a MEGA65. While it likely won’t arrive by Christmas, put a note in a box and tell them Santa will deliver it in 2023. Know nothing about the MEGA65, my channel has a whole playlist devoted to this amazing device. But for a quick recap, the MEGA65 is a recreation of the never released Commodore 65. It’s a whole thing I don’t have time to cover but I’ll link to my introductory video at the end of this video. This will make your retro fan happy. Make sure you are ready for tears and a hug.
BUY: retroCombs Memberships - $1 to $200
If you or your retro computing fan is a fan of my channel, purchase them a Commodore 128 producer-level or MEGA65 executive producer-level membership. That provides a credit for most of my videos, a listing on my supporters page, free electronic goodies, access to my Discord channel, and executive producers receive an annual gift. If you want the stocking stuffer versions, check out my PET or VIC-20 level memberships and the other Commodore inspired levels in between. All are great values and make for the perfect last-minute gift. I promise to keep them happy all year round. retroCombs, the gift that keeps on giving!
Let’s not go out with a shameless self promotion. The Hyperkin Ranger and Trooper both include a 9 pin DIN connector, the original connector found on my retro computing platforms such as Atari, TI, and Commodore. These modern recreations are the perfect stocking stuffer. The Trooper resembles the original Atari 2600 joystick, and the Ranger is a game pad style controller but includes a paddle controller!
What did you think about this list? Disagree, want to add an item? Leave a comment down below. I’d love to hear your ideas. If I missed something good, I’ll share your idea with the Lovely Accountant. Maybe she’ll purchase your recommendation for me. Or, send me your gift. Just reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll tell you where you can send it.
Wanna watch that MEGA65 introduction and learn more, check out this video.
Want more info on why I think TheC64/VIC20 are great holiday gifts, here’s another video.
Help make this content better! Leave your comments, corrections, additions, and thoughts in the comments below. You can email me at email@example.com. Thanks for reading and if you are inclined, please let others know about the blog using the hashtag #retroCombs.
🕹️ retroCombs, OUT!