The Spartan by Mimic Systems

in #retrocomputing7 months ago (edited)

Commodore Power Play – December 1984/January 1985

The Mimic Systems Spartan was an interesting and unique piece of hardware. It has often been referred to as an Apple II/II+ emulator for the Commodore 64, however it wasn't really an emulator at all. It was essentially an entire Apple II+ that plugged into the Commodore 64 making it essentially an Apple II+ clone.

There were a couple of advantages to this approach. First and most importantly, it saved quite a bit of money. The Apple II was an expensive computer, at least as compared to other 8-bit computers at the time. The Spartan was $599 but that was many hundreds of dollars cheaper than an Apple II+ system or even the cheapest clone. It could share certain peripherals with the Commodore 64 including monitor, printer, and even disk drive with the addition of an add-on card for the drive that was included.

Commodore Power Play – January 1986

So why would you want or need both Apple II and Commodore 64 compatibility? Other than the typical reasons there was another compelling reason. When the Spartan was first being advertised in 1984, the Commodore 64 was still pretty new on the market. While the Commodore 64 was an impressive machine for an incredibly good price at the time, it takes awhile for software to be developed. Plus, much of the early software for the Commodore 64 was games because it happened to be quite good at that task. Meanwhile, the Apple II had been around for at least 7 years already and there were many hundreds if not thousands of software titles already available.

So why wasn't the Spartan a huge success? Mostly I think it came down to timing. While the Spartan was first advertised in 1984, its release was significantly delayed and it wasn't actually available until two years after the first ads appeared. By that time, a large variety of Commodore 64 software was widely available. Simply put, whatever market the Spartan might have had in 1984 was virtually gone by the time it was actually released in 1986.

However, the Spartan was actually released. The fact that it didn't sell well and wasn't on the market long just makes it a prized collectible today. Personally, I would rather just have both the C64 and an Apple II vs. getting this contraption. But some collectors are for more completest than I am :).

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Lookit the size of that thing! That's essentially an entire computer in an of itself. Really quite an interesting concept! It's a shame it wasn't able to become mainstream, though. Something like that could have really put Commodore on a different trajectory.
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