Photo of the Week - Know your History! (01 - Commodore PET 2001-8)

Bill Loguidice's picture

Welcome to the first of an ongoing series of exclusive photos here at Armchair Arcade from my private collection, the Commodore PET 2001-8.

The photo's main page.
The full-size image.

Without further ado, here are some neat facts about this week's photo (feedback welcome!):

The Commodore PET 2001-8. The 8 indicates an 8K model. The lowest memory specification was 4K. By itself, this system is simply known as the Commodore PET or Commodore PET 2001.

PET, as is popularly and incorrectly believed, does not stand for anything, not even Personal Electronic Transactor. It was actually named after the pet rock craze of the 1970s.

The Commodore PET was released in 1977, the same year as the Apple II and TRS-80 (Model I). All three were the first true complete commercial personal computers that started the revolution, but only the PET had the built-in monitor and cassette drive.

The PET's keyboard was unusual in that it was designed more like a calculator's keypad than a typewriter's keypad. This was due both to then Commodore President Jack Tramiel's desire to use existing materials in his supply chain, as well as acquiescing to his idea that since a home computer is a new technology, it shouldn't have to adhere to old paradigms. While interesting, the PET's keyboard was obviously not a hit with users and was soon replaced by a more traditional full stroke typewriter style keyboard, but at the expense of the built-in tape drive.

The Commodore PET features a version of Microsoft BASIC, which was licensed for a one time fee and used in all future Commodore products based around the same 6502 processor (Vic-20, C-64, etc.). Bill Gates and Microsoft would not make that same mistake again.

You can read more about the Commodore PET and many other systems in my upcoming book, or keep visiting Armchair Arcade. See you next time!

Comments

Cecil Casey
Cecil Casey's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
The PET

The PET 4016 was the first computer I EVER had keyboard time on. By that time CBM had a true keyboard on the computer and had moved the tape drive ,1 out to an external device.
The office has a balls out machine, a 8032 with the 4040 dual drive. I had to really beg to get time on that machine.

Best games of the time...

1. Spacewar, Char graphics, but two player. One on one fight with one person on IJKL and the other on WASD. Talk about head to head.

2. Space Invaders. ML Program, just awsome for the time.

-Cecil

Bill, did the 2001-x series have the access to the ,8 for floppy? Or was that a later OS extension?

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Early PETs and disk drives
Cecil Casey wrote:

The PET 4016 was the first computer I EVER had keyboard time on. By that time CBM had a true keyboard on the computer and had moved the tape drive ,1 out to an external device.
The office has a balls out machine, a 8032 with the 4040 dual drive. I had to really beg to get time on that machine.

Best games of the time...

1. Spacewar, Char graphics, but two player. One on one fight with one person on IJKL and the other on WASD. Talk about head to head.

2. Space Invaders. ML Program, just awsome for the time.

-Cecil

Bill, did the 2001-x series have the access to the ,8 for floppy? Or was that a later OS extension?

You know, I think you're right, as these initial systems didn't have a way to access the IEEE floppy drives programmed into the early ROM despite the port, but I'll have to test it out at some point anyway, since there's a small chance this has an upgrade. I have the 8050 dual disk drive setup - a beast of a unit. I got this PET more for its historical value than general use, as even the software that I have (mostly Avalon Hill games) requires more than the 8K. Luckily I have two SuperPET's for regular usage, though only one is complete.

I also agree about the character graphics. Even though they were fixed and there was no other way to generate graphics on the PET, programmers ended up doing some impressive tricks with what was there, including fast action arcade games. While the competition offered "real" graphics, they ironically didn't offer lowercase in addition to the standard uppercase like the PET did. All these early systems had some type of trade-off...

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
======================================

n/a
Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
PET

Wow, great photo, Bill. You can really see the detail in that image. If you keep this up, no doubt you'll start drawing some major hits on flickr. If you always put a link to a NEO article, I'm sure we'll get some cool new people here!

I have talked to a few programmers who worked on the PET so far, including Daniel Lawrence (Telengard) and Jeff McCord (Sword of Fargoal). These were, of course, master programmers who were able to work within the extreme memory limitations, but they jumped immediately to the VIC and then the Commodore 64 when it was finally available.

I played around with PET emulation a bit on the Win-Vice emulator, but sadly have never had a chance to play with one in the flesh...er, silicon. Needless to say, that keyboard looks terrible, and there's something vaguely "Apple" about the all-in-one type composition. Nevertheless, it has an interesting aesthetic that reminds me of the 1960s.

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
More PET musings
Matt Barton wrote:

Wow, great photo, Bill. You can really see the detail in that image. If you keep this up, no doubt you'll start drawing some major hits on flickr. If you always put a link to a NEO article, I'm sure we'll get some cool new people here!

That's the idea. I'm going to experiment with the format and timing, but it would be silly not to cross-link when doing this. I was able to start this now obviously since I'm hard at work creating photos for the book. Once I'm done with the book stuff, I'll probably try a video of the week, though something extremely low maintenance (like capturing gameplay from obscure systems with little to no editing).

Matt Barton wrote:

I have talked to a few programmers who worked on the PET so far, including Daniel Lawrence (Telengard) and Jeff McCord (Sword of Fargoal). These were, of course, master programmers who were able to work within the extreme memory limitations, but they jumped immediately to the VIC and then the Commodore 64 when it was finally available.

A logical jump for them no doubt as they all shared the same 6502 processor and core BASIC implementations.

Matt Barton wrote:

I played around with PET emulation a bit on the Win-Vice emulator, but sadly have never had a chance to play with one in the flesh...er, silicon. Needless to say, that keyboard looks terrible, and there's something vaguely "Apple" about the all-in-one type composition. Nevertheless, it has an interesting aesthetic that reminds me of the 1960s.

If you had a chance to listen to Chuck Peddle's tale of the origins of the PET from my VCF East 4.0 2007 seminar recording, you would have heard his whole take on the whys and wherefores. For instance, the original case design was considerably sleeker (and I believe supposed to be made of plastic), but Tramiel had a metal cabinet factory that was underutilized and wanted to leverage their capabilities. So that's why the PET's original case was metal and boxy - it fit in with the factory's capabilities (and its metal nature explains why my PET is a bit rusty in spots).

The keyboard was indeed the way it was because of what I said. Essentially there was a supply of Japanese calculator-style keyboards Tramiel wanted to make use of added to his belief that the PET was a new paradigm and shouldn't be forced to fit into the typewriter paradigm. Logical reasoning at the time. You obviously can't touch type of the keypad, but you can use one finger from the right hand on the numeric keypad and one finger from the left hand on the keypad proper. Typical commands were readily available on the default keypad function, with access to the custom characters and various shift-based functions available when the appropriate activator was hit. It's sort of like a more useable form of the later Timex Sinclair 1000 (ZX80/ZX81) keyboard. In any case, while it sucked at the time and would suck now for heavy work, as a collectible its damned cool because it's so unique.

By the way, the keytops on my PET are all but pristine, which is surprising considering they wear out easily and are often rubbed off when you find one in the wild (or eBay) like I did. As a matter of fact, replacement keytops by themselves (essentially metal stickers), just sold for $76 on eBay (though shipping was free ;-) )!

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
======================================

n/a
davyK
davyK's picture
Offline
Joined: 05/21/2006
I always loved the look of

I always loved the look of the PET with its trapezium shaped monitor - a really iconic machine for me.

I never got to use one sadly.

Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
nice memories....

Fond memories but not of that keyboard. Very non ergonomic with that tape-drive on the left-side.
========================
Mark Vergeer - Editor / Pixelator
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
Xboxlive gametag
========================

n/a
Catatonic
Offline
Joined: 05/20/2006
Where I grew up in Canada,

Where I grew up in Canada, Commodore machines were ubiquitous in schools & homes. My school had a network of PETs, probably model 4032, that shared a disk drive and a printer. I don't think I ever saw an Apple until high school, where one classroom was blessed with all kinds of expensive Macintosh stuff. (The prices for Macs & laser printers in 1991 were insane!)

Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
Apple II or Macintoshes were not popular in Dutch schools

They had a classroom filled with TRS-80's in my highschool, later to be replaced by klonky Philips XT's, the science department was smart enough to buy a c64 with an interface that could turn it into an oscillator. What was pretty normal at the time was that the interface and c64 was there - but not the programming to turn the c64 into a measuring device using the interface.
That's when 14 year old highschool students come in pretty handy - I ended up partly programming the interface and turning the c64 into some sort of oscillator/measuring device.
Mac's were not to be found in my highschool. Nor at the university. Everything was VAX, Unix, Alpha or PC.


Editor / Pixelator - Armchair Arcade, Inc.

n/a

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.