Photo of the Week - Know your History! (06 - Commodore 128DCR (C-64, C-128, CP/M) (1986))

  • warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/buckman/public_html/neo/modules/advanced_forum/advanced_forum.module on line 492.
  • warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/buckman/public_html/neo/modules/advanced_forum/advanced_forum.module on line 492.
Bill Loguidice's picture
Photo of the Week - Know your History! (06 - Commodore 128DCR (C-64, C-128, CP/M) (1986))

Welcome to the sixth of the ongoing series of exclusive photos here at Armchair Arcade from my private collection, the Commodore 128DCR from 1986.

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

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

Shown is the Commodore 128D, or more specifically the Commodore 128DCR ("Cost Reduced", but actually improved), which is the predominant US version of the D line, with a metal chassis and upgraded graphics memory from 16K to 64K. Commodore 128 systems with the older 16K graphics memory could easily be upgraded with a simple chip swap. This is essentially a stock system (it will be upgraded though, as discussed below), other than the previous owner adding an internal fan (a popular modification), which is a bit noisy. Functionally, it's all but perfect, save for the power rocker switch on the back which is a bit off-balance and is sometimes hard to push into either the "on" or "off" positions.

Pictured on top of the C-128D is the infamous Commodore 1084S, widely considered one of the best and most versatile of the classic monitors. I have several versions of this monitor, but this particular unit is original to me back when I first got my Commodore Amiga 500. In fact, it came with the C-128-specific RGB cable, which I only fairly recently got to use. The sharp display shown in the photo (though not given justice by the vagaries of the photographic process) is in fact the C-128 in 80 column mode, which only functions when the system is in either C-128-only or CP/M modes. That's right, the C-128 contains an extra processor that allows it to run CP/M the way it was meant to be, and paired with the 1571 5.25" disk drive (internal on the D), allows it to read and write most of the popular formats. It's three, three, three computers in one, as it's of course also a nearly perfect C-64 compatible. The other advantage to the 1084S is that I can have both the RGB and composite connections hooked in at once and switch back and forth as I can with the system itself. Right now I just have a left audio input going into the stereo monitor (the S in 1084S stands for its built-in stereo speakers).

I was lucky to acquire this system a few years back, as C-128D's, particularly the DCR's, can get rather pricey, going for between $100 - $200+, and it has the same type of keyboard issues (from a buyer beware standpoint) as the previous Photo of the Week, the SX-64. Luckily, other than hideous plastic discoloration, this keyboard is perfect. And in regards to the aforementioned SX-64, I did luckily get a secondary, backup system, which does feature a perfect keyboard.

Pictured on the desk below the joystick and to the right of the keyboard are several enhancement ROM chips, like the Servant ROM, which includes OS enhancements among other things, and a version of JiffyDOS from CMD, which greatly speeds up both the C-128 and the 1571 disk drive, and can be disabled on-the-fly with an external switch. The C-128 line has always had ROM sockets available to place a new feature ROM chip in, just like most of the earlier PET computer line. While the original model of the C-128 can be difficult to open and access internally, the C-128D opens and is accessible much like a modern desktop, making me keen on getting the upgrades. Of course the JiffyDOS chips are replacement chips, not add-ins for the ROM sockets.

NOTE: I'll be using this system to begin my new ongoing series called the "Wizard's Crown Chronicles", which will be a sort of diary/story as I play through the classic CRPG from SSI, Wizard's Crown (1985; Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, PC DOS, Apple II, C-64). I own the original boxed version for the C-64 and always heard good things about it. Well, this will be my chance to try it. Since I now have a working keyboard, I'll be using the SX-64 as a transportable system when I don't feel like using the C-128DCR in the office. That's obviously one of the advantages to disk-based games that are often overlooked (though often hard to act upon), portability. However, I'm sure I'll want to use the C-128DCR, as once I do the JiffyDOS upgrade, disk access should in theory be lightning fast, which is obviously an important consideration for the Commodore 8-bit line.

END

Commodore's classic systems and many others are mentioned in my upcoming book, along with exhaustive looks at many other systems. Be sure to keep visiting Armchair Arcade for ongoing coverage as well. See you next time!

Comments

yakumo9275
yakumo9275's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/26/2006
random 64/128 musings

Have you read Blogging Ultima and Blogging Dragon Quest? same deal.

If your going to blog Wizards Crown you must also add Eternal Dagger to it.

I had thought of doing a 'blogging Questrony1/2/Legacy of the Ancients/Legend of Blacksilver' or doing the Magic Candle series.

I only got to use a c128 once and that was in c64 mode but it had a 3.5" disk drive which was pretty nifty to me.

I used to have a Warpspeed 2.0 cart for my c64 and that thing rocked. It apparently had a 128mode on the cart (I dont know if it was a seperate cart or inbuilt). When I was in school there was a spate of cockroach roms everyone wanted, as jiffydos was expensive.

-- Stu --

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
More thoughts
yakumo9275 wrote:

Have you read Blogging Ultima and Blogging Dragon Quest? same deal.

If your going to blog Wizards Crown you must also add Eternal Dagger to it.

I had thought of doing a 'blogging Questrony1/2/Legacy of the Ancients/Legend of Blacksilver' or doing the Magic Candle series.

I read the Ultima one I believe. I have a similar concept in mind. I'm going to intersperse a traditional technical review with a story-based ongoing account. I think I'll do the technical review in normal text and the story in italics and just go back and forth as necessary. I'll see how things go. The first few parts of the account will be the pre-stuff, like the system setup, environment, game and box, character creation, etc. I'm doing it to both force me to play a classic CRPG from my collection and to get something out of it for AA while I'm busy with other stuff. I figure I can do it whenever and that have a large series of articles to compile into one at the end.

yakumo9275 wrote:

I only got to use a c128 once and that was in c64 mode but it had a 3.5" disk drive which was pretty nifty to me.

The 3.5" drives are still very competitively bid on. I have a ton of 5.25" disk drives, but no 3.5". It's not that important as I have a plethora of options to connect to modern PC's and do all kinds of nifty transfers and what-not. Frankly, there's little to be done with the C-128 in its native mode, so most people do spend their time in the C-64 mode. A few games have been made, but none that have truly pushed what a stock 64K video memory C-128 could do as far as I know.

yakumo9275 wrote:

I used to have a Warpspeed 2.0 cart for my c64 and that thing rocked. It apparently had a 128mode on the cart (I dont know if it was a seperate cart or inbuilt). When I was in school there was a spate of cockroach roms everyone wanted, as jiffydos was expensive.

I believe I have a Warpspeed. I have many accelerators, both cartridge and software-based. What's nice about JiffyDOS is that it speeds up both sides, offers considerable improvement and can be disabled entirely. As you say, it's always been expensive, though it's certainly cheaper now to get it than it was back in the late 80's when it was a hot item. Again, from a technical standpoint, it was worth it to get it for the C-128D since that has a very easy-to-remove case and easy access as opposed to most other models in the line.

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
======================================

n/a
Catatonic
Offline
Joined: 05/20/2006
I believe I have encountered

I believe I have encountered only one Commodore 128. It was in my high school and looked just like your photo. This was in about 1991. The rest of the school (save for a super cool lab full of Macintosh stuff) had 286-based MS-DOS boxes, but with Commodore trademarks on them!

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Commodore and Atari
Catatonic wrote:

I believe I have encountered only one Commodore 128. It was in my high school and looked just like your photo. This was in about 1991. The rest of the school (save for a super cool lab full of Macintosh stuff) had 286-based MS-DOS boxes, but with Commodore trademarks on them!

Indeed. Both Commodore (with their Colt line) and Atari produced PC compatibles. Both their respective Amiga and ST line of computers could also be made to run PC and Macintosh software with the right add-ons...

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
======================================

n/a
Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
C-128

My family had a Commodore 128, though we didn't keep it very long. As I remember, we traded it in or sold it to help fund the new Amiga 1000.

I vaguely remember booting the system into CPM mode just to see what that was like, but seem to recall it was green or orange monochrome. At any rate, we didn't have any software to utilize it. I don't even think we had anything for the 128. It was always GO64 and that's the end of the story.

I'm guessing this would have been a much bigger hit among people who had a large quantity of CPM software, maybe businessmen or professionals needing apps like Wordstar. As far as the 128 mode goes, I'm not aware that much was ever done for it.

Bill, what was that other 8-bit super machine that more or less failed? I can't remember what it was, though I seem to think it may have been the CoCo 3. I need to re-read those entries. ;-)

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

My family had a Commodore 128, though we didn't keep it very long. As I remember, we traded it in or sold it to help fund the new Amiga 1000.

It actually looks kind of similar to the Amiga 1000, actually. I'll do the 1000 in a future installment, but further down the list. I want to stick to the obscure ones for the time being and have just been doing these Commodore ones lately because they were handy and/or useful at the moment.

Matt Barton wrote:

I vaguely remember booting the system into CPM mode just to see what that was like, but seem to recall it was green or orange monochrome. At any rate, we didn't have any software to utilize it. I don't even think we had anything for the 128. It was always GO64 and that's the end of the story.

I'm guessing this would have been a much bigger hit among people who had a large quantity of CPM software, maybe businessmen or professionals needing apps like Wordstar. As far as the 128 mode goes, I'm not aware that much was ever done for it.

Yes, it was typical CP/M, meaning mostly pure text. It had its advantages, including 80 columns. As for the 128 mode, it was excellent for productivity and utilities and the 128 made much better use of memory expansions, but there were very few mainstream games, just a few from Mastertronic and Infocom that were specific.

Matt Barton wrote:

Bill, what was that other 8-bit super machine that more or less failed? I can't remember what it was, though I seem to think it may have been the CoCo 3. I need to re-read those entries. ;-)

The Color Computer 3, yeah, which would have easily been the best 8-bit machine ever had it not been for the single channel sound. It's still very impressive though and could have even had a 256 color mode (and improved sound capability) if Tandy hadn't held it back so - as the rumor goes - not to compete with the Tandy 1000.

There were very few "Super 8-bits" actually released other than those two and there were some weird hybrids, like the Sinclair QL, which had some 32-bit components like the processor, but was hobbled by an essentially 8-bit architecture (it's arguable that the Apple IIgs would fall into this class, but it actually was more 16-bit than anything). TI never released the TI-99/8, which would have been a heck of a machine (even though the processor was 16-bit), nor Atari with the Atari 1450XL (and XLD). Commdore itself never released the C-64 successor, the C-65, which would have truly been a "Super 8-bit", with 256 color mode, built-in 3.5" disk drive and other nifty features.

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
======================================

n/a
Chris in AZ (not verified)
Question

Cleaning the attic I found a box labled CP/M

Here is some information:

On the box it has a label. On the label it states "CP/M C64110" then below it says "CP/M is a registered trademark of Digital Research" below that it says "1979 Digital Research" and "1983 Commodore Buisness Machines, INC."

It is for the Commodore 64

On the back it says "64 CP/M 2.2."

Inside there is a "COMMODORE 64 CP/M OPERATING SYSTEM USER'S GUIDE". A shrink wrapped cartridge that is labeled "commodore 64 CP/M cartridge" and a single 5.25 floppy disk in a white and a single disk in a sleeve that has the trademark "C" and has "commodore" diagonally across the front. On the back of the sleeve is the "DISKETTE CARE AND HANDLING INFORMATION". The disc is labeled identically as the label I described above on the box except it includes some black ink type which says the following"
"D CP2 622-36146".
The entirety is contained inside a combination silver blue box labeled "CP/M" at the top with "commodore (rainbow lines) 64" underneath it. The box has a drawn mural on the front of people typing on computers.
On the bottom of the box is a 3 inch gash from what appears to be humidity damage.
Almost forgot to mention the price tag is still on it which states $59.99. The pricetag is from a store that's called Greetings & Readings.

Can anyone tell me anything about it?

Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
Sure

The cartridge contains a zilog z80 cpu needed to run the CP/M. It basically turns your C64 into a CP/M compatible machine. But it has limited use because you can not use standard 5.25" CP/M disks with the setup.

It is a shame you need to run it off a 1541 drive which can not read the native 5.25" CP/M format floppies - rendering the whole setup pretty useless when you want to run standard CP/M software of store bought disks. It is however possible to convert the standard CP/M formatted disks to a format that is usable in the 1541 drive. This is a rather complex thing to do and you need access to other systems.

The 1571 and C128 CP/M solution is much more clever - this IS able to run standard CP/M software.
Bill perhaps you can chip in here and tell is ALL about the C64 CP/M stuff.

Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
You hit it spot on, Mark.

You hit it spot on, Mark. The C-64 CP/M cartridge was exactly as you said. I'll add that it's notoriously buggy and crash prone. A lot of software was coverted to work on the C-64's 1541 disk format (there were plenty of incompatible formats, with the most incompatible (a crude way of putting it) being on the Apple II) and 40 columns, which was not necessarily unusual in the CP/M world (the Coleco Adam popularly used this format as well), but was not the norm, where 80 columns ruled.

It's fairly collectible as these things go and I still haven't acquired a C-64 CP/M cartridge yet myself, though I'm a CP/M enthusiast having a wide variety of systems and add-ons for other systems. Boxed, complete, they can sell as high as $50 - $60 depending upon condition, though usually hit the ~$40 range.

In short, it's a fun novelty on the C-64, but not something you want to really use CP/M with, though like I said, you CAN run plenty of CP/M software that was specifically converted to the 1541 format and 40 column use.

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

n/a
Anonymous (not verified)
C64110

I have the cartidge, box and manual. I would like to sell it and buy parts for my Atari. Ant interest? I can also buy an Amiga 500 for $50.00 American. Is this a good deal?

Comment viewing options

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