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

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.


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!


Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969
Got it...
Anonymous wrote:

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?

I actually got a complete, boxed CP/M for the C-64 for amazingly cheap bundled in with other stuff recently. Got real lucky on that one.

$50 for an Amiga 500 is a pretty good deal, so you should definitely go for it if you're in the market. There are even plenty of solutions now for using it on modern TVs instead of the classic Commodore 1084 series monitors...


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