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27th February 2002


Joe Griffin


(This article was first published in the ICPUG Journal January/February 1988 issue.
Permission from Joe Griffin to republish on the Internet has been received.)

the only replacement for an 8032 is another 8032!

Most of this first article will be taken up with a bit of history, both of Commodore and, by way of an introduction, myself.

My own involvement with Commodore machines started in 1982 when I changed jobs and started work on the production of technical programs running on 8032s. With virtually no backup or expertise in the company, I determined to learn more about these machines.

A visit to the 'PET Show' at Hammersmith in June provided me with a copy of Rae West's 'Programming the PET/CBM' (still my bible) and an application form to join some bunch of users calling themselves IPUG (The Independent Pet Users Group). In July, on a Morris Dancing weekend, I met the Newsletter editor of BASUG (the Apple User Group). Over a pint or seven, we discussed computers and when I asked about user groups, his advice was "join and get involved". Somewhere along the line I did!

Evolution of the PET range

1975 - 65xx family of chips developed by MOS Technology.

1977 - Commodore bring out KIM1 computer. A revolution: the user only needed to add a power supply and a cassette drive and he was in business, programming in hex. Until then computers had been complicated beasts which occupied air conditioned suites.

1978 - PET 2001 announced. A complete unit ready to plug in to a mains supply and go. The machine was programmable in BASIC and set the pattern for many machines to come in that it used a non-standard form of ASCII code (often called PETSCII) in which two complete character sets were available. One set comprised upper and lower case letters while the other, the default, had upper case letters and block graphics symbols. This arrangement has carried right through to the 128. The machine also set the pattern to come with outlets being provided for connection of a second cassette drive, IEEE peripherals and non-intelligent peripherals (via a user port). It was available with 8K of user memory and is most easily recognised as being the only PET/CBM machine with a SMALL keyboard and built-in cassette drive. The Operating System contained a number of errors (BUGS), some of which were corrected in later versions of the PET. The Operating System of these early PETs is variously described as "OLDROM", "ORIGINALROM" or "BASIC1". These machines power on with the message:


1979 - The 2001-16 and 2001-32,introduced in 1979, were the outcome of the first and most significant revision of the PET. The memory was at the same time expanded to give options of 16K or 32K. A full size GRAPHICS keyboard was fined leaving no room for a built-in cassette drive. The Operating System was totally revised, becoming what is know as ~NEWROM", "UPGRADEROM" or "BASIC2". This removed most of the bugs of "BASIC1". These machines power on with the message:


At the same time the peripherals which had been promised for so long finally arrived. These were the 2000 series printers and the 2040 disk drive (DOS 1).

In the autumn of 1979, the PET was given a new name, becoming the 3000 series. This appears to have been purely a cosmetic change and the machines are as described above for 2001-16 and -32. The disk drive was also upgraded, becoming the 3040. The new DOS 1.2 had some, but not all, of the bugs removed.

1980 - 4000 Series. In the summer of 1980 COMMODORE introduced a new range of machines, with a further revision of the Operating System, containing built-in DISK COMMANDS. This Operating System is known, from its power-on message as "BASIC4". Two principal sizes of memory were available, 16K and 32K. Like their predecessors, these machines had 40 column screens and GRAPHICS keyboards.

Originally these machines were fitted with 9" screens, but in 1981, following the introduction of the 8032, 12" screens were fixed as standard. These later 4000 series machines are commonly referred to as "FAT-40" machines. These machines power on with the message:


The peripherals were again upgraded, the disk drive became the 4040, running DOS 2.1 which allowed true relative files. The printers were replaced with the 4022, a unit based on the successful Epson MX-70.

8000 Series. Shortly after the introduction of the BASIC4 machines, COMMODORE released their first 80 column machine (the 8032). The PET had finally come of age!

This had a 12" screen and a built-in 'beeper'. It was fitted with a standard 32K of memory and the BUSINESS keyboard (often criticised by those who grew up with the 40 column machines). These machines power up, in lower case, with the message:

*** commodore basic 4.0 ***
31743 bytes free

With the new machine came a further range of peripherals. The 8050, a high density disk drive was introduced with 500K-bytes of storage on a disk and a 132 column printer (the 8023) also appeared.

It was around this time that a group of workers at Commodore in Japan are alleged to have put together a computer for their children. The machine was designed to plug into a television set and had colour output. There is a rumor that the machine was given BASIC 2, because those were the chips which were Iying around the office. I doubt this, because the operating system is not the same BASIC 2 as in the PET, but is a derivative, having different input/output routines and, of course, the colour features. It may be that the only source code available was BASIC 2! Whatever the truth, that machine went on to become the VIC 20 and set the pattern for a range of cheaper home computers leading to the C44. It was their concentration on the expanding home computer market which led, in my opinion, to Commodore's loss of their lead in the business market.

In 1981 came the first of a number of variants on the 8032; a machine, known as the 8096, having an additional 64K of memory, not directly accessible from BASIC. A further variant, introduced at the same time, was the 9000 (micro main-frame) with both 6502 and 6809 processors. This supported a number of other languages, including FORTRAN.

At the start of 1983 Commodore announced three new ranges of machines (64, 500 and 700). I attended a 'Commodore Show' hosted by my dealer and my notes reveal that the 500 and 700 machines were not actually on display. At the time I described the machines as follows:

Commodore 64 - This machine is the cheapest of the new CBM machines. It is an extension of the popular VIC machine and is aimed at the advanced hobbyist.

Commodore 500 - The 500 series is described by CBM as the "Professional/Scientific" computer. The machine features a 40 column colour display, although as with the 64, no screen is provided with the basic machine.

Commodore 700 - This series of machine is described by CBM as the "Business" computer. The machines in this range cater for an 80 column monochrome screen, which can either be supplied with the machine, or in the form of a separate monitor.The machine can run most of the software which is available for our 8032/8096 machines, although some of the more advanced techniques (such as screen addressing) may not work without modification. The 700 series will have BASIC as their standard language but will be able to accept PASCAL, FORTH, LOGO and other "soft-loaded" languages. Additionally, both the 500 and 700 series machines can accept a "second processor" option of either a Z-80 or 8080 microprocessor. These will allow the machine to run under either of the "Industry Standard" systems of CP/M or MS-DOS, allowing a vast range of programs to be used.

Of these machines, the 64 has, of course, been an incredible success; the 500 was still-born and the 700 was re-launched at least twice, before being finally ditched in favour of a revamped version of the 8000 series.

In America, the 700 (or B) series is currently enjoying far greater support than it ever did when it was available. Commodore gave away most of the rights of the Bs to the Chicago B128 Users Group (CBUG) who have taken 'the orphan' to their breast and a truly incredible amount of development work has been carried out by their members.

A 1M-byte expansion is available and the 8088 Second processor which never appeared for sale has been rescued from the depths of Commodore's research labs and CP/M is now available for the 'B'.

On the software front, having been given a release by CBM to obtain all material for the 'B', their people have managed to set up some good deals with the software houses. Superoffice is available with Superbase V2! Oh, Precision, how we would love that for the 8096. Precision have also produced Superscript 3 for the 'B'. Version 3 is the menu driven one seen on the 64 and 128.

JCL's 700 workshop is available under licence to CBUG members for about $30, and the Petspeed compiler (my favourite) is available for $99.

CBUG have also obtained a lot of original Commodore documentation (much of it rescued in the nick of time as Corby was closing) including the 8080 schematics & CP/M info (40pp), software dev't info (302pp) and the original Programmers Reference (798pp).

Although ICPUG has a reciprocal publishing agreement with CBUG, I would suggest that any ICPUG member who is interested in serious computing on a 700 should join CBUG; the cost is $21 for surface mail or $35 for air mail (payable in US funds to):

CBUG Inc., c/o Norman Deltzke, (out of date address) U.S.A.

And, after that commercial, back to the plot.

At the time the 700 was announced, the final floppy disk variant, the double sided 8250 was introduced, giving 1 megabyte of storage on standard 5.25 floppies.

In Jan '83 the 8000 series was given a facelift by adoption of the Porsche designed casing of the 700. Popular rumour at the time suggested that the suffix "-SK" did in fact stand for "Smoove Kase"!

Although the new packaging made a few differences to the connections - edge connectors were replaced with IEEE 'D' connectors, the Operating System was the same as on earlier 8000 series machines.

Over the next two years Commodore produced a few more variants of the 8000. The 8296 featured 96K of additional RAM. At the time Tom Cranstoun was reported as saying that 32K of this could only be got at by the user opening the machine and changing the links. The final versions of the 8296 were the 8296D with a built in 8250 drive and the 8296GD with a high resolution graphics board and drive. The operating system was still BASIC 4.

In 1986 Commodore finally dropped the 8296 and the 'PET' range ended.

Identification of hardware!

At each introduction of a new machine CBM have provided the users with the chance to upgrade their machines and third parties like Mick Bignall and Supersoft have been in the fore with conversions. Thus the label on the front

of the machine may have little bearing on what lies within. Tom Cranstoun has what appears from its labels to be a 2032, large keyboard machine (or is it a 2016!). When switched on, the 9" screen powers up in lower case with the BASIC 4 legend. Even then, the fact that the machine is an 8096 is hidden.

Switching on a 'PET' will reveal what operating system lurks within. I will delve into 8096/8296 memory expansions in a later article. For those with BASIC 2 machines, an upgrade to BASIC 4 (while still maintaining the option to switch to BASIC 2) is available from Supersoft. This board, 'The BASIC 2+4' normally sells for 65+VAT. Until the end of April, it is available to ICPUG members for 49+VAT. The upgrade to BASIC 4 is well worthwhile for the improvements to the operating system (better string handling and disk commands). Supersoft are at:

(out of date address)

Disk drives may be harder to identify. One method which sorts most out is to format a disk in the drive:

OPEN 1,8,15:PRINT#1,"N0:TEST DISK,TD":CLOSE 1 works with all drives. Follow this with LOAD "$0",8 then LIST to see the disk directory. The number of blocks free will tell you the drive type:

670 blocks - 2040 or 3040
664 blocks - 4040
2052 blocks - 8050
4133 blocks - 8250

The 'single density' drive x040 cannot be upgraded to double density 8050 standard but an upgrade (again from Supersoft) will convert the 2040 or 3040 into a 4040. The normal price is 55+VAT but again until the end of April, ICPUG members may obtain it for 39+VAT. In addition to providing Relative files, the upgrade removes a number of bugs and gives automatic recognition of the disk without the need for 'initialisation'.

My final advice to all PET owners is to follow my example of 1982; buy Rae West's book. 'Programming the PET/CBM'West is published by Level Ltd. It is available from:

Biblios Publishers Distribution Ltd., (out of date address)

Price 18.90 + 1.00 p&p - expensive but worth it! Next time I will delve into the mysteries of using non-Commodore printers with the PET.

This article was reprocessed from the ICPUG Journal by Ken Ross.