LGR – Commodore PET Computer System Review

LGR – Commodore PET Computer System Review


[typing] The year is 1975 and Commodore Business Machines
had been successfully designing and selling calculators for half a decade. But there was a problem: Texas Instruments, who provided the chips
that powered Commodore’s calculators wanted in on that hot mathematical action. So they increased the price of the chips
to exorbitant levels, which meant that Commodore and other companies were
forced out of competition practically overnight. Meanwhile, MOS Technology, another company heavily invested
in the calculator market at the time, was developing a promising new CPU
to compete with the Motorola 6800. Chuck Peddle, in particular, was key
to the company’s current direction, and he could see the writing was on
the wall for the calculator market. However, the hobbyist personal computer
market was looking hugely promising, and the new MOS CPU was perfect for the task. Dubbed the 6502, this processor
was first used in the KIM-1, a single-board personal computer designed by Peddle and manufactured by MOS Technology in 1976. This got Commodore’s attention, and wanting to avoid another
TI fiasco, bought MOS outright to make sure that they had their own chip manufacturer. And after seeing an early demonstration
of Steve Wozniak’s Apple II in 1976, Commodore and MOS decided to take action. Jack Tramiel, the founder and head of Commodore, gave the green light to Peddle and his team
to work immediately on a 6502-based computer, set to debut in just six months at the
1977 Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago. It had a chassis made of wood and its display was a black-and-white
TV from a local hardware store, and Chuck Peddle only got it
working just hours before the show. Nonetheless, it struck a cord with potential buyers with the production version finalized as the PET 2001, going on sale in October of 1977
at an initial price of $495. It went on to be a notable success for Commodore, fighting neck on neck against the
Radio Shack TRS-80 and the Apple II, and winning over significant portions
of the education and business markets throughout the remainder of the 1970s, before being eclipsed in sales by their own VIC-20. As the competition gained increasing market share, the PET continued to evolve
with a multitude of revisions. The original PET 2001 series with its
awkward calculator-inspired keyboard and 9-inch display was soon
supplanted by the PET 4000 series, featuring a 12-inch display and a proper keyboard. Note that in Europe, these never used the “PET”
moniker because of an existing trademark by Philips, so there, they instead went under the name CBM, standing for Commodore Business Machines. The CBM name was eventually used in the
US as well, with things like the 8000 series, which upgraded the old 40-column text
display to a more modern 80-column display. There were also some unique machines
like the cleverly named Teachers’ PET, which Commodore donated to schools in order
to gain a foothold in the education market, and the SuperPET 9000, sounding like something straight out of Buck Rogers, featuring a coprocessor and 96KB of RAM. Also of note are the later PET-based
machines like the CBM 8096, featuring a less angular, rounded case design similar to Commodore’s CBM 2 computers,
which are another thing entirely. For the rest of this video, we’ll be looking
at the CBM 8032 model from 1981, which I got in 2012 for the price of $79. A pretty good deal at the time, but nowadays that would be an absolute steal! Expect to pay at least twice that
for one that doesn’t even work, anywhere from $250 to $400 for one that does, and well beyond that for one of the earlier
models or those outside of the US. Now let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: this is a computer for more serious collectors, and because of its immense historic value,
it’s highly sought after. Commodore is a company that was
legendary for its ruthless rise to power and its pathetic self-implosion. And seeing as this was its first computer,
it’s no wonder that its prices just keep going up. Not only that, but the look of these
things is astonishing, even today. It looks wonderfully retro and yet
wildly futuristic at the same time. That cream-on-black color scheme. Those hard angles and subtle bevels. The proportion of the display to the main chassis– Mmm… yes! Plus the fact that it’s built using thick sheet metal. None of that injection molded plastic fluff, which also means the thing weighs a hefty 40 pounds. This sturdy, all-in-one case design was a big
selling point for the computer back when it launched, since its main competitors,
the Apple II and TRS-80 Model I, both required an external display. Not so with the PET, making it feel more like an appliance
designed with clear purpose rather than just a box that you connect to your TV. In fact, depending on who you ask, this is the first true personal
computer for the mainstream, especially the PET 2001
with its built-in cassette drive. Even the name, “PET,” invokes a friendly nature, and invited comparisons to the
pet rock fad of the late-1970s, although officially it was an acronym that
stood for Personal Electronic Transactor, a far more business-like and stuffy name indeed. [click and hum] [beeping] But even with all this in its favor, the number of things you could actually do
with its monochrome text display was limited. This version features a 12-inch green phosphor display capable of showing up to 80 columns of text at once, which met the basic requirements for doing
any serious work with spreadsheets and documents. But the video address generator
it uses only outputs text and built-in hardware characters
from the PETSCII character ROM, and couldn’t generate graphics like, say, the Apple II. However, this wasn’t exactly meant for the home user so much as it was for businesses and education, which makes sense when you look at this keyboard. Gone are the tiny chiclet keys from the earlier models. In is this full travel keyboard, much like what you’d find on the
later Commodore VIC-20 and 64. And due to the metal case design
and key press mechanisms, it sounds thunderous and chunky to type on, which I can’t help but love. [thunderous and chunky typing] There’s more to love around back, too, with edge connectors for hooking in
data cassette decks, parallel printers and general purpose IEEE-488-compatible devices. Getting inside the case is another one
of my favorite things about the PET. All you do is simply lift the front
of the case below the keyboard and pop the hood, so to speak, letting you get to all its naughty
bits with no screws required. You’ve got 32KB of RAM in this model, alongside a 20KB ROM, including the CBM KERNAL,
character set and BASIC version 4.0. There’s also the MOS 6545 video chip, outputting either a 40×25 or 80×25
character monochrome display, as well as single Piezo Beeper for single-voice square wave sound output. And of course, at the heart of the machine beats an MOS 6502 CPU running at 1MHz, although you’ll notice that mine isn’t
plugged into the motherboard itself. Mine is plugged into a PETVet, a custom-made board designed and sold by bitfixer, which replaces both the RAM
and the ROM of the machine. When I got this 8032, the RAM had gone bad. And since I also wanted the ability to run custom ROMs and have an overall more reliable machine, the PETVet was the perfect option for me. There’s also one seriously menacing power supply, a technological beast that scares me into
a fetal position every time I dare look at it. Loading software into the PET
can be accomplished in a few ways. First is typing in a program yourself, but that’s slow and takes
more time than I have anymore. Second is using a Commodore tape drive like one of these earlier models here, or you could even use the later ones that
were made for the VIC-20 and the 64. Third is by use of floppy disks, although this wasn’t as common, and requires something like the 8050
dual floppy drive, which I’ve never owned. There’s also a fourth option nowadays with things like the PETdisk, also by bitfixer, which allows you to use micro SD cards
to load files through a boot loader. Now, this is normally the part of the video where
I talk about games and show some boxes but, well, this was never a gamer’s machine. However, people still wrote hundreds of games for it, making clever use of the limited graphics that resulted in stuff like this: Finally, if you don’t wanna go through the copious cost
and customization to get a working PET system, emulation is an ever-present option
for the curious and the enthusiast alike. VICE and MESS are the two major options, though I would highly recommend
VICE for its ease of use and more focused options
regarding Commodore machines. So that is the Commodore PET, or at least the 8032 version, although most of them are gonna
be the same basic experience. Although with this one, it does have some other issues that I didn’t touch on, which I probably should have and I will now. That a lot of the programs that
I showed won’t run on it because it’s got a different display and some
other features that aren’t compatible with the 4000 series and further back, so you’re gonna have to do a little bit of
tinkering to get those things to work. With that said, I mean why in the world am I
interested in this? Or why would anybody? I mean it’s hard to find, it’s expensive when you do find it, it barely does anything worthwhile, and yet I can’t help but friggin’ love this thing. I seriously just adore this computer. I love the way it feels and the way it looks and sounds, the green screen monitor, just everything about it is awesome! I love this thing! It’s really cool! It just doesn’t do much. [laughs] And I don’t use it very much either, but I do like the fact that when you do finally get one,
you can make it work a little better with things like the PETVet and the PETdisk and those things are incredibly useful for just ease of use, but… You know, what are you gonna do with it otherwise? Other than just kind of treat it as a piece of art and that’s what I like to do. I really just do adore this thing
and it sparks conversation anytime anybody sees it. They’re like, Whoa, that looks
like something out of “2001,” And yes, yes it does. The movie, not the year. Uh… Anyway. Well, that is all for this particular hardware review. If you enjoyed this video on the Commodore PET, then perhaps you would like to
take a look at some of my others. I reviewed the MSX2 recently, and I’ve reviewed other Commodore machines
in the past, and there’s gonna be some more in the future, of course. As well as ton of other videos on a ton
of other subjects, retro and otherwise, so subscribing or just looking through my
channel is recommended if you liked this. There’s also Twitter and Facebook,
which I feel compelled to mention since there are icons here in the annotations, as well as Patreon, which really helps out. So if you *really* like the show,
then *really* do consider it, please. It’ll also get you some extra perks like being
able to see videos earlier than anywhere else. And as always, thank you very much for watching.

100 thoughts to “LGR – Commodore PET Computer System Review”

  1. There is a link between the Pet and 2001: the typeface used for the PET logo, Microgramma, is said to be the same one used for the HAL 9000 in the movie. Tramiel and Peddle were hugely influenced by the movie so wanted the same logo. More info here: https://mansfield-devine.com/speculatrix/2017/02/zolatron-logo-upgraded/

  2. I really would like to see examples and stories of real life use cases, where this kind of computers were used back in the days.

  3. Found the earlier version of a CBM pet far away, but the seller don't want to ship or deliver it and i don't want to pick it up, the thing just weighs too much. Heard a story about someone who had his house broken into and the thieves gave up trying to carry it out… LOL.

  4. With years ever since this video was published I'm now commenting. I found this video trying to find info about the CBM pet 3032, a model I owned back in the 80ies alongside the external dual HD floppy drives. They both were given to me, back then, from my late uncle who had used both in his factory until he made a machine upgrade with something I never asked him about. So, having to get rid of the 3032, he gave it to me.

    Sadly, back then I was a teenager who only wanted to play videogames, internet was a misspelled soccer team form Milan and software of ANY kind, let alone the games I craved, for that machine around amounted to zilch, so when my father found a friend of his who wanted to take both machine and floppy drives in in exchange of a C64 I JUMPED to the occasion.

    Nowadays from time to time I travel on memory lane to back to those carefree days (for me, they were) and on a search to deepen the knowledge of what I left behind back in the times, I happened here. Nice video.

  5. The PET computers with 80 column displays were, at the time, much more suitable for text editing and spreadsheets than the Apple ][ line which used NTSC TV's for displays. In addition since they had a IEEE-488 interface built in, they were used for years to control scientific and test equipment.

  6. Wonder if anyone's attempted to do digitized sound with this thing. It's got a beeper like the ZX Spectrum, so it would make sense.

  7. I would love one of these, however they are awfully rare in my part of the world.
    Many years ago I had a VIC20, hated it, the super chunky low res video kind of drove my eyes crazy, a nice 80 column display is way better.
    I recently loaded up Vice on my PC, the VIC20 emulation was realy authentic, it had the same effect on my eyes (plus how can you code if every line of code wraps around atleast once), so I imediatly swaped to an emulation with a green 80 column display.
    By the way, Vice is realy great in another way, just have a look at how many OS's it will run on – rather unique in this day of Windows/Linux/Mac.

  8. I have a PET 4032, it is a monster. Size and weight, and the clacky sounds the keyboard makes made me put the thing in the closet!

  9. It is awesome. I've never owned one, but I had use of one at a workplace years ago (when it was quite new no doubt, although even then it seemed old!). I absolutely loved it. compared to all of the other machines I had access to like the ZX81 it seemed years ahead of just about everything. In build quality at least!!

  10. This was the first computer I ever used when I was 10, back in 1982. The school got one, and we were taken in groups of 4 to see the magical mystery box. The teachers were afraid to touch the thing because they were told any wrong key press could irreparably destroy the thing. They loaded up a very basic educational game, where you could press 1, 2, or 3 to tell the machine what room of a museum you'd like to visit next. I took to it like a duck in water, going down options the teachers didn't even know existed. They were like, "Whoa! Slow down! You might break something!"

    I told them, "You can't break it by using it exactly what how it was meant to be used."

    Then they were like, "Can you get us back to the menu, so we can restart for the next group of kids?" I did.

  11. Too retro for me.
    The oldest computer I own is a Spectrum +2 and I can do lot of things, well mainly playing games, lot of games are available. I would like to own a PC with a monitor, but them I take my not very old Fujitsu Amilo, a intel core duo Lap Top and I hate it, too slow …with the awfull Windows Vista. Them I realized that it is slow because I run actual programs … and them I love it againg. I cannot compare with my new MSI, and that is why I would like to buy a PC that runs win 3.11, to test old school programs and games from the 90´s

  12. I have one of these PETs. Side note, in the dark you can put a flashlight up to the screen and it will absorb the energy and glow in the dark, when you shut the flashlight off.

  13. I had no time to repair, or the space, so I gave the Pet to a keen in tech student. And yes, these beasts were super heavy. But besides Amigas and vintage Atari computers, I did not have too much interest in this machine, yet there are some regrets, for I would have liked to fix it. Also, I learned basic programming on a TRS Model 3, but these machines are expensive and so expensive to ship today.

  14. Man, I love old technology 🙂 when I know how to use it, anyway XD the oldest things I know how to use computer based are Windows 1.01 and DOS. Whenever I try an older system like that, my starting goal is always to find some kind of typing program / word processor that lets me save text documents so I can record things. Even if there's little else I can do, I enjoy that a lot, even more than the games built into the system or most other programs. You can just type away into those and pretend you're using the machine in its era and all

  15. A whole lotta nothing, equipped with a 0.001 gigahertz processor! Already in my 20s by that time, it really isn't so surprising that I saw this kind of kit, and the somewhat lacklustre home computers of the era, as being of little constructive use in the home environment. It was, in a sense, a catch 22 scenario. Because I was beyond the age range to get into computers in the workplace, I didn't develop any computer skills. So, by the time home PCs were powerful enough for some useful purpose, at least as I would define it, yet not following previous advances, I didn't have the foggiest clue how to use them. I had to learn privately, but as I did so, they got even better. Well, at least I know which bits to buy, and where to plug them in, in order to make a computer.

  16. I really love the aesthetics of the PET. Still one of the best-looking machines out there.

    I wonder if it's affordable to 3D-print a PET chassis and retrofit a modern machine inside.

  17. At the time, I thought PETSCII graphics were so stupid, but was it really? The TRS-80 had oodles of games, which I loved, and its block character graphics only provided 128×48 resolution. The PET's block character graphics could do 80×50, using blocks that were a bit more square. Is that really so much worse? Not really. Any game that could be done with the 128×48 TRS-80 resolution could have been done on the 80×50 PET resolution. And that's just the block characters alone–there are a ton of other PETSCII graphics characters to work with, more useful than the TRS-80 character set (the TRS-80 characters were too tall and didn't fill out all 12 scanlines).

    The lack of TRS-80 style SET and RESET graphics commands blinded me to the possibilities. I would get used to various ways to code block character graphics on the C64, but then the C64 also had a lot of other more sophisticated graphics capabilities so I never really went back and rethought my opinion of pure PETSCII.

  18. Made in U.S.A. doesn't hurt either. Although shortly after World War II was over an industrial town in Japan changed its name to Usa so it could print "made in Usa" on its products. From what I understand though, that did not last long since the Japanese government did not want the occupation forces coming down on them even harder for it.

  19. I bought one of these in March 1978 in the UK and it was called the PET When I got it not CBM so they must have changed the name later I sold my car to raise the £695 to buy it. But I help start a business called PETSOFT and did quite well for 3 years.

  20. Am I the only one who thinks Jack Tramiel looks like a Russian James Bond villain about to nuke america

  21. I wonder about taking a non-working one, fitting a modern laptop board into the case, and putting the display in place of the CRT….

  22. I learned to program on these in 1981/1982 along with an Exidy Sorcerer. Then later, I purchased a Commodore Vic-20, followed a couple years later by the C64. The next computer I bought after that was an old Mac SE. I've had many computers over the years, but the PETS always have a soft spot in my heart for they take me back to my early teenage years.

  23. Just a brilliant review. My first computer was in 1982 (emulated at http://nanowasp.org), which was also the time of the VIC-20. I only learned of the PET many years later, and this is a great review of what it was, its capabilities, and why you want to have one. I too would love to own one as an art display piece.

  24. I really love the peculiar shape of these machines. Unfortunaltely it's impossible to find one of them in Japan at a "reasonnable" price, the last one I saw was at 250000 Yens (~$2500), the mainboard was busted

  25. Hey, nice vid as always!
    The in-video image-links looks like broken.
    At 12:25, under the phrase "Enjoyed this video? Try these!"
    I think these should be clickable?

  26. Once you started showing the games I was overcome with waves of nostalgia. I'd sit in front of my PET for hours, transfixed by those incredible games and those beeps. The things they were able to accomplish in just 32k of RAM were incredible.

  27. someone i know builds special PET machines, he buys dead ones and puts colour monitors in them, he then will fit the commodore computer of your choice inside, he recommends the c128, but has done c64 and even a vic20, i have done similar things with other 8 bit machines and single board computers, i only have one rule, the donor has to be dead i wont chop a working classic.

  28. Back in the 90's I had that model you have with dual disk drives…. I bought it for 20 bucks I foolishly sold it for 40 bucks I didn't know what I had and no computer store as in local store could get me software.. oh the damn 90's!

    I am sad when I see this system today because I could have this day and age got the software and enjoyed the system!!

  29. I must say, I never owned a PET and I didn't knew about this computer up til my 30s. But when I see this PET, I immediately recognize why in Windows and DOS and many other systems the computer was always shown as a Monitor directly connected to the computer unit, although no DOS machine (even the Desktop ones) never were monitor and computer in one case. And I also recognized then, why the Computer in the comics for the 64'er computer magazine for the C64 was not looking at all like a C64… they used the PET as the computer, this crazy parrot who wants to rule the world with his computer 😀 A pet using a PET…

  30. I love how this machine looks, I'd love to put a gaming computer on a case inspired by it. It would look great!

  31. haha. wonder if it was marketed in quebec. i see that. Le superPET. Litterally meaning The superFART.

  32. For no reason whatsoever I firmly stood with the Apple coalition back in school thumbing our noses at the lowly PET. I guess that's why I wound up getting the Atari. Love that old MOS 6502. It ruled the world those days.

  33. It's nostalgic for me, but I'm 53.

    Can't see its appeal for anyone younger.

    Basically useless now, unless one wants to write and compile basic programs.

  34. I know this video is old but just wanted to say i used the PET (named that) in England at school in the late 70s.

  35. As always, awesome video! Some dream about owning a Ferrari and some of owning a PET, Im the later but a bit to expensive for me right now so I stick with my Commodore 64 from 1983 that I had since I was a brat and it still works, my lill "breadbin". Emulators is a nice way to get things done easy and quick but I have a hard time using them. If I go retro I want it all even the frustration with finding what I want, the loading time, the adjustment of the tone head to not get that "Load Error", its part of the history and that is what I want to be apart of even today. ♥

  36. In 1981 or 1982 my Dad got this computer to take home from the university where he worked. It ran Wordpro 4 plus, the first word processor I ever used, and it wasn’t bad for the time. I bought a book that had a bunch of games that ran on it, but I had to enter them by hand. Some actually worked (they had been written for the earlier version of PET so there were display issues with some games). We ran a disk drive on it and I have a memory of it being part of the machine, not external, but that could be wrong.

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