The Commodore PET 2001

Commodore PET 2001

The MOS 6502-based Commodore PET was introduced in 1977 with a meager 4K of memory. This model earns a special place in my heart as the machine I learned to write spaghetti BASIC on.

It offered a stunning level of integration with the computer, keyboard, monitor and tape drive all sharing a single 'stylish' case. The PET also had its share of quirks -- while later PETs had keyboards designed for Earthlings, early versions used something akin to a cash register keypad. But -- since I didn't know any better -- I thought it was fabulous.

The first series of PETs offered white phosphor monitors, but at some point these were exchanged for trendy green-on-black 'Matrix' displays. All Commodore models featured a secondary set of "graphic icon" characters that could be displayed instead of letters and numbers. This enabled simple graphic displays without requiring a bit-mapped graphic controller (where each pixel could be addressed independently).

I've had a recent hankering to find a dead PET and replace its innards with something a tad more modern. It'd be worth it, just to see people do a double-take.

The Commodore PET 2001 (Old Computer Museum)

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Incidentally, many video game consoles used the same character-graphics mechanism for tile-based graphics. Even the Nintendo DS still does, at least for 2D and mixed-mode 2D/3D stuff. The DS can really trace its graphics lineage all the way back to the C64, if not further (even if the NES graphics chip wasn't a direct descendent of VIC-II it certainly used many of the same concepts, and design-wise there's a clear progression from NES->GB->SNES->GBA->DS where each one clearly builds on the previous).

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