The PETs inspired me.
The PET was the first computer I touched. Moving to a VIC then a C64. I wouldn't be where I am today, doing what I do, without the PET.
This is just, "Meh." Sorry.
ALSO, HOW MUCH?!?!
Nostalgia-fuelled vintage computing specialists The Future Was 8bit and Tynemouth Software have opened pre-orders for a new computer kit based on Commodore's venerable PET, featuring everything you need to compute like it's the 1970s – just bring your own flares. First released in 1977 as a follow-up to the considerably …
A few years ago there was a chap selling reproduction ZX80 kits for home construction much like the original and I feel like they were about £100 or so; proportionally that makes this PET a steal.
Positive spin aside, I think the point is to use period-appropriate components, along with the custom-printed PCB, case and keyboard. So it's going to cost a bit compared to chucking an FPGA in a case and giving it a PS/2 socket.
The PET was also the first computer I saw and touched, and that experience pretty-much sent me down a road that I'm still traveling.
I was a school-kid of about 8 and one of the children's fathers was nice enough to bring it to the school. He demonstrated a program ...
Of course, it said "Hello whats your name?" and when I typed my name it said "Hello Duncan Im pleased to meet you."
Everyone kid went "Whhooooooaaa!!" - we all thought it was both intelligent and polite.
The moment that set the course of my life came when the guy said "Who wants to see how it works?" so we all yelled "Yeah" and he typed "LIST" and we got something like this:
10 INPUT "Hello whats your name"; NAME$
20 PRINT "Hello "+NAME$+" Im pleased to meet you"
Even to a child it was obvious what had happened. And in those days (early 1980s) UK unemployment was A THING. I said to myself "I can do this ... and I will never want for work." And I was right.
I'll never forget that day, but would I buy a remade PET for the sake of nostalgia? Nah.
"The PET was the first computer I touched. "
Same here! Although the first I ever used was some mini or mainframe at the local university. We ad an ASR33 teletype at school and an acoustic modem. We'd create our programmes offline on coding sheets, check them as best we could for errors and then punch the tapes. The teacher would stay back to use the acoustic coupler and phone after 6pm when call rates were cheaper. Sometimes, some of us would also stay back to play games at cheap phone rates too. She'd let us play Lunar Lander on the Teletype for a max of half an hour. Not exactly real-time gaming though. Type your thrust value and a few seconds later the teletype would tell you your current altitude and velocity and wait for the next thrust adjustment. Then I discovered it was written in BASIC and I printed a listing out. I learned so much from pouring over that.
Later on, we got a PET 4004 and I was spending every spare minute in that room and if availbale ought to work on this new PET. And the sound effect device I built years ago,
Just looked more closely. It's a real PET in hardware terms. Wow! I remember when I went to Uni a year later, they ad a PET lad with MuPETs, a device to allow 4 PETs to share a dual drive floppy unit and printer.
That was fun!
some mini or mainframe at the local university
That was me, too.
My first ever computer course (and computer use) was on an ASR33. It was located in a closet under a stair column - it was tiny, but very snug. The class had to take it in turns to use it, and you had to wait several days for any printout on fanfold paper, because the mainframe and printer was on a different site.
I can't remember now why the printout from the ASR33 itself wasn't acceptable for work submission - but it may have been part of the course, as in knowing the process as it existed at the time.
Used to love the 20mA current-loop interface on those. So reliable, especially when equipped with the paper tape punch / reader. Remember loading Altair Basic onto a MITS 8800 after toggling-in the boot loader via front panel load / deposit switches. Actually soldered the S-100 edge connectors to that motherboard as a weekend job. In a museum now. The machine, not me.
Mine too. And the first computer I ever wrote a working program for; and the first I ever modified someone else's code on (which might be more important); and the first I ever worked with someone else on a program (which is definitely more important).
A few years later I was using VIC-20s and TRS-80s (model I and III) and Apple ][s, and not long after the IBM PC, plus various minis and mainframes (for years I had stacks of teletype output stashed away for the sake of nostalgia). But that PET was where I started.
Honestly, if I had somewhere to set it up and use it, I'd be really tempted by this reproduction. I rarely spend money on something purely for the pleasure of it, except books; for this I might make an exception. Then I'd drive the grandkids crazy trying to get them interested in it.
We had them at school. They were great. I taught myself to program them in machine code before the computer course began. The teacher knew less about them than I did, a classmate, Alan, and myself were then duly appointed helpers, when it came to programming and the teacher concentrated on the theory and history sides of computing.
When I got to college, they still had PETs. My first lesson was to write a program to show how much we knew about programming, so the lecturer could gauge the level of the class. Simple program, given a value, work out the minimum number of coins to give in change.
Finished in about 10 minutes. I spent the rest of the hour writing machine code around the code program to draw "windows" on the screen and use an 8x8 character-graphic grid to represent each number the user entered (i.e. whopping big numbers in the "window" at the top of the screen) and little piles of coins at the bottom.
The lecturer's reaction? "Wow, I didn't know you could do that with a computer!" Oh, brother! And I thought I was there to learn...
I remember that we also had wordprocessing and spreadsheet ROMs in the ones at college.
"We had them at school. They were great. I taught myself to program them in machine code before the computer course began. The teacher knew less about them than I did, a classmate, Alan, and myself were then duly appointed helpers, when it came to programming and the teacher concentrated on the theory and history sides of computing."
Er, did we go to the same school? Because your first paragraph is my experience, even down to the name.
Probably, but "Alan" not so common a name. #
Mark and I were far ahead of the Computer Studies teacher, and were "employed" to type in programs. Used to delight in
10 REM L (SHIFT-L)
which when LIST'ED produced
He never figured it out.
I wrote a kinda clone of the last level of Pheonix in 6502, Mark wrote an awesome "defender" type sideways scroller c/w the scanner.
But that 1982/83 (Mark joined us in the last two years of school). Started in 77/78 on an ICL 2903 minimac at the local Polytechnic, accessed using a teleprinter via acoustic coupler. The school was allocated 32KB of disk space. Being inquisitive, didn't take long to work out how to manipulate DLIST, DLOAD, DSAVE to access other user's partitions, 'acquire' their programs and store mine safely (such that the contents wouldnt show when they did a dir list).
Somehow the Poly admins twigged, but back then this wasn't a bad thing. In exchange for me showing them how to manipulate the disk system, they introduced me to the wonderful world of phone manipulation -helpful as local calls cost something like 5p/min back then, and I was running up some large bills on the schools phone.
Tynemouth huh? I started on a 32kB pet just ten miles from there. I got used to "Please press play on tape #1". I got started in software by learning to cheat at Battleships by taking out limits. But those machines were desperately slow. I just don't need something that reproduces the waiting experience. And if it doesn't then it's just a keyboard reproduction, except the one I started on in 1979(?) had the proper keyboard. It was a good trick, but that was all.
I remember when I was a member of the 6th form consultative council at my sixth form collage, back in 1977, and myself and a couple of other members campaigned to get them to spend their discretionary fund on a Pet 2001, but they decided to buy a second hand mini-bus instead. Probably a better choice, but we did try.
Several years later, after Uni. (where I played with KIM-1s [and UNIX]) and my first job, (where I didn't), I started working at Newcastle Poly. They had several Pet labs. with 4032 (I think) models with real keyboards and an external cassette (possibly shared with a switch box between 4 Pets), but I have to admit that I was never that impressed by them as a teaching resource, and I remember that they were forever breaking down, normally fixed my opening them up and pressing all the chips back into their sockets.
I was not directly involved in maintaining them, as I was primarily looking after the PDP-11/34E that ran RSX-11M and UNIX version 6 and 7 for the School of Maths and Computing, but ended up managing the replacement of one of the Pet labs. with a networked BBC Micro lab. which IMHO was a much better resource, but hey, they were a much younger and more versatile design.
The Poly. central Computer Unit went a different way, and installed networked RML 480Zs, and then IBM PCs, but I still think that the BBC lab. was the most versatile and interesting resource we had, but then, I was biased as I had built it.
I'm going through a nostalgia phase at the moment (CoVid lockdown to blame, I'm afraid), as I've resurrected one of my BBC model Bs, and have just bought a vintage Epson HI-80 pen plotter when it popped up on eBay (I forgot that I had set a watch up for one some years back), one of my favourite toys from the lab. Only problem now, where do you get pens for a 35 year old discontinued plotter! I'm trying with a bit of success to make some with ball point pen refills, and maybe fineliners, and it might be just the springboard I need to get into 3-D printing.
Takes me back.
The wife had trouble with foreign language classes at uni & got a waiver to substitute assembly language programming classes.
She learned to program on a KIM-1. Hand assembly. Hex keyboard. She went on to a career as a secondary school Math and Science teacher.
I've never been prouder of her.
(except, perhaps, when she learned Morse Code to get her amateur radio license)
For some reason, we're still married, but she never mentions either of those skills in public.
The KIM-1 takes me back also. I hand built an interface to a cassette drive (with a lot of help from a hobby magazine for KIM-1 owners) so I could store the finished programs. It worked after a fashion - about 1 out of every 3 times it would read correctly. This is also where I first learned the advantages of socketed IC's after my incompetence at soldering an IC directly to the board killed the IC.
Tim Danton has just published a book, of at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, "the computers that made Britain - the home computer revolution of the 1980s".
I got the free download yesterday (left a donation to the foundation).
True. Almost all of them were expensive at the time. I remember dreaming of winning the football pools so I could buy one! This is late 70s/early 80s, before prices started to come down.
My dream machine of the period was the Atari 800, and that came in at around £1,000 (so £3,000 equivalent today) at the time. Plus over half again for printers and disk drives, etc. I had to make do with a second hand Atari 400 until I started work, then I bought the 800XL when prices started to fall. They were still one hell of a luxury purchase even so.
I used to have a PET, which I got for nothing in the mid-80s from Uni as they were throwing them out and upgrading to something else. I wish I'd kept it, but it got rusty being stored in the garage so it was slung out.
Great times to have lived through, though.
According to the Bank of England Inflation Calculator, £1,000 in 1979 - the year the 800 was launched in the US - is equivalent to about £5,100 in 2020 money.
Wikipedia says the 800 came to the UK in 1981 at a price of £645, which works out to £2,528 in 2020 pounds. 1981, if I recall, was the year I met my first computer - an RML 380z at school - and by 1982 practically all of my friends had computers at home or were expecting them for birthdays or Christmas.
My memory of the HP85 is a bit different to that.
They were phenomenally expensive when they first came out, and they never seemed to fall into line with everything else as prices began to fall. In the US, the initial price was $3,250 and I don't recall them ever coming significantly below that while they were still current. I can't remember what the price was in the UK, but over £2,000 rings a bell - and that's £2,000 in the early 1980s, so equivalent to £8,000 today.
We had several of them (HP-85As) for statistical analysis and machine control (fitted with pressure sensors on the punches). Although I would have loved one, they were pie-in-the-sky prices for the normal user at the time.
They were great machines, though, and capable of a lot back then.
I don't see any master voltage regulator. As far as I can tell, it's using RC power filters between sections. Wouldn't that risk input over-voltage when connected sections have different rail voltages?
There are also vacant spaces where more power filter capacitors should be.
This is just going to encourage people to put audiophile grade electrolyte capacitors and oxygen-free jumper wires everywhere.
My work, in a certain Govt Organisation (see icon), involved the repair of these.
I had a working Pet for comparison and drawers full of 40-pin DILs.
I put sockets on the working PET and found most faults by substitution.
Also had the calibrated floppy disks that generated the 'eye' pattern on a 'scope.
A few C64s came my way for repair, but the chips kept changing with each new build.
I recently powered up my ZX81, bought new in 1981. I was appalled at just how... shit it was. I mean, really, really awful. I can't believe how much time I must have invested in that machine when I was child. But at the time, it was literally magical. I can even remember how it smelt when it got warm.
When I muck around with these old machines it's a similar experience to meeting an old girlfriend from school: Initial excitement and feelings of high nostalgia, only to be brought back to earth with the weighty slap of reality and the realisation that some things are better left as warm, happy, comforting memories*!
* and the chances are, your ex-girlfriend from 1985 is looking at you and thinking exactly the same :-)
The CBM PET was also the first computer I ever used.
I remember the unusual approach they took to supporting different hardware configurations. The low memory version of the PET had exactly the same mother board as the high memory versions including the soldered sockets for the memory chips. However a big hole was drilled through those sockets to make them unusable
Does it run the original PET Space Invaders?
I remember we were lucky enough that our primary school PTA managed to get one (I think some local business donated it!) and as kids we commandeered it in the lunch hour to play Space Invaders
Ah, fond memories - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ath8QX0fy_A
My Dad had a Pet 8000 to run Visicalc and some Stock Control software in 1979/80.
I can remember the command "dload cosmicwars 8000" to run a Space Invaders clone - which even then was disappointing as the packaging always had better graphics than the game in those days - especially when you looked at what was in the arcades.
ZX-81 games were similarly packaged and disappointing - you have to be of a certain age to remember the excitement of buying a ZX-81 tape in WHSmith, but then the crushing disappointment of a few blocks moving on the screen when you got it home and loaded it up. They never had these games running as demos, for good reason!
Even worse was if it was a bad tape and you spent hours for it never even loading, and then there was the RAM pack wobble (not confined to just the ZX-81) waiting until you had typed pages of hex listings in in to crash and void your evening's toil! Typos in the magazines usually meant that they never worked anyway even if you keyed it in correctly and avoided the RAM pack wobble.
I can echo the sentiment above that at the time it seemed like magic (although tempered by what you saw in arcades), but actually it was a bit shit (but it's all that was available for home/small business use).
Ahh, jumpers for goalposts, marvellous etc.etc.