Commodore's Approach to Computing
Personal Computer World
Volume 1 Number 2 April 1978
Graciously scanned and sent to Commodore.ca by
the UK's Arnold J Rimmer
OCR'd and posted by Commodore.ca April 7th 2004
The formatting has been replicated as much as possible from the original
source including spelling mistakes
COMMODORE'S APPROACH TO COMPUTING
THE EARLY PET STORY
The story of PET begins with the development of the 6500 series of
microprocessors by MOS Technology which then became the heart of the KIM I
microcomputer system. Less than eighteen months ago Commodore acquired MOS
Technology to give us our own in-house chip processing and design. Since then
KIM I has become the best selling microcomputer system in the USA. (It is now
available in the UK for £149 plus VAT).
PET effectively graduated out of the KIM I - the whole
project taking less than a year from the first development "go ahead" given by
Commodore after we realised the vast potential such a system could have and
the fact tht we now had the necessary in-house technology, production and
marketing capability for the fascinating PET project.
What Was The Design Philosophy?
Firstly, let me make it clear that this is not a technical paper
but an insight into our overall philosophies. Several main concepts were
used in designing our PET. These were that it should be AFFORDABLE,
CAPABLE, EXPENDABLE, UNDER- STANDABLE, USABLE and SERVICEABLE. Let me
explain each of these concepts more fully.
Although 'popular' media sometimes talk of PET in terms of game
playing, I should make it very clear straight away that PET design
parameters were not this but that PET should be just as capable as a
traditional computer that up till now would have cost thousands of pounds.
The PET was firstly designed to a demanding specification and then we set
about deciding how we would get the price right for what we wanted to
We felt that if we could offer a full computer capability at under
£1,000 the market for computers would change from one of 'major company
board room decisions on capital equipment' to a level of personal and
departmental decisions that would open up dramatically increased market
and potential. If this was so we could write off development costs over
many more units and apply some of our mass production and marketing
expertise that would make this an economic proposition for us as well as
our customers - response so far appears to justify fully this decision,
We designed our PET computer so that it could be
Personal Computer World
upgraded as the heart of an extremely powerful system.
For this reason we built in an IEEE-488 output (often known as the H. P-1
B) which allows for multiple intelligent peripherals - we have under
development our own printer and floppy disc.
The 8K Ram of the machine is designed to be
expandable in 8K increments up to 32K and these will in the future be
offered as optional extras. There is also a parallel user port and a
second cassette interface (the second cassette is another optional extra).
I 0 is managed by built in operating system software.
We believe all this makes our computer system
We have tried to take some of the mystique out of
computers in order to broaden people's understanding, appreciation
and-potential use. For this reason we chose an expanded, fast,
comprehensive and powerful 8K Basic which has been built into the machine
(part of our 14K Rom) as this is one of the easiest computer languages to
learn, understand and use. There is also machine language accessibility
for the professionals.
Our PET computer has been designed as a fully integrated and
independently operable unit that can be used from the day it is purchased
by simply plugging into a standard mains supply. For this reason a 9"
video display, built in cassette and keyboard were designed into PET - PET
can be used as an excellent teaching machine and, in its direct mode, is
an excellent programmable calculator. (There is even a built in clock for
timing applications - settable directly from the Basic via a simple
This is perhaps one of the slightly misrepresented
aspects of our PET computer. It does apply to the
price of the unit, to the fact that it is portable and
tothe fact that it can be operated even without any of
the expansion capabilities being added - it certainly does not mean that
it cannot be used other than as a personal unit. We know the unique
graphics capability makes it a fascinating 'personal computer' for the
hobbyist programmer but that's only one aspect of PET.
When you open up a PET to look inside you will immediately realise
it has been designed for ease of servicing and economic mass production
The PET consists of only three p.c. boards - the main board which
can be snapped out and easily replaced in the event of any defect and the
other two boards which are for the CRT circuit and the cassette recorder
(specially modified), both of which are removable and replaceable for ease
of servicing- and assembly, of course!
The other components are a power supply, CRT and a keyboard. The
PET has been designed for the person who wants to use its capabilities and
not for the man who wants to poke his soldering iron around at least
inside the machine.
What Is The Future For Our Pet Computer
As an International Corporation we have already made major
investments in this market and our efforts will be continuing in three
areas. peripherals, software and marketing. All of which are going to be
What About Peripherals?
There are no specific details yet (I don't want to be
misquoted) except to say that our first plans, already well under
development, include a second cassette deck, a printer, memory expansion
and floppy disc. But remember, if you don't like our units or can't wait
there are others compatible with PET.For those
Personal Computer World
of you who can wait, the prices are not likely to be
out of proportion to the very reasonable cost of the PET computer itself.
We do believe in passing on the benefits of mass production to keep us
What About Software?
We recognise the importance of this area which is one of the reasons
we have started our UK PET Users Club already. We recognise the fact that
some of the best software created for PET will probably not come from us
but from those of you who buy PETs and develop really useful programs for
your own needs. We want users to share this with all owners and are
offering four free programs for every program sent to us that we accept
into the library. Coming with the computer will be a programming manual
fully describing our excellent Basic in addition to the general manual.
The Users Club will also be regularly putting out extra information on the
areas users tell us they most want to know about. We don't intend to
inflate the price of our computer by charging you initially for a lot of
very expensive, specialised software we have developed and you may well
In addition to Basic software, we offer a very comprehensive programming
manual on the machine language of our own MOS 6502 microprocessor, which
is at the heart of PET, so programming can be done in Basic or Machine
Incidentally, not everyone is aware that lower case letters are
available within PET via POKE commands that switch the upper case
functions between this and the graphic functions actually printed on the
What About Marketing?
One of the key elements in achieving the breakthrough we have
in the price specification ratio is to take a different approach to the
market from many traditional computer companies. We do not intend to
employ a several hundred strong sales force to wine and dine would-be
customers and, if successful, get a commission quite possibly more than
the price of our own computer for what in specification is a similar unit.
We believe that it is better to pass this saving on to the customer and,
if he is as sensible as we happen to believe he is, the PET itself and the
owners are going to be the best salesmen we can have - again, initial
reaction seems to prove we are right.
However, we do recognise the importance of certain types of
marketing which is why we have set up a completely new division of
Commodore here in the UK (Commodore Systems). This will handle PET, KIM
and allied products under development. Commodore Systems will be a small
team of specialists designed to back up and develop the market for an
excellent product and not a big sales team to push another 'me too'
As production and our organisation grows, we intend expanding to a
local dealer network to give grassroots support - these will be carefully
selected. Meanwhile we are already setting up new offices and a "PET
Computer Centre" in Central London (open sometime in April at 360 Euston
Road) which we hope users and others interested will visit to evaluate
PET, exchange ideas and generally use as a 'Personal Computer Centre'.
We'll let Personal Computer World know just as soon as we have a moving
Personal Computer World