Unleashing the Power: Exploring the Commodore 128 Personal Computer’s Versatility

commodore 128 personal computer

The Commodore 128 Personal Computer: A Versatile Machine Ahead of Its Time

In the early 1980s, Commodore Business Machines released a personal computer that would push the boundaries of what was possible at the time – the Commodore 128. Building upon the success of its predecessor, the Commodore 64, this machine offered enhanced capabilities and versatility that set it apart from other computers of its era.

One of the standout features of the Commodore 128 was its ability to run three different operating systems: Commodore BASIC 7.0, CP/M, and GEOS. This allowed users to choose the operating system that best suited their needs and provided compatibility with a wide range of software. Whether you were a programmer, business professional, or simply someone looking to explore new possibilities, the Commodore 128 had you covered.

With a clock speed of up to 2 MHz and an impressive 128 kilobytes of RAM (expandable up to 640 kilobytes), the Commodore 128 offered improved performance compared to its predecessor. It also featured an advanced graphics chip capable of displaying high-resolution graphics and supporting up to 16 colors simultaneously. This made it a popular choice among gamers and graphic designers alike.

Another notable feature was its built-in Commodore Serial Bus (CBM) and industry-standard RS-232 serial ports. These allowed for easy connectivity with external devices such as printers, modems, and disk drives. The inclusion of these ports made it a versatile machine for both home users and professionals who needed to connect their computer to various peripherals.

The keyboard on the Commodore 128 was also worth mentioning. It featured a full-sized mechanical keyboard with a numeric keypad – a significant improvement over the membrane keyboards commonly found on other computers at that time. This made typing more comfortable and efficient for users who spent long hours working or programming on their machines.

Despite its impressive capabilities, the Commodore 128 faced tough competition from other popular computers of the time, such as the IBM PC and Apple II series. However, it still managed to carve out a dedicated following due to its affordability, versatility, and strong software library.

Today, the Commodore 128 holds a special place in the hearts of retro computing enthusiasts. Its unique blend of features and capabilities make it a sought-after machine for collectors and hobbyists alike. The legacy of the Commodore 128 lives on through various online communities and emulation projects that keep its spirit alive.

The Commodore 128 personal computer was truly ahead of its time. Its versatility, expandability, and advanced features made it a powerful tool for both home users and professionals. Whether you wanted to play games, write programs, or connect with external devices, the Commodore 128 had you covered. This remarkable machine will always be remembered as an important chapter in the history of personal computing.


Frequently Asked Questions About the Commodore 128 Personal Computer

  1. What are the specs of the Commodore 128?
  2. How much does a Commodore 128 cost?
  3. What type of software is available for the Commodore 128?
  4. Is it possible to upgrade or expand the memory of a Commodore 128?
  5. Is there an emulator for running Commodore 128 programs on modern computers?
  6. Are there any accessories available for the Commodore 128?
  7. What are some common problems with the Commodore 128?
  8. Where can I find technical support or repair services for my Commodore 128?
  9. Is there a good online community where I can ask questions about my Commodore128 and get answers from other users?

What are the specs of the Commodore 128?

The Commodore 128 was a personal computer released in 19

Here are the specifications of this versatile machine:

CPU: MOS Technology 8502, an enhanced version of the 6510 CPU used in the Commodore 64, running at a clock speed of up to 2 MHz.

RAM: The Commodore 128 came with 128 kilobytes (KB) of RAM as standard, which could be expanded up to 640 KB using additional memory modules.

Operating Systems:

– Commodore BASIC 7.0: This was the primary operating system for the Commodore 128 and offered improved functionality over earlier versions.

– CP/M: The Commodore 128 had a built-in CP/M mode, allowing users to run software developed for this popular operating system.

– GEOS: An optional graphical user interface (GUI) called GEOS could be booted from disk, providing a more user-friendly environment.


– Video Chip: The Commodore 128 featured the VIC-II graphics chip, capable of displaying high-resolution graphics with a resolution of up to 320×200 pixels and supporting up to 16 colors simultaneously.

– Sprites: It had eight hardware sprites that could be moved independently on the screen, allowing for smooth animation and game development.


– Sound Chip: The SID (Sound Interface Device) chip from the Commodore 64 was also present in the Commodore 128, offering three channels of sound synthesis.

– Audio Output: The computer provided both mono and stereo audio output options.


– Built-in Drives: The Commodore 128 typically came with two built-in floppy disk drives (5.25-inch), which were compatible with both single-sided and double-sided disks.

– External Storage: It also had support for external disk drives and cassette tape drives through its serial and cassette ports.


– Commodore Serial Bus (CBM) Port: This port allowed for easy connection with peripherals such as printers, modems, and disk drives.

– RS-232 Serial Port: The Commodore 128 included an industry-standard RS-232 serial port for connecting to external devices.

– User Port: It featured a user port that enabled connection with custom hardware and expansion devices.


– The Commodore 128 had a full-sized mechanical keyboard with a numeric keypad, providing a comfortable typing experience.

These specifications made the Commodore 128 a versatile machine suitable for various applications, from gaming to programming and business use.

How much does a Commodore 128 cost?

The Commodore 128 was released in 1985 and retailed for around $300 USD.

What type of software is available for the Commodore 128?

The Commodore 128 had a wide range of software available, catering to various interests and needs. Here are some of the types of software commonly found for the Commodore 128:

Productivity Software: The Commodore 128 supported popular productivity applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, and database programs. Users could create documents, manage data, and perform calculations using software like PerfectWriter, CalcResult, and Superbase.

Programming Tools: The Commodore 128 was a popular machine for programmers due to its versatility. It offered programming languages like BASIC and Pascal, as well as development environments such as Turbo Assembler and DevPac. These tools allowed users to write and compile their own programs for various purposes.

Games: The gaming scene on the Commodore 128 was vibrant, with a vast library of games available. From classic text adventures to action-packed arcade games and immersive role-playing experiences, there was something for everyone. Popular titles included “The Bard’s Tale,” “Maniac Mansion,” “Impossible Mission,” and many more.

Graphics and Design: The enhanced graphics capabilities of the Commodore 128 made it a suitable platform for graphic design enthusiasts. Software like KoalaPainter and Doodle! allowed users to create artwork and animations using the computer’s color palette.

Educational Software: The Commodore 128 was used in educational settings, so there were educational software options available as well. These programs covered subjects such as math, science, language learning, and more. They aimed to make learning engaging and interactive.

Utilities: Various utility programs were developed for the Commodore 128 to enhance its functionality. These utilities included disk management tools like FastLoad and SpeedDOS that improved loading times, file managers for organizing data efficiently, screen capture utilities, printer drivers, backup software, and more.

Communication Software: With its built-in serial ports, the Commodore 128 was capable of connecting to modems and communicating with other computers. Software like Novaterm and ProTerm allowed users to access bulletin board systems (BBS) and connect to online services.

These are just a few examples of the software available for the Commodore 128. The machine had a vibrant software ecosystem, and enthusiasts continue to develop new programs and games for it even today.

Is it possible to upgrade or expand the memory of a Commodore 128?

Yes, it is possible to upgrade and expand the memory of a Commodore 128. The base model of the Commodore 128 came with 128 kilobytes of RAM, but it could be expanded to a maximum of 640 kilobytes.

To upgrade the memory, users could purchase expansion units or cartridges that plugged into the Commodore 128’s expansion port. These expansion units typically contained additional RAM chips that increased the total memory available to the system. By adding these expansions, users could enhance the capabilities of their Commodore 128 and run more demanding software.

It’s worth noting that expanding the memory required some technical knowledge and expertise. Users had to carefully follow instructions provided with the expansion unit, which often involved opening up the computer and installing the additional RAM chips in specific slots or sockets.

Additionally, there were various third-party companies that offered memory expansion options for the Commodore 128. These expansions usually came in different sizes, allowing users to choose how much additional memory they wanted to add.

By upgrading and expanding the memory of a Commodore 128, users could take full advantage of its capabilities and run more advanced software or handle larger datasets. This flexibility was one of the reasons why the Commodore 128 remained popular among enthusiasts who wanted to push its limits and explore new possibilities.

Today, if you own a Commodore 128 or are looking to acquire one, you may still find compatible memory expansions available through retro computing communities or online marketplaces dedicated to vintage computer hardware.

Is there an emulator for running Commodore 128 programs on modern computers?

Yes, there are several emulators available that allow you to run Commodore 128 programs on modern computers. These emulators replicate the functionality of the original hardware, allowing you to experience the Commodore 128’s software library without needing the physical machine.

One popular emulator is VICE (Versatile Commodore Emulator). VICE is a free and open-source emulator that supports multiple Commodore models, including the Commodore 128. It accurately emulates the hardware and provides a user-friendly interface for loading and running programs.

Another notable emulator is Hoxs64, which focuses specifically on emulating the Commodore 128. It aims to provide high accuracy and compatibility with original software, making it a great choice for purists and enthusiasts.

Both VICE and Hoxs64 are available for Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems. They offer various features such as disk drive emulation, joystick support, and customizable settings to enhance your emulation experience.

To run Commodore 128 programs using these emulators, you’ll need access to compatible software files (usually in formats like D64 or T64) that can be loaded into the emulator’s virtual disk drive or cassette tape deck.

Whether you want to relive classic games or explore vintage software on your modern computer, these emulators provide a convenient way to experience the rich history of the Commodore 128 without needing the original hardware.

Are there any accessories available for the Commodore 128?

Yes, there were several accessories available for the Commodore 128 that expanded its capabilities and enhanced the user experience. Here are a few notable accessories:

Disk Drives: The Commodore 128 supported external disk drives, such as the Commodore 1571 and 1581. These drives allowed users to store and access larger amounts of data, making it easier to manage files and run more complex software.

Printers: Various dot matrix printers were compatible with the Commodore 128, including models like the Commodore MPS-801 and MPS-803. These printers enabled users to print out documents, graphics, and even game screenshots.

Modems: Modems like the Commodore 1670 allowed users to connect their Commodore 128 to bulletin board systems (BBS) or dial-up services for online communication, file transfers, and multiplayer gaming.

Joysticks: The Commodore 128 had two joystick ports, so various joysticks could be connected for gaming purposes. Popular choices included the Competition Pro or Quickshot joysticks.

RAM Expansion Units: While the Commodore 128 came with a decent amount of RAM compared to its predecessor, additional RAM expansion units were available for those who needed even more memory for advanced programming or running memory-intensive applications.

Hard Drives: Although less common due to their higher cost, hard drives like the CMD HD Series could be connected to the Commodore 128 via an interface cartridge or expansion unit. This provided users with faster access times and larger storage capacities.

MIDI Interfaces: For musicians and music enthusiasts, MIDI interfaces like the Sequential Circuits Prophet-64 allowed them to connect synthesizers or other MIDI-compatible devices to create music using software like Music Construction Set or MIDI sequencers.

These are just a few examples of the many accessories available for the Commodore 128. The wide range of peripherals and add-ons expanded the capabilities of the computer and catered to the diverse needs of its users, making it a versatile and adaptable machine for various applications.

What are some common problems with the Commodore 128?

While the Commodore 128 was a remarkable personal computer, like any electronic device, it had its share of common problems. Here are a few issues that users often encountered:

  1. Keyboard Issues: Some users reported problems with keys not registering or becoming unresponsive over time. This was typically due to the deterioration of the keyboard’s internal foam pads or the accumulation of dirt and debris. Regular cleaning and maintenance were necessary to keep the keyboard functioning properly.
  2. Power Supply Failures: The power supply unit (PSU) in the Commodore 128 was known to be somewhat unreliable. Over time, components within the PSU could fail or become damaged, resulting in power-related issues such as intermittent power loss or complete failure to turn on. Replacing the faulty PSU with a compatible and reliable one was often required.
  3. Disk Drive Problems: The built-in disk drive in the Commodore 128, commonly referred to as the “1571,” had its fair share of issues. Users often faced disk read/write errors, misalignment of read/write heads, or mechanical failures due to worn-out drive belts. Regular maintenance, such as cleaning and lubrication of the disk drive mechanism, was necessary to ensure its proper functioning.
  4. RAM Expansion Troubles: While expanding the RAM in a Commodore 128 was possible and desirable for many users, compatibility issues occasionally arose when using third-party RAM expansion units. Some expansions were not fully compatible with all software or caused stability problems when installed incorrectly or without proper configuration.
  5. Video Output Problems: Users sometimes experienced video output issues such as flickering screens, distorted graphics, or no display at all. These problems could be caused by faulty video cables, loose connections, or issues with the video chip itself.

It’s important to note that these problems were not universal and varied from system to system based on individual usage patterns and maintenance practices. Many dedicated Commodore enthusiasts have found solutions to these issues over the years, and online communities and forums can provide valuable guidance and support for troubleshooting and resolving common problems.

Where can I find technical support or repair services for my Commodore 128?

If you are in need of technical support or repair services for your Commodore 128, there are a few options available to you:

  1. Online Communities: There are several online communities dedicated to Commodore enthusiasts and users. These communities often have knowledgeable members who can provide assistance and guidance with technical issues. Websites like lemon64.com, commodore.ca, and commodore128.org have active forums where you can post your questions and seek help.
  2. Retro Computing Groups: Look for local retro computing groups or clubs in your area. These groups often have members who specialize in repairing and maintaining vintage computers like the Commodore 128. They may be able to offer guidance, recommend repair services, or even assist with repairs themselves.
  3. Vintage Computer Repair Services: Some specialized repair services cater specifically to vintage computer systems like the Commodore 128. These services can diagnose and fix hardware issues, perform component replacements, and provide general maintenance for your machine. A quick online search for “vintage computer repair services” or “Commodore 128 repair services” should yield results that can help you find a suitable service provider.
  4. Online Auction Platforms: Platforms such as eBay often have sellers who offer repair services for vintage computers. These sellers typically have expertise in repairing and restoring retro machines like the Commodore 128.
  5. DIY Repair: If you feel comfortable working with electronics and have some technical knowledge, there are various resources available online that provide detailed guides on troubleshooting and repairing common issues with the Commodore 128. Websites like zimmers.net/cbmpics/techinfo/c128schem offer schematics, service manuals, and other technical information that can assist with DIY repairs.

Remember to exercise caution when seeking repair services or attempting repairs yourself. Vintage computers require specialized knowledge and handling to avoid causing further damage.

Finding professional repair services for older machines like the Commodore 128 may be challenging due to their age, but with some research and networking within the retro computing community, you should be able to find the support you need to keep your Commodore 128 running smoothly.

Is there a good online community where I can ask questions about my Commodore128 and get answers from other users?

Certainly! There are several online communities where you can connect with other Commodore 128 users, ask questions, and get answers. Here are a few popular options:

  1. Lemon64 (www.lemon64.com): Lemon64 is a vibrant online community dedicated to Commodore 64 and Commodore 128 enthusiasts. It features forums where you can ask questions, seek advice, and engage in discussions with fellow users.
  2. Commodore.ca (www.commodore.ca): Commodore.ca is a comprehensive website that covers various Commodore models, including the Commodore 128. It hosts a forum section where you can post your questions and receive assistance from knowledgeable community members.
  3. Reddit r/Commodore (www.reddit.com/r/Commodore): Reddit has an active community of retro computing enthusiasts, including a dedicated subreddit for Commodore fans. The r/Commodore subreddit is a great place to ask questions about your Commodore 128 and connect with like-minded individuals.
  4. Vintage Computer Forums (www.vcfed.org/forum/forum.php): Vintage Computer Forums is a popular platform for discussing all things related to vintage computers, including the Commodore 128. It offers specific sections for different computer models, allowing you to seek advice and share experiences with fellow enthusiasts.

Remember to be respectful and provide as much detail as possible when asking your questions in these communities. This will help others understand your issue better and provide more accurate responses.

By joining these online communities, you’ll have access to a wealth of knowledge and expertise from passionate Commodore users who are always willing to help fellow enthusiasts like yourself.