The Commodore PET 64: A Groundbreaking Pioneer in Personal Computing

The Commodore PET 64: A Pioneer in Personal Computing

In the late 1970s, personal computing was still in its infancy. But one machine stood out as a pioneer in this emerging field: the Commodore PET 64.

The PET (which stands for Personal Electronic Transactor) was introduced by Commodore International in 1977. It was one of the first personal computers to hit the market and quickly gained a following among hobbyists, educators, and small business owners.

The PET 64 was an upgraded version of the original PET, which had only 8 kilobytes of memory. The PET 64 had a whopping 64 kilobytes of memory, making it one of the most powerful computers available at the time.

The machine featured a built-in monitor and keyboard, which made it easy to use right out of the box. It also had a cassette tape drive for storing data and programs.

One of the most innovative features of the PET 64 was its operating system. The machine used Commodore’s own operating system called BASIC (Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code). BASIC made it easy for users to write their own programs and games, even if they had no prior programming experience.

Another key feature of the PET 64 was its affordability. At $795, it was significantly cheaper than other personal computers on the market at the time, such as the Apple II or TRS-80.

Despite its popularity among hobbyists and educators, however, the PET line struggled to gain traction in larger businesses due to its lack of compatibility with industry-standard software. This led to Commodore eventually discontinuing production of the line in favor of their more successful Commodore 64 model.

Nevertheless, the impact that the PET line had on personal computing cannot be overstated. It helped pave the way for future innovations in home computing and inspired countless people to explore their creativity through programming.

Today, the PET 64 is a beloved piece of computing history and remains a symbol of the early days of personal computing. Its legacy lives on in the millions of people who were inspired by its power and potential.


Answers to 5 Commonly Asked Questions About the Commodore PET 64

  1. What is the price of a Commodore PET 64?
  2. How do I connect a Commodore PET 64 to a modern computer?
  3. What kind of software can I run on a Commodore PET 64?
  4. Where can I find parts for my Commodore PET 64?
  5. Is there an emulator available for the Commodore PET 64?

What is the price of a Commodore PET 64?

The price of a Commodore PET 64 varies depending on the condition and accessories included. Prices can range from $50 to upwards of $400.

How do I connect a Commodore PET 64 to a modern computer?

Connecting a Commodore PET 64 to a modern computer can be a bit of a challenge, as the machine was designed to work with older technology. However, there are a few ways to connect the two devices.

One option is to use an emulator program on your modern computer. Emulators allow you to run software designed for older machines on your modern computer. There are several emulators available that can run Commodore PET software, such as VICE, which is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

To use an emulator, you will need to download the software and any necessary ROM files (which contain the operating system and other essential components). You can then load your favorite PET software into the emulator and use it just as you would on the original machine.

Another option is to use a serial cable to connect the PET 64 to your modern computer. This will allow you to transfer files between the two machines or even use your modern computer as a terminal for the PET.

To do this, you will need a serial cable with a DB25 connector (which plugs into the PET’s serial port) and either a USB-to-serial adapter or an older computer with a serial port. You will also need terminal emulation software on your modern computer (such as PuTTY or Tera Term).

Once you have everything set up, you can use the terminal emulation software to communicate with the PET and transfer files back and forth.

Finally, if you want to get really technical, you can build your own interface between the PET 64 and your modern computer using an Arduino or similar microcontroller. This requires some knowledge of electronics and programming, but there are plenty of tutorials available online if you’re up for the challenge.

Overall, connecting a Commodore PET 64 to a modern computer requires some technical know-how but is definitely possible with some effort. Whether you choose an emulator or go for something more DIY, it’s always exciting to explore the history of computing and see how far we’ve come.

What kind of software can I run on a Commodore PET 64?

The Commodore PET 64 was primarily designed for running BASIC programs, which could be created by users or loaded from cassette tapes or disks. The machine also had a built-in word processor, spreadsheet program, and database program, which were all written in BASIC.

In addition to these built-in programs, there were many third-party software titles available for the PET 64. Some of the most popular types of software included games (such as adventure games and arcade-style games), educational programs (such as typing tutors and math drills), and productivity software (such as accounting programs and inventory management tools).

One of the challenges with the PET 64 was its lack of compatibility with industry-standard software, which limited its appeal to larger businesses. However, this did not stop hobbyists and enthusiasts from creating their own software for the machine.

Today, many of the original PET 64 software titles can be found online or on vintage computing websites. There are also emulators available that allow users to run PET 64 software on modern computers.

Overall, while the PET 64 may not have had the same range of software options as later personal computers, it still offered a wide range of possibilities for users who were willing to explore its capabilities.

Where can I find parts for my Commodore PET 64?

Finding parts for a vintage computer like the Commodore PET 64 can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Here are a few places you can try:

  1. eBay: eBay is a great place to look for vintage computer parts, including those for the Commodore PET 64. There are many sellers who specialize in vintage computer hardware and accessories.
  2. Vintage Computer Forums: There are many online forums dedicated to vintage computing, and these can be a great resource for finding parts. Sites like Vintage Computer Federation or Vintage Computer Forum have active communities of enthusiasts who may be able to help you find what you need.
  3. Retro Computer Facebook Groups: There are also many Facebook groups dedicated to retro computing, which can be another good source of information and parts.
  4. Local Electronics Stores: Depending on where you live, there may be local electronics stores that carry components that could work with your Commodore PET 64.
  5. Salvage Yards/Recycling Centers: Finally, if you’re really struggling to find the parts you need, you might consider visiting salvage yards or recycling centers that specialize in electronic waste. While it’s no guarantee that they’ll have what you need, it’s worth a shot.

Keep in mind that finding parts for vintage computers like the Commodore PET 64 can sometimes be expensive or time-consuming. If all else fails, consider reaching out to other enthusiasts or repair shops that specialize in vintage computing – they may have more experience tracking down hard-to-find components and may be able to help you get your machine up and running again.

Is there an emulator available for the Commodore PET 64?

Yes, there are several emulators available for the Commodore PET 64. One popular option is the VICE emulator, which is a free and open-source emulator that can run on multiple platforms, including Windows, Linux, and macOS.

VICE allows users to run software written for various Commodore computers, including the PET 2001 and the PET 64. It emulates not only the hardware of these machines but also their operating systems and peripherals.

Other options for emulating the PET 64 include CCS64 and WinVICE. These emulators offer similar functionality to VICE but may have different features or user interfaces.

Using an emulator can be a great way to experience classic computing systems like the PET 64 without having to track down physical hardware. It also makes it easy to experiment with programming or try out classic games and applications.