back to article Remembering the Commodore PET 2001

Bah. Kids today with their Nintendo Wiis, iMacs, 30-inch HDMI screens, PDAs and CD-Romses. This old box logo Back in the Golden Years of electronics, personal computers required a Master's degree or a crippling social disorder to operate and it was better that way. And colors? You had two options: stunning beige or get the …

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FAB

I remember some of the older geezers (the real UNIX grey beards) reminiscing over the PET when the Amiga was still king. They had fond memories. I was a bit too young at the time and was still drooling over Princess Leia (or was it R2D2) at the time. I love the Deep Thought photo.

A built-in cassette deck? How modern. Clearly Commodore didn't want any of this mucking around with cassette leads like we had to with the Speccy. It wasn't until the CPC when Sir Alan slapped a deck onto the side of his carbuncle.

I still have a Tatung Einstein and several Speccys and ZX81s around somewhere. The Amigas are still a joy to use. Doing stuff the upstarts of today can only dream about. Linux is the closest I'll ever get to the robustness and flexibility of the Amiga...

When I were a lad we used to 'ave to squeeze subroutine in't 100 bytes, graphics, sound an all, using hand crafted assembler, an't use ROM image for random numbers. And still have bytes left. Try you try telling that to the kids of today... and they won't belief you.

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Retrocomputing!

Wow, that's a blast of nostalgia. I remember writing accounting software for the PET. We wrote in UCSD Pascal on Apple II computers, it was easy to port to other UCSD platforms. We wrote once and recompiled for use on the PET, Ohio Scientific, and a few other obscure platforms (none of them over 2MHz, ha). The Apple version was the only software that ever shipped.

But really now, you should have asked if you could open up the PET and taken a pic of the insides. IIRC it was mostly a big, empty plastic box with a little motherboard at the bottom. The top part was hinged at the back, you raised it up like the hood of a car, it even had a little rod to prop up the top.

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PET Game emulator

There are PET game emulators out there. Even one that runs on a xbox.

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Happy

I wanted one sooooo bad....

I thought it was the coolest looking damn thing ever. It was the only thing that was self-contained in a case. Everything else had a tape deck over here, a monitor over there, a keyboard somewhere else, and maybe the motherboard laying bare on the table.

Instead I got stuck with a TRS-80 Model I with 4K of RAM. I remember the upgrade to 16K was $220, and my mother said I didn't need it because her IBM 360 mainframe only had 16K. (yup, my mum taught me to flowchart)

But hey, that was still more computer than my high school had.

Sniff!

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The first time i knowingly used a microsoft product....

I worked for one of the first UK Commodore dealers before the ad. campaign started,so spent about 3 months with a pair of pet 2001's, The earliest models had the equivalent of bonnet stay , so you could prop the top up while you worked on it . Chip creep was a frequent problem on the few socketed components...

The machinations of the demon Gates could be revealed by typing "wait 6502,0" and the screen filled Yahoo! Style! with "microsoft!" 6502 being the cpu designation.

AS a dyslexic with a 4 chr corrupting buffer , being able to enter BASIC instructions by typing the first 2 chrs of the instruction and shifting the second character, gave me a way in to programming.

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Overclocking

Did anyone try overclocking the PET? Did they get it over 5 MHz?

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Happy

I sold these in Tottenham Court Road in 1978

together with the early Apple ][ (pre Apple Disk Drive Apple used a standard audio external cassette recorder) and other assorted boxes.....those were the days.

To those who want to travel down memory lane.....

CBM - PET

Apple ][

Dragon32

BBC Micro

Compucolor

Vic-20

Acorn

Sinclair ZX-80/ZX-81 and then the one theat broke it all open the Spectrum

I remember them all well........

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re:Overclocking

Why would you need to? Everything ran like a dream.

As it did with the speccy, the CPC's....

Hell pretty much everything prior to the 8088, and even most of the x86 line stuff was fine until Windows 3.0 hit critical mass....

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Re: Overclocking

I don't remember overclocking really being such a thing in those days - mainly, I believe, because everything was so tightly coupled that "overclocking" generally meant running *everything* faster, and this was usually rather problematic and pointless as 10% faster graphics output just meant nothing would be displayed on screen.

Also, with no decent timers available, time sensitive code was coded by hand in assembler and, because of the additional delay in branching over memory pages, carefully locked in certain locations in memory. The sheer joy of writing loop and branch code that executed in exactly the same number of cycles every time was just *such* fun...

These days, most developers would look at you blankly if you pointed out the extra 5,000 clock cycles (or whatever) they waste every time they make a call to COM. Their usual optimisation method is to "use faster hardware"

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dek

ahhhh yes...

I remember the sore fingers after a few hour use! The second computer I ever used.

PS: Did it run Linux ;-)

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Happy

Byte shop anyone?

This really does take me back. I worked in the Byte Shop in Gants Hill the day after it opened in 1977 (I think). We sold the Pet 2001, The Cromemco Z2D, the North Star Horizon,the Kim 1, the Sim 1 and the Nascom. If I remember rightly, the Pet sold for £795 originally, though I think that was the 8k model. Eeeh, those were the days...

@Anonymouse coward who sold Pets in TCR - can you remember (are you willing to name) the computer shop you worked in?

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Happy

Loved it

Had one (8K) and loved it. I learnt how to program from the manual, although assembler eluded me until the Speccy came along.

The motherboard had 5 6502s, I think, and at least one of them could be taken out with no visible effect on the machine's performance (I think it probably controled the edge-connector I/O which as a kid I didn't use much).

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Rob
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I've still got

two of the 8000 series (a square edged one and the later round edged model) along with a dual disk drive. I should probably try to flog them - they're not doing much good stuck in the attic!

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DRAGON 32!!!!

man I loved that thing. 'Juxtaposition' was the most amazing game for quite some time.

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Happy

Learnt to type on one of those

We had one in my secondary school which was so well used the decals had come off all the keys, so unless you fancied stabbing away for hours producing gibberish, you had to learn the QWERTY layout PDQ.

Sharp learnt a lot from these with their MZ-80A's

</reminisce>

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Paris Hilton

I'd forgotten the MZ-80a!

That was a pretty cool machine if I remember rightly. At the Byte Shop we also got the first Compucolor in the country. I remember getting very excited about it because it was the first colour CP/M machine. It arrived at something like 8 at night. It had an American plug so we cut that off, stripped the wires, put it in a safety block, turned it on... And BANG!!! Yes - in our excitement we hadn't thought - American plug - American voltage/wattage? It had blown the main transformer. Our boss was not best pleased.

I also once had a guy in the shop threaten me with two nasty dogs when I refused to accept back Trash-80 memory from us because he'd bent the legs inserting them. SIMMs are for poofs...

Oh - and I've chosen the Hilton icon, not because there's any Hilton angle here, more that it's the only one that shows someone shedding a tear and with all the nostalgia here, that's what I'm doing... <sniff sniff>

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Byte Shop Gants Hill

Now that brings back memories of when a few of us kids would pile down there after school to play on PETs and Cromenco Z2 (?) rack based CP/M boxes (with their 8" disc drives..).

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@Alan Potter

I lived in Billericay and used to pop on the train and go to the Byte Shop every now and then. The staff there (was that you??) were quite understanding and let you play on the shop computer (for a while...) and I typed in several of the programs I wrote at school into the shop pets and got them running. I even bought a blank cassette from you and saved my programs too!

Eventually I persuaded my Dad that he needed one for his business and we got a "Grey Import" (complete with 250v-120v transformer!) PET that eventually got upgraded to 32K and my dad used to run his upholstery business with software I wrote for him. I still have that PET, and another 4032 PET I bought a few years ago unworking that I am fixing up.

@Robert Long - The pet had only one 6502. It had a 6522 VIA and two 6520 PIA i/o chips, which would come out if you didn't need them. I managed to blow up the 6522 while experimenting with connecting a paper tape reader and had to replace it.

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Happy

Egg advert

I bet anyone whose remotely geeky has seen the Egg adverts with the hamsters and will have noticed the Pet in one of them. The other advert has the Tandy TRS-80. My wife definately thought I was a geek when I noticed the computers and could identify them! ;-)

I remember using the Pet when I was in 6th form. I also worked on a product for pharmcists that would run on the Tandy TRS-80. Ahh, great times then. :-)

Can't wait for the Sharp MZ-80K to be featured. I've still got mine in the attic!

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Happy

Commodore 64

C64 - best computer I ever used. I loved the fact that the BASIC was so crap, because it forced you to learn assembler and system architecture. I can honestly say that it was simply because of the C64 that I am where I am today. Sadly Commodore is no longer with us, but that was more due to Irving Gould's paranoid grip on the company and refusal to let Jack Tramiel grow the corporation and put enough money in R&D. In the end, Commodore got overtaken by the companies that did value R&D - the rest is history.

I feel sorry for today's kids who would be our future computer scientists. Next to hacking around on the Commodore, today's PCs are overcomplicated, expensive and unrewarding to learn on. I have no doubts that this is the reason why Bill Gates is bemoaning the fact that nobody wants to learn Computer Science anymore (that, and the fact that most low-end development work has largely been outsourced to the Far East and China).

Oliver.

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My memories

Computers in order of use (most of these at home apart from mainframes)

Mainframe at QUB: Handwritten QUBOL

ICL running George: Fortran, via punched cards.

SC/MP: Assembler

Z80 board I designed running Assember

Apple ][ with Z80 card for CP/M. UCSD pascal. Upgrades: 5MB HD, 1M dual8" floppies.

ACT Sirius I: CP/M 86 & MS DOS. 800x 400 graphics & 2MByte variable speed floppies

IBM XT

Intel 8080 dev system with Cartridge Winchester and ISIS II OS

Apricot with MSDOS 2.11 and then 3.3

Cromenco Z80/68K with Cromix "UNIX" like OS

PDPII & VAX

Jupiter Ace

Amstrad PCW8256 with RAM and 3.5" PC disk upgrades

IBM AT

WANG 80286 (not PC) with DR-MULTIDOS running Win3.0

Horizon Multiuser system (PC cards with Composite Video out in main box, shared disk and keyboard, screen, etc via multicore cable)

Wang 286 PCs with Win3.11 on DR-DOS

Wang 286 running Minix

Various clone PCs with WFWG3.11 and Network

386 running OS/2 Warp, recycled to NT3.1

AST 386-33MHZ, 12M RAM running NT3.51 server!

Various 486s with NT4.0,

Amiga

Various 586/Pentium class with NT4.0

(older PCs installed with mix of Win95 and Win98 SE for games).

HP laptop + NT4.0

RH6.0 Linux on various 486/686 (1999?)

Pair of old AST dual CPU Servers (P-Pro?) converted to MS Cluster with 2 shelves of 8 x SCSI drives. AMI controllers. Just after 1st release of NT4.0 Enterprise Server.

Atari ST

Dell Inspiron 7500 + NT4.0

April 2002 XP on Inspiron 8200, still great today.

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Gold badge

Ahh

I wanted one of these when collecting computers a while ago, couldn't find an affordable one.

I remember seeing Fraggle Rock and the lighthouse keeper had one.

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Title

Try this site for looking-up your favourite old computers...

http://www.old-computers.com/

Mine? My first, the classic Sinclair ZX-81, still in the cupboard, but broken...

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Coat

More about memory

But first: @IanKRolfe - It may well have been me. I wasn't the manager (I was too young) but I was trainee manager. I used to bunk off from school - Ilford County High (bloody hell, this is beginning to sound like Friends Reunited!) to work there. The manager was Vince Cohen.

I blagged my way into the shop and was hired as halfway between a shop assistant and a bouncer. Frequently I would still have my blazer on...

I really feel that, as these sad revelations are springing forth I should leave.

Yes, mine's that white one over there with sown-up sleeves that do up round the back. Thanks.

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Coat

aah . the memories

having to program in a real mens computer language : assembly.

last week i had a nasty surprise : void main void { while (1) x=x +1; } on a risc machine .. 3.6 kilobytes of ROM code !. with all optimizers switched on : 92 bytes of code... in machine language : 2 instructions : INCR ACC , CLR PC

talk about bloatware these days ... c compilers ... i want my PL/M compiler back

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Happy

@Madge

That's such a familar list :)

Sure there wasn't an RML 380Z in there as well?

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Got one!

This was my first "computer". I bought one with my then life savings of £400-00 (a hell of a lot of money in the late 1970's). I was only 14 at the time. I think it came from a shop in Liverpool called DAMS Office Supplies???

The tiny keyboard was a pain to use, but you got used to it.

I was doing Electronics at "O" level at the time and I upgraded the RAM myself from 4K to 8K. I had to de-solder the old chips and replace. Somewhat heart stopping, but it worked.

I also built a Joystick using an Atari one as a basis. Worked a treat!

Final project was to to connect it to a second hand 110baud teletype to act as a printer - I built my own 20mA current loop interface and wrote the machine code to drive it.

Ah, happy days!

Stood me in good stead, 30 years later I'm still working in IT.

By the way, I've never been able to part with it, it's in my attic gathering dust.

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Happy

For those of you pining for a simple life...

If you'd like to hack round with close-to-the-metal computing again, take a look at the Parallax STAMP. Its a tiny motherboard that fits a 24 pin DIP socket. You program it in integer BASIC and it has 16 i/o pins which can all be used for digital i/o or as ADCII lines. It will do about anything you can imagine provided you can fit it into 2K of EEPROM and 32 bytes of RAM.

See www.parallax.com or http://www.milinst.com/index.htm in the UK if you'd like to play.

Continuing the original theme, my first computer was a self-assembled SS-50 system from Brian Hewart. It had a 2 MHz 6809 for power and ran Flex-09 off twin floppies. I soldered it together and then debugged the hardware with a logic probe and multimeter. It was programmed in assembler, BASIC, C or (the best) PL/9, which is based on PL/M. It still runs, though its now in a different chassis with 4 floppies, an 80 x 25 screen (originally 64 x 16) and a whole 48 K RAM. The change in screen format required a complete ROM rewrite, but that was no problem as I had an EPROM burner in it as well.

From there I moved to OS-9 on a 68020 and then Linux. Needless to say DOS, 'doze and Borland C was there in the background for work compatibility.

I hope El Reg keeps this series going, but as well as classic hardware, it would be nice to cover the pre-1981 operating systems: CP/M, Concurrent CP/M, DR-DOS, the UCSD p-system, Flex 2 & 9 and OS-9 to mention the main ones.

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still got one

My family still has one of these hanging around in the cellar, I think (unless they threw it out since I moved). Tape drive hasn't worked for a few years, though.

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Stop

Music to my ears

After learning to program on a KIM-1, this was paradise. No more hex operands...

I spent a few good years programming these - they got quite good with the 2048 etc.

The highlight for me was getting software to run on the embedded 6502 controller in the external SCSI hard disk drive and banging the heads with varied delays to make music. Needless to say it wasn't my system...

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My first job was with a PET

Started my software career with one of these things. I worked for a software house called Stage One and helped write database software (PetAid) that worked with twin cassette decks and later 5¼" floppies! How DID we fit all that in such a small amout of RAM? Great stuff!

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Ah, fond memories indeed...

In fact, it was my very first computer to play with and I actually still have it (in working order)! Mind you - it's the later 8KB model with the full size keyboard and external tape drive.

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For real retro addicts

http://www.digitalretro.co.uk/ Expect funny looks from wife if reading it in bed!

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Mmmmm....

I had use of a PET as my first computer. (My dad was the deputy head of a high school, so brought computers home at the weekend) I remember it well, especially the the ridiculously dangerous power supply that gave you shocks if you touched the live a neutral of the plug up to ten mins after you'd unplugged it! Having said that my fave bit about it was the car bonnet style rod that kept the monitor section up when you had it open, genius.

I'm still after one for my old computers collection. Having said that, it was quickly superseded when my mum and dad got a BBC Master 128 with _all_ the trimmings - InterWord ROM, 3.5" and 5.25" FDDs, Acorn Music 500 (ROCK!!!!) Panasonic KXP1081 printer and a Microvitec Metal box CUB monitor - for about six months it also had the 80186 (!?) board. I've got a serial cable that I can up and download disk images to/from my server, but I'm working on getting an Econet to connect to my Archimedes, then ethernet to my Server, I'd like to see someone hack that! (I am under no illusions that "it'll never work" TM)

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Happy

Exidy ruled!

We Exidy Sorcerer owners were secure in the superiority of our "real" keyboard and 30x64 character display...

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Thanks for the Memories!

I bought a PET in 1979. Cost me about $1000 (US). 14K ROM and 8K memory (the OS used the first 1K).

I did my first serious programming on that machine: a DBM (in BASIC!) for a study I was doing where I worked. I remember a LOT of reads & writes to/from the cassette for that one.

The Assembler for that was a lot of fun, too.

Memories. Sometimes wish I still had that box.

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Flame

@Danny

Maybe age has dimmed your memory somewhat. The Amiga was a wonderful machine, but robust? It had no memory protection, a single null pointer deref could take it down in a steaming heap of guru meditation. Yes, it had proper pre-emptive multitasking (unlike MacOS/various MS efforts) but could still be taken down instantly by the most trivial bug in a program.

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@Martin Gregorie

> Continuing the original theme, my first computer was a self-assembled SS-50 system from Brian Hewart.

Ah, nostalgia. What a blast from the past!

My first computer was also from Brian Hewart (where is he now?), a self-assembled 6800 system on a rather large PCB - don't remember the model number, but AFAIR it did work first time. I later graduated to a self-assembled Nascom II and things really started taking off. <sigh> Miss those days of hacking Z80 binary code... (and I will be having a look at the Parallax STAMP!)

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good memories

The PET was the first computer I ever used, and it was regarded as a powerful and mysterious thing in school! Only 6th formers had access to it, and the A key was kinda worn out (primarily because it was the fire key for the Space Invaders game!) I recall it had twin external floppy disk drives (5.25") and you had to type >$0 for a directory listing.

I used to buy PCW magazine which had program listings, and I'd spend hours typing them in, only to find they wouldn't work... assuming I'd made a typo, I'd spend hours going through the listing again and again, and eventually give up, and then the following month the magazine would publish a correction to the listing....!

Pokes and peeks... ahh happy days.

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Lovely.

Although the Acorn Electron was the first machine I learnt to program (or programme as it was known in those days), I still have respect for the PET - a design classic. Storage, keyboard, CPU and screen all in one neat unit? Funny how things come around!

Ooh, I do hope this series touches on the BBC B micro - not the earliest or the most powerful of its time, but the first computer of the people most certainly, and the BBC Basic language truly a beauty to behold (the astonishingly well written manual is still on my bookcase, and I still occasionally flick through it with glee, much to the disgust of others)

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Ouch, now we're going back.

I remember the Vic 20, BBC and C64.....as I learnt to program on each of them.

But this was before I was born.

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Wake me up...

...when you re-review the TRS-80. The first computer my mother bought me for Christmas. Green glowing screen, clickety keyboard, tape deck I used later for my Toshiba MSX-1 and the first computer I blew-up! Ah.. Nostalgia galore!

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Pirate

No wimpy programming allowed here !!!

Cut my teeth on an early PET 2001; Graduated to a C64 with a floppy drive!!!

Toughest assignment: design a game that the player CANNOT LOSE without it being overly obvious. Done for an electronic shop intent on giving away "freebie" merchandise for promotional purposes.

Went with a "find the buried treasure" approach.

Didn't want to board the ship? You were plied into service in the best of Her Majesty's traditions by the "gang".............

Didn't want to navigate towards the Island? A hurricane "miraculously" appeared to whisk you on the way...

Couldn't walk to the treasure? A local earthquake can help you with that....

Etc etc.

Jolly good fun (if you pardon the pun) and all done on a base model C64, full graphics, joystick and on a large tv for all to see.

Now I'm in management with my memories... sigh.......

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dot co dot uk

Colors? Honor? Ewww.

Anyway, you could overclock the Dragon 32! I remember you could poke (oo-er) a value into a hardware register and it would change the clock-speed of the Motorola 6809 CPU. You could overclock the machine so much the SAM chip would lose synchronisation and the display would scramble.

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That takes me back

That takes me back, not to the early 80's but the early 90's. We had one of these machines at secondary school in the CDT department. The teacher explained a bit about it and we got to see the insides too (I always thought the car bonnet type opening was added by my teacher!). Being a true geek I was fascinated by the machine.

I'm really looking forward to the next article. My first computer was a ZX81 when I was about 5 and it was fairly old then.

I'm now trying to make a collection of retro machines, so far I've managed to pick up a Vic20, Acorn Electron, Spectrum + and only yesterday I picked up a Dragon 32 which I'm looking forward to playing with.

As much as I love emulation, it just isn't the same as actually using the original machines. :-)

Rob

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memories

I remember passing my O' Level Computer Science on the back of programming projects completed on one of these Commodore PET's. I was one of the second intake inour school to study computing of any description, and one of the first three students offered the O' Level qualification when our tutor was supposed ot take his. Bless the guy, whilst we three all passed ours, juggling his job and family had an impact on our dear old tutor, as he failed his on the first time of asking, whilst managing ot get enough knowledge into us to pass. These days he wouldn't have been permitted to attempt such a stunt unless he had passed the exam first....

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Sorry to keep posting to this thread...

...but it fair warms the cockles of my heart - or something like that.

Anyway - I got caught bunking off on more than one occasion from the sixth form to work in the Byte Shop. Eventually I had to go and see the headmaster. He told me to stop wasting my time and that "Microcomputers are a passing fad like hula-hoops and skateboards."

He always was a visionary. I'd like to say something like "he now works for Apple" but I can't because he's dead.

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Mmmmm...

Fraser,

Why don't you just add an ethernet card to your Arc ?

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Coat

PET - the last good computer Commodore ever made*

* I'm lying, Commodore have never made a decent 'puter.

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Heart

Title

Awww, now you've made me go all misty-eyed. Those truly were the days. ZX81. Acorn Electron. Vic20. PET. Apple ][. BBC Micro. The excitement of colour, and sound, for the first time. *sigh*.

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