Commodore 128

I originally purchased this machine in June 1985 for $299.95.  It was during my first job after college at Klitzner Industries, a manufacturer in Providence.  I was one of three PDP-11 BASIC and DIBOL programmers, an operator, and a manager of their data processing department.  I first spent my first two month’s salary on a $1000 engagement ring to propose to my girlfriend.  The following month, I made the better investment on a Commodore 128 personal computer.  It seemed everyone else already had the Commodore 64 home computer, so I was the envy of the group.

I was able to re-use the floppy drive and portable B&W TV from my C16 and the joystick and datasette tape drive from my VIC 20.  Naturally, I got a quick software library from “borrowed” C64 games from my co-workers.  But I really wanted to explore productivity and telecommunications software, so my very next purchase was to get a green screen 80-column monitor to try out the array of CP/M software that could run on its built-in Z80 processor.  And luckily, work had a few DIGITAL Rainbow workstations with a bunch of CP/M titles for me to try out.

I bought a 300 baud modem for $99 before the end of the year, and quickly traded that back in for the 1200 baud version for $199.  Then I was cooking, baby!!  Nothing like exploring the local BBSes that were springing up like daisies all over the state.  The next year came the newer 1571 drive, still 5-1/4″ floppies, but double-sided with blistering speeds.  The 3-1/4″ floppy followed shortly after, and I plunked down $80 for my first box of 10 micro diskettes — but each of the 1-meg floppies (formatted to 880kb) was like having ten hard disk drives at the time.  I could typically fit 30+ programs on each, with a custom front-end menu to launch them.

I got three full years out of that machine, mainly learning about telecommunications, word processing, spreadsheets, and databases — all while playing the best video games for the home at the time.  I also got to dabble a little with an 8-bit C compiler.  It was that experience that prompted me to move on to a bigger 16-bit machine — BASIC was getting outdated and 8-bit assembler was too targeted.  It was not until June 1988 that I moved on to Commodore Amiga personal workstation, buying the expandable 2000 model.  The Amiga years (a full decade) are another story …

I cleaned the other half of my desk off to make room for the recent ebay acquisitions.  Have a look at what a typical home computer setup looked like 20+ years ago:

desk shot
Commodore 1902 RGB monitor, 128 computer, 1581 diskette drive

Notice the “high resolution” picture on the screen?  That’s right, 320×200 pixels with a 16-color palette was considered state-of-the-art back then.

Commodore 128 in 80-column mode
Commodore 128 in 80-column mode