Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 8 / JANUARY 1981 / PAGE 12


Commodore's new $299 personal computer made an appearance in Las Vegas. The following description of VIC is based on the two units present in the Hilton. These were not final production units, but they should be fairly close.

VIC is not much larger than its keyboard, which is about the same size as the keyboard on current PETs. New additions to the keyboard include a CTL key and four function keys. The VIC doesn't have the numeric pad that the current PETs have.

For display the VIC can use any normal color TV. The display will be 22 characters by 23 lines. Line wrap will allow line lengths of 88 characters. Each character cell in the display has its own background color and character color. An advantage of the 22 character display is that the characters are readable regardless of the character and background colors, as long as they aren't the same. The character set for U.S. units will be the standard PET character set found in the current PET.

The unexpanded VIC will contain BASIC, and user RAM from $1000 to $1FFF. The top 512 bytes are reserved for character memory (like screen memory), leaving 3584 bytes free for BASIC programs. This RAM may be expanded down to $400 which gives 6656 bytes. Or it may be expanded above character memory to give around 28K bytes.

For connection to the outside world there is a video connector. In addition there is a cassette and user port that is much the same as on current PETs. For connection to periperals other than cassette, there is a serial port connector. This port serves the same purpose as the IEEE port on PETs and CBMs. A second method of serial I/O is provided on two of the bits of the user port. A small amount of circuitry is required to convert the TTL output levels to true RS232. For system expansion there is a 44 pin edge finger connector. This is where cartridges will plug in. I was told that one of the expansion products will be an expansion motherboard to allow more than one cartridge to be plugged in at one time.

VIC will contain a BASIC that is essentially the same as BASIC 2.0. It has been modified, however, to allow cartridges with ROM to add new commands to BASIC. One such cartridge will add a set of GRAPHIC commands. Creating color displays in the unexpanded VIC is done using PRINT statements, with special control characters to select colors. Not much information was available on the high resolution display modes of VIC. At the time of the Las Vegas show, the full power of VIC's color display chip have yet to be explored.

Finally, concerning FCC approval, we were told that VIC was currently undergoing tests to determine what needs to be done to meet FCC requirements. If all goes well, I would expect VIC to make its appearance in the marketplace sometime in the first quarter of 1981.

Larry Isaacs