1977 has been a crucial year for technology: on the side of gaming console there was the debut of one of the most famous home product ever released, the Atari 2600 and on the side of computer science this was the year the famous “Trio of ’77” was released. A triad of popular and influential computers that shook the image of the computter as something pricey, diffucult and not destined to people: Apple II, TRS-80 and Commodore PET.
Well this time we celebrate exactly the PET, release in June, 1977 by Commodore International, a company that until then had its core business in the electronic calculators. There were basically to xxx that led Commodore to leave the poco proficuo marklet of calculators and embrace that onf the computers.
First of all theur machines were based on Texas Intruments chip and when TI decided to enter the market their margins were, of course, bigger that the competitors and this forced many companies to raise the prices or leave the market.
Commodore choose a third way. Willing to find a new chip to put in their calculators, they found a new company, MOS Technology which had just developed one of the units that would have come among the most famous ever, the 6502 CPU and, instad of buying chips from them, they bought the entire company.
When one of the developers of the 6502, Chuck Peddle convinced Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore, to undertake the route of computers, more profitables that the calculators, the “new” hisory of the company officially began. Tramiel commissioned Pedle a new computer built around the 6502 chip, derived from the MK-1, an early computer designed by Chuck Peddle himself.
Presented in January, 1977 this new machine, called PET (for Personal Electronic Transactor), became avaiolable to the public in June of the same year at the competitive price of 795$ (more than 3200$ in 2017) that was quite lower than the computer of early-mid 70s, retailed for prices with three zeros.
The PET, all made in metal, featured an underdimensioned keyboard (a real pain in the butt to type on), a cassette recorder, a 40 columns display, 4k of RAM and a BASIC interpreter. So a full computer for less than 800$, differently from Apple that didn’t have any kind of monitor.
The PET was retailed until 1982 in varius formats: with more RAM (8, 16 or 32k), with different features, like the SuperPET that run high level languages like the TurboPascal.
Do you have one???