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Commodore Plus/4 by Paul Abbott

I remember coming home from school and finding my Dad setting up my first ever computer. It was a Commodore Plus/4. He bought it in York and I don't know the circumstances surrounding his decision to buy it. It was possibly something to do with the in-built four applications (Spreadsheet, database, graphs, word pro.) which were accessed by four additional keys. I was fascinated by these applications, despite them requiring a disc-drive to. I never used them and I wonder if anyone ever did. 

The computer itself is relatively unknown and very often maligned. It was 'partnered' with the C16 - a Vic 20/C64 shaped machine with only 16k RAM. As a result the games, although wonderfully playable, never showed off the full potential of the Plus/4. 

A key example of what it could achieve, graphics wise, could be seen in the game Saboteur. This was the only game I owned which had a C16 version on one side of the tape and a unique Plus/4 version on the other. The difference was stark. The C16 version had a tiny screen and poor blocky graphics. By contrast the Plus/4 version filled the screen, had a human looking character that seemed to move and jump more realistically than any game I'd played. 

I learnt to program BASIC on the Plus/4 and even learned a little machine code. I loved using the Plus/4's graphics and sound capabilities to do weird little things which I saved to Memorex tapes. The problem was - it had no Sprite Control. Programming games was very difficult as a result and this is where the C64 took over. 

Cartridge games also came with the machine - The Scott Adams text adventures were exciting and time consuming. More immediate (my Dad played it, so it shows it's appeal) was Jack Attack. You're an alien that can push/pull blocks and jump. You have to squish space-balloons. That's all you need to know. Brilliant. 

So, despite the love I feel for the machine, despite it's 64K RAM, it's brilliant shape and keyboard layout, despite the plethora of games (Laza, Downhill Skier, Xadium to name a couple of favourites) and despite the in-built productivity suite (as it'd be called now) the Plus/4 just didn't take off. I was unique amongst my friends with this machine - but I loved it and still do. 

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