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The Commodore 128 personal computer was the last 8-bit machine commercially released by Commodore Business Machines (CBM). Introduced in January of 1985 at the CES in Las Vegas, it appeared three years after its predecessor, the bestselling Commodore 64. The primary hardware designer of the C128 was Bil Herd.
Late in 1985, Commodore released to the European market a new version of the C128 with a redesigned chassis. Called the Commodore 128D, this new European model featured a plastic chassis with a carrying handle on the side, incorporated a 1571 disk drive into the main chassis, replaced the built-in keyboard with a detachable one, and added a cooling fan. The keyboard featured two folding legs for changing the typing angle.
In the latter part of 1986, Commodore released a version of the C128D in North America referred to as the C128DCR ("cost reduced"). The DCR model featured a stamped steel chassis in place of the plastic version of the C128D (with no carrying handle), a modular switching power supply similar to that of the C128D, as well as a removable keyboard and internal 1571 floppy drive. On the mainboard, Commodore consolidated some of the components to save production costs and replaced the 8563 video controller with the more technically advanced MOS Technology 8568 (which was also fitted to a few D-models). As a cost-saving measure, the cooling fan that was fitted to the D model was removed, although the mounting provisions on the power supply subchassis were retained.
Inside, the C128DCR ROMs, the "1986 ROMs," so-named from the copyright date displayed on the startup screen, contained several bug fixes (including the infamous "caps lock Q" keyboard decoding error), and the 8568 VDC was equipped with 64 KB of video RAM—the maximum addressable amount, equal to four times that of the original C128. The increase in video RAM made it possible, among other things, to generate higher-resolution graphics with a more flexible colour palette, although little software took advantage of this capability.
Despite the improvement in the RGB video capabilities, Commodore did not enhance BASIC 7.0 with the ability to manipulate RGB graphics. Driving the VDC in graphics mode continued to require the use of calls to screen editor ROM primitives (or their assembly language equivalents), or by using third-party BASIC language extensions. The most popular such toolkit was Free Spirit Software's "BASIC 8", which added high-resolution VDC graphics commands to BASIC 7.0. BASIC 8 was available on two disks (editor disk and runtime disk) and with a ROM chip for installation in the C128's internal Function ROM socket.
Our machine was kindly donated by Jim Wild
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This exhibit has a reference ID of CH7652. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.
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