Commodore PC1 – Junk pile?

Once again eBay is tempting me! Scrolling through vintage computer stuff… Lots of junk in there but lots of lovely goodies… Oh! Hold on… Scroll back up… What this? Oh nice! A pile of Commodore PC1 bits! Interesting! Right, watch that one and wait… wait a bit more… wait… set an alarm on my phone for when it is about to end… WAIT! No don’t bid yet! Wait! 40 second… Right! Lets bid on this thing and see! Argh, right up the bid… Too much money? Whats the limit? 20 seconds… Argh! Increase bid… Click… Did it update the screen? A pause… browser refresh…. Hey hey! Got ya! Right, so I did spent that much, well its worth it.

So what did I get?

Here it an pile of rather sad looking Commodore PC1 bits, but I can see a case, minis lid. A keyboard, floppy drive and even a PC speaker poking out! There was only 1 picture in this listing and very few lines of description. But was it worth taking a punt? Well a few days later is turns up and it is certainly a mixed bag.

Really what I wanted from this is the keyboard, which looks grubby but intact. They are surprisingly rare, and most I have seen look terrible. We will come onto this in detail shortly. Firstly, need to assemble what is there and see if we can get anything from it!

With some sellotape and balancing stuff on the bench lets plug it in and see what happens!

With a monitor plugged in to the composite output, with no changes to the output switches on the back we get a response:

Looks terrible, but it boots! Right, let’s make a fresh 5 1/4″ disc.

Right, well that didn’t work. Let’s take a look at the floppy drive.

It starts to spin when booting, but the head does not move. Sometimes these things get a bit stuck. Manually moving the head (with it switched off) and trying again was a charm! Boots ok now. I will add some silicon grease onto the stepper at some point.

Wow! These little Commodore machines are robust. It is a lovely machine with some unique features, not all of them good. Here are some highlights:

8088 CPU is a bit slow

512Kb RAM only

Single 360K 5 1/2″ floppy

No expansion slots… *

Proprietary external floppy drive connection

*Well that is not quite true. On the back on the unit is a cover that hides an edge connector.

There was an expansion unit that you could buy which provided a bank of 8-bit ISA slots. In this way it could be upgraded to have hard drives, sound cards or anything. Never seen any of these in the wild, and can’t even find a picture of on eBay. You never know. If I keep hold of this machine, I might see if it is possible to build one. Getting the specs for it might be a heck of a task. Besides, this machine has other more serious issues… There is no top!

I had the idea of making a clear plastic top for it to celebrate the inners of this machine as it will be impossible to get a replacement top, they are just not available. I spoke with a friend who suggested polycarbonate, so that could be an interesting future project.

For now the unit will sit on the shelf whilst I figure out what its future will be, but it certainly has bee a fun little project.

Ah! Keyboard!

Yes, the keyboard shown here was NOT used in these tests. The reason for that is that it doesn’t work properly! The following keys don’t respond:

Keypad 7,8,9 and * (PrtSc) and the Enter key!

Bugger… Many keyboards have two enter keys but not this one so without that working it is fairly useless! I have to see if I can fix this… Keyboard fixes

Cleaning

Urgh… It’s filthy! Got to sort this The case has some dead spiders but it actually not bad. Floppy drive is disgusting

Coffee stains perhaps? Well, some window cleaner is good for this sort of stuff, and it came up really nicely.

The case contained dead spiders and some dust but not too bad, in fact the motherboard is it really good condition:

The case is missing the top as you can see. There is an odd construction here, a metal coated cardboard insert:

I really dont like these. It has cleaned up ok I suppose but not sure if I want to maintain this. If I find a top then fine but that is highly unlikely so I might have to cut if in half if I fashion a clear plastic top. Cant have that lovely board all covered up!

The base cleaned up nicely:

It is such a shame there is no top… Oh well I guess I just got to get over it!

Keyboard is really bad:

Dismaltling is straight forward with these. Onle 4 plastic tags, in this case quite big ones so they dont break! A good scrub with a soft brush in some soapy warm water:

Nasty! I ain’t drinking that!

Physically at least it now loos great:

So here is the ‘finished’ article:

Getting there. I wonder what the future holds for our little PC1?

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