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Commodore 264 series

[Picture of C264, 20k JPEG]
Pic. 1: Late Commodore 264

Technical detailsoHistory - Documentation - Links


The C264 series (or the Plus/4 in this case) was clearly aimed to match the business needs: builtin text processor, spread sheet, data base, no sophisticated sound output as the C64 offered, and no sprites. However, the Plus/4 didn't keep sacred to game programmers for long, as it offered 121 colors perfectly suited for games. There is even a demo scene for the Plus/4!
Along with the C264 series, Commodore introduced new hardware for it: the 1531, which was the standard datassette with a connector matching the Plus/4 cassette jack, and the new parallel floppy drive SFS 481 (later renamed to 1551), which was specially designed for the C264 computers - and only ran with these. The monitor CM 141 is a 1701/1702, which has been redesigned to match the Plus/4's look.
Alas, Commodore equipped the C264 series with mechanically incompatible control ports and cassette port, though electrically, the ports are still the same. But at least they included a quite usable machine language monitor in ROM, called TEDMON, and at last they built in a reset switch. That was about time.
Another plus is that the 6502-compatible processor 7501 / 8501 and the comfortable BASIC 3.5, which is fully compatible with BASIC V2, make it relatively easy to port (simpler) programs from C64 to the C264.

Rumours before official introduction of the C264 series said that the originally planned names for the machines of this product line were TED 16, TED 32, and TED 64; obviously these names derived from the C264's combined video/sound chip TED, just like the VIC-20 was named after its video chip VIC.


1. The Prototypes

1.1 The C 264 prototype
[Picture of prototype of C264, 17k JPEG] With the first Commodore 264 prototype inofficially presented on the Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January (?) 1984, the developers had obviously not yet agreed about the keyboard layout; some keys are unlabelled, the right shift key is missing, instead it has a key which seems to be meant as a line feed key.
It was planned that when buying a C264, you could choose between these programs: The C264 should then be delivered with the selected program built in. The remaining programs could only be used with cartridges for the expansion port.
1.2 The C 364
[ Help! Picture wanted! ]

This prototype was a C264 with a bigger keyboard (86 keys incl. a numeric keypad) and with a builtin speech synthesizer with a vocabulary of 250 words (which could be expanded by either diskettes or modules). Commodore dropped this model and decided to sell a separate speech module (Magic Voice) for the C64.

2. The C 116

[Picture of C116, 15k JPEG] This machine, which Commodore didn't release any information about at the CES, was originally not planned to be sold in every country, certainly because of its very cheap keyboard. It is a C264 with chiclet keys, comes with 32kB of ROM, without any builtin software, and with only 16kB of RAM. It doesn't have a user port, either.
Commodore's hatred for shift keys finds expression in the very early C116's keyboard layout (see pic). This time, they made it even worse and removed the LEFT shift key and placed an Esc key there! Not to mention the Inst/Del key which resided at the SHIFT LOCK key's place.
The versions sold later had the Inst/Del key next to the Home/Clear key in the top row next to the function keys, the Esc key where you would want it, and thank God, a left shift key again.

3. The late C 264

The official presentation of the C264 series took place on the Hannover fair in 1984. Luckily, the developers didn't eliminate the right shift key in the final keyboard layout (pic. 1) The formerly unlabelled keys bear a label now: the key that used to be the '<-' (left arrow) key on the C64 and the VC20 says 'Esc', the key between '@' and '*' bears the English pound sign, and the key that was labelled 'SHIFT LOCK' on all 8-bit computers Commodore ever produced now says - guess what - 'SHIFT LOCK' :-) (must have been a hard decision between SHIFT and CAPS lock).

4. The C 16

[Picture of C16, 9k JPEG] The VIC-20 designate C16, presented on the Hannover mass 1984 as well, is technically identical to the C116, it is a C116 in a charcoal C64 case and has a 'real' keyboard instead of the 64 chiclet keys of the C116. The keyboard layout had been slightly changed from the C64's, too; the most radical change was its 'physical cursor control', which simply means that it has four separate cursor keys in the top row, one for each direction.
It seems that the first C16s had the two control ports labelled JOY 0 and JOY 1 instead of JOY 1 and JOY 2, just as a hint for collectors :-)

Note that as well as the C116, the C16 lacks a user port.

5. The Plus/4

Among the Commodore news from the Summer CES 1984 was the renaming of the C264 to Plus/4. This renaming came along with a slight change in the builtin software: you could not choose between many different programs anymore, but each Plus/4 was delivered with the 3-plus-1 software.



[1] 64'er 4/84, pp.9-11, Die neuen - 264 und 364
[2] 64'er 4/84, p.12, Das Neueste aus USA
[3] 64'er 5/84, pp.14-19, Ein Wolf im Schafspelz - der 264
[4] 64'er 6/84, pp.8/9, Neuigkeiten von der Hannover Messe '84
[5] 64'er 6/84, pp.20-23, Der Nachfolger?
[6] 64'er 8/84, p.14, CES Chicago
[7] 64'er 11/84, p.115, ad: NEWMAN Computer-Versand, 'SOFORT LIEFERBAR: C116 - 398,-'
[8] 64'er 1/85, pp.16-22, Generationswechsel
[9] 64'er 2/85, pp.14-18, Plus und Minus beim Plus/4
[10] HC 2/84, p.18, Der Rundschlag
[11] HC 5/84, p.5, Commodores Zwerg
[12] RUN 8/84, p.16, PLUS 4
[13] RUN 12/84, pp.92-99, Ein Plus mit Schwächen
[13] RUN 1/85, pp.128-133, Neu auf dem Markt

Updated: March 23rd, 1998
Created: February 21st, 1998

Site copyright © 1997 by Marc-Jano Knopp
This document is part of MJK's Commodore 64 & LCD Page
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