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Commodore LCD

[Picture of the Commodore LCD, 14k JPEG] The lonesome prototype

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One of the rarest Commodore machines ever. Only very few units have been built with case, a few (more) without. As opposed to the widely held opinion, this computer is NOT called 'C64 laptop'.

Commodore developed this 3 pounds laptop in 1984 and presented it to the public at the Consumer Eletronics Show in January 1985 (Winter CES). In contradiction to what you might think when you first hear of a Commodore laptop, this machine has nearly nothing to do with the Commodore 64 or the Commodore 128 - alas.

[Picture of the CLCD's display, 9k JPEG] The factory population was 32k of static CMOS RAM, internally upgradable to 64k using standard memory chips. It was externally upgradable with another 64k of RAM.

Its display was one of the best on the market available at that time, made by Commodore's own optoelectronics division, which was sold off shortly after the CLCD was cancelled. The resolution in graphics mode was 480x128, and 80x16 in text mode. Although only 16 lines could be displayed simultaneously, the virtual screen size was 25 lines.

Like the Commodore 264 series (Plus/4, C16, C116), the Commodore LCD had builtin software, but as opposed to the unfaithful 264 series, the software was by far better. The 96k of CMOS ROM contained the following software, some of which was incomplete in the prototype shown on the Winter CES:

The main menu offered a few utilities for copying from the internal RAM disk to an external drive, or for downloading over the builtin modem (which was also supported by the BASIC 3.6 by an OPEN statement) or the RS232 port.
Both memo pad and calculator (which had also hex and binary mode) could be invoked with a single keystroke at any time without interfering with the running program.

The BASIC 3.6 is - with the exception of a few commands which are useless for the CLCD, like COLOR - almost downward compatible with BASIC 7.0. It also supports high resolution graphic commands, just like the Plus/4.

[Commodore CLCD, side view, 6k JPEG] The terminal program is of use, indeed, since the CLCD has a built in 300bps auto answer/auto-dial modem. Additionally, the CLCD has a separate RS232C port, so there is no need to attach a userport-to-RS232C adapter for a 'real' serial port. Commodore also decided to integrate a standard centronics port; rather unusual (at least for that time) is the HP compatible barcode port.

Lacking a builtin floppy drive, the CLCD came with a serial IEC port, which was compatible with all Commodore serial peripherals. Above that, Commodore showed prototypes of an external 3.5" serial floppy drive, the 1561, which was also battery-powered.

A battery-powered thermal transfer printer with an excellent NLQ image was produced, but didn't make it to the market, either.

Although this laptop didn't have an external video output, Jeff Porter stated that his team was thinking about a cartridge for the CLCD which provided 80 column display for an external video display, using the C128's video chip.

In 1994(?), I saw an offer in the newspaper (SperrMüll), which was roughly like that:

Commodore Laptop, nur 5 Stück gebaut! DM 2400,-
which tranlates to:
Commodore laptop, only 5 units built! US$ 1,400
The phone number written was a number in Berlin, AFAIR. Alas, I don't have the advertisement anymore :-(


[1] 64'er 3/85
[2] COMPUTE!'s Gazette, Issue 22, Apr. 1985, The Winter Consumer Electronics Show CES
[3] COMPUTE!'s Gazette, Issue 24, June 1985, Inside the 128

Updated: September 13th, 2000
Created: Late 1995
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Site copyright © 1997 by Marc-Jano Knopp
This document is part of MJK's Commodore 64 & LCD Page
Brought back to life by Peter Schepers, Dec 10, 2005 because I really liked this site!