The main article: Inside the 128
Commodore LCD Lap Portable Update
Is there a lap portable computer in your future? Commodore's new LCD
portable, introduced in prototype form at the January Consumer Electronics Show, may hold special interest for Commodore 64 and 128 owners.
Originally scheduled for a midsummer entry, the portable is now being
held back for release sometime after September, according to Frank
Leonardi, Commodore's vice president for marketing. Despite rumors to
the contrary, Leonardi confirmed that the portable has not been shelved.
The Commodore LCD has a super fast 80 X 16 liquid-crystal display, 32K
RAM, 96K ROM, BASIC 3.6 (a slightly enhanced version of the Plus/4's
BASIC), machine language monitor, and, among other features, eight
built-in productivity programs (word processor, file manager,
spreadsheet, address book, scheduler, calculator, memo pad, and terminal
emulator). The portable, which weighs just five and a half pounds and
fits in a briefcase, will sell for a reported $600.
During a recent visit to Commodore, the LCD's senior design engineer,
Jeff Porter, took the GAZETTE on a tour of the finishing stages of the
new machine. Beaming proudly, Porter rattled off a list of features as
he showed off another prototype and then dropped in on members of the
software design team who demonstrated final modifications:
- The fast LCD display results from a separate custom chip being used
solely to handle the screen display. Hence, the 65C102 microprocessor
doesn't have to write letters to the screen. "CRTs (cathode ray tubes)
use a separate CRT controller chip," says Porter. "We've called this an
LCD controller chip. The same principle applies."
- The portable is built to support Commodore 64 peripherals, such as
the 1541 disk drive, as well as the new 1571 drive being sold for
the 128, and a 3.5-inch Sony-style microdrive planned for possible
release later in the year. All Commodore serial peripherals will be
- The word processor and spreadsheet are truly integrated, using
windowing to let you work on either function at the same time via a
split-screen display. The spreadsheet also supports independent
scrolling in split-screen format, and, according to the spreadsheet
engineer, will be faster at moving a thousand cells than Lotus 1-2-3
on an IBM PC.
- Built-in utilities on the main menu allow copying from the internal
RAM disk to an external disk drive, or for downloading over the
modem or the RS-232 port.
- The internal 32K CMOS static RAM can be expanded to 64K using
standard memory chips. Another 64K of RAM can be added externally.
- The BASIC 3.6 includes a command for talking to the built-in
300-baud modem, through an OPEN statement.
- The screen display has a virtual 25-line display (although only 16
lines show at a time). This allows the user to set up the terminal
program to emulate a double-screen size, for example.
- The memo pad and calculator each pop up with a keystroke over any
application being run, without destroying the program you're using.
In addition, the calculator operates in any of several different
modes. For instance, while working in BASIC, the user can call up
the calculator and use the programmer's mode for hexadecimal,
binary, and other computations.
- With some limitations, the BASIC 3.6 is downward compatible with the
128 BASIC 7.0. Although the portable cannot support all of the
128's features, such as color, it should allow the user to run BASIC
programs from the 128 without crashing. Instructions the machine
can't handle will be ignored by the portable's BASIC. The BASIC also
supports graphic commands, such as high resolution boxes, lines,
drawing, etc. very similar to the Plus/4 capabilities.
- A new battery-powered thermal transfer printer will be available for
the LCD portable. The three-pound, 11.7 X 2.5 X 4.5 inch printer
works on AA batteries, and can print unidirectionally in Near Letter
Quality (NLQ) mode at 22.5 characters per second (cps) and in draft
mode at 45 cps. A test of the new printer produced an excellent NLQ
image with all but the coarsest Bond paper.
- The portable, as seen this spring, did not support an external
video display. But, Porter said, Commodore's design team for the
portable has been considering using the same 80-column display chip
found in the 128 to provide that capability. The chip might be
housed in a cartridge which would plug into the expansion port, he
Published in COMPUTE!'s Gazette, Issue 24, June 1985. Copyright ©
1985 COMPUTE! Publications, Inc.
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August 26, 1998.