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Commodore Plus-4 History

Truth and Its Consequences...

This story could also be titled, "The Way It Is and Was" and its purpose is not to disappoint but to enlighten. In doing so Tri Micro hopes that each of you will not abandon the PLUS/4 as Commodore did, but to learn to use its best features, gain skills and experience and move up, onward and out into a world in which computers aid and sometimes control our daily lives. The number #1 software wish in our survey was that the PLUS/4 -could run C64 software and program listings. This story is the best answer Tri Micro and I have, I hope that you will not see me as the bearer of bad news, but as a messenger of truth, history and knowledge, Remember that age-old adage of slaying the bearer of bad news should not apply here. Let's start with some history...


around any problem you may have experienced. The documentation written by Commodore staff doesn't always mention ways around particular difficulties. We aren't as touchy as you might expect about the likes and dislikes of the built-in software, we just want you to be able to use your system to its fullest. There are some areas which there is no getting around so your only solution may not be with the PLUS/4.

Requests for voice capabilities and Midi systems are not possible with PLUS/4. The SID sound chip, which gives the C64 and 128 some of the best sound in computing, is not in the PLUS/4. We have contacted a couple of companies which offer programs by voice commands and none of them can be translated to the PLUS/4, as far as we have been advised.

Some of you asked for a spell-checker for SCRIPT PLUS. We're going to have a programmer examine the source code EASY SPELL, the 64 speller which works with EASY SCRIPT, to see if we can create a spell checker for those who are interested. Drop us a note or give us a call to add your name to the interested list so we can judge potential sales, etc.

There is a tax program for the PLUS/4 from Taxaid Software, Inc., 606 Second Ave. Two Harbors, MW 55616 (218) 834/5012. They also sell Bookkeeper's Aid, a simple bookkeeping system for small businesses and home accounts. These programs are available on disk and tape.

We hope to be able to provide you with a full review in an upcoming issue.

Even though we can tell a grim fairy tale history, we cannot read minds, especially those of corporate executives. What we can tell you is that Commodore's intention, which was carried out through development and marketing strategies, was to introduce a PRODUCTIVITY machine that incidentally could play games.

Computer magazines in mid-1984 began to mention the release of the PLUS/4 and its appearance at the CES show in Vegas, even though the name of the system hadn't been finalized yet. A four page color ad appeared in some of the Commodore-oriented magazines. These ads focused on "software that comes with its own built-in computer" and the "under $300." price tag. Some of the few ads which appeared in print never even referred to playing games. Commodore did mention the "hundreds of other software programs that aren't built into the computer". The scheduled media blitz was slashed drastically leaving a budget which couldn't afford to air the TV commercials already in the can.

a fairy tale

A long time ago in a land far, far away (West Chester, Pa) in the Kingdom of Commodore, it was decided that what the world really needed was a small business computer with built-in software and a strong and vibrant version of their official language of BASIC. They had already been successful with the C64 (subsequent history shows that they tried repeatedly tried to slay that dragon, but it kept rising from the ashes until its final blow this year). They even had in the works another little computer called the Cl6. It was the yea of our lord nineteen hundred and eighty-three when the Wizard, David Johnson from a small independent country called Tri Micro, concocted one of the first integrated "Lotus-type" software packages called Trilogy. Trilogy was waiting to be released for the C64, when the wizard David summoned by Commodore. "Let us use your magic formula and feature it in our newest computer." sayth the Minister of Markets, Jack Tramiel.

Operating under the cloak of secrecy, Wizard David turned away the huddling masses begging for the knowledge of Trilogy to fulfill the powerful Minister's commands. Several fortnights later, this newest computer designed to enhance the user coffers, keep tally of his wares and count his many blessings, appeared in public at the largest fair in the land. ... the Consumer Electronics Show in that mysterious and exotic city of Las Vegas. It was the first month in the year of our lord nineteen hundred and eighty-four. The climate in the castle was hectic and whispers were growing louder and louder, about the Minister of Marketing clashing with King Gould. Subsequently the Minister took leave of the castle of Commodore and traveled down the road to the land of Atari where he was given rein over a new line of computers. Since the newly named PLUS/4 was the final project of the departed minister and since politics rule even in the land of Commodore, the PLUS/4 lost favor. The poor PLUS/4 now possessed a curse and there was reluctance to associate oneself with such a doomed affair. Within two moons, the Ministers of finance and Accounting had decided that by eliminating one of the precious microchips and squeezing the program with the correct magic words that the kingdom's coffers could be enriched by two more gold coins for each computer sold. Thereafter the Wizard had to use his hidden powers and transform his beloved Trilogy program into the 3 + 1 hidden within the box of this productivity machine only to be released upon pressing the F1 key. After being denied the whole 64k to work his wonders, Wizard David knew his task was difficult. But with the lure of many gold coins and assured fame as Wizard Extraordinaire, he proceeded to ready the software. After the Wizard David turned over his instruction manual and software package, the magicians and court jesters Commodoreland spent hours and hours examining his handy work. Trumpets and fanfare it was announced that the code name "TED" should be replaced with "PLUS/4" and that the manual should be written by the wenches and knaves of the castle. In the seventh month of the Roman calendar (in plenty of time for the hallowed All Saint's Eve), the PLUS/4 was taken to market. Alas the computer was alone without software and Commodore to support it. As the village idiot observed, "You can lead a dead horse to water, but you can't make him drink." The poor merchants in the villages throughout the land had this disfavored computer and stocks and stocks of old C64 software filling their shelves as holiday shopping was upon them. Alas, after a month the town crier grew weary of singing the song of PLUS/4 and the villagers were never to see the lovely pictures and scrolls of information about the kingdom's newest system. Even without the castle's pronouncements, the peasants, farmers and merchants did buy the PLUS/4 and many were to receive them as gifts from wealthy landholders in exchange for visiting their acreages in hopes of luring them into serfdom. As the villagers learned to use and enjoy them, they were confused and curious why the king had abandoned them so quickly and without the customary proclamations. But alas by the third month of the year of our lord nineteen hundred and eighty-five the PLUS/4 had perished. With about 600,000 disbursed over the globe and by the standards of the gild of computer manufacturers, the PLUS/4 was determined to be a dark spot on the kingdom's reputation. Oh, yes, many of its lifeless parts were sent to other lands across the seas so that foreigners could be amazed by the wonders of Commodore but to this day the king's subjects hasten to deny any knowledge of the ill-fated PLUS/4.

History part 2

You must remember that these were still the days of $1,000 personal computer systems. Commodore had made great headway in bringing computers into the home by releasing the VIC-20 (with datasette and memory expander for under $500) and its replacement the C64 (originally around $600). Subsequent price reductions meant that the C64 at the end of 1984 sold for about $200.00.

Commodore thereby reasoned that, based upon the VIC-20 and C64's success, the PLUS/4 would become THE home business system. The under $300 price tag for a 64k system plus a whole productivity package and an enhanced BASIC seemed to fit the bill. The industry thinking (statistically speaking) was that, since the average consumer only purchased 4 to 5 programs per year, the built-in software should keep the user busy for a year. This helped stall the consumer's need for the additional software which was NOT ready for sale or was still being developed by outside companies. This also irritated the retailers who were denied any immediate aftermarket purchases. Since the consumer didn't need anything beyond the CPU and a television to actually "see" it work, the aftermarket was stagnant. At the same time as the introduction of the PLUS/4, Commodore introduced companion color-coordinated peripherals, the DPS 1101 letter-quality daisy wheel printer and the MPS 802 printer with graphics capabilities. With a touch of wisdom, Commodore outfitted the PLUS/4 to share the same hardware as the C64 with the exception of joysticks. Commodore never intended for PLUS/4 to be used with a datasette but the 1531 for the C16 is compatible since the C16 was just a scaled down version of the PLUS/4. Per Commodore's specifications the built-in software was not designed to save to a datasette (see past issues of PLUS EXCHANGE for hints a round this). There was an upgraded disk drive to be marketed with the PLUS/4 but since the PLUS/4 died so quickly it was shipped overseas and sold as the 1551. According to British magazines this drive was an improvement over the 1541.

So Commodore was now phasing out the VIC-20 and going strong with the C64 and was planning to hit the Christmas season with two new systems. The two year old C64 was their total game machine, the PLUS/4 their small business or home office system, the C16 as a beginner's computer to be marketed heavily to schools as Apple had done in 1983. At the same time as the C16 and PLUS/4 were being developed, a companion 128k version compatible with both units was on the drawing board. Once the PLUS/4 fell into disfavor, the 128 had to be re-engineered to be compatible with the C64. This is why the C128 BASIC incorporates all the advanced features of the PLUS/4 BASIC.

The political climate at Commodore really heated up with the clash between Jack Tramiel, then President and CEO, with Irving Gould, the largest shareholder of Commodore stock and

Chairman of the Board. [Gould recently added the duties of President due to the rather forceful and well publicized firing of Tom Rattigan this year.] Without Tramiel's presence, the PLUS/4 became a political nightmare. Rinds previously budgeted for the project dried up as did corporate interest. Those internal difficulties, along with some poor marketing decisions which antagonized the retailers and users, meant that the traditional aftermarket products manufactured by Commodore and outside parties were dropped like a hot potato.

But the PLUS/4 didn't die as quickly as expected once the life support systems were cut. Retailers continued to sell their stock on hand, liquidators purchased warehouses full of completed units while the remaining parts where left in Hong Kong factories and then later assembled and sold on the foreign market. Our most current tally indicates that about 600,000 units were sold worldwide. Approximately 450,600 were sold in Europe and the remaining have found homes all across America. Of the European sales, about 100,000 were sold to Eastern Bloc countries such as Hungary. That means that the PLUS/4 is more concentrated in many European countries than in the United States and still has a small but active base of companies producing software. We recommend subscribing to "Commodore Computing International", a U.K. publication, to learn what is available through the European market.

Once Commodore's retailer support dwindled, the stores with units on their shelves pushed them out the door as quickly as they could. Uneducated sales personnel and sometimes even blatant misrepresentation caused many consumers to purchase a computer which they thought was compatible with a C64. Many liquidators and land developers, giving PLUS/4's as premium prizes, added to the misrepresentation by referring to the computer as a 64 Plus/4. This term was not represented by Commodore but by others hoping that the C64's popularity would assure the sale of a PLUS/4. Unfortunately, these sales tactics made for a group of PLUS/4 owners who were confused and then angry with their computer that wouldn't run the many C64 software titles they saw available.

Another group of PLUS/4 owners, who paid the original retail price, suddenly began seeing the price drop drastically which of course added to the bad feelings that had already been developing. As soon as the user dropped by to his/her local computer outlet, he discovered that little or no software was available and that the authorized Commodore dealers couldn't or wouldn't provide any necessary technical assistance. We know of members who have even been ridiculed by such dealers because they purchased a PLUS/4. If I only had a dime for each piece of misinformation still being passed on to the consumer concerning the PLUS/4, I could retire in luxury!!!

BASIC facts

A little history on the language of BASIC will also help in understanding Commodore's evolution of products. BASIC, developed about 25 years ago, is still considered the most popular of all programming languages because of its simplicity. Since a computer can only understand machine language in binary (this is a number system with only 0 and 1 representing all values), BASIC and other programming languages are really only software interpreters of commands and codes to speed up the process of programming. The commands you type in are then are matched with the appropriate binary values and read by the computer.

A company by the name of Microsoft released one of the first versions of BASIC. Founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen (both now extremely wealthy and powerful in the personal computer world) manufactured this as part of a memory expander for an early computer called Altair. This version of BASIC soon became the first pirated piece of software to be widely distributed.

In the late 1970's, Apple, Radio Shack, Commodore and others began developing their computer systems with Microsoft BASIC built right in. The Commodore PET computer became their first release with a calculator-type keyboard. The PET/CBM line evolved into the familiar typewriter-style keyboard, an 80-column screen and more memory. Only two PET versions of Commodore BASIC (each manufacturer has its own special variation of Microsoft BASIC) were available, BASIC 2.0 and BASIC 4.0.

Originally PET systems were only to be used with datasettes so BASIC 2.0 strongly reflects the command structure necessary to operate a datasette. As the PET systems changed and more users purchased disk drives the BASIC 4.0 added a wide variety of disk handling commands.

As the next decade dawned, home computers under $500 were the focus of Commodore and were expected to radically alter the computer industry. Well, it did! The VIC-20 was introduced, again to be teamed with a datasette only. This meant that BASIC 2.0 was all that was necessary since disk commands weren't needed. No expected disk drives to become so popular since they were considered to be very expensive at that time. Commodore sold millions of VIC-20's and so when the C64 was sold they included BASIC 2.0 to continue the trend with this proven version.

But the C64 had some improvements over the VIC-20. An additional joystick port was added to enhance the gaming possibilities and since the price of additional memory had dropped, an additional 59K. But the two best improvements were two new chips: the VIC-II for video and the SID for sound. These two little microchips are where the PLUS/4 and the C64 incompatibilities really start. The video chip offers the user a 40 column display (the VIC only had 22), 16 colors (the Vic only had 8), a true hi-res mode, multicolor and extended background color modes, a totally redefinable character set, and eight independent sprites. These sprites do not exist in the PLUS/4.

Simply defined a sprite is a group of dots which can be defined as a single object. Once these dots are formed into one of the eight possible sprites, the sprite can be moved around the screen. For example, the picture of a missile would be defined as sprite #1 and this sprite could be moved across the screen as a single entity. In a PLUS/4 the program must create the picture and instruct each separate dot how to move across the screen. As you can see this makes game construction much more difficult and time-consuming. But remember, the PLUS/4 was never really intended to be a game machine.

The SID chip provides the C64 with its vibrant sounds, but the PLUS/4 doesn't contain that chip at all. It offers a two voice system (similar to the PET), which just doesn't can't compete with the three voices featured in the C64, which is adequate for beeping and simple games. But again, how often does a spreadsheet need to play the national anthem.

PEEKs and POKEs are used heavily in the C64, unlike many other versions of BASIC. This complicates programming and actually makes it more difficult for the beginner to learn. The PLUS/4's user of PEEKs and POKEs is much more limited and the do not translate directly between each of system.

BASIC programs have tokens (i.e. words such as INPUT which are stored as one character or byte instead of five letters). The PLUS/4 has a huge vocabulary to support all the features of the C64 except the keywords for sound and graphics as well as some disk commands. The new graphic and sound keywords do not have the same token numbers as the C64. (We strongly recommend getting a hold of the April and May 1987 issues of ''Commodore Magazine" for some very valuable information regarding the different versions of Commodore BASIC and how to convert your program listings with the Universal Lister program.) This adds other incompatibility problems to program conversions.

The C128 7.0 version of BASIC is much closer to the 3.5 in the PLUS/4 than the 2.0 version in the C64. There are keyword variations between the two but their similarities are much greater than their differences.

The book, "The Complete Commodore Inner Space Anthology" by Karl Hildon provides the user with a cross-reference on the C64 and 128 to assist you in converting many of the program listings to the PLUS/4. Write to 277 Linwood Ave., Buffalo, NY 14209-9990 for information regarding this book. The Canadian address is 500 Steeles Ave., Milton, Ontario, Canada L9T 3P7 and the Canadian phone number is 416-876-474.

The facts

"The facts, just the facts, madam." as Jack Webb would say. Now that you've enjoyed our fairy tale and waded through a historical background of Commodore's BASIC, let me recap:

1. The C64 and the PLUS/4 have different versions of BASIC.

2. The VICII video chip and the SID chip are missing from the plus/4.

3. Aftermarket products (everything from software to RS232 adapters) were developed very limitedly or nor developed at all.

4. The PLUS/4 was designed and developed to be a PRODUCTIVITY machine first and foremost. The C64 was always meant to be the game-players system.

5. A large number of C64/128 program listings are convertible to the PLUS/4 with some work on your part.

Well, where does that leave us? You've got a fine computer, with an excellent version of BASIC and a limited aftermarket selection of products. The intention of this article is not to discourage you but to inform you of exactly what sort of animal you have. The next file ''The Pluses" will concentrate on the fine features you have at your disposal. The remaining portion of this file will probably not be the most pleasant part of the article, but we feel that it's better to be upfront with consumers than hope you can keep them in the dark without catching on.

In answer to your questions, "Do I have a white elephant?", "Do you have a program to convert C64 software to the Plus/4?", "Do you have a hardware unit that will translate C64 software to the Plus/4?" and "Do you have [insert popular C64 game title here] for the PLUS/4/?"

No, the PLUS/4 is not a white elephant. Yes, it was discontinued before it actually had time to succeed or fail. But, at 1984-85 standards, this was an excellent and inexpensive set-up for the average small (or home-centered) business. The built-in software introduced a feature never before attempted. A computer with the most commonly used productivity software at your fingertips. And not only was it resident in memory, but it was also interactive. A BASIC, which is as it should be easy for the beginner and simple to use, was provided. Features which were ignored in the C64 and subsequent superexpanders were added. Yes, the two most important chips in game playing were left out, but this is a productivity machine and Commodore was trying to branch out not duplicate the C64.

The next two questions can be answered in unison. Since the major obstacle in translating 64 programs to the PLUS/4 hinges on the fact that there are no sprites and the SID chip is missing, there could never be a standardized software solution. (Again, I recommend the Universal Lister info mentioned earlier to assist you in converting program listings, etc.) Hardware problems such as this could only be cursed with a hardware modification. Yes, it would be physically possible to make a hardware modification or even perhaps a module to override. What would be necessary is that the internals of the PLUS/4 would be overridden with a version of the C64. In reality you would be marrying a C64 with a PLUS/4. The problem is that even though this is mechanically possible, the cost would run into hundreds of dollars. It would be cheaper to buy another computer instead. Research and development costs are enormous on such a project and with only a 300,000 user base not feasible at all.

One reason we have such limited software titles is because the aftermarket only produced what was in the works at the time of the PLUS/4's downfall in order to recoup monies already invested. The Commodore titles are conversions from popular C64 titles (such as SCRIPT PLUS and ZORK I) and new titles which were contracted out to a variety of software publishers (such as JACK ATTACK). SCRIPT PLUS was knowingly released with a variety of bugs because of problems between Commodore and Precision Software. Actually considering such a small user base (by industry standards), there are actually quite a few titles. The Commodore game titles as you can see are almost non-existent. This is consistent with their marketing strategies as mentioned earlier. The majority of aftermarket items for any computer system is usually produced and supplies by the dozens and dozens of small companies which sprung up in the early 1980's. The computer boom was on and it was a real growth industry. But the personal computer market hit a major slump and even those companies with excellent products and big bucks backing them suffered greatly or folded completely. TRI MICRO is one of those that hung on for dear life. In this "survival of the fittest" market, many of companies which might have continued producing PLUS/4 products disappeared. We carry a small representation of companies besides ourselves which still manufacture a PLUS/4 version of a particular title. The first Tri Micro titles consisted of items which were developed in-house from 1985 to early 1986. By industry standards a title, especially a game title, peaks at about 6 months and sales plummet thereafter (even if you have millions and millions of users). A few public domain titles were then added. We then began searching for products to license and resell since the research and developments costs are outrageous compared to the potential sales. It's kind of discouraging for a programmer to spend hours and hours developing a program and to only receive $400.00 royalties. We acquired some programs from a source in Mexico to round out our inventory in mid-1986. A good portion of Dick Ollins' time has been spent tracking down PLUS/4 programs and building relations with overseas software publishers. This is no easy task let me tell you.

More facts

Frequently software publishers and programmers overestimate their products' worth in the marketplace. A product for $79.95 might be fine for an Apple owner, but a PLUS/4 owner just customarily isn't interest in investing that much money for a single piece of software. We try to be very realistic about the number of units we can sell on a PLUS/4 product. That may be 50 or 500 per year depending upon the type of program and its quality. For example on a $4.95 product, obviously a $5.00 per unit royalty is out of the question and royalty rates more in line with the retail price is hardly worth the months and months of time a company or individual dedicates toward a single product. Fortunes have been made by programmers (even kids!) with a single hot game, but that is just not a reality in the PLUS/4 world.

So let's say that we have a real great new program available to us from a United Kingdom software publisher (they are still turning out programs although many are of dubious quality). Wow! But many of these firms (some quite large in the overseas market) have had little to no experience in the U. S. market and really think that since that are so many more people here that there likewise must be many more PLUS/4's. As I mentioned in our fairy tale, that is just not the case. On top of that many of these companies don't take into the special marketing considerations of the PLUS/4. The customary advances (some can be thousands of dollars upfront) and sales guarantees are just not possible for us or any other company which wishes to market to PLUS/4 users. We've had fair offers declined because of misconceptions about "wealthy" Americans and the PLUS/4 market. We will continue our search for additional products through our U. S. and foreign contacts.

Also we welcome submissions from members. We will test your product and advise you on marketability. Depending upon the circumstances we could offer you a small royalty or perhaps swap for software, books, etc. All submissions must be on disk form with complete instructions.

On the immediate horizon we will not be doing any in-house development of PLUS/4 products. Our programmers are here to assist members with their technical needs, but since the PLUS/4 sales have become so stagnant, the majority of their time must be devoted to our most profitable C64/128 and IBM-PC products.

Please don't be alarmed. We do not consider your membership dues and orders to be secondary, in actuality the majority of office staff time is directed at PLUS/4 and C16 users only!!! Operating a combination mail-order business, user group and newsletter publishing concern is a hectic task. As we have told you in the past, your dues go towards purchasing PLUS/4 inventory (we currently hold a large quantity of a variety of titles unavailable through any other sources), keeping our 800 # alive, paying for clerical staff and publishing our newsletters.

One of the reasons we want to strengthen our contacts between each other is that the most important quantity we can offer is assistance. More frequent newsletters and surveys and polls are a step in the right direction. We are attempting to reach out to each of you and fill your computing needs but that is not always possible.

We are still aggressively trying to reach out to the thousands of PLUS/4 (C16, too) users who haven't heard of us but again, since they are so spread out throughout the U.S. and overseas, this is a monumental task. The growth of our membership is vital to us all. Unfortunately, many PLUS/4's have been abandoned by their owners (bet, there are over 1,000 tucked away in a closet behind some hideous painting received many, many Christmases ago) so our contacts fall on deaf ears.

Well, I've kind of wandered off the subject at hand in my attempt to give you the whole picture.

In order to understand why we don't have PLUS/4 versions of popular software titles, you must understand that software like books, etc. is customarily copyrighted. In order for us to convert a copyrighted program, we must obtain authorization. This means lawyers and contracts and lots of money. Supposing we wished to attempt this process and were successful, even with a program like PRINT SHOP (the most popular C64 program currently available) we'd never be able to even recoup our start-up costs. That's not much incentive.

Commodore owns the rights to their software titles and is not readily willing to release these, to be republished by Tri Micro because their costs would be greater than any compensation they would receive. Cartridge programs are much too costly for any manufacturer other than those already geared up for mass production. Tape programs have such a limited market at this point (not to mention that quality control is much more difficult to maintain for a small manufacturer) that any additional products will be in disk format only.


If game playing is your thing and you just have to have the newest and hottest edition, then BUY A C64.

If you have productivity needs which the PLUS/4 just cannot meet (perhaps your business has grown and you need a system which can handle 2,000 customers) then BUY AN IBM-PC or clone.

We do recommend that those of you interested in upgrading to seriously consider the C128. It has all the features of a C64 built right in (that means over 6,000 titles available to you and it keeps on growing); a true 80-column display and 128k; excellent business programs are coming out not as quickly as most users would like but they are coming; PLUS/4 files are compatible via TEAM-MATE 128; all your hardware with the exception of the 1531 datasette and PLUS/4-specific joysticks will still work; you have a CP/M computer also built inside to run the wide variety of productivity and utility programs available through public domain services and liquidators; and it's affordable. One caveat, it is may not be the strongest survivor of the group of systems Commodore has and it could become a victim of their internal strife.

The pluses!

The PLUS/4 received good, strong reviews in the U. S. and overseas when it was released and to this day is still highly regarded by programmers. Its development was the springboard to the C128's BASIC 7.0 which is overwhelmingly the best version for an 8-bit machine.

The built-in software provides the user with an integrated system which was comparable with several other programs of its era (don't forget it was written 4 years ago) and very versatile in spite of the memory limitations Commodore imposed. SCRIPT PLUS, PLUS EXTRA and CALC PLUS contribute to giving the user solutions to their personal situations. The additional productivity software packages were the best Commodore had to offer in 1985. Business Management and Statistics is like taking an intensive study college course on the subject. Financial Advisor offers the user a variety of analytical tools for making important money decisions. The games available are the weak point since that seems to be the major interest for a number of users. We will continue to add games, productivity packages and utility routines as they become available. We are working to expand our reviews and information on software sources other than Commodore and Tri Micro, Inc. Watch for upcoming articles.

The PLUS/4 is economical computing as it was intended. Even if you purchased one at $299.99 and have added a disk drive, monitor and printer, your system is still one of the better buys around. We try to market our products at reasonable price points and offer as many sales as possible so that your computing can continue without straining the budget.

We are frequently asked whether it would be wise to spend more money on what will eventually be a discarded or underused system. This question also could apply to a wide variety of purchases, especially in the electronics field. Improvements are appearing so quickly that a programmable calculator that sold five to seven years ago for $500+ can now be had for less than $50. The state-of-the-art VCR that my husband and I purchased 11 years ago (at a time when it was very difficult to even find movies to rent) cost over $1,000.00 can be found at Kmart for under $300.00. Our thinking was that we could either enjoy thousands of hours worth of video entertainment with a system that -worked very, very well for the past decade or we could the wait hoping that the costs would drop, in tum denying ourselves those hours of family entertainment. You could approach your computing in a similar manner. Either you budget funds to make your system as useful and enjoyable as possible or abandon it. This could save you some money, but then again, the hours of enjoyment and use are gone.

Because of the compatibility of the hardware with the 64 and 128, additional purchases could become the base of a very versatile home computing set-up. If you need a disk drive and are thinking if moving up to a 128, I would recommend purchasing the 1571 double sided disk drive. The faster speed and double sided capabilities would not function with a PLUS/4 or C64 since it would only operate like a 1541. When you are ready to move up you'd already have the enhanced drive for the 128. If your next computer could be a Commodore, then a Commodore printer and/or printer with a built-in Commodore interface would be fine. But if your next computer could be another brand, then a Centronics Parallel compatible printer and an interface should be your choice.

And lastly, PLUS EXCHANGE IS HERE FOR YOU. Tri Micro hopes to be able to grow old with you. We have been improving over the last several years and we are still attempting to enhance your computing experience. There is no telling how our group will evolve over the next few years, that all depends upon what is needed. We may branch out to provide assistance for a wider number of systems if you, our faithful members, decide to move on. If you have any ideas on these areas let us know. Your input is what will keep us strong.

To close, I hope that the truths, of which I speak have not caused you any more frustration and anger. I know many of you feel that you purchased something that was totally misrepresented to you and would not have done so had you known the whole truth in advance. This cannot be helped, but perhaps turned into an opportunity to learn and experience something new. A computer can be a tool or an entertainer and sometimes an entertaining tool. As a glorified typewriter, a word processor can provide you with the means to change your life, challenge the world or write home to Mama. The file manager can help you organize your life. The spreadsheet can help you count your blessings. The graphics can let your chart your course. Learn it, use it and enjoy it.



- https://web.archive.org/web/20050111033417/http://www.cbm264.com/tm/tm.html

- https://archive.org/details/04-commodore-magazine

- https://archive.org/details/05-commodore-magazine

- http://www.commodore16.com/

- http://www.plus4.org/

David Johnson

Keywords: Computer History, Commodore Plus 4, Commodore 16

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