365 Days of Commodore 128: Day 3 – Perusing The Introductory Guide

June 12, 2022 – Day Three.

I’m looking forward to using my C128D to create some audio-visual demos and have developed a bit of a reading list to get moving on development. My system came with a pair of manuals – a basic Introductory Guide and a more-comprehensive System Guide. I’ll be supplementing these two selections with the Programmer’s Reference Guide before moving onto non-Commodore documentation.

The Introductory Guide weighs in at 40 pages and includes a description of the computer’s three native operating modes (C64, C128 40-column, C128 80-column), hardware specs, a connection guide, a brief troubleshooting chart, and instructions on how to load and run software. Unlike many home computer operating manuals of the era that served as a teaching method for BASIC programming, this booklet is intended on getting the user up and running as quickly as possible and focuses on working with Commodore’s existing software catalog rather than discussing BASIC in any depth.

I felt it would be helpful to gauge the usefulness of this guide based on the amount of info that I didn’t already know as a (relatively) novice user. Here’s what I discovered –

– I had no idea that the CP/M operating system was natively supported and included with the computer (though I unfortunately didn’t receive the system disks with my machine). I also didn’t know a Z80 CPU was included on the C128’s motherboard to run this OS. This is an interesting design choice as the C64 software library was already quite deep by the time the 128D was introduced. However, Commodore had also released a CP/M cartridge for the C64 to limited success as the 1541 disk drive was incapable of loading software from disks formatted using the MFM encoding method for use with CP/M. This lack of compatibility between the C64 and MFM-formatted CP/M disks may explain the refined implementation of CP/M (including MFM support) in the C128. With the introduction of 80-column mode, it stands to reason that Commodore was aware of the increased potential of this computer as a productivity tool and identified a need to adapt some of the business application software running on CP/M to their own product range, rather than relying on developers to code new ports of this software for the C128. I’ll be devoting some time to exploring this OS in depth once I get a grasp of the native C64/128 software environments.

– I didn’t know the machine was expandable to 640K RAM.

– As mentioned in my “Day 1” post, I had no clue how to switch to C64 mode.

– There appears to be a new DSAVE command in BASIC 7.0 to quickly save programs to disk (compared to the old “SAVE “PROGRAM”,8,1 approach), though I question how much time and effort this shortcut will earn me.

Unless you know even less about this computer than me, that’s the bulk of the content. I wouldn’t shed too many tears if this booklet is missing from your “complete in box” 128, but it served as a nice refresher after being away from the post-VIC-20 Commodore ecosystem for a few years.