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The Other Intellect/TOI Series and the Colour PET

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The history of The Other Intellect is absolutely the most significant story in Commodore's history, as it is the explanation of how Commodore transitioned from an almost exclusively business electronics concern to a major player in home computing. Without its development, the face of computing might have been irrevocably changed ...

History of the Apricot PCs (Victor 9000 history)

The Color PET

Portrait of the Colour PET (.jpg, 52K, courtesy Bo Zimmerman)

There appear to be two distinct incarnations of the Color PET, the one described in On the Edge at CES Las Vegas 1980, and a later and almost totally dissimilar version described in Personal Computing 8/81 (although Edge talks about a unit which may be the same device later on). The picture above is from this latter source.

aka Color PET, CBM 8033?
Introduced Never officially. Per Edge the first incarnation was displayed at CES Las Vegas 1980.
Hardware Reports vary widely; Edge reports the 1980 version was based on the 6562, but Personal Computing 8/81 cites that its version was a modified 8032, with an unknown graphics architecture (see below). Both units had upgraded firmware for the new graphics mode and colour support.
Graphics and Sound For the original version, see the 6562 specs; for the "8033," beeper sound (CB4?) at best with 160x100x8 graphics and 80x25 text, which was definitely not the same chipset.
Eventual Fate Scrapped prototypes. The 6562 did survive into the VIC-40 project.

See below for comments on both systems.

The Other Intellect

Thanks to Mike Stein for the Cursor issues behind this entry.

aka TOI
Introduced Never officially, although announced at Winter CES 1980.
Hardware, Graphics and Sound Unknown but likely intended to be 6502-based with an early VIC-I.
Eventual Fate Unclear and contradictory, but likely utter vapourware. Nevertheless, the ideas that went into its construction helped to shape the very successful VIC-20.

Comments
Jim Brain speculates in Commodore Trivia #26 that "The Other Intellect", or TOI series, may have been the Color PET being designed by Chuck Peddle, the original chief architect of the 6502; the Color PET, mentioned in The Home Computer Wars and other contemporary magazines such as the one cited above, mysteriously disappeared from view shortly before the VIC-20's development. Although one unit identified as the "Color PET" appeared at Winter CES Las Vegas in 1980, another Color PET, anecdotally known as the CBM 8033, appeared briefly at CeBIT and several other fairs around the same time. This latter unit, described by Dr. Peter Kittel as "a rather dirtily hacked prototype," had CBM 8032 electronics in a 2001 series case (Mike Shartiag) with an NEC monitor rather clumsily incorporated into the housing (as demonstrated in Bo's photograph above). If this is the same unit, Edge reports it was designed by Bob Yannes, who eventually designed SID, and had simple RGB graphics powered by an add-on board.

Despite these Colour PETs' unpolished but nevertheless palpable technical advancements, it wasn't what Tramiel wanted for market placement with the home computer invasion starting to pick up steam. (Its likely pricepoint alone would have made it very unattractive to home users.) Come Winter CES 1980, Cursor reported on a strange prototype "home computer" that could attach to a television set, and 'flash pretty patterns on the screen.' In April, Commodore finally coughed up further information and announced The Other Intellect (a backronym, just like PET), a new low-end computer that was intended for the home and had TV graphics and sound capabilities. However, the unit was noticibly vapourware. Edge offers its own explanation, stating that Chuck Peddle positioned TOI as a proposed evolution of engineer Bill Seiler's existing "G-Job" prototype (short for "garage job"), which Seiler constructed out of part of a PET motherboard and MOS's then-obscure 6560 video chip. Edge goes on to describe Bob Yannes' work on the MicroPET, which used an enhanced 6560; both Seiler's and Yannes' units appeared at the Summer CES Chicago 1980 and eventually the VIC-20 would take design cues from both the MicroPET and the G-Job.

After Tramiel announced Commodore's new direction towards the home market, the Color PET was clearly marked for destruction -- but not forgotten. One surprising likely descendant isn't even a Commodore machine at all: the Victor 9000 is a very likely suspect, even more likely given the fact that Chuck Peddle was behind it. Manufactured by Sirius Systems Technology of Scotts Valley, California, this unusual yet surprisingly common early 1980's 8086-based computer, nominally PC compatible (in those days), had several interesting features, including an extremely detailed, powerful graphics subsystem with the then-intriguing ability to control monitor gamma in software, variable-speed 5.25" drives with a Commodore-like controller, and a sound system based on a synchronous serial chip driving a CODEC IC that could even take sound input, unheard of on a PC in those days. Also known as the Sirius 1, its unusual disk format made it difficult to work with or run software on, despite being able to use MS-DOS (an unusual internationalised "version 1.25"), UCSD P-System and CP/M-86 as operating systems. Like so many technologically superior but ill-timed computers, it disappeared shortly afterwards in the States, mostly because of the superior marketing skills of IBM on behalf of their then-hatchling XT, but in Europe manufacturing delays enabled UK distributor ACT to adroitly rack up an insurmountable marketing lead. When the XT finally hit European shores, a mind-boggling eighteen months late, it was virtually ignored. The Victor in Victor 9000 is an Illinois company called Victor Technology, which took over Sirius, and they are still in business. You can even see their company history. As for ACT, they went on to incorporate some of the ideas in the Victor 9000, especially the graphics subsystem, into their Apricot line of PCs which were also popular sellers in Europe, peaking around 1985 or so. Victor 9000 compatibility, wisely, was a considered portion of the Apricot's design. The later Apricot F1, with its then-superb (for PCs!) colour display, became positively legendary.

It must be stated in no weak manner that the Colour PET and TOI occupy a significant turning point in the timeline of the Commodore 8-bit machines. Keep in mind that at this point in time Commodore was, if not a major one, at least a significant producer of office electronics. If Commodore had produced the business-targeted Colour PET instead, rather than turn its development towards The Other Intellect and producing the VIC-20, the machine could well have attracted business owners sick of the green screens of the TRS-80 and early PCs. Had this happened, Jack Tramiel's legacy might have been truly in business machines rather than home computers, and you might be reading a droll and informative article about the lost home computer prototype, instead.

By the way, Jim, sorry for invalidating your trivia question. :-)