The Mini PET 40/80 Is a Major Upgrade on Tynemouth Software's Original — and Pre-Orders Are Now Open

Upgraded computer kit still boasts full Commodore PET compatibility, but now with the addition of an 80-column mode.

Gareth Halfacree
5 days agoRetroTech

Tynemouth Software and The Future Was 8bit have announced the launch of a next-generation Mini PET computer kit, bringing all the features of the original reinterpretation of Commodore's classic with a range of improvements — including a new 80-column mode.

The original Mini PET launched a year ago, offering those whose lives are missing Commodore's classic Personal Electronic Transactor - launched in 1977 and laying the groundwork for the VIC-20 and best-selling Commodore 64 - the chance to own one of their own at a considerably reduced cost and desk-space requirement.

Built to be as compatible as possible with hardware and software designed for real-steel PETs - to the point of being able to take the Mini PET motherboard and install it in a PET chassis as a replacement for a failed original — the Mini PET missed only one key feature: The ability to switch from a 25-line 40-column display mode to a higher-resolution 80-column mode.

The Mini PET impressed, but the Mini PET 40/80 is a worthy successor. (📹: TFW8b)

Which is where the Mini PET 40/80 comes in. Designed to replace the original Mini PET kit, the Mini PET 40/80 brings across all the features of the original — including a move to in-production parts, meaning no scouring of auctions or salvaging of original hardware is required — plus switchable 40/80 column modes.

As with the original Mini PET, the Mini PET 40/80 launches in two versions. The first is a fully stand-alone system, complete with keyboard designed to mimic the chiclet keyboard of the PET 2001 and a new transparent housing for the motherboard. The second, not yet available to order, is a motherboard-only variant for replacing failed original hardware.

Both variants are by-and-large identical in specification: A current-production WDC 6502-compatible processor running at 1MHz, 32kB of RAM, 2kB of video RAM, and a 28kB ROM with support for a custom BASIC, Commodore BASICs 1, 2, and 4, a built-in file browser, and a self diagnostic system and a piezoelectric buzzer. Where the two diverge is in video support: Both offer composite video, CGA, and MDA connectivity, but the motherboard-only version lacks the RGBi support for the stand-alone variant.

The Mini PET 40/80 is being sold as a do-it-yourself kit, and while its creator warns that "some experience is required" and the process is "not for the absolute beginner," the system uses exclusively through-hole technology (THT) parts.

Pre-orders have opened for the Mini PET 40/80 at £299.99 (around $424), with the Mini PET 40/80D motherboard-only variant to go on sale in the near future at £249.99 (around $353) — a hefty bump over the £205 ($290) starting price of the original design, though it does now include a spiral-bound user's manual and a bundled game.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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