The very first “production” PET to come off the line
The Personal Electronic Transactor (PET) featured here is Serial #001001, owned by Don Greenbaum, the former Treasurer of Commodore International. This was the first serial number issued by Commodore for a PET, but it’s neither the first PET, nor was it a true production model.
The very first PET computer was a prototype in a case that was made from wood. This is the one that was featured on the front cover of the October, 1977 issue of Popular Science magazine.
After the wooden prototype, Commodore produced two or three more prototype machines for the National Computer Conference (NCC) show in June, 1977 in Dallas, TX, USA.
The next batch of PETs that Commodore made was a pilot production run of 12 units. Don’s PET featured in this post would have been the first machine of this initial pilot run.
Don told the story of how this PET came into his possession during an interview I did with him
I’m in Bermuda. It’s my wife and my anniversary. It had been at least two years since I had taken a family vacation. Literally, we get to the hotel in Bermuda and there’s a message for me and it’s from New York and it’s from Jane saying “Tom Rattigan has called a meeting for Friday” and this was, I think, a Tuesday and I had just met with him the day before and there was no inkling of a meeting and he knew I was flying out. I said, “Look, I either come back for the meeting and lose a family or I stay here.” She called back again and said, “He said if you’re not here Friday you’re out of a job.” I came in Monday. I was in New York. I handed my resignation letter to Irving. He did absolutely nothing to talk me out of it. He knew he had thrown me under the bus. He knew Rattigan called a meeting knowing damn well I probably wouldn’t come back to and I basically resigned. Irving and I went over all reminisces and he said, “Go to the conference room and take my PET. That’s your going away present.”
Photos of PET #001001 taken by Don Greenbaum
What sets this PET apart?
Any time I want to dig in to the details about an early PET, the first person I ask is PET historian extraordinaire Chuck Hutchins. Chuck was nice enough to provide us with a lot of interesting information about Don’s PET:
The case badge rounded corners and yellow color are unique and not seen on any other PET. The dual folding type kickstands on both the left and right side are also unique. Photos of this PET with the rounded corners on the case badge can be seen in early literature like the 1977 annual report. The main PCB is not early. The green solder mask indicates a later production date and there are chip date codes as late as 45/78, so the PCB was replaced at some point. The bottom side of the monitor PCB visible in some photos is consistent with very early hand built monitors which used parts taken from Zenith televisions. Screws holding the case to the hinge are unusual and only seen on one other very early unit. It has all the indications of being one of the pilot production units made in August or September of ’77.
Chuck Hutchins maintains a spreadsheet where he tracks details of the early PETs. You can view information about Don’s PET and many others in Chuck’s spreadsheet here:
The PET is where I learnt the BASIC’s on programming and something that would effect my life forever. I used to enjoy developing games and programs. From the PET I moved to the VIC20, C64 then Amiga. Memory kept expanding and graphics was improving. But we always wanted more.
They gave us the fuel but creative minds just burnt it up.
But the fire burns on, sometimes just smoldering, waiting for the fire to reignite and blaze on.