Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Commodore PET 40 year anniversary theme for E2B

The Commodore PET was first announced, and later released, in 1977 (40 years ago).

It was a complete All-In-One computer with built-in keyboard, monitor and storage media and was months ahead of the Apple II or TRS80 (Trash80!). In essence, it was an early Macintosh and was one of the first computers suitable for business use, rather than hobbyists.

On a side note, the PET never really took off in France for some reason (apparently 'pet' is slang for another word!). Later, Commodore released the VIC, which did not sell too well in Germany either, as it sounded like you were asking for a 'fick' which is German for something quite different!

At the time, my family ran a small 12th-Century hotel in Oxford, now made famous by my late friend Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse book 'The Secret of Annexe 3' (which was where he reviewed examination papers with his colleagues, ate, drank and sometimes stayed overnight). Colin even gave me a few first edition signed copies of various Inspector Morse books over the years, which I guess must be worth a few pennies now!

I had been interested in computers for many years, I had built and programmed my own, but I really wanted a new PET...

Now, payroll software for the PET was non-existent at that time, but in early 1978 I persuaded my father to buy me a new PET, on the promise that I would write a complete staff wages program for the hotel. I explained that this would save him hours of pouring over his H.M. Gov tax tables and Kalamazoo wages sheets every week!


I eventually got the PET and (after playing one or two games!), I spent many hours writing, testing and perfecting the payroll program for him (written in Basic).

When I had finished it, I showed him how he could just select the staff member's name from a list, put in the number of hours they worked and instantly see their wages for the week so that he could make up the staff pay packets. It also displayed the National Insurance deductions (his and theirs) and cumulative Gross, Net and Tax figures. He could add or delete staff names. It also had to account for different hourly rates for different types of work. The program and the results were loaded from, and saved to, the built-in audio cassette recorder (which took about 10 minutes!).

The problem was, he didn't trust it because the final figures were always different from the figures that he obtained when he used the tax tables manually. It turned out that the tax tables were always rounded down, whereas the PET calculations were always accurate to the nearest penny. He didn't like that!

So I had to revise the program to use the same rounding formula that the tax tables used (after I had worked out what they actually were!).

After about a month of running both systems in parallel, my father eventually trusted the payroll results and used it for many years (and even bought a printer).

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the PET, there is now a Commodore_PET_THEME.zip file available from the Themes folder on the E2B Alternate Downloads sites (copy the two files to \_ISO).

The Commodore PET theme - Install Windows 10 to the Commodore PET (not really!)

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