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C > COMMODORE  > LCD     


Commodore
LCD

The following information comes from Death Adder :

One of the rarest Commodore machines ever. Only very few units have been built with case, a few (more) without. As opposed to the widely held opinion, this computer is NOT called 'C64 laptop'.

Commodore developed this 3 pounds laptop in 1984 and presented it to the public at the Consumer Eletronics Show in January 1985 (Winter CES). In contradiction to what you might think when you first hear of a Commodore laptop, this machine has nearly nothing to do with the Commodore 64 or the Commodore 128 - alas.

The factory population was 32k of static CMOS RAM, internally expandable to 64k using standard memory chips. It was externally expandable with another 64k of RAM.

Its display was one of the best on the market available at that time, made by Commodore's own optoelectronics division, which was sold off shortly after the C=LCD was cancelled. The resolution in graphics mode was 480x128, and 80x16 in text mode. Although only 16 lines could be displayed simultaneously, the virtual screen size was 25 lines.

Like the Commodore 264 series (Plus/4, C16, C116), the Commodore LCD had built-in software, but as opposed to the unfaithful 264 series, the software was by far better. The 96k of CMOS ROM contained the following software, some of which was incomplete in the prototype shown on the Winter CES:

- wordprocessor and spreadsheet - both could be worked on using a split-screen display, with the spreadsheet supporting scrolling even in this split-screen format. The spreadsheet engineer stated that it will be faster at moving a thousand cells than Lotus 1-2-3 on an IBM PC.
- Address manager and planner
- Pocket calculator
- Filemanager
- Memo pad
- Monitor
- Terminal program
- BASIC 3.6

The main menu offered a few utilities for copying from the internal RAM disk to an external drive, or for downloading over the built-in modem (which was also supported by the BASIC 3.6 by an OPEN statement) or the RS232 port. Both memo pad and calculator (which had also hex and binary mode) could be invoked with a single keystroke at any time without interfering with the running program.

The BASIC 3.6 is - with the exception of a few commands which are useless for the CLCD, like COLOR - almost downward compatible with BASIC 7.0. It also supports high resolution graphic commands, just like the Plus/4.

The terminal program is of use, indeed, since the CLCD has a built in 300bps auto answer/auto-dial modem. Additionally, the C=LCD has a separate RS232C port, so there is no need to attach a userport-to-RS232C adapter for a 'real' serial port. Commodore also decided to integrate a standard centronics port; rather unusual (at least for that time) is the HP compatible barcode port.

Lacking a builtin floppy drive, the LCD came with a serial IEC port, which was compatible with all Commodore serial peripherals. Above that, Commodore showed prototypes of an external 3.5" serial floppy drive, the 1561, which was also battery-powered.

A prototypical battery-powered thermal transfer printer with an excellent NLQ image was produced, but didn't make it to the market, either.

Although this laptop didn't have an external video output, Jeff Porter stated that his team was thinking about a cartridge for the C=LCD which provided 80 column display for an external video display, using the C128's video chip.

Here is an article by Benn Dunnington, from Commodore Info magazine issue #6 (1985) about a CES coverage:

"[snip]...Now I pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming (where's Herbie when you need him?): there before our eyes is a working model of a Commodore lap computer with a remarkably readable 80 column X 16 line liquid crystal display! I run ouer to a guy demonstrating one of these units to ask a few questions. He turns out to be Jeffrey Porter, one of the co-designers of the LCD (as it is called). We are surprised at how young and intelligent he looks (we have met 'project' types from Commodore before who would not necessarily fit this description). While we take turns vigorously shaking his hand, Jeff explains that he is a former C-64 'hacker' like us, and was recruited by Comnodore to design "the machine you'd want for yourself". What a concept!

We stop to read our product sheets,[stop here and read your LCD press sheets] I take_ a close-up photo of the keyboard noticing that it is different from the one shown in the standard press photos in our kit. Jeff explains that the press kit photos are of early mock-ups, and that the close-fitting keys of the unit on display would be used in actual production. We agree that they have a nice feel, and look better than the earlier version.

We are slightly disappointed to learn that the LCD is not C-64 software-compatible, but are impressed with the extensive built-in software which looks much more professional than the PLUS/4 built-ins. I knouw a lot of people that will be delighted with the built in MODEM and the on-board terminal software which can emulate both the DEC VT52 & VT100 terminals. I mentally go over some of the other pluses: 5hrs. operation on 4 penlight batteries, only 5lbs. total weight, fits in my briefcase, compatible with all C-64 peripherals, expected price- under $500) I ask Jeff about some items not covered by the press materials; Is the 32K RAM expandable? Jeff thinks it will be, but doesn't say by how much; does the use of the 6502-compatible 65C102 processor mean that the LCD will be able to use Bill Plensch's fabled 65816 Superchip" from Western Design Center [see 'News & Views', iss. #5] ? a smile flickers over Jeff's lips, and his eyes go slightly out of focus as he replies simply, "We're talking about it."

We also want to know more about the 3.5" micro-floppy we see hooked up to the LCD. Al we can find out is that it is a "Sony-compatible" drive that hooks up to the serial port of any of the Conmodore computers (the peculiar thing is that, while other 3.5" drives typically store 1/2 to 1 full megabyte, we are told that this unit will only store a measly 170K- just like the 1541 ! "Why" was not explained)."


____________

Bil Herd, ex Commodore Engineer, reports :
The LCD project had orders for over 15,000 units in place before it was cancelled. Apparently the Commodore executive who was responsible for this product (Marshall Smith) was convinced during a conversation with a Tandy (Radio Shack) executive that there was no future in LCD notebook computers. Tandy, of course, went on to sell huge numbers of the model 100,102 and 200 LCD notebook computers!

We need more info about this computer ! If you designed, used, or have more info about this system, please send us pictures or anything you might find useful.
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If someone owns the laptop let me know. Laptop needed for the museum of computer technology. leskovezATmail.ru

          
Tuesday 18th February 2014
Yuriy (Russia)

I would like to know if anyone can help me. I am bidding on a LCD display, that was originally in the Commodore LCD laptop.
Is there a schematic available of the LCD, so I can use it for modding on my computer?

Thanks,

Bob

          
Wednesday 23rd April 2003
Bob Heinen (Netherlands)
No Homepage

 

NAME  LCD
MANUFACTURER  Commodore
TYPE  Home Computer
ORIGIN  U.S.A.
YEAR  January 1985
BUILT IN LANGUAGE  Basic 3.6 + various built-in software
KEYBOARD  Full stroke keyboard
CPU  Rockwell 65C102
SPEED  2 mHz
RAM  32 KB (expandable to 128 KB)
ROM  96 KB
TEXT MODES  80 x 16 (25 virtual lines)
GRAPHIC MODES  480 x 128
COLOrsc  LCD
SOUND  Unknown
SIZE / WEIGHT  3 pounds
I/O PORTS  User Port, Centronics, Barcode, Serial IEC Port
OS  Rom Based
POWER SUPPLY  Unknown
PRICE  The price was estimated to be $600


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