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Pre-orders open for the Mini PET 40/80, the closest thing to Commodore's classic around

Upgraded build-it-yourself kit now includes 80-character mode, improved video output options

Nostalgia-fuelled vintage computing specialists The Future Was 8bit and Tynemouth Software have opened pre-orders for a new computer kit based on Commodore's venerable PET, featuring everything you need to compute like it's the 1970s – just bring your own flares.

First released in 1977 as a follow-up to the considerably simpler KIM-1, and notably designed following a rejected offer from Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to turn the Apple II into a Commodore system, the Commodore PET (aka the Personal Electronic Transactor) was an all-in-one machine with integrated keyboard, tape deck and monitor, driven by the MOS Technology 6502 processor.

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Capable of displaying 25 lines of 40 or 80 character text, or monochrome character-based graphics, the PET launched at $795, the equivalent to around $3,503 today. Despite featuring a mere 4kB of memory – expandable to a whopping 96kB, if you had the cash – the PET proved popular and laid the groundwork for the later VIC-20 and record-breaking Commodore 64.

Working PETs are increasingly rare, which is where Tynemouth's Mini PET family comes in. First launched last year, the Mini PET is a fully-compatible reimagining of the PET's motherboard and keyboard, considerably shrunken and using more readily-sourced modern components. As well as fitting in a real PET housing to replace failed hardware, the boards can operate as stand-alone units without the need for any original hardware at all.

A year on, and Tynemouth's Dave Curran is back with a revised design: the Mini PET 40/80. The biggest change over the original design is right there in the name: while the first Mini PET was only capable of the 40x25 text-mode output, the upgraded design includes the ability to switch between 40x25 and 80x25, just like the real thing.

The new Mini PET 40/80 comes with 32kB of RAM – which would have been a lot back in 1977 – plus 2kB of dedicated video memory and a 28kB ROM supporting a customised BASIC, Commodore BASIC 1, 2, and 4, a file browser, a self-diagnostic system, composite and RGBi/CGA/MDA video outputs with a microcontroller-based CRT monitor controller, a piezoelectric buzzer and a bundled game selected from TFW8b's stock.

The announced stand-alone variant also includes a spiral-bound "collector's edition assembly manual" (with its creator warning that the solder-it-yourself kit is "not for the absolute beginner") and a custom mechanical keyboard designed to mimic the PET 2001's "chiclet" pad, but using Omron tactile key switches. It comes packaged in a neat transparent housing to show off the hardware inside.

TFW8b has opened pre-orders for the Mini PET 40/80 on its web store at an admittedly beyond-impulse-purchase price point of £299.99, with shipping expected to start in two weeks. A variant without keyboard and RGBi video output support, designed for replacing original PET motherboards, is listed at £249.99 but is not yet available to order. Both prices include VAT. ®

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