Restoring Commodore’s Unloved Plus/4

The Commodore Plus/4 was not loved by the marketplace after its launch in 1984. Despite its namesake feature of having productivity programs built in, its lack of compatibility with Commodore 64 software and oddball status meant that it struggled to find acceptance. However, like so many retro computers, it maintains a following to this day. [Drygol] had collected a total of eight neglected units, and set to giving them a full workover.

First on the docket is cleaning, and [Drygol] makes short work of disassembling the computers and removing decades of dirt and dust. Keycaps are treated with Retrobright to restore their original color. The black styling of the case means it gets a simple wash down instead, and then a rub with thin oil to restore the plastic’s original sheen.

[Drygol] steps through various popular hacks for the platform too, from 6510 CPU replacements for the often-failing 7501 and 8501, to SD2IEC card interfaces to replace the much-maligned storage original storage options. Damaged keyboard studs are replaced with hacked-up Amiga parts, while LEDs that are long out of production are swapped out for cut-down modern parts.

The impressive thing is just how much community support there is for an also-ran Commodore that never truly caught the public’s eye. Efforts are ongoing, too, with projects like THED aiming to reproduce some of the custom chips used on the platform.

We’ve featured posts on the engineering that goes into Commodore’s 8-bit computers as well, like this excellent piece from [Bil Herd] on the story of the Commodore 128. Of course, if you’re working your own wonders with retro hardware, you know who to call.

8 thoughts on “Restoring Commodore’s Unloved Plus/4

  1. To me, the biggest fault was only having only 4 ROM sockets for user programs. If the design supported 8 or more ROMs people could buy games, telecommunications, languages and other software programs that were instantly available to use. No slow tape drives, no expensive disk drives, just select a program and it was available.

    There was a lack of space for 16 ROMs but 8 to 12 should have been possible.

    1. That’s why cartridges were invented

      Some people might want 16 ROM sockets, but not many. But everyone would have to pay for them. So you out in very common programs, and used cartridges for the rest.

      Cartridges are also much easier for the consumer, they don’t have to install an IC (and bend tge leads in the process) , or pay someone to install.

  2. I knew someone who bought one of these and it didn’t work after six months and that scares people because its a lot of money for kids growing up.. It is a nice idea to have the convenience of built in programs but its also unnecessary to do that because you aren’t letting the public choose their software they want to run other programs which is what disk drives were for. There were programs just as good for free from Compute and Compute’s Gazette and one of the programs was Speedscript for the Commodore 64 so there was really no reason to pay for the programs on the Plus 4 except for convenience. We’ve had salesmen keep phone numbers and information in devices at work and they were warned the machines would break and the salesmen come back with,”you were exactly right” and they learned the lesson of having a backup which is not always what the Plus 4 had because you need a tape or a disk drive which again defeats the purpose of having your programs in ROM and your data stuck on a device. If the device breaks, you don’t have your backup and if the purpose of having everything in the device was for convenience, you lose when the device breaks. When you are a salesmen and don’t have your contacts, it creates a bit of a problem.

    I feel the same way about my cell phone. Programmers just make these things and never use them or else things would be a lot different.

    I had a C-128 that stopped working after buying it and my relative told me about their co-worker who bought two machines and they blew right out of the box after being plugged in.

    Being the cheapest and winning the war on price sells a lot of units but it doesn’t build a company when there is no profit for quality or having sustainability for Commodore being here today.

    If you are going to price gouge as a company, don’t expect me to buy because there are primitive ways to do the same things without a computer and we actually have a card file to work from at work when the computers go down. It happened once and it took customer service forever to do some orders but they were able to do orders with just an index card file.

    1. I watched one of Bil’s talks where he said the C64 was designed to last long enough to get under your Christmas tree :)

      I owned 5 of them myself. Most were replaced under warranty. At least my 128 lasted until a lightning strike.

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