Although the PET is most likely the more well-known of Commodore’s early computer systems, the KIM-1 (Keyboard Input Monitor) single board computer was launched a year prior, in 1976. It featured not only the same MOS 6502 MPU as later Commodore systems, but also an MCS6530 PIO IC that contained the ROM, RAM and programmable I/O, reminiscent of later I/O chips on Commodore systems. As the KIM-1 was only designed to be used with an external tape drive (and a terminal for fancy users), adding a floppy drive like the ubiquitous 1541 with its IEC bus interface was not a first-party accessory. How the IEC bus can be retrofitted to a KIM-1 system is demonstrated in this video by the Commodore History channel.
What is most notable is just how similar the KIM-1 hardware is to later PET and VIC hardware, with the CIA and PIO ICs featuring the same requisite pins for this purpose, and requiring only the addition of an inverting (SN7406) IC and an EPROM featuring the new code to support the proprietary Commodore IEC bus protocol, which was mostly pilfered byte-for-byte from a C64 kernal ROM.
With some creative breadboarding in place and using nothing more than the on-board LED display and keyboard matrix, it was then possible to write to the inserted floppy disk, and also to read back from it. What’s interesting here is that this essentially replaces the tape drive as target for the KIM-1, which thus retains a lot of the original functionality, but with a big performance boost. While perhaps only interesting as an academic exercise, it’s definitely an interesting look at the early beginnings of what would blossom into the Commodore 64.
Thanks to [Stephen Walters] for the tip.