Gifts from Bil Herd
Further to my post about returning Bil Herd’s Commodore 128D sample computer, Bil mentioned that he would send me something as a token of appreciation. I had let him know that I didn’t want anything in return and if it made him feel better, he could send me $1 to seal the deal. He still sent stuff anyway. There was no need but as a collector of historical computing items, I was secretly glad he did anyway 🙂
Bil ended up sending two boxes. When I sent his C128D, I also sent a Commodore 128DCR top case as I had asked if he would sign it for me. If he signed it and sent it back, I would have been thrilled. Well, the first box had a few items in it and as I recall, I was slightly confused by the fact that the box was too small to have my top lid in it. Bil let me know that another box was coming soon and it would have a keyboard in it along with the signed 128DCR top. Let’s see what’s in the first box.
The First Box
The first box contained a C128D Production Sample board. This was number 26 of 30 boards that had been in the sample 30 computers handed out to Commodore employees. I was very happy to see this because it was a brother to the board that was in Bil’s returned C128D. I haven’t figured out if I want to put this in a similar case (if I can find a C128D) or just keep it as is. It’s good enough just like that.
As I am a big fan of PET computers, Bil also included a PET 8032 “High Speed Graphik” board that allows the PET to produce bitmapped graphics in addition to the normal PETSCII characters one might see. One of the words, “Deder”, written on the 40 year old tape by one of the technicians, was in reference to “Dieter”, a German CBM engineer who had worked on a graphics board for the PET. As Bil describes, “Every time Dieter was around we would all shout Deder! when we first saw him”. Bil doesn’t recall if Dieter worked on this exact board but it’s pretty awesome all the same.
It’s a rather involved installation from what I can see in manuals that Mike Naberezny has posted along with more information on this board at http://mikenaberezny.com/hardware/pet-cbm/cbm-hsg-graphics-board/ but rest assured, it will be installed in an 8032.
The next item included in the first box was the “SAMPLE mouse”. It’s known as the “sample mouse” because of the large sticker on it. I took it apart and a it was determined that it’s a prototype Commodore 1350 mouse by Mitsumi that does not yet have the Commodore “tank mouse” design. Oddly enough, I do have a small collection of computer mice so this was great to see!
This particular item is a mystery. It’s a mystery to Bil as well but it’s a nice mystery. One can clearly see the purple ceramic MOS 8500. The 8500 is an HMOS version of the MOS 6510 CPU used in the Commodore 64 . According to Wikipedia, it was designed for the newer C64C computer but was found in some earlier NMOS-based C64s. Bil doesn’t recall where this board was used and it’s hard to speculate what it might be. It still has a nice CPU on it but one day I hope to find out what it might have been for. For now, it’s just known as the “MOS 8500 board”.
Last but not least from this box was a signed copy of Bil Herd’s book, Back into the Storm: A Design Engineer’s Story of Commodore Computers in the 1980s. I bought a copy the day it came out so I didn’t need another copy but this particular book had a personal inscription in it. Inside of the book was a personal photo of Bil Herd with Jack Tramiel. I think it’s fair to say that Jack Tramiel was an important part of Bil’s life and the inclusion of that photo make it all the more special.
The Second Box
Onto box two! It arrived a few days later and was a rather large box. I think the first thing I saw was a possum! Okay, not a possum but I was chatting with Bil the evening the box arrived and let him know I got the box and would open it the next day. He jokingly said there might be a possum in there. Luckily, there wasn’t. If there was, it would have been a dead possum 🙂
The first think I took out was my top cover. Bil had signed it for me and sent it back. It was a Commodore 128DCR cover and being honest, if he did that alone, it would have been good enough for me. He also included a C128D keyboard. I was very happy to see that as well because I didn’t send him my original C128D keyboard to sign because international shipping between Canada and the United States can get pricey so this was a very pleasant unexpected surprise.
Included in the box was a full-sized C64/128 RAM Expansion cartridge schematic. I need to scan this and properly archive it the next time I have my large format scanner out. I don’t have a picture because it’s very large.
Next is an item that Bil Herd fans might know something about. One of Bil’s stories is know as the “15 foot Joystick cable story” where Bil proved to his boss at the time that he had fixed a data line interference issue in the TED series of computers. Unbeknownst to his boss, Bil had wrapping an extra long joystick cable around the yolk of a monitor and happily played a game to prove the issue was solved. If you know that story, Bil believes that this is that joystick. Before he mentioned this, I was going to repair the joystick by replacing the cable but the instant I heard the connection, well, that will stay just as it is. This is joystick number “3”.
Last and certainly not least was this keyboard that Bil had mentioned. I had watched one of Bil’s live video streams where he showed it briefly. It has a cover for the actual keys of the keyboard so I didn’t get to see any more than a large mass being waived around. Well, it’s big, it’s beautiful and it’s a very rare Melodian keyboard made by Bontempi. It was reviewed in Ahoy Magazine – Issue 11, November 1984 on page 14. I’ve been collecting Commodore items for a number of years and have never come across one. I do happen to have a small collection of computer keyboards so this was very welcome.
Here is an ad from the next issue of Ahoy Magazine – Issue 12, December 1984 on page 41:
Now, I could have taken a picture but it’s a keyboard so it needs to be heard. What is special about this particular keyboard is that it was played by a Juilliard student during the Commodore presentation where the Commodore 128 was announced. This took place in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 1985. Here is the quick video I put together.
To close this post off, I’ve done it many times already but I want to thank Bil, once again. It is my honour to be able to act as caretaker for these items. It is much more than I was expecting. I was just happy Bil got his Commodore 128D back.