Commodore 128 / 128D was capable of displaying 80 columns through RGBi, therefore it could compete with other business machines of the time, but was this the case? Was this line of machines ever used in the business environment? If so, what software would I find near the unit in an office?

  • 2
    What is business environment to you and what counts as 'mass scale'.
    – Raffzahn
    Sep 18, 2020 at 22:05
  • When you visit a random office in late 80s and you may see them on desks just like IBMs Sep 18, 2020 at 22:08
  • Also, where? The world differs a lot, still today, and even more 35 years ago.
    – Raffzahn
    Sep 18, 2020 at 22:24
  • 3
    "Business", no. Student work, yes! The C128 fixed what was wrong with the C64 for text intensive applications like word processing, telecommunications, and programming. It made a great student computer especially when upgrading from a C64 while keeping your software and peripherals.
    – Brian H
    Sep 21, 2020 at 13:44

2 Answers 2


Commodore 128 / 128D was capable of outupting 80 columns through RGBi, therefore it could compete with other business machines of the time, but was this the case?

Not really. The C128 was introduced in 1985 - a new business machine of that time was x86 based, most likely using a 286 of 6-10 MHz, 512 or more KiB of RAM and a 20 MiB HD. Nothing an 8 bit machine could compete with - except maybe special purpose systems (word processors) or the rather unique Amstrad PCW of the same year.

Was this line of machines ever used in business environment?

Yes, but only in small numbers and rather offbeat applications...

...except for schools that is. Schools are business/professional use and quite a lot did use C64/128 in class rooms. But I guess that's a unique case you did not think about.

If so, what software would I find near the unit in an office?

Keep in mind, even the most basic PC-XT offers a better environment to handle multiple application and even more to handle an adequate amount of data. THe later being the most important. Even (at the time) outdated S100 systems would offer more and faster storage. Investment in an office computer is about performing tasks more efficient, not eating up time with tiny disk drives, complicated handling and slow operation.

So bottom line, there are only two reasons to have a C-128 as office computer:

  • No possibility to aquirre a more capable system (like maybe in eastern Europe?)
  • A very specific application only available for the C128 (or C64)

At least in Western Europe only the later would stand as reason to buy a sub standard computer: to have it run THE application needed for the job. So if you can name the specific case, you got one example (*1).

And yes, much can be done with dedication. Hobbyists have shown amazing usages for C64/128. But these are dedicated people enjoying to spend time with the machine, not office clerks doing their job.

Business is about over all cost, not just buying a device. So empoloyee time (aka payment) to operate counts as much - and it adds up month by month, soon dwarfing even several 1000 dollar additional investment in Hardware. And any business not earning enough to switch to an, at least somewhat, state of the art computer to optimize its daily jobs, isn't a viable business.

*1 - For a small exhibition in Vilshofen, doing something like you may have in mind, the use case will be a solution for forest management. That package wsa only available for C64 (C128 in C64 mode) at the time ... later it got ported to PC and marketed until today.

  • Would the difference in cost be a factor, especially for small business use? I don't have any figures, but in 1985 I would guess for a fully-equipped business-ready computer (monitor, software, drives + media, printer) an IBM PC would cost 3x compared to a C128. (A PC >= US$1000, and a C128 less? This difference could be magnified in Europe.)
    – knol
    Sep 18, 2020 at 22:31
  • By only focusing on the main unit maybe, but screen has to be of similar quality to display 80 chars, commodore drives were never cheap (but small) and the printer had to be again of similar quality (no 803). So while a dual drive XT with 256 KiB and screen was ~1500 US in mid 1985, the C128 might have been 700 - but with less disk capacity and so on. Now take these 800 USD saving and compare it to the additional time spend to operate the smaller machine - time to be payed every month of usage after ... not a good investment. And no, competition for PC clones was tougher in Europe than the US.
    – Raffzahn
    Sep 18, 2020 at 22:44
  • In 1985 a new business machine had a 20 MiB hard drive? Not typically, we had whole labs full of computers where the only computer with a hard drive was the server, all other PCs were dual floppy units.
    – Glen Yates
    Sep 24, 2020 at 17:35
  • @GlenYates Well, sounds like a rather specific setup, doesn't it? Most definite not a typical office stand alone solution.
    – Raffzahn
    Sep 24, 2020 at 19:00

Commodore released the CBM 8032 in 1980 with an 80 column screen aimed at business users so they would already be using that (or successor models) and accompanying business software well before 1985. There would have been no particular reason for Commodore business users to swap to a C128 and non-Commodore users would be eyeing up an IBM PC or AT by then.

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