SuperPET (was: Re: John Backus passes away...)

Joachim Thiemann joachim.thiemann at
Thu Mar 22 09:23:16 CDT 2007

On 21/03/07, Dave Dunfield <dave06a at> wrote:
> > I know there was a FORTRAN compiler for the SuperPET, but having not
> > used it, I have to ask what the available target CPUs were - 6809,
> > 6502, or both?

> > PETs were popular in some lab settings, so I would think that if
> > FORTRAN would have been available for it, there would have been a
> > niche market.  Perhaps that's why the SuperPET had FORTRAN as an
> > option.

My SuperPET once served as a controller for Lab equipment in the
Physics dept. at McGill, but I'm fairly certain it was in the 6502
mode (likely BASIC, even).  Basic acquisition using the IEEE-488 port,
actual processing was probably done on bigger irons.

> The Waterloo software (including all the compiled languages) runs pretty
> much independant of the 6502, using the original PET hardware just for I/O.
> (In fact, the MicroWAT, a small stand-alone 6809 computer ram the Waterloo
> languages without a 6502/PET board at all). There are no options to compile
> code for the 6502.

IIRC, (and I do intend to check soon - cleaning and powering up my
SP9000 is a task for this spring :-) the languages are not actually
compiled - it's interpreted.

> It is very slow to use - but I suppose that wasn't a major problem for the
> learning environment it was intended for - Most of the programs compiled
> would be small, and it sure beat having to relocate to a mainframe shop.
> I have two working SuperPETs, and I love them - not only do they have my
> favorite 8-bit processor (6809), but also APL which I was fanatical about
> when I first started "discovered computers" playing with the university
> mainframe. Very cool machines!

Yes, it's the APL which really makes the machines special. We don't
need no stinkin' bit-mapped display! We have custom character sets!

(I think I still have the sheet with the sticky APL keycaps - though
they are actually in the front of the key - invaluable unless you can
touch type funky greek characters!)

BTW Dave, I also have a second copy of WordPro (or whatever it's
called?) with full manual, if you're interested. With ROM, even... I
guess some grad students even used it to write their theses!  No I
don't know why two copies came with one PET, I guess a second PET
burnt out at some point.


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