Archive for August 8th, 2011


Ok, so I posted up 12 new entries for my museum pages, and they instantly pushed my most recent posts off the bottom.

I didn’t want the museum stuff to be on the front page, so I tried some exclusion plugins, eventually setting for the Clix category excluder, as it did exactly what I wanted, and adds into the posting mechanism so that I can exclude as I post if needs be.

So all my museum posts are where they should be, and will be getting updated with more info soon.

To ensure my front page is showing all the posts I want it to, for now at least, I increased the number of blogs showing from 10 to 20, and once things are back to normal, since I shall be adding relatively few new pages to the museum, I should be able to drop it back down.

I shall be more careful in future!

Hopefully some new posts will get around it…

Dolch

Dolch L-PAC 486

The Dolch L-PAC 486 was part of a series of ‘Luggable’ computers produced by the company.

There is not a great deal that can be said about this machine, it was simply an IBM PC clone, that you could carry around.

This particular machine can be seen running Windows 3.11, though it may be possible that this machine is capable of running Windows 95, however I am unsure of the specifications at this point in time.

It contained 3 AT expansion slots, which for a portable machine of this vintage, is quite reasonable, unlike the price, which at release was an eye watering $13000!

Epson HX20

HX 20

Epson HX20

Announced initally in 1981, though not generally available until 1983, the HX20 is considered to be the first laptop/notebook/handheld computer.

Distinguised by its built in micro cassette drive and printer, the HX20 was at the time a marvel of computing, boasting a ‘proper’keyboard, and with multiple interfaces such as RS232, and the ability to add barcode scanners, acoustic couplers and early docking stations.

Sadly it suffered from a lack of software, and the small LCD display was somewhat impractical, however it did boast a battery life of 50 hours, which was, and remains even today, very impressive.

Spectrum

Sinclair Spectrum 128k +2

Known internally at Sinclair as the ZX82, the machine ultimately became known as the Spectrum to denote it’s colour display, over the monochrome display of its predecessor, the ZX81.

Launched in 1982, the machine was available in various different models up until 1992, and ultimately sold around 5 million units.

Over the lifetime of the machine, there were multiple upgrades to the hardware, such as memory bumps from 16k, to 48k and ultimately 128k, and the addition of proper sound chips, integrated tape and floppy drives and even MIDI connectivity for musical instruments.

All in all, there were about 9 different variants of the hugely popular Spectrum during it’s lifetime, with Amstrad taking over during the later part of it’s lifetime, the machine shown here being Amstrad built.

QL

Sinclair QL

Released in 1984. the QL (Quantum Leap), was one of a number of machines that at the time were using Motorola’s 68000 CPU, or in the case of the QL, the 68008. It was the first commercial machine to be released with a 68k CPU.

Unfortunately, the QL was rushed into prouction, and was beset by technical issues from the outset, such as the requirement for a ROM dongle on early machines, and unreliable microdrives.

Designed as a business machine, it was released with four software packages, Quill, Easel, Abacus and Archive, written by Psion and provided in the box with the QL.

It also came with QDOS built in, which was a premtive multitasking environment, plus SuperBasic.

Commercially however, it sold only 150,000 units, and was discontinued in 1986.

Despite it’s short lifespan, there were many expansions made available, including memory upgrades to take the machine up to its 896kb capacity from the basic 128kb as purchased, plus ROM toolkits, modems, centronics interfaces, FDDs and even mice with WIMP environments.

A good article about the QL can be found here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/01/12/archaeologic_sinclair_ql/

Casio

Casio FX702P

Not a great deal that can be said about this little machine, produced between 1981 and 1984, which was essentially a glorified pocket calculator with the ability to run BASIC programs.

Programs could be saved to cassette, and there was also a spark type printer available, not too dissimlar in operation from the Sinclair ZX printer.

Produced by Casio as an alternative to the Sharp PC-121x series, it marks a departure from the programmable calculator, to a proper pocket based computing device with a full programming language. It was at this point that Casio introduced program memory, in blocks P0-P9, which stuck thereafter, meaning that up to 10 BASIC programs could be stored internally.

The main drawbacks of this little machine are the non QWERTY keyboard, and the small display, though it had considerably more mathematical functions than the equivalent Sharp portables.

Oric Atmos

Atmos

Oric Atmos 48k

The Oric Atmos was a contemporary of the Sinclair Spectrum, and was the direct follow up to the Oric-1.

Released in 1983 by Tangerine Computer Systems, the Oric 1 sold reasonably well, though not as successful as the Spectrum, and this was enough to allow the development of the start of the development of the Atmos.

In late 1983, the company was bought out, and further funding for the atmos was forthcoming, however despite both Oric machines being superior from a hardware perspective to the Spectrum, sales were not enough and in 1985, the company went into receivership.

Bought by a French company called Eureka, they produced the Stratos and Telestrat, which never really sold outside of France, before going into receivership in 1987, from which they never recovered.

The machine lived on through various clones, with the Pravetz 8D, which was fully hardware and software compatible with the Oric Atmos, being in production untill 1991.

ICL OPD

ICL One Per Desk

The ICL One Per Desk (OPD) was released in 1984, and was the result of a collaborative project between ICL, Sinclair Research and BT.

Based on the Sinclair QL, the OPD was quite different and used a different firmware to the QL, and did without the 8049 peripheral controller of the QL.

The OPD however, had an integrated telephone handset with a system to build answerphone messages from a dictionary of words, which would be spoken to anyone calling the device when the phone went unanswered, though it could not record messages.

It also had built in modems, and productivity and terminal software in the form of ROM packs that could be plugged in, so from a hardware perspective, was very well specced for the time, even including a battery backed clock.

Although 3.5″ floppy disk drives were avalable later, initally the OPD was served by 2 microdrives, however these had been re-engineered by ICL to provide much better reliability than those in the QL.

Amstrad

Amstrad ALT 386SX

The Amstrad ALT-386SX from 1988 is a laptop computer based on the Intel 80386SX, based on a 16Mhz 386 SX CPU, so no maths coprocessor was present. It had a sibling, the ALT 286, which unsurpringly had a 286 processor, and the two PCs where visually mostly identical.

One stand out feature was the offset screen hinge, which as you can see from the picture, tends to lead over time to “screen lean”, though functionally there is no affect.

This machine is ‘portable’, though quite heavy, with the battery being a large chunk of the overall weight.

The machine is very robust, with a nice keyboard, but is mostly a boring PC clone!

Mac Classic

Mac Classic

The Macintosh Classic is a personal computer manufactured by Apple, originally introduced in October 1990.

It was the first time a Macintosh was sold for less than $1,000 in the US, and it’s introduction was largely based on the success of the Macintosh Plus and the Macintosh SE.

The system specifications of the Classic were very similar to its predecessors, with the same 9-inch monochrome CRT display, 512×342 pixel resolution, and the same 4 megabyte memory limit of the older Macs.

Apple chose not to update the Classic with improved technology such as a later model 68K CPU, more RAM or a color display, in order to ensure compatibility with the Mac’s large software base, as well as enabling it to fit the lower starting price. Nevertheless, it was up to 25 percent faster than the older Plus and did include Apple’s SuperDrive 3.5-inch FDD as standard.

It’s price, and large software base, did see it make significant inroads in education, however by 1992 it was largely phased out.

SNES

SNES

SNES

The SNES, or “Super Nintendo Entertainment System” was the follow up to the highly successful NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) which intorduced us to Mario.

Released first in 1990 in Japan, it soon found it’s way around the world, and despite strong competition from the Sega Megadrive/Genesis, it soon went on to become the best selling 16 bit console of the era.

Graphics and sound were very advanced, and the console allowed the addition of extra chips in the cartridges to further boos performance, starfox being an example of such.

Still popular today, the console still sees homebrew releases and is popular in the retro collectors market.

Also visible here is the Game Genie adaptor, which plugged in between the console and cartridges and allowed the use of cheat codes to advance you through games.

CBM 64C

CBM 64

Commodore 64

The Commodore 64 is an 8-bit home computer released in mid 1982, and the third system from Commodore International. The starting price was $595. The computer was named because of its 64 kb of RAM, which was superior to most mainstream personal computers at the time, aside from it’s main rival, the Atari 800XL.

Although not carrying the same sort of level of custom chips as the Atari, the C64 had the amazing SID chip for sound and music, which at the time was something of a revelation in terms of sound, and still has it’s place in synthesis of sound and music today. which is quite a legacy.

Throughout its 12 year lifespan, it sold a staggering 17 million units, and to this day remains one of the best-selling home computer models of all time.

From 1983-1985, the Commodore 64 took on and subsequently dominated former market leaders Apple and Intel. Its successor, the Commodore 128, was released in 1985 and was fully backwards compatible with most C64 software but was far less successful than the C64.

Around this time, 16 bit computers were beginning to appear in the marketplace, and as such the 8 bit machines usefulness began to tail off.

Atari 800XL

Atari 800XL

Atari first released the 2600 in 1977, with the mindset that it would have a lifespan of around 3 years.

By 1979, they had conceived and announced the replacement in the form of the 400, a lower end machine with 4KB RAM and a membrane keyboard, nicknamed ‘Candy’ internally that had a single ROM cartridge slot, and the higher end 800 with 8KB RAM, nicknamed ‘Colleen’ which had two cartridge slots.

By the time they were actually released in late 1979, the prices of RAM had dropped, and they both ended up being released with 8KB, and as memory became cheaper, the 800 found itself with 48KB.

Both of these machines were amongst the first to sport custom chips in the form of  ANTIC which generated the display, CTIA/GTIA which took the background generated by ANTIC and added colour and sprites and then sent the resulting display signals out to the TV/Monitor, and POKEY which handled sound and I/O.

Take a look at the later  Amiga and its array of custom chips and you might understand how Atari provided the inspiration, since the chips offloaded the main CPU and allowed for great flexibility and better performance than you might have expected for such a lowly CPU.

By 1982, the 1200XL had appeared, but was a flop commercially, as it offered little over the 800 it was intended to replace. It was discontinued and replaced by the 600XL and 800XL in late 1983.

There were a number of other XL machines planned, however these failed to see the light of day, and eventually the XL’s were replaced by the XE’s.

Commercially successful, the Atari 8Bit machines were built between 1979 and 1992.

For more details, including the peripherals that were available and more details on the history, including some of the machines that didn’t make it, visit the Wikipedia entry here: Atari 8Bit

The machine pictured here is my own 800XL, with Steven Tucker’s Warp 32 add on, that allows you to select from 32 different OSes during boot. The disk drive is a 1050, which was designed to match the XL series and has the Happy upgrade fitted, and the tape deck is an XC12, designed for the later XE series.

The two items to the left of the 800XL are the APE interface by Steven Tucker, that allows a PC running the APE software to emulate Atari peripherals such as disk drives, printers, tape decks and modems, and a cartridge based IDE interface that allows standard IDE drives to be coneected to your Atari.  They’re essential add ons for your Atari.

You can find these two items, plus a whole host of other interesting Atari stuff here at Atarimax.

I’ve now got some good photos of my retro kit, so will be adding in more pages into the museum. Please be patient, as it will take a little while to get the info that goes with them in place.

Hope you find it interesting.