[ Retro Scan of the Week ] SWTPC 6800

August 10th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

STWPC 6800 Motorola 6800 computer advertisement - 1977When taking apart your PC was required

I recently inherited a SWTPC 6800 and a fair number of accessories and peripheral cards from a late friend of my father's. The 6800 was one of the first personal computers, released in 1975, which makes my unit the oldest computer in my collection. The SWTPC 6800 takes its name from its CPU, the Motorola 6800, which was one of the earliest microprocessors, and it refreshingly utilizes a non-S-100 bus. In fact, it created its own minor bus standard called SS-50 that manufacturers like Smoke Signal Broadcasting incorporated into compatible machines.

The 6800 is really neat machine — I cleaned up all the boards, but I can't get it to boot so far. I'll have to give it a shot again at a later date.

[ From BYTE Magazine, March 1977, inside front cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you own any computer released prior to 1977? Tell us about it.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Vector Graphic Vector 1

July 27th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

Vector Graphic Inc. Vector 1 computer system advertisement - 1977NOW AVAILABLE IN RUST

The Vector 1 (1977) was the first complete computer system sold by Vector Graphic, Inc., a California-based firm founded by Lore Harp (now McGovern), Carole Ely, and Bob Harp in August 1976.

The Vector 1 included an Intel 8080A or Zilog Z80 CPU, and it utilized the S-100 bus introduced by the Altair 8800. In an unusual nod to aesthetics, the Vector 1 shipped in two case color options: green or "rust," which was Vector's name for orange. It retailed for for $849 fully assembled (about $3,288 today when adjusted for inflation) or $619 as a kit.

It just so happens that I wrote an article about the history of Vector Graphic for FastCompany recently. You may enjoy it.

[ From Byte Magazine, February 1977, p.61]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever owned an S-100 based computer? Tell us about it.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Altos Computer Systems

December 31st, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Altos Computer Systems ACS8000-6 and Sun-Series ad - 1979"The first business computer system that will not instantly crush your secretary."

Happy New Year from Vintage Computing and Gaming!

[ From BYTE, November 1979, p.21 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Quick! Name your favorite computer, calculator, or console with a Z80 CPU.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] A 1985 Solid State Drive

November 5th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

SemiDisk Solid State Disk SSD Disk Drive Emulator Ad - 1985This IS your daddy's SSD.

Back in January, I traced the evolution of the Solid State Drive from its 1978 origins to the present in a PC World slideshow. From that experience, I learned that SSDs, as a product class, were far older than most people realize.

Case in point: Seen here is an advertisement for a 1985-era SSD called the SemiDisk. The company behind this early SSD, SemiDisk Systems, sold a wide range of "disk emulators" (as they were called back then) for platforms like S-100 bus systems, the TRS-80 Model 2, and the IBM PC. All of them used solid-state RAM chips to achieve read and write speeds far beyond those of rotating platter drives at the time.

The 2 megabyte SemiDisk for the IBM PC retailed for $1,795 in 1985. That's about $3,860 today when adjusted for inflation. Amusingly, at that vintage price rate — about $1,930 per megabyte — a 256 GB SemiDisk SSD would cost over $494 million today. Yep, that's a 494 followed by six zeroes.

Of course, you can buy a 256GB flash-based SSD right now for under $180. Not bad.

[ From BYTE, September 1985, p.329 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you buy your first solid state PC drive? How big was it?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Canon AS-100

July 23rd, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Canon AS-100 Microcomputer Ad - 1983The good, the bad, and the obscure.

There's a vast wilderness of little-known business micros that have long been overshadowed by the IBM PC and its brethren in the history books. Seen here is one such machine, the Canon AS-100, which sported an Intel 8088 CPU but was not an IBM PC clone (in other words, it could run MS-DOS, but was not hardware compatible with the PC).

Machines like this one tend to get overlooked historically because they were very expensive (this machine retailed for $3495 in 1983, or about $8,052 today) and they deviated from the emerging business standard of the IBM PC compatible. With those two elements combined, they sold relatively poorly — and, being business-oriented, they also never became notable gaming platforms (enthusiasm for retrogaming brings a lot of attention to certain classic PCs that otherwise might have been forgotten).

Speaking of gaming platforms, the color capabilities of this machine look amazing for 1983. I wonder if anyone ever did write a game for it that took advantage of those high-end graphical specs.

[ From Personal Computing, November 1983, p.36 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the most obscure computer model you've ever used? Something that you think no one has ever heard of.

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