back to article Remembering the Coleco Adam

Technology product failures will always have a special spot in my heart. Perhaps it's comforting to know even when a team of seemingly talented and intelligent people put their heads together — it sometimes only results in a painful, coconut-like thud in the center of the huddle. This old box logo This week's box is a unique …


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  1. Anonymous Coward



    I've actually got one of these things (the full unit not the expansion one) sitting in my Parents loft with its printer (and spare font wheels) and a couple of games on the hi-speed tape.

    Its sitting next to my Memotech RS-128 with its "Muffin Oven" CP/M box.

    God I'm sad!

  2. NoCo37

    Coleco Gemini

    The Adam is not the only thing that lost them money. Remember the Coleco Gemini? I'm sure they paid allot of cash in their settlement.

  3. Rick Berry

    The Expansion Version Failed Too...

    I actually owned two of the expansion version (supply your own colecovision). The first I bought, and the second was a replacement for the first. I ended up returning the second one too for a refund. The tape drive had a terrible heat problem. It would get so hot that you could not touch it.

  4. Anonymous Coward


    "both Adams were massive disappointments to their creators"

    You've just stressed my mouth/coffee/monitor interface with that one :-) Fortunately I don't share that with the power cable.

  5. Frank Kuschnereit

    It was a good deal at the time.

    I recall I almost bought one. At that time, a PC was thousands of dollars and a Wang wordprocessor was something like $30,000.00. Even a selectric typewriter was way more expensive. I eventually bought an XT for $2,000 after the prices started to come down and used WordPerfect 4.2. Ah those were the days.

  6. Glenn

    Buck Rogers...

    I remember flipping that game 15-20 times in one sitting... Only thing i remember using Coleco Adam for.

  7. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    I have parts of one, somewhere

    I managed to come up with an Adam unit, sans printer, over a decade ago. After doing some research, I decided that it would be an abysmal waste of time and left it in storage. I do recall, though, that the tape drives in the thing were blazingly fast and pretty intelligent. That's cool.

    Paris, because she'd be an abysmal waste of my time.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    According to page 1, this beastie ran a Zilrog chip. Would that be Zilrog, cousin of the fiendish Balrog, or Zilrog, cousin of Zilog?

    What about a retrospective of the Jupiter Ace?

  9. Chris Girocco

    Talking '83 Dude

    In 1983 there were no extant "fundamental elements" such as "being able to see exactly what your text will look like until you print it out", especially with daisywheel printers.

  10. Steve Evans

    I see your RS-128

    And raise you the contents of my attic... (A quick look reveals...)

    2 x Einsteins

    1 x 4032 Commodore Pet

    1 x ZX81 (with after market real keyboard add-on)

    2 x BBC Micros, both with 80 track (200k wooo) 5.25" floppy drives.

    Annoyingly I can't see the Osborne 1. I know I had one once, and would have thought it would be too big/heavy to loose, but somehow I seem to have managed it.

  11. Alan
    Thumb Down

    Processor: Zilrog Z80A at 3.58 MHz?

    Zilrog Z80? You mean Zilog Z80, surely?

    I had one of these machines - for 24 hours, then back to the shop it went. Smoke, more smoke, BANG!

  12. Mike Powers

    Now THAT'S a design flaw!

    "Adam actually generated a destructive pulse of electromagnetic energy on startup, erasing the contents of its tapes left in, or even near the system."

    And people complain because Windows crashes sometimes? Cheez.

  13. Peter Bloodworth
    Thumb Up

    Dust collector

    I have the add-on unit sitting next to two, still working, Sinclair/Timex computers upstairs in my lavaboratory (an unused bathroom perfect for my electronics gear and naturally equipped for expressing my feelings when things don't work as planned). For the time and the money the Adam worked remarkably well, when it worked at all. The daisy wheel printer was excruciatingly slow but the results were better than most home and office PC's of the time. The only affordable printing alternative was poor print quality dot matrix.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    "Dust collector"

    Is your name really Peter Bloodworth? What a fantastic name. Have you thought of changing it to Bloodwrath? That would be so awesome.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Don't forget Buck Rogers!!

    I think it came with a Buck Rogers game on tape. Wheeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a gift of hate..

    yes i remember having one given to me in 85 as gift...

    damn i still hate my friend for that one to this day...

    (just wish i known better to even touch that thing)

  17. Joseph Zygnerski

    I remember the ColecoVision

    The first game system that I remember was our ColecoVision (still stuffed in a box in our basement somewhere). The best part was the expansion module that let you play Atari games. Coming out with the Adam really took down a good company.

  18. Kenneth Chan

    I still have one int the basement...

    "I guess the only lesson here is to just keep your crotch a good 50 yards away from a booting Coleco Adam"

    Loved it when I was a kid, But how I manage to have 3 kids of my own I don't know.... Lots of practice I guess. KC

  19. Jesse David Hollington

    Oh, the nostalgia...

    Wow, that brings back a lot of memories.

    The frightening thing is that I remember actually wanting one of these things, at least at first. It seemed like a cool step-up from my Atari 800 and TI 94A, not to mention my homebuilt CP/M machine, which was cool for playing around, but was a useless gaming machine.

  20. MacroRodent

    Oric, please (Re:" I see your RS-128")

    <attic inventory>

    But no Oric-1? I would like to see that reviewed here - it was a British computer after all. My first home computer, which I selected over Commodore-64 because it was a bit cheaper in Finland, and unlike the 64, had easy to use graphics and sound commands in its Basic: no POKEs needed. Well, I backed the wrong horse... Some points I recall about the Oric-1: calculator-style keyboard keys (but not too bad, as the keyboard size was reasonable), buggy Basic in the 1. revision (the one I got), and a strange graphics scheme, where the foreground/backgound colour of a row of pixels was determined by a some preceding attribute byte in the graphics memory, but said byte took up 6 pixels on the screen!? A truly strange idea, making it very difficult to create hires pictures with many colours. But some games looked good nevertheless.

  21. Trygve Henriksen


    I see your Adam, and raise you the West PC 800...

    (Made in Norway, so you've probably never heard about it)

    It was a CP/M - BBC-Basic machine with 2 CPUs(Z80 and 6502), built-in alarm-system and modem(Yes, really), was reputed to be able to take a 68000 daughterboard and run some sort of Unix, and it had a Wireless keyboard(!), all in 1984...

    Of course, the keyboard used IR, and to recharge the battery-pack, you plugged it into the West PC keyboard connector.

    Of course, the whole first series of keyboards had a faulty regulator which died the moment you plugged it in, releasing a puff of magic smoke.

    Also, the PSU was put together at a prison workshop, and the first 50 or so fit so badly that they had to hammer them into place. (The designer told me this himself)

  22. Andy Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    One upmanship

    Hmmm... playing the 'what's in your loft' game.

    Try: Enterprise Elan, CBM128, ZX80, ZX81, Einstein, Spectra (a few of them), QL

    It's a good job I've not got the space to get them out, I could waste a few days playing with the things. Part of me wants to write a new O/S for the Spectrum, just to see what modern techniques could squeeze out of the thing, but then I remember I'm trying to have a life.

    Paris, because I met a girl once.

  23. Ishkandar

    See what you type

    I still have my TRS-80 connected to my "recycled" B/W tv and an Epson RX-80 printer and I ran Electric Pencil on it !! Still works and still sounds like WW3 has started everytime the printer gets into action !! And it had a bit of judicious soldering that allowed it to use the full 64 KB (WOW !!) of memory !!

    The whole setup worked out to be cheaper than an IBM electric typewriter (the other alternative) and I could also play games on it !!

    And it, too, had a Zilog Z80B in its guts !!

  24. Lewis Wernham

    Re: One upmanship

    Best I can manage is an MGT Sam Coupé, still with all original packaging and manuals. Now that's a machine I'd like to see on This Old Box.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sam Coupe and DPS1101

    Came late to the Coupe, already had an A3000 but for such a simple machine it rocked.

    As for the Daisywheels, anyone remeber Commdore's DPS1101?

  26. Lukin Brewer

    BBC EMP?

    We had a BBC model B, upgraded from A, with a Torch Upgrade: Disk Pack, Z80 second processor board and CP/N ROM. Yes, it's up in the loft, along with the Archimedes 410 (our RISC PC is still in active service).

    We were always told never to leave a disk in a drive when we turned it on or off, as it might become corrupted. I never bothered to test the veracity of this claim. It might have been true - in the early 80s few manufacturers at the affordable/consumer end of the electronic market seemed able or willing to suppress their power supplies. The budget music centres all went "pop" when you turned them on or off. In a floppy drive, this could easily translate into a localised electromagnetic pulse around the read/write head, and possibly wipe a vital part of a mounted disk. Of course, this was not a problem on the (more expensive) IBM PCs.

  27. andy gibson
    Thumb Down

    yawn at the loft contents

    Big deal, so you all have a loft of retro computers. So do I but I don't feel the need to brag about it. Stick to talking about the Coleco or any *proper* retro computer that you don't see around everyday, not the run of the mill Beebs, Commodore 64s or Sinclairs that sold by the million and are in *everyone's* lofts.

  28. Dan Mongrain

    Ahhh the Commodore DPS1101

    I paid my university studies using my Commodore 128, PaperClip128 and a DPS1101. I used to type papers for a quarter a page. I would enter the paper in the computer, print out a draft using an Star dot matrix printer (I was not responsible for errors) and print the final version with the DPS1101. That thing was LOUD! I remember putting pillows on top of it to muffle the sound in my dorm room.

    When not typing papers, played lots of games with friends. Imagine the scene: 2 guys are turning their back to you, playing Epyx Summer Games's 100 meter dash, the joystick on their lap... Made for a lot of weird looks...

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Coleco interview

    I interviewed at Coleco in Sept 1983 at their facilities in Amsterdam, NY. I recall that the factory building where they planned on manufacturing Adam was actually empty; no manufacturing equipment what-so-ever! They expected to introduce Adam for Christmas that year. Needless to say I turned down the job offer.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    So perhaps this was the first...

    HERF device manufactured on an industrial scale. The one shot type that destroyed an entire enterprise!

    I wonder if Coleco relied on it to manage their operations... perhaps that's the lesson.

  31. JeffyPooh

    Loft contents champion...

    TO 10

    I've got a NAND gate and some delay lines.

    More seriously, there's a guy in the small town of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia with an impressive collection of pre-DOS computers (dozens and dozens of different examples). He'll ask you what you think is the very first home computer (My guess: Altair?), and then he'll show you his example of an even earlier one. I think he said he's got three of the five ever made (wharever it is).

  32. Mike

    Not a 5200 competitor.

    IIRC, the ColecoVision used the TI graphics chip. The one that got everybody calling motion-objects "sprites". As such, it was more an equivalent to the TI 99-4 and various Apple-][ add-ins. The 5200 was an Atari 800, more or less, in the same way that the original XBox was a PC.

    Coleco's Gemini was just a counterfeit Atari 2600, so even more primitive. (not to mention they fell for a couple traps in the chip when the cloned it, making the lawsuit almost a slam-dunk :-)

  33. Gilbert Wham


    "Part of me wants to write a new O/S for the Spectrum, just to see what modern techniques could squeeze out of the thing, but then I remember I'm trying to have a life."

    Life? Fuck that shit. Do it. Then publish your results.

  34. John F***ing Stepp

    Well then, let us get surreal on its assets.

    There is one sitting at a flea market about three miles from where I live; maybe I will make them happy this summer and buy the beast (cause lord knows, every one needs a pulse bomb.)

    I still have my Amiga 2000, a 200 meg hard drive and a box of memory chips; perhaps they can be friends, network, stone age supercomputer, boat anchor.

    Actually, I think I will use my Amiga for a fire wall and if it gets out of line I can threaten it with the Adam (if I acquire it; I do sober up on occasion.)

    The sucker does sound cool, I started out with a Texas Instruments 99/4a which programming wise was not. I wish I still had that (still have the games) but the back door was open one day and I gave it its freedom (along with a swift kick to the cpu) and after laying in the back yard for a while it went away.

    I still get email death threats from the above machine, but relax, it is more or less Skynet's very retarded brother.

    I hope.

  35. John Stag

    Bold text?

    "...lacked fundamental elements such as boldface print."

    How exactly is a daisywheel supposed to print bold text?

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Oric 1

    I remember a lad in my class was supposed to get one of these for Christmas in 1983. I think it eventually got delivered around April or May the following year. He was the only one in our school to own one.

    Still, at least he had more games for it than the other lad who managed to lumber himself with a Camputers Lynx.

  37. John Stag


    "Oric-1?... a strange graphics scheme, where the foreground/backgound colour of a row of pixels was determined by a some preceding attribute byte in the graphics memory, but said byte took up 6 pixels on the screen!?"

    Yep. Each byte of screen memory had six bits of graphics and two pixels of color information, making anything other than character graphics impossible to program (or at least, very very slow).

    I think it's the main reason the machine failed - games programmers refused to touch it and without games a machine was nothing in those days.

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