back to article Twelve... classic 1980s 8-bit micros

Reg Hardware Retro Week Logo Those were the days, my friend. And, indeed, we thought they'd never end, as we hopped, skipped and blooped our way through Jet Set Willy's mansion, traded between distant worlds in Elite and yet still found time to hack up our own arcade clones in any of a dozen variations of the Basic …


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  1. Tom yng Nghymru

    Mattel Aquarius

    Nobody ever seems to mention the Mattel Aquarius in these reviews.

    Up to 20K RAM (4K standard), Microsoft Basic, even a colour printer was available.

    Had bright blue, Spectrum style 'dead flesh' keyboard and Spectrum style one key press to enter the Basic keywords. My Dad bought one from Tesco and was the first computer I ever tried programming on.

    1. Peter Gordon

      Re: Mattel Aquarius

      perhaps the reason that it isn't mentioned much is because even the mattel engineers didn't think it was any good, internally joking that it was "the system for the seventies!" (it launched in 1983).

    2. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Re: Mattel Aquarius

      I think your dad was one of the very few people who bought one. Which is why nobody mentions it.

      Nobody remembers it.

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: Mattel Aquarius

        Well, I remember it! I also remember seeing one in Debenhams. I don't think it was ever turned on though.

      2. stucs201

        Re: Mattel Aquarius

        I do remember that one. I have memories of being left to play quite a decent version of space invaders one in a supermarket (asda?) while my parents did the food shopping.

    3. Emo
      Thumb Up

      Re: Mattel Aquarius

      Well I had one, it was the first computer I learned to program on.

      Don't forget the plug in joypads, double cartridge expansion - for RAM and games!

      Mowerman was my fave as was the spy shooter I cannot recall.

      I feel you pain also :(

  2. Peter Gordon


    an excuse to link to the oric emulator I wrote from scratch (originally as something to do on my train journey to work :)

    1. MacroRodent
      Thumb Up

      Re: woohoo!

      That's interesting. I recently found my real Oric-1 had given up the ghost, when I tried to power it up after many years. Can your emulator read in programs from cassettes, for example after they have been sampled into WAV files?

      1. Peter Gordon

        Re: woohoo!

        yep :)

        1. horse of a different colour

          Re: woohoo!

          That's v. impressive.

          1. sabroni Silver badge

            Re: @me!

            Doh! I'll shut up then.....

    2. Stanislaw

      Re: woohoo!

      10 PAPER 3: INK 1

      20 PRINT CHR$(12);CHR$(10);CHR$(4);

      30 FOR I = 1 TO 9

      40 PRINT CHR$(27);"N THANK YOU!"

      50 NEXT I

      60 PRINT CHR$(4);

      70 END

      1. sabroni Silver badge


        You picked the only machine in the list that didn't use basic to make that comment on! Now rewrite that in FORTH!

        1. Soruk

          @sabroni, Re: #@Stanislaw

          Nope, that was the Jupiter Ace that used FORTH.

          (Of course, FORTH was available for the BBC/Master too.)

        2. Stanislaw

          @ Sabroni (Re: #@Stanislaw)

          Ahem. I am a former Oric-1 owner. It may be thirty years ago but I do remember programming it in BASIC, not Forth. You're thinking of the Jupiter Ace.

          1. Terry Barnes

            Re: @ Sabroni (#@Stanislaw)

            Early Orics came with Forth on tape in the box, so I guess you could use either.

      2. Manu T


        @ Stanislaw

        You forgot:

        35 ZAP


    3. Audrey S. Thackeray

      Re: woohoo!

      "an excuse to link to the oric emulator I wrote from scratch"

      Does it faithfully reproduce the hugely irritating click noise I seem to remember the machine producing with each keypress?

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: Does it...

        "Does it faithfully reproduce the hugely irritating click noise I seem to remember the machine producing with each keypress?"

        Yes! Aaaaargh!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          Re: Does it...

          Have the "Ping Shoot Zap Explode" sound commands????

      2. Terry Barnes

        Re: woohoo!

        There's a control code to turn off the key click - from memory it's Ctrl P or Ctrl G - though the latter may just make it go PING for no good reason.

  3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    These are not often mentioned, but they had quite a following. It was a neat machine, with Z80A and 128kB of memory expandable to 4MB, two asics controlling memory, sound and graphics. The memory worked at twice the clock frequency of the CPU, so the controller and CPU did not interfere (one had the even clock ticks, the other the ODD. Nice machine to play around with. Decent Basic, and word processor on board, very expandable. Linked it up to my Dad's daisy-wheel typewriter (what a racket that was

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      I had an Enterprise 128

      that was my optional title which was somehow removed (did I offend? ;-) )

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: I had an Enterprise 128

        So you were the one! But seriously, the Elan/Flan Enterprises were vaporware for so long that most people gave up and bought something else instead. By the time it came out, there wasn't much to separate it from the competition, and in any case the home computer market was starting to dry up by then.

        I recall lusting after the Lynx and the Memotech MTX512 (as featured in "Weird Science", trivia fans).

        Acorn Atoms were still being used to drive experiments in the first-year physics labs at the University of Kent into the early 90s - I wonder if they're still there?

        1. Audrey S. Thackeray

          Re: I had an Enterprise 128

          "Acorn Atoms were still being used to drive experiments in the first-year physics labs at the University of Kent into the early 90s"

          BBC Bs were still in use in the Oxford computing labs as late as 1994 (when I was buying my Viglen 486 PC).

          Admittedly it mostly seemed they were used to play the second processor version of Elite.

          1. Cazzo Enorme

            Re: I had an Enterprise 128

            I guess the BBC Bs were replaced with the NextStations that were still in the Oxford Computing Labs a couple of years ago. I found this out when I managed to blag some spare parts for my Next slab from one of the staff members.

          2. Terry Barnes

            Re: I had an Enterprise 128

            I was using a BBC Master in an un-named ex-utility in 1997 burning EPROMs for alarm monitoring kit. Alarm monitoring kit that on receipt of an alarm condition would dial up and report it to - a network of BBC Masters.

        2. Cihatari

          Hat's off to the Enterprise, I had one too!

          Actually I had an Enterprise 64, purchased from the very hands of Gary Bracey, whom many of you recognise from elsewhere, but back then, he ran a computer shop called Blue Chip Computers in Liverpool!

          It was a nice little machine crippled by a lack of decent software, with a few far between decent games such as Sorcery and the immortal 3D Star Strike. This motivated me to start to do 'stuff' with it. I fondly recall playing with a more interesting than usual soundchip on there,

          In spite of the main company going bust, the remaining stock of Enterprises were sold off to Hungary and it had quite a decent afterlife and still supports an active user community out there.

          Try for a lot more info and nice things.

          The original machine has long gone away but I have managed to get a replacement from EBay, (one of the more reasonably priced Hungarian models, not the massively "L@@k Rare!!" overpriced EBay collectors sales over here.) I've even managed to score a scart lead and joystick adaptor, and the emulator loads tape images in real time to the original hardware, once I'd tweaked the latency settings properly. So yeah, I'm pleased.

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: I had an Enterprise 128

        No, you didn't offend - just momentarily confuse! : D

      3. Steve Todd

        Re: I had an Enterprise 128

        Nice hardware, dreadful software. Who in their right mind thought that double precision FP only on an 8 bit CPU was a good idea? Worse still it was buggy. I crashed one with a simple DIM statement (I used to use a Sieve of Eratosthenes as a performance benchmark, 8 byte variables meant it didn't have space for the array, so helpfully it crashed).

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I had an Enterprise 128

        I always thought that the Enterprise looked like a really interesting machine, though I never managed to get to see one in the 'flesh'.

        Are there any good emulators for it?

  4. robin48gx

    Atari 800 series ???

    You missed out the one made by the makers or arcade games.

    They knew how to make gaming hardware.

    A sound chip that could do drum beats, and could be configured to high accuracy for pitch.

    A graphics chip with a sophisticated display list (so you could scroll play fields using pointers), and superimpose 4 sprites (players) as vertical columns and missiles, represented in contiguous memory.

    The players and missiles had h/w registers to indicate collissions between objects on the playfield and sprites and missiles.

    That meant no programming of coordinates to detect collisions was required.

    That meant the 1.79MHz 6502 could do more.

    Play fort apocalypse on an atari and it was an experience. Play it on a commodore 64 and it was laggy.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: Atari 800 series ???

      They should really have clarified this as "British" micros, or at least those which sold in volume in the UK. I'd have loved an Atari 800, but they cost a fortune (especially in the UK).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Atari 800 series ???

        I *really* wanted an Atari 800 - after realising that I could never afford an Apple II - but weren't they something like £399 in early 1980s money. Then along came Commodore with the C64 which I think my mum and dad picked up for £220 in Rumbelows complete with the cassette drive.

        Naturally it was for 'education'.

    2. Mad Hacker
      Thumb Up

      Re: Atari 800 series ???

      Yeah the Atari 800 and later the XL series were my fans back then. Never could get past the 400's membrane keyboard.

      I didn't realize they weren't as popular in the UK as the US. I guess the C64 outsold them but in my programming circle in the US the Atari 800 was very popular.

      1. Richard 84

        Re: Atari 800 series ???

        Yep, Atari all the way.

        So many fond memories of my 800, 800XL and later ST.

  5. tanj666

    That was pure nostalgia for me

    I had already experienced some computer programming by the time the ZX81 was launched - in COBOL of all things. But for 18th birthday I was given a ZX81. I loved it. It too me about two weeks to exhaust the BASIC programming capabilities of the 1K machine. And I never looked back.

    Over the years I had an Atom, an Oric Atmos, a Lynx, a Dragon32, a Z88, an Amiga, I even had a couple of the MSX machines for a while.

    But the ZX81 was always my first love.

    Like most schoolboys, I won't be revisiting this old love though, my finger ends couldn't take the pain of the keyboard now (he says using an android tablet).

    1. NightFox

      Re: That was pure nostalgia for me

      Yes, left me with a tear in my eye. Am I the only one sad enough to remember the serial numbers of my VIC 20 (#1274) and my Commodore 64 (#1918, early model with the VIC 20 "square key" keyboard, died so replaced with #6776 with the standard "rounded" keys)

      Ahhh, those were the days...

  6. AndrewInIreland


    No TI99/4a

    1. NightFox

      Re: Sob...

      The big thing I remember about the TI99/4a was the overnight price cut from £999 to £99 when it suddenly realised it had newer, cheaper and better competition. Imagine how you would have laughed if you'd just bought one from Tandy the day before the price cut!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Sob...

        Wasn't that price cut something to do with it requiring the included NTSC TV for the display and they finally discover that was the reason for lack of sales so they stuck in a PAL modulator? Or is that just an urban myth?

    2. AndrewInIreland

      Re: Sob...

      Just realised- the TI99/4a was a 16 bit micro so wasn't eligible for this list.

  7. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Every 5 years or so...

    ... I dig up a 1983 Hamley's catalogue, with various machines in it, from amongst my collection of junk. I can't remember which micros are in in it, besides the Spectrum, but it does feature consoles by Coleco, Atari and Parker.

    1. moonface

      Re: Every 5 years or so...

      As a kid I used to go play in the Hamley's basement quite a bit. The first computer I remember, ever being displayed was the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A. I think they cost around £500 at the time which was LOADS of MONEY.

  8. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    NIce to see Tangerine mentioned...

    Though they've now gone the way of the Great Auk, I hold a soft spot for them...

  9. Jim 48

    I remember them all. When it came for me to buy a computer for helping my computer studies at school, I had the choice of a BBC-B, a few on this list, a Tatung Einstein (IIRC BBC compatible) and I went for a ... Sharp MZ-700, a machine with hardly any games, character graphics and you had to load the OS from tape every-time you wanted to use it. Mine had the built in tape drive & plotter. But it was £2 cheaper than the BBC-B \:-|

    1. captain veg Silver badge

      Tatung Einstein

      Not BBC compatible except in as much as you could get BBC Basic for it. The hardware was much more like the MSX machines, but the software was unique. Being fitted with at least one floppy drive as standard, it had a proper operating system -- supposedly CP/M compatible -- rather than relying on the BASIC command interpreter in ROM. Which is just as well, as there wasn't one: BASIC was loaded from floppy. Instead the ROM contained a "machine monitor" which was a command-line system debugger.

      Failed to set the market alight, probably 'cos it was too expensive, but towards the end Dixons were punting them out very cheap, especially for something with a real keyboard and a floppy drive, so that's why I got one. Fantastic machine for hacking, using the machine monitor and a book of Z80 op-codes. I used it to patch in a REPEAT/UNTIL construct that was missing from the supplied BASIC interpreter.

      Happy days.


      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. squilookle

    I had the Amstrad CPC464 with the green monitor. My mum and dad must have got that software bundle mentioned in the advert too, because I did get a shedload of tapes including all those games. :)

    A few of the tapes didn't work, including Roland on the Ropes, but it was a nice introduction to both computing in general and gaming.

    1. Cosmo

      I had exactly the same. I almost shed a tear reading this article as it brought back so many memories!

      Amsoft, Roland on the Ropes, Roland takes a running jump, Pyjamarama, Tombstowne, Oh Mummy, Harrier Attack etc. etc.

      Read Errors A and B, turning the keyboard / cassette deck upside down when loading for better reliability....

      Build me a time machine and let me go back!

      1. RyokuMas

        Oh yeah...

        I cut my coding teeth on the 464, and it was one of the most wonderful experiences of my childhood. No buzzwords, no three-letter acronyms, no frameworks, just you and the machine, with Locomotive BASIC to help us talk to each other... simple, fun games that relied on gameplay to keep you coming back, not hours of content and looking/sounding like a movie - kept me going until I graduated to the AtariST in 1990.

        Like Jeff Minter said - the men in suits took the fun out of it all.

        Those were the days? Oh yes, I'll drink to that!

        1. Thomas 4

          Re: Oh yeah...

          Yay for other Amstrad users! ^_^

          CPC6128 user myself, with a COLOUR screen. Those were the days, when a game was £9.99 for a new release (or if you wanted to save yourself a multiloading headache, £14.99 for the disk version). The budget ranges like Hit Squad and the ever cheap and cheerful Codemasters releases with Fantasy World Dizzy, Magicland Dizzy and Dizzy in the Shamelessly Shoehorned Into What Would Otherwise Be A Crappy Puzzle Game Adventure.

          The joys of Read Error B and its more evil cousin Read Error A. These no good punk kids don't appreciate what makes a good game these days....

          1. RyokuMas

            Re: Oh yeah...

            I used to buy most of my games from a little record store (sadly long defunct and sorely missed) called "Strawberry Fields". Firebird/Silverbird, Code Masters, Mastertronic, Aligata and a whole slew of other labels, £1.99 a pop (or £2.99 for the more expensive ones). Good times.

            And now the tunes from Dizzy (Code Masters) and Biospheres (Firebird) are competing for my headspace...

        2. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

          @RyokuMas Re: Oh yeah...

          Yep.. Me to. Went from a CPC 464 (Christmas '84) to an Atari ST (Summer '88).

          I learned to program in BASIC on the 464, but never made the leap to assembler until the ST. I think it was that the assembler for the CPC was on a cartridge, and thus more expensive than my limited budget could afford.

          (And now I've got the music from Thing On A Spring in my head. ARRGGH!)

    2. Z80

      In keeping with being taken back to my childhood, I'd just like to say I had the colour screen for my CPC464 so nur-nur-nur-nurrr.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Leona A
      Thumb Up

      Yes I had the same CPC464 with the Green Screen, which if you looked at it for too long and looked away, everything was in purple! I'm sure that wasn't good for my eyes.

      I remember feeling disappointed at the time because they had BBC's at school and that was what I wanted, but still managed to code a few games and a text editor on it.

      Now if I remember correctly, I had a right problem trying to get a printer to connect to it, because it had a 7bit centronics printer port, which was annoying because you couldn't get a compatible cable, you had to get a daughter board to convert it to be compatible with printers! I right nightmare.

      Oh now I think of it, when I went to work in an office on Work Experience, they had a CPC6128 running Mini Office (remember that?) and that was the early 90's!

      My friend had the CPC664 which came with the 3in disk drive and colour screen.

      Now who remembers copying tapes using a double tape desk, (no never did that of course, not me!).

      I wonder how many kids today would wait 25 minutes for a game to load, tape drives there the ultimate definition of patients!

      Oh those were the days......

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        CPC printer cables etc.

        I managed to find a CPC-specific Centronics printer cable for my 6128 (colour!) back in the day. Still got the machine in the attic - my daughters have been asking me to show it to them, so I might dig it out before its 30th birthday (along with the Amiga 600, Mac IIsi and IBM PS/2 N33SX laptop also in said attic).

        I'd like to see if any of the disc contents are still readable, though I suspect I'll need to replace the rubber band in the disc drive mechanism. SuperCalc under CP/M FTW!

        1. Rob Beard
          Thumb Up

          Re: CPC printer cables etc.

          I wish my daughters were so enthusiastic, I got an old Speccy running the other day which I bought a couple of years ago off eBay, sadly the keyboard doesn't work otherwise I'd have fired up some of the classics (Jet Set Willy, Jetpack etc). At least my middle daughter seems interested in a Raspberry Pi so I'm hoping she'll do more than just play "Rainbow Dressup" games on the internet.

          I remember getting a centronics cable for my CPC 464 (later putting it on the CPC 664) and also reading an article about how to build a cable to attach a 3.5" floppy drive to the CPC, sadly not on the CPC464 :-(


          1. Anonymous Coward
            Thumb Up

            Re: CPC printer cables etc.

            You can still get replacement keyboard matrices. Some people have had new production runs done.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      CPC6128 for me

      with colour screen. Couldn't be doing with all that tape malarky. I got all the gadgets too like lightpen, mouse, and the CD ROM reader thingy that (I think) Codemasters produced.

      I modded it a lot too with switches to for hard reset, enabled/disable the ROM banks and I even got a 5MB hard disk running on it.

      Finally, I tried to get a Z80H (8MHz!) to work in it but fried something and it never worked again :-(

    5. Rob Beard
      Thumb Up

      Ahh great memories

      I also had a CPC464 with green screen monitor. Previous to that I'd had an Atari 65XE which failed, followed by another which failed, then a ZX Spectrum +3 for a week which also failed, so within a year we'd upgraded to the CPC (I think it was an ex-demo model).

      I remember having so much fun with the good old CPC playing some of the great Codemasters budget games (Fruit Machine possibly being my favourite, never did get into Dizzy) or some of the Mastertronic stuff (Way of the Exploding Fist - okay I know Melbourne House, but I had the budget Ricochet version).

      Eventually I started tinkering about with programming in Basic (I remember the manual being pretty good) and doing more serious things on it such as playing with Mini Office II printing to a Brother thermal printer, later a Star LC10 printer), a music program called EMU, a graphics package (can't remember the name of it) and a Datel Lightpen (with the aid of a MP-1 modulator).

      Later on I upgraded to a CPC664 which was amazing (still with a green screen monitor though unless I used a combination of the modulator and monitor to power the disk drive - my dad didn't upgrade the modulator) and I spent many hours playing around with Logo (so when we started doing Logo in Maths lessons at secondary school I was way ahead of the others in the class drawing pretty pictures while the rest of the kids were struggling to draw lines and boxes).

      I'll always fondly remember my CPC, and being jealous of a friend who had a CPC6128, I had some great fun with it before I eventually upgraded to an Atari ST.


  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Errors in the Jupiter Ace section....

    "That appealed to an emerging group of programming nerds, but for the bigger gang of schoolkids keen to hack micros, it was a language they spoke."


    "Even the Spectrum, which the two hard just completed."


    Very nice look back at such a great time - there was so much happening back then it was a priviledge to have lived through it.

    1. Leona A

      Re: errata

      Indeed, there are so many errors in 'The Register' articles these days, I wonder if they should invest in a Proof Reader.

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: errata

        Apparently the much missed and long gone Moderatrix, Ms Bee, used to do a lot of the proof reading. El Reg obviously need someone new to whip them into (grammatical) shape!

    2. Mad Hacker

      Re: errata

      There's actually a "Send corrections" link at the bottom of every article now. It appeared a few weeks ago I think. I have used it a bit.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...Acorn Series 1 - which had been designed by Sophie Wilson"

    No, I think you'll find the System 1 was designed by Roger Wilson. The fact that Roger Wilson is now Sophie Wilson doesn't change the fact that Sophie Wilson was Roger Wilson in 1979.

    1. A J Stiles

      Re: "...Acorn Series 1 - which had been designed by Sophie Wilson"

      Well, now we're getting deep into trans* semantics.

      There are several points you could consider to be the moment at which a person assigned male at birth becomes female. Obvious ones are: Completion of surgery; Beginning of surgery; Beginning of RLE; Hormone treatment kicking in; Beginning of hormone treatment; First time was addressed as "miss"; First time presenting as chosen gender; First time realised was transsexual; First time asked the question "Why can't I do X?". And almost anything in between.

      Irrespective of whichever moment an individual trans* person chooses as definitive, and how they choose to handle events either side of it -- by treating their boy-self and their girl-self as two completely separate people, by retroactively claiming that things done by their boy-self were actually done by their girl-self, or whatever -- it's *their* choice, and not respecting it makes you sound passive-aggressive and antagonistic.

      Also, because everyone is different, everyone's experience is different. Which means that what is right for one person may not be right for another.

    2. ThomH

      Re: "...Acorn Series 1 - which had been designed by Sophie Wilson"

      Supposong you're complaining primarily about tense, would you accept 'was designed by Sophie Wilson'? Citing people by their current names is quite normal, e.g. 'Elton John was born in 1947'.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Dragon 32

    Ah the 6809E, what a dream to program for (proper 16bit index registers) compared to the 6502 and you could software over-clock it too but you would lose video sync in certain graphics modes.

    Reg ed, can we have a tears of nostalgia image just for this feature ?

    1. stucs201

      Re: Dragon 32

      Not all of them overclocked sucessfully. I remeber games with instructions to delete the relevent poke command if you didn't have one of the overspecced 6809s that could handle the extra speed.

      I also recall reading that the poke stood a chance of damaging the SAM chip, since it wasn't really intended to be poked.

    2. NightFox

      Re: Dragon 32

      And no truth in the rumour that the Dragon 32 came with a Welsh keyboard with two 'L' keys

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Lessons to be learned

    We had a ZX81 and using it was such a trauma that it nearly put me off computers for life. I guess it was less the membrane keyboard itself and more the multiple keys for various characters. Still, the price appealed to many wishing to get their offspring interested in computing and generated enough cash for the much improved Spectrum: enough memory to do something without having to drop into assembler and a usable keyboard; colour was the icing on the cake.

    Unfortunately, we never upgraded. Indeed, while all around us were playing fun games in colour, one bright spark at school even wrote a game for the Spectrum, we didn't get a colour system until the end of the decade and then only CGA. Sigh, just to goes to show how important some degree of "shiny shiny" and immediate gratification is for getting kids interesting in programming.

  15. Steve Todd

    Oric 1 - some inaccuracies

    The Oric had some annoying bugs. For example you had to turn keyboard scanning off for printing or risk corrupted output. These were fixed in its successor, the Oric Atmos (not the Stratos), which also had a proper keyboard. An enterprising young oik with a cassette tape and an EPROM programmer could, for example, wander in to a branch of Dixons, save an Atmos ROM to tape, burn new EPROMs from this tape image and upgrade a 1 to Atmos software spec.

    1. DJV Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Oric 1 - some inaccuracies

      Yeah, I upgraded my old ROM Basic 1 PET to Basic 4 using the same method!

    2. Simon Harris

      Re: Oric 1 - some inaccuracies

      Ahh... now you tell me!

      Could never work out why my printer dropped characters when it was plugged into the Oric, but worked fine with my Atom.

  16. hugo tyson

    The Atom was more a system 3

    albeit with totally different video. But a system 1 had no video and no qwerty keyboard at all.

    Best machine ever made, the Atom.

    1. Peter Gordon

      Re: The Atom was more a system 3

      I'm not sure the "best machine ever made" would have socketed chips hanging upside down on the motherboard, working their way loose with every key press :)

      1. Simon Harris

        Re: The Atom was more a system 3

        I think the only chip that only really worked loose in my Atom was the 6847 video controller.

        The standard Atom produced a monochrome output, but the second version of the colour-encoder card required pulling the 6847, plugging the colour-encoder into its socket on a 40pin header, and plugging the 6847 into the colour-encoder card. The whole rather heavy assembly then hung upside-down from the motherboard held only by the 40 pin DIP socket.

        The header had quite chunky pins that buggered the socket a bit, so when you said 'sod this - I'm going back to black and white' after watching the colour encoder fall out numerous times, the main board socket never held the 6847 as tightly again!

        1. A J Stiles

          Re: The Atom was more a system 3

          Oh, yes. Same thing used to happen with Beebs and sideways RAM boards. When you decide that E00DFS has fallen over and corrupted one disk too many for your liking and hoik out the sideways RAM board, this usually happens:

          BBC Computer

          Acorn DFS


          And you end up having to stick BASIC in the adjacent socket, because the one it came from can no longer make sound contact with a normal IC pin.

  17. Dazed and Confused

    What about...

    OK, not a home machine, but the HP85. Designed and built by their calculator division, so had native BCD support in the 8bit CPU and all implemented in 6V logic (5V is a difficult concept to someone who thinks in terms of batteries).

    Lovely implementation of BASIC, which lots of expansion capabilities via plugin ROMs. Ours had matrix support, printer/plotter ROM, and...

    32K of memory and 32K of main ROM plus 6 plugin ROMs at 8K each.

    Did they ever actually ship a New Brain? I thought it died before reaching production.

    I really fancied the box running Forth, much more fun to tinker with. The Linux of the 80s.

    I got a copy of Forth for the Excidy Sorcerer from one of the lectures at my 6th form college and a rich mate parents had bought him the Sorcerer. I remember writing Space Invaders on it, complete with generating the characters by re programming the character generator. Do think I'd have managed it in BASIC.

    Why no PET though?

  18. Vic

    Yes, I'm a packrat

    I still own four of the machines in this article.



    Jupiter Ace


    The Dragon taught me a lesson about how poorly-tested commercial products could be. Whilst USR0 worked, it was clear that no-one had ever tried writing code that used USR1..9, because they all executed USR0 instead[1] :-(


    [1] You could get them to work - but you had to call them "USR01" to "USR09". Buggy interpreter...

  19. Audrey S. Thackeray

    Harsh on the ZX80

    Which was indeed a pretty awful computer to use but looked better than the ZX81 IMO* - bright and clean and properly futuristic.

    *MO being influenced greatly by nostalgia for my stolen ZX80, of course.

  20. noroimusha


    and where is the Commodore plus/4 ????

    it seems I need to dig it out from the garage and have a bit of retro gaming:

    1. Marty

      Re: ???

      ahhh, the good old +4..

      in a way it was sort of vapourware... its original design specs were chopped down and features removed because the commodore marketing department didn’t want it to interfere with the lucrative c64 sales...

      i picked one up from dixons for £40 as a clearance item about 4 months after it originally went on sale... with no marketing or advertising, i don’t think anyone knew it existed !!

  21. Anonymous Coward


    Discontinued in 1990 but a revamped model was launched at the same time as well as a revamped 6128.

    Named the 464 Plus and 6128 Plus both machines sold relatively well for 8 bits in a 16 bit era, but both were somewhat overshadowed by the abject failure of the GX4000 console.

    The Plus range had some great hardware features. 4096 colours, hardware sprites and DMA sounds which meant it could run games like the spiffy Prehistorik 2:

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Sam Coupe

    Shame there is no Sam Coupe included. The last gasp of the 8 bit micro. Might have been a success if MGT hadn't spent most of the time shooting themselves in the foot with both barrels.

    By the time the machine was properly working everyone had lost interest. Shame really as I was following the whole saga on the pages of the weekly New Computer Express. They had loads of good coverage until it went so horribly wrong.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: Sam Coupe

      I remember seeing stacks of these for sale at a computer fair in London in 1991, and thinking at the time what a waste of effort it seemed in the (then) 16-bit era. There were stacks of Z88s as well, I was sorely tempted...

      Speaking of computer fairs, when did the PCW fairs end? I even rang the offices back in about 1989 to find out when & where the next one would be, and they had no idea what I was talking about.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sam Coupe

        The thing about the Sam was that the price was good and the capabilites were also good for the price. It could have found itself a niche as a low cost home computer. The compatibility with Spectrum 48k software opened it up to a large user base who were keen up upgrade.

        But the launch was so badly cocked up that it flopped. Delay after delay, bugs, no Spectrum compatibility at launch. It was all rather "Sinclair" with the first 8,000 customers having to have replacement ROM's shipped to them.

        Then it was found that any Speccy games that used certain types of speed loaders would also fail so they had to produce a dongle to overcome that.

        Late, horribly bugged and surrounded by poor publicity it was no surprise that after initial promising sales the entire thing became a joke.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sam Coupe

          Wasn't so bad if you had a Spectrum with the PlusD interface and upgraded to SAM.... snap your game on the Spectrum and just load and run on SAM fairly easily :)

          Quite a few 128K only games where gotten to work thanks to some clever coders.

        2. ThomH

          Re: Sam Coupe

          As a Sam owner and someone who has written software for it (no, nothing notable; my best effort) I think its problems were more about the spec than the launch.

          There's no hardware scrolling and if you wanted to scroll the high quality display in its entirety it'd take four frames. So most of the then-current style of action and platform games are straight out unless you want to render them in the Spectrum graphics mode or the Timex-style Spectrum graphics mode but with separate attributes for each 8x1 block. Cue a slew of puzzle games.

          With respect to the expected sales point re: the Spectrum, the paging scheme is entirely different from the 128k Spectrum so there's no way to run 128k games at all. That's in addition to the timing differences that make many Spectrum games fail to load (the Spectrum tape interface being essentially a 1-bit ADC that the CPU polls in carefully timed loops); and they declined to licence or otherwise replicate the Sinclair ROM so you're not getting even the Spectrum compatibility it can do out of the box.

          Within a year of launch, prices were something like £200 for the Sam, £300 for the Atari ST. So at that point you're not even looking at good value for money, especially once software catalogues are factored in.

          MGT were hobbled from the start by development budgets, I think. If you compare and contrast to the Atari Lynx of the same year, that had a quarter of the RAM but a faster CPU, a scaling blitter, a dedicated fixed point maths unit and a built-in LCD screen, for only about £130 — and that was before console manufacturers were in the habit of subsidising the hardware with future software sales.

          Subjectively speaking though? I loved the little thing, and used it through to at least 1995. Both it and another I bought are likely still where I left them when I eventually went to university.

      2. Conrad Longmore
        Thumb Up

        Re: Sam Coupe

        You can still get a Z88 from I've been tempted because they really are excellent devices for writing stuff on.

        As for the PCW show.. I think these ended around 1990 give or take a couple of years. Of course, PCW is gone to magazine heaven now along with BYTE which I still miss.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sam Coupe

      Although it's still supported even today - with interesting hardware still available...

      Check out amongst others.

  23. iGoto

    I love this article

    Brought back great memories. I'm glad you mentioned the Oric, my first computer.

  24. Richard 116


    I'd love to join in this misty eyed nostalgia as I do enjoy these articles but back in the early '80s I wasn't considered to be good enough at maths to get near computers at school. An introduction to computing based on which maths set you were in now seems incredibly short sighted. As a result I successfully avoided computers for about 20 years believing them to be the devil's work. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Well I probably am on this site...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      Could be the case again.

      Currently everyone does ICT, which is like learning to drive a car.

      Perhaps a subset of that class could be taken on to perform Computer Science, on those new Raspberry Pis.

    2. ThomH

      Re: Bah!

      I'm probably describing the experience of quite a lot of people on this site when I say that things worked the other way around for me: having access to computers from a young age is probably what put me into the top set for maths at school.

  25. Cab

    Left out again.

    My poor Acorn Electron, not even the traditional after thought remark in the BBC roundup. Well damn you and your mode 7 we didn't need it anyway (much), and one channel of sound is enough for anyone, stereo is just showing off <sob!>. Penguin for Percy Penguin.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Left out again.

      I feel your pain. I had an Electron too.


      1. Fuzz

        Re: Left out again.

        I played a football game on the Electron based around the 1990 world cup. There was no real gameplay you just picked a team and the game played out without interaction. The first level was qualifying, if you got past that you had then had to save your game to tape so the electron could load level 2 which was the actual competition. Then you would load your saved game from your tape. I never saw level 2.

        1. moonface

          Re: Left out again.

          Another football game I remember was Brian Clough's Football Fortunes. It was obviously too big and complicated to program all the features. So they supplied a cardboard games board and tokens and split it up into a Boardgame\Computer hybrid. It was great!

          The big advantage of the Acorn Electrons over the Spectrums and Commodore 64's was that when part of the game cassette failed to load. You could rewind it a little and it could recover and continue to load from where the error occurred. On Spectrums and Commodores you had to go back to the beginning. Bit of a bugger when it could fail at the 15 minute mark.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MSX always seems to get a by in these kinds of articles. Early punt by Microsoft at selling the platform and not the hardware.

  27. GreggS

    If only...

    Commodore had launched the C65

    1. Peter Gordon

      Re: If only...

      They would have gone out of business faster?

      I'm not sure there was a market for it by then, the Amiga 500 was selling by the bucketload.

      If they'd spent the combined budgets of C65 development, PC clone building, and Mehdi Ali's private jet fund on Amiga R&D to keep up with the competition, they might have had more of a chance...

  28. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


    No honorable mention for this classic?

    Proper keyboard, built like a tank, powered by a Z80 chip, 64K of memory you could use unlike many competitors, and with enough expansion ports to keep any BBC hacker happy for at least 5 minutes

    Shame it was priced/marketed by idiots

    Still got mine, sitting in the bottom drawer of my desk at home, and it still works.

    If only I could find its manual though.....

    1. AndyKey

      Re: MTX512

      I have a spare manual. has my email, an emulator, and a reimplementation of the hardware.

      {{{ Andy

  29. M E H

    Tape errors

    I had a Dragon 32 and there was quite a bit of software for it all trying to get the best out of its weird graphics display with only a few colours in each high res mode.

    What nobody seems to mention is the "fun" of adjusting your tape player's volume and tone controls to get a damm game to load. I resorted to writing on the cassette boxes - Vol high, tone low or vol medium, tone medium.

    One of the attractions of the Amstrads was that the built in tape deck took away all the hassle.

    Even into the mid 90s my doctors' surgery had a network of Dragon 64s.

    1. stucs201

      Re: Tape errors

      A tone control? Luxury! I kept a small precision screwdriver with my tapes in order to adjust the head position screw which was located down a small hole. As I recall things the screachier and more painful to listen to the more likely it was to load.

    2. William Towle

      Re: Tape errors

      > One of the attractions of the Amstrads was that the built in tape deck took away all the hassle.

      Allegedly. I remember a cousin having no end of trouble with the one in his Spectrum +2A, and ended up running wires outside the case to attach one externally.

      Me? I had one of "Uncle Clive"'s original 128s and a WHSmith data recorder, complete with VU meter for instant feedback on whether the volume needed adjustment ;)

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tape errors

      If we're mentioning tone controls, I remember when the external tape deck I had for loading budget games on mu CPC 6128 broke.

      Being a kid and having no money, I had to resort to desperate measures. I had a typical 1980's twin tape ghetto blaster with 5 band graphic equaliser. It's a tape deck right? It has a headphone socket? Lets go!

      Can you imagine how hard it was to tweak that bugger to get it to get the CPC to load from it? Managed it eventually though!

  30. simon_brooke

    How sad am I? I own all those...

    ...except the Spectrum and the two Commodores. But on the other hand I have both a BBC model A and a model B, and also a 6502 second processor; a QL, a Z88, and some earlier Sinclair calculators; bits of LEO Mk2, bits of LEO Mk3, assorted Archimedes, R140 and R260s, a Tadpole RS/6000....

  31. 1Rafayal

    I weep at the lack of Acorn Electron love in this article.

  32. Tony Pomfret

    Game programmer for life (nearly)

    The memories come flooding back!

  33. MarcusB


    TI99/4A's best game. I remember the blisters from the horribly-slippy, 2-in-one-connector, foam pad-sprung joystick...

    That and trying to re-write it in Extended Basic using a load of sprites to get the scrolling planet surface. Which failed, of course.

    Great machine. £199 from Fine Fare. And £30 for the cassette cable.

    1. DM2012
      Thumb Up

      Re: Parsec!

      LOVED that game. I have fond memories of playing it with my dad, and my cousins, trying to outdo each other. I don't know how many Wico Command Control joysticks we went through trying to get through those tunnels.

      Also loved the computer. Soldering up a 2 port > 1 port joystick connector box was my first electronics hack.

      TI BASIC was da bomb!

  34. Rufus McDufus

    Atari 400/800

    anyone? They were just as good as any of these early 80s 8-bit micros (except for the 400 keyboard which was pants). Oh no - they were 70s 8-bit micros.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    extinction of the jazz mag

    Splash proof keyboard on the zx81 was a spookely prescient move by the forward thinking sinclair.

  36. graeme leggett Silver badge

    What no MSX?

    I remember they used to be in the Maplin catalogue but dont remember anyone having one.

    1. moonface

      Re: What no MSX?

      I remember MSX but the Japanese invasion never happened.

      They were too late to the party and there was too much confusing choice. I don't remember any kids in the playground with MSX games ready to swap.

      Just had a look at the manufacturers on wiki.

      Spectravideo, Philips, Al Alamia, Sony, Sanyo, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Hitachi, National, Panasonic, Canon, Casio, Pioneer, Fujitsu General, Yamaha, JVC, Yashica-Kyocera, GoldStar, Samsung/Fenner, Daewoo/Yeno, Gradiente, Sharp/Epcom, Talent.

      1. dogged

        Re: What no MSX?

        I had the Toshiba for a while but Dad would stomp in and demand the news at 5:40, so there wasn't much programming time. And the TV was not allowed before 4pm. Tough times.

  37. stucs201

    All this nostalgia could work out expensive

    Its a long time since I still had my Dragon, but you've prompted some nostalgic searching. It seems it might still be possible to get a brand new one, which is rather tempting.

    1. Carl

      Re: All this nostalgia could work out expensive

      The Dragon was terrible.

      It had a really bad bug in its BASIC IIRC.

      Gave the wrong result on a comparison between two values. Something like that.

      I took it back and got an Atari800.

  38. cdilla

    There's only the Grundy I didn't have at one time or another. Sad sad sad.

    Have to agree that the 6809 instruction set was a joy to program with which was why my Dragon got so much of my attention.

    Good to see the Ace appearing, I picked on up at an auction a couple of years after it was released. I'd used forth at uni (for controlling radio telescopes), and it was so damn fast.

    Anyone remember the Enterprise? That was my dream machine, but I don't think it ever made it to mass market.

  39. This post has been deleted by its author

  40. Dapprman
    Thumb Up

    VIC-20 Was My First Microcomputer

    Of all the people it was my 82 year old grand mother who persuaded my parents that they should buy me a computer. I had played on micros before at school, which had a PET a couple of CBM4032s and a Sharp MZ-700.

    I actually managed to keep hold of sales brochures for the VIC-20, Acorn Atom, Acron Electron, BBC Micro, Sinclair ZX-81, Sinclair Spectrum, Oric Atmos (did not have for the -1), Dragon32, Juniper, and one other the model of which I forget but which had ana elephant in the advert (can anyone else remember what it was ?). Unfortunately when I went to university my mother saw them and assumed they were junk ......

    Back to the VIC-20 - mine was european serial number 00000023 which sounds really cool however the first in this country came with Japanese power supplies, which were not legal over here, so were taken back. In the end (I think it was well over a month later - a very long time for a 13/14 year old boy) Commodore gave me it's replacement which was huge in comparison (and would not fit in the box - my parents would insist on me putting it away each night). In compensation though, Commodore did give us all a free 3K memory pack which at the time was rather expensive

  41. Mr C

    what, MSX isnt good enough for ya?

    I expected this one in the list - i grew up with a few of these.

    Z80 processor, so well in line with all those that *did* get a mention, though i can't say i know all of those.

    It was a huge success in most of europe, japan and even brazil.

    There's still a steady fangroup which actually managed to make a 'msx-on-a-chip' board.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here be Dragons.....

    My first was the dragon 32. However, rather that writing stuff from scratch, my first bit of coding was modifying a commercial, text based football management game called 'Champions'. It was written it basic, and was easy to modify. Before long, my team (which was always called Shitshed Utd) were earning massive amounts of money, win lose or draw, and instead of needing cartiage operations or breaking legs, when my players were injured they either became pregnant or went mental. Halogen days. Currently hacking other peoples code around for the worlds largest financial services company. 'Champions' still available and downloadable with a dragon emulator. Its a lot shitter than I remember it.

  43. This post has been deleted by its author

  44. Anonymous Coward

    Dragon32 Ad

    Laughing at the Dragon32 ad.

    Could imagine if I tried that today.

    "I'm away to buy a new Ivy Bridge computer here. I was going to spend the money - on a washing machine!"

    Like something out of Ashes to Ashes.

    1. Paul 48


      Shame on you. No mention of the Nascom. Started as a comuter kit, the Nascom 1. I bought a Nascom 2 around 1982 and spent several days will a soldering iron putting it together.

      A case? You had to make one yourself. Carpentry was an essential skill in the home computing world at that time. Dot matrix printers cost hundreds of pounds, so I bought an old Teleype machine (like the ones that used to print the football results on a Saturday afternoon) - a Creed 77B. Huge noisy thing with a big motor that would make a racket like a machine gun when printing out my programmes. If your tie got caught in it, this thing could kill you.

      8k of ROM, 8k of RAM and a cassette tape as backing storage making a noise like a modem. Nonetheless you could buy a Pascal compiler written in 8k written in Z80 assembler. Good enough for A-level computing- none of the Basic nonsense.

      I joined a computer club and remember the discussions about the marvels that were to come. One guy had seen a new fangled hard disk of 5Mb and reckoned that 10Mb was on the horizon. Veritably a bottomless pit of memory. At university guys talked about hitting the 64k memory barrier and how to get around it.

      These machines had the capability of a modest microcontroller by todays standards. Yet people ran business software on them. Business machines came with 64K of RAM and CP/M OS and a floppy disc drive or two.

      I always thought that the kids and their Spectrums were just saddo game addicts. But then they did not need any encouragement to type in programmes and run them and the games industry became very big business indeed.

      I like to think that with devices like the Raspberry Pi, we are again on the cusp of new era of innovative hobby computing: The Internet of the Things where the Geeks shall inherit the Earth.....kind of.

      1. Simon Harris

        Re: Nascom

        Shame on you. No mention of the Nascom. Started as a comuter kit, the Nascom 1. I bought a Nascom 2 around 1982 and spent several days will a soldering iron putting it together.

        Well, technically the Nascom 2 was a computer of the 1970s (release date Dec. 1979 according to various sources)

  45. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    I remember when my old man bought the CPC464 home, it was an early one and the offer of the free games wasn't due out another week after we got ours so I had no games to play at all. My old man found out about the offer, and bless his little cotton socks, marched back into Rumbelows and said it was disgusting that just because he was a an early buyer and only a week early at that, he got no free games! They dutifully broke open a sealed box and gave him the 10 free games!

  46. wibble001

    I'll never forget the horrible little popping noise a ZX makes when you accidentally plug the 21V power pack from a Spectrum 2 into its 9V thing-u-ma-jig

  47. Dave Lorde
    Thumb Up

    Remember the Nascom II ?

    I learnt assembler code by building a Nascom II kit computer (based on the Z80 processor) and hand translating a 6502 assembler listing for the Sargon 2 chess program from the published listing booklet into Z80 code, then figuring out how to display the board graphics on the Nascom II TV output. Damaged my sight, hunched my back, and used up a lifetime's patience, but got it working in the end :)

    All of which eventually led to a well paid career developing software, and thence to a comfortable early retirement!

    1. dynamo-dave
      IT Angle

      Re: Remember the Nascom II ?

      Dave, the NASCOM II should be listed as No 1 out of all these computers !

      My dad bought one of these and we spent christmas '79 soldering all the of IC socket s (100's of pins) as it came as a kit. A great computer for learning about HW and Assembler programming. I remember saving for a whole year so I could purchase an extra 16K of memory and fill up the 32K expansion card.

      I purchased a PASCAL compiler and was writing programs before we even had a computer at school.

      My Dad still has the NASCOM II stored away in the attic, I have kept my old telly (which works) and someday will try powering it on.

      Memory lane: A school friend purchased a ZX80 and I went to see it, I laughed my head off as when he pressed too hard on the "keyboard" the memory expansion box wiggled and reset it !

      But it was the start of bringing affordable computers to the masses - so well done Sir Clive Sinclair and all the other developers.

      1. Mike Tubby

        Re: Remember the Nascom II ?

        Had a friend with a Nascom II ... he left it switched on for so long that his programs remained in RAM after power off/on cycles...

  48. Tom Cooke


    and MZ80B.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MZ80K

      And the A. But for me the K was the first (and best).

  49. Len Goddard

    Apple IIe

    Lots of nostalgia here, but what happened to the Apple IIe? Expensive by the standards of most of the machines here, but amazingly versatile with a huge range of plug-in boards for printers, graphics, memory extensions and a wide range of games.

  50. James Hughes 1

    Originla BBC prices

    IIRC, the original release price was £235 and £335 for the Model A and B. I have a feeling that the credit card used to pay for my Model A was never all I paid for mine was the upgrade to Model B (done by a bloke in a static caravan outside Cambridge somewhere). Good times indeed!

  51. mrfill

    Nostalgia is not what it was..

    I was talking with a friend only last night about the BBC B which prompted me to ferret around in the cupboard and bring out my fully working example! Also in the cupboard was my old Amstrad PPC640 - the 'laptop' for those with extraordinarily strong laps. Two (!) floppy drives, modem built in and a huge battery consumption. A real cutting edge machine...

    God knows why I still have them...

  52. Josh Holman


  53. PaulWizard

    Tandy (Radio Shack) TRS-80

    No? Anyone? just me then :( I've still got mine, although it now only sees 14k of the 16k memory it should have. I even managed to get my hands on a speaking rom cartridge 5 years ago that I wasn't able to get as a child.

    1. Vic

      Re: Tandy (Radio Shack) TRS-80

      > No? Anyone? just me then

      I lent mine to a mate. Haven't seen it since. Nor him.


  54. bertino

    Was there only me who had a Color Genie?

    No idea why my dad bought us that machine, probably in '83, but the lack of games certainly helped bringing on the programming skills. A local computer shop sold them so a few lads in my area ended up with one. It was an upgrade from my ZX81 though.

    And as I remember from the time, the TRS-80 was nicknamed the TRASH-80. (even though it was quite good!)

  55. Peter Christy


    You omitted this ancient but improtant machine from your list! Sure, it was an Anglicised copy of the Ohio Superboard, but it was available a couple of years before either the BBC Micro or Sinclair offerings!

    Mine ended up with an Elektor memory expansion board and an overdriven cassette interface. Crude it may have been, but it was much more capable than the PDP-8 that I used at college!

    And yes, I still have it, and it still works! And I really need to get out more........

    1. Chemist

      Re: UK101

      Yes indeed, bought it, built it - it didn't work, debugged it with a xtal earpiece , found a 7400 not working and bob's your uncle.

      MOST noticeable for a garbage-collection bug in the MS BASIC.

    2. Vic

      Re: UK101

      > ended up with an Elektor memory expansion board

      Mine went all the way up to 16K. And I had the RAM mod on the character generator to give me "high res"[1] graphics. That was a pig to program...


      [1] Ha!

    3. Phil the Geek

      Re: UK101

      I wrote a 6502 dis-assembler in 6502 assembler on a borrowed Ohio Superboard. It seemed like a good idea at the time:-)

      The Superboard itself was a nice piece of kit, with a decent keyboard, very robust metal case and built-in PSU. I still have some of the user group stuff somewhere.

  56. Mike Tubby

    Where is my LDOS V7?

    What about us TRS80 and Video Genie-II types?

    My Video-Genie-II was hacked with a Z80B running at 6.144MHz, had 64MB RAM and ran LDOS 7 from a 5.25" double-sided 80 track floppy...

    After that a BBC model B with a external 6502 CPU (over-clocked until the Plessy ASIC got hot of course) with homebrew hard-disk controller, Shugart 501 HDD controller and a second-hand Rodime 20Mb hard disk drive...

    After that it was a PDP11/23 and Ultix ;-)

  57. Carl

    What no ATARIs?

    I used to go into Dixons and type a few value into a certain memory location, thus giving me big colourful fonts and the ability to write whatever I liked with a colourful animated background in such a way that the Dixon's spotty teenagers couldn't undo until they cycled the machine.

    Display List Interrupts. How I miss thee.

    Happy days.

  58. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Predating these of course, but

    hands up all those who still have a Sinclair MK14?

    1. Steve Todd

      Re: Predating these of course, but

      I don't still have it, but I built one in kit form. The NS8060 (SC/MP) CPU it used was dreadful. It was pretty much a 4 bit chip with 8 bit extensions. It had no subtract command, instead you had to set the carry bit and issue a compliment and add instruction. It didn't have a stack pointer (you had, by convention, to load one of the index registers with the return address of a sub routine) and the instruction pointer only had a 12 bit adder so it would roll over at 4k boundaries.

      Man was it slow. One of the sample programs that came with it was MINIL (miniature interpretive language). I recoded it in 6502 assembler and got several orders of magnitude better performance. It's amazing that it didn't put you off of the whole idea of computing.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Predating these of course, but

        Well, it did rapidly encourage me to start developing hardware and software, and I went for the Tangerine Microtan as soon as it came out.

        I found the MK14 in my father's attic a couple of years ago, but I suspect he's fed it some backwards volts and fried the proms. Maybe I can make it work again... it's on my desk at work, but damned if I know where the Microtan got to.

  59. Vic

    While we're all being nostalgic...

    Has anyone got an ELF II?

    It was the first machine I actually owned - I'd had to borrow computers up until then.

    I'm trying to buy one - but there don't seem any around...


    1. dogged

      Re: While we're all being nostalgic...

      Memory stirs - wasn't that a big hit in France?

  60. An Elephant

    DAI personal computer

    One of the pc's that always fails to make these round ups is the DAI personal computer. But it's story is very remarkable and a good lesson in how companies can mishandle their own assets. It is somewhat akin to how CP/M could have had the OS market instead of MS-DOS.

    The DAI personal computer came on the market in Belgium and The Netherlands in 1979. It was a very reasonable priced pc that could easily beat the 1984 models of it's competitors from this overview. It was build by Texas Instruments Belgium. But TI-hq in the US obstructed production because it wanted to build it's own pc. In which it failed to do. With the DAI personal computer TI could have owned the entire market at a critical moment in time.

    Only several thousands were produced and sold to highly enthousiast owners.

  61. preppy

    Osborne 01

    The Osborne 01 was a bit more expensive in 1982 - around 1500 pounds. But for that you got the complete Digital Research CP/M toolset (assembler, debugger, etc), CBASIC, MBASIC, plus Wordstar, Supercalc. I added dBASE II and the BDS C compiler.

    For me the bottom line was that I got a machine which allowed me to hack (assembler, C) but also use the Osborne as an office machine to write documents, build spreadsheets and write database apps in a (reasonably) high level language. This flexibility may seem run-of-the-mill today, but it was amazing in the earky 1980's.

    The machine was turned over to the Science Museum in Kensington in the 1990's -- still fully functional and with all the original documentation and floppy masters.

This topic is closed for new posts.