Vintage Computers and Hardware

Vintage Computers 1970 – 2000

 

Apple I (1976) – Apple Computer Company

Apple I Computer - 1976

Apple I Computer (Apple-1) – Apple Computer Company

The original Apple Computer, also known retroactively as the Apple I, or Apple-1, is a personal computer released by the Apple Computer Company (now Apple Inc.) in 1976. They were designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak. Wozniak’s friend Steve Jobs had the idea of selling the computer.

The Apple I was Apple’s first product, and to finance its creation, Jobs sold his only means of transportation, a VW Microbus, and Wozniak sold his HP-65 calculator for $500. It was demonstrated in July 1976 at the Homebrew Computer Club in Palo Alto, California.

 

Compucolor 8001 (1976) – Intelligent Systems Corporation

Currently unavailable.

 

 

 

Cromemco Z-1 (1976) – Cromemco

Cromemco Z-1 S-100 Computer

Cromemco Z-1 Computer

 

Cromemco was a Mountain View, California microcomputer company known for its high-end Z80-based S-100 bus computers in the early days of the personal computer revolution. The Cromemco Dazzler was the first color graphics card available for personal computers. The company began as a partnership in 1974 between Harry Garland and Roger Melen, two Stanford Ph.D. students. The company was named for their residence at Stanford University (Crothers Memorial, a Stanford dormitory reserved for engineering graduate students). Cromemco was incorporated in 1976. In December 1981 Inc. Magazine named Cromemco in the top ten fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S.

 

AIM-65 (1976) – Rockwell 

Rockwell AIM-65 (1976) s

AIM-65 Computer

The Rockwell AIM-65 computer was a development computer based on the MOS Technology 6502 microprocessor introduced in 1976. The AIM-65 was essentially an expanded KIM-1 computer.

Available software included a monitor with line at a time assembler/disassembler, BASIC interpreter , assembler, Pascal, PL/65, and FORTH development system. Available hardware included a floppy disk controller and a backplane for expansion.

 

Sol-20 (1976) – Processor Technology Corporation

Sol-20 Computer (1976) - Processor Technology Corporation

Sol-20 Computer

Processor Technology Corporation was a personal computer company founded in April 1975 by Gary Ingram and Bob Marsh in Berkeley, California. Their first product was a 4K byte RAM board that was compatible with the MITS Altair 8800 computer but more reliable than the MITS board. This was followed by a series of memory and I/O boards including a video display module. Popular Electronics magazine wanted a feature article on an intelligent computer terminal and Technical Editor Les Solomon asked Marsh and Lee Felsenstein to design one. It was featured on the July 1976 cover and became the Sol-20 Personal Computer. The first units were shipped in December 1976 and the Sol-20 was a very successful product. The company failed to develop next generation products and ceased operations in May 1979.

 

The Digital Group “System 3” (1976) – The  Digital Group

The Digital Group (System 3) (1976) - from Bryan at bytecollector.com - Photo used by permission

The Digital Group “System 3” Computer – from Bryan at bytecollector.com – Photo used by permission

The Digital Group was the first company to produce a system built around the Zilog Z80 processor. Their hobbyist-targeted products were based on a system of interchangeable boards and components which allowed users to upgrade to different CPUs without having to replace their peripherals. Their products included the MOS 6502 and Motorola 6800 processors. They were established circa 1975 and went into bankruptcy liquidation in late 1979.

Peripherals included an inexpensive printer and a very unusual quad phi-deck cassette tape system for storing programs and data.

The company was notorious for its unreliability in delivering ordered products. They were shipped to customers not as systems from inventory but one board or peripheral at a time, meaning one could wait a while from receipt of the first component to having received enough components to build a working system.

In 1978 or 1979 they finally had cases (very well-designed and professional looking for the time period) that reportedly were even harder to get than the rest of the components. They were sometimes referred to as the Denver Donkeys.

 

Apple II (1977) – Apple Computer

Apple II (1977) - Apple Computer

Apple II Computer

The Apple II is an 8-bit home computer, one of the first highly successful mass-produced microcomputer products, designed primarily by Steve Wozniak, manufactured by Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.) and introduced in 1977. It is the first model in a series of computers which were produced until Apple IIe production ceased in November 1993.

The first Apple II computers went on sale on June 10, 1977 with a MOS Technology 6502 microprocessor running at 1 MHz, 4 kB of RAM, an audio cassette interface for loading programs and storing data, and the Integer BASIC programming language built into the ROMs. The video controller displayed 24 lines by 40 columns of monochrome, upper-case-only (the original character set matches ASCII characters 20h to 5Fh) text on the screen, with NTSC composite video output suitable for display on a TV monitor, or on a regular TV set by way of a separate RF modulator. The original retail price of the computer was $1,298 USD (with 4 kB of RAM) and $2,638 USD (with the maximum 48 kB of RAM). To reflect the computer’s color graphics capability, the Apple logo on the casing was represented using rainbow stripes, which remained a part of Apple’s corporate logo until early 1998. The earliest Apple II’s were assembled in Silicon Valley, and later in Texas; printed circuit boards were manufactured in Ireland and Singapore.

 

Commodore PET (1977) – Commodore International

Commodore PET 2001 Series (1977) - Commodore International

Commodore PET 2001 Series Computer

The Commodore PET (Personal Electronic Transactor) was a home/personal computer produced in 1977 by Commodore International. A top-seller in the Canadian and United States educational markets, it was Commodore’s first full-featured computer, and formed the basis for their entire 8-bit product line.

In the 1970s Commodore was one of many electronics companies selling calculators designed around Dallas-based Texas Instruments (TI) CPU chips. However, in 1975 TI increased the price of these components to the point where the chip set cost more than an entire TI calculator, and the industry that had built up around it was frozen out of the market.

 

TRS-80 (1977) – Tandy Corporation

TRS-80 Model I Computer (1977) - Tandy Corporation

TRS-80 Model I Computer

TRS-80 was a brand associated with several desktop microcomputer lines sold by Tandy Corporation through their Radio Shack stores. The original “TRS-80 Micro Computer System” launched in 1977 (later known as the Model I) was one of the earliest mass-produced personal computers. The first units, ordered unseen, were delivered in November 1977, and rolled out to the stores the third week of December.

The line won popularity with hobbyists, home users, and small-businesses. Tandy Corporation’s leading position in what Byte Magazine called the “1977 Trinity” (Apple, Commodore and Tandy) had much to do with Tandy’s retailing the computer through more than 3,000 of its Radio Shack storefronts.

Notable features of the original TRS-80 included its full-stroke QWERTY keyboard, small size, its floating point BASIC programming language, an included monitor, and a starting price of $600 (equivalent to $2,230 in 2011). The pre-release price was $500 and a $50 deposit was required, with a money back guarantee at time of delivery. One major drawback of the original system was the massive RF interference it caused in surrounding electronics. Stricter FCC regulations on interference led to the Model I’s replacement by the Model III.

By 1979, the TRS-80 had the largest available selection of software in the microcomputer market.

As well as the original Model I (and its compatible descendants), the TRS-80 name was later used as a generic brand on other technically-unrelated computer lines sold by Tandy, such as the TRS-80 Model II, TRS-80 Color Computer and TRS-80 Pocket Computer.

 

Heathkit H8 (1977) – Heath Company

Heathkit H8 and H9 Video Terminal 1977 - Heath Company

Heathkit H8 Computer and H9 Video Terminal

Heathkit’s H8 was an Intel 8080-based microcomputer sold in kit form starting in 1977. The H8 was similar to the S-100 bus computers of the era, and like those machines was often used with the CP/M operating system on floppy disk. The main difference between the H8 and S-100 machines was the bus; the H8 used a 50-pin bus design that was smaller, more robust and better engineered electrically.

The machine also included a bootstrap ROM that made it easier to start up, including code for running basic input/output and allowing input through a front-mounted octal keypad and front panel display instead of the binary switches and lights used on machines like the Altair 8800.

The H8 was a successful design but required a separate terminal to be truly useful; Heathkit introduced several terminals as well. A successor model, the “All-in-One” Heathkit H89, combined a Z-80 processor board and a floppy disk drive into the cabinet of an Heathkit H19 terminal. This model also was sold in fully assembled form as the WH89. These were later sold by Zenith Electronics with their name on the front as the Zenith Z89.

 

ELF II (1978) – Netronics

ElF II Computer (1978) - Netronics

ELF II Computer

The Netronics ELF II was an early microcomputer trainer kit featuring the RCA 1802 microprocessor, 256 bytes of RAM, DMA-based bitmap graphics, hexadecimal keypad, two digit hexadecimal LED display, a single “Q” LED, and 5 expansion slots.

The ELF part of the name came from an earlier machine called the “COSMAC ELF”, published as a construction project in Popular Electronics magazine. Improvements on its predecessor included an etched PCB, a hexadecimal keypad instead of toggle switches for program entry, the CDP1861 Pixie-graphics chip, and the 5 slot 86-line bus for expansion cards.

 

Exidy Sorcerer (1978) – Exidy Inc.

Exidy Sorcerer (1978) - Exidy Inc.

Exidy Sorcerer Computer

The Sorcerer was one of the early home computer systems, released in 1978 by the video game company, Exidy. It was comparatively advanced when released, especially when compared to the contemporary more commercially oriented Commodore PET and TRS-80, but due to a number of problems including a lack of marketing, the machine remained relatively unknown.

Exidy eventually pulled it from the market in 1980, and today they are a coveted collector’s item.

 

TRS-80 Model II (1979) – Tandy Corporation

TRS-80 Model II Computer

TRS-80 Model II Computer

In October 1979, Tandy began shipping the Model II, which was targeted to the small-business market. Creative Computing in 1984 called it a “state-of-the-art business machine” that “might have taken the business market by storm had it not had a nameplate reading ‘Radio Shack.

The Model II was not an upgrade of the Model I, but an entirely different system. As a professional business machine, it used state-of-the-art hardware and had numerous features not found in the primitive Model I such as DMA, vectored interrupts, a detachable keyboard, and port instead of memory-mapped I/O.

It sported 80×25 text and a singled-sided 500k 8″ floppy drive, and either 32 or 64k of RAM, along with two RS-232 ports and a Centronics-standard parallel port.

The video memory was not mapped into the main address space or directly accessible by the CPU (only through indirect register writes). Unlike most computers, it had no BIOS ROM except a small boot loader (the BIOS was loaded off the boot floppy).

 

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