Stearns Desktop Computer

The IBM PC inspired a wave of PC compatibles not long after its launch in 1981. The term “PC compatible,” however, was subjective. Few systems offered complete PC compatibility at the software and hardware level.

The Stearns Desktop Computer was one of those systems. It had an ISA expansion slot like the IBM PC, but only add-on cards from Stearns would work in it. It’s not clear why, but the company claimed that the Stearns was 2.5 times faster than the IBM PC. If true, they might have tweaked the bus design for better throughput.

Another curious claim was that the Stearns was “the first stand-alone desktop computer specifically designed not only to perform high quality data and word processing, but also to provide full internal and external communications and networking capabilities.” That vague claim describes a lot of computers of the era.

What they might have meant by that claim is the fact that Stearns sold the system as a single-user system, but it could be configured for a five-user networked setup where every system on the network functioned as a standalone computer. This differs from most other multi-user systems that used diskless workstations as nodes that were dependent on the main computer for storage.

The Stearns was one of the better looking PCs. The company did not last long despite its claims of having sold 110 systems in its first month of operation.

Introduced: May 1983
Original Retail Price: $2,945 to $5,650
Base Configuration: 8MHz 8086 CPU, MS-DOS 1.25, ISA slot, four proprietary expansion slots, 128K RAM (896K max), 16K ROM, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, 12-inch monochrome monitor, keyboard/keypad, RS-232C port, owner’s and MS-DOS manuals
Video: 25-line x 80-column text
Size/Weight: 5.5 x 21.7 x 15.7 inches, 33 lbs.
Important Options: Concurrent CP/M, second 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, 5- to 20MB hard disk drive, 15-inch monochrome monitor, CGA card, parallel port

Published by

Michael Nadeau

I am the author of Collectible Microcomputers (Schiffer Books, 2002) and have been an editor of many technology publications including BYTE, 80 Micro, and HOT CoCo. My interest in the history of information technology is broad. I use my blogs, ClassicTech and Vintage Computer Photos, to build on the work I did for Collectible Microcomputers.

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