Electronic Tool Co. ETC-1000

Source: Electronic Tool Co., 1976

The ETC-1000 was used a design typical of early 1970s microcomputers. The main components were housed in a large rectangular box, in which you could add functionality by plugging boards into a backplane. At its most basic configuration, the ETC-1000’s input was through a front panel keyboard and hex display.

The system came in four configurations. The first three–labeled A, B, and C–were targeted to hobbyists or people looking to build a control system. They offered incrementally greater memory and features such as additional ports and connectors, cassette drives, and a full keyboard. The D configuration was aimed at the business market. It came with floppy disk drives, Electronic Tool’s FDOS operating system, and 32K of RAM.

The ETC-1000 was derived from an earlier Electronic Tools computer, the multiprocessor Etcetera System. The ETC-1000 is the central control unit of the Etcetera system configured as a standalone computer. Although the ETC-1000 came standard with a single 6502 processor, it could be run as a multiprocessor system, too, with optional 8080A, 6800, or F8 coprocessors.

Multitech Micro-Professor II Trainer

Some of the earliest commercial microcomputers were single-board “trainers,” bare-bones systems designed to teach people computer basics. They were crude and often had only a hexadecimal keyboard for input. Trainers appealed mainly to people who already had some technical background such as ham radio operators.

By the 1980s, some of those trainers became more polished and accessible to folks who weren’t so technically inclined. The Micro-Professor is a good example. The Micro-Professor I (MPF-I) was based on a Z80 (an 8088 was available later). It came in a case that opened like a book and was targeted to the education market.

Source: Multitech, 1982

Perhaps to strengthen the appeal to education, the MPF-II had a 6502 CPU and was compatible with the Apple II. It came in a book-sized case with a chiclet keyboard, but it did not open like the MPF-I. Multitech also sold a Chinese-language version called the MPF-IIC.

Source: Multitech, 1982

The MPF series sold reasonably well and examples often come up for sale. They are still a good way for someone to introduce themselves to 8-bit computing. Multitech is still in business, too, having rebranded as Acer in the US in 1987.

Introduced: 1982
Original Retail Price: $399
Base Configuration: 6502 CPU, 64K RAM, built-in 49-key keyboard, cassette storage, Centronics port, speaker, 12K BASIC
Video: 40 characters x 25 lines, 6 colors
Important Options: thermal printer, joystick

Apple III Business Computer

Source: Apple 1981

The Apple III was Apple’s first attempt at a business-class computer. Development began in 1978, the company began development of a new system, code-named Sara. Apple did not launch the Apple III until May 1980.

Although the Apple III could run Apple II software in an emulation mode, it had its own line of business applications and programming tools. That limited the amount of software available for its target market. That and its high price (starting at more than $4,300) resulted in poor sales.

Source: Apple, 1981

Apple improved Apple III performance and reliability in late 1981. In an effort to boost sales, Apple offered an Apple III Business System configuration in 1983 that included the Monitor III, ProFile 5MB hard disk drive, 256K of RAM, and a software suite for $5,330. Later that year, Apple offered an enhanced version of the Apple III Business System called the Apple III Plus, which had an interlace video mode that doubled screen resolution. With the Apple Macintosh on the horizon, Apple did not further development of the Apple III.

Introduced: May 1980
Original Retail Price:
 $4,340 to $7,800 (Apple III)/$2,995 (Apple III Plus)
Base Configuration: 1.8MHz 6502A CPU; Sophisticated Operating System (SOS); four slots; 128K RAM (256K max); 4K ROM; 5.25-inch floppy disk drives; NTSC video interface; integral keyboard/keypad; RS-232C, printer, and two game ports; Apple II emulation and utilities disks; Business BASIC; Pascal; SOS and owner’s manuals
Video: 24-line x 80-character text, 560 x 192 graphics, 16 colors
Important Options: External 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, 5MB ProFile hard disk drive, Monitor III CRT display, Silentype printer, Apple Daisy-Wheel printer (Apple III Plus)

Albert Apple IIe Clone

Source: Albert Computers 1983

The Albert was one of the better Apple IIe clones, but it looked more like a PC in form. The company called the two-piece design “stereo styling.”

Marketing for the Apple emphasized how much the Albert was like the Apple IIe, but also different. The Albert had unusual features including a data security lock (apparently the ability to password protect data), a battery/charger backup, voice recognition, a graphics digitizer tablet, and the ability to run on 110V or 220V power.

Like other Apple II clone vendors, Albert would later offer a Z80 coprocessor option to run CP/M software.

Inroduced: April 1983
Original Retail Price: $1,595
Base Configuration: 6502 CPU; AppleDOS 3.3 and Coyotesoft OS; 64K RAM (192K max); five Apple-compatible expansion slots; RGB video port; keyboard; RS-232, RS-422/432, parallel, microphone, and game ports, application suite
Video: 24-line x 40-column text, 280 x 192 graphics, 16 colors
Important Options: Z80 coprocessor, joysticks, 12-inch monitor