The 3R Avatar TC100 series was a dual-processor system used with a dumb terminal to give it full workstation capabilities–hence the reason it is called a terminal converter. It used both a Z80 and 8088-2 CPUs so it could run both CP/M and MS-DOS applications.
The company offered an enhanced model, the Avatar TC110, which had a parallel port and 5MB hard drive. A TC 3278 modal was intended for use with only the IBM 3278 or 3178 terminals. The company is also known as RRR Computers.
Introduced: 1983 Original Retail Price: $2,195 Base Configuration: Z80A and 8088-2 CPUs, 128K RAM (256K max), 2 RS-232C ports, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, clock/calendar, 85W power supply Size/Weight: 7.25H x 12.25W x 12.75D inches, 20 lbs. Important Options: parallel interface; second floppy disk drive; 5MB, 10MB, or 20MB hard disk drive
In the early 1980s, many established businesses wanted to get into the business computer market. The fastest way to do that was to contract with an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to brand its designs as their own.
RAIR Computer was one of the lesser known OEMs. Its Business Computer was typical of the multi-user, multi-processor designs of the day. The processors were an 8-bit 8085 and a 16-bit 8088.
A selection of operating systems (MP/M, CP/M, or PC-DOS) gave its OEM customers flexibility, as the Business Computer could be sold in single- or multi-user configurations. A high-resolution color display and the ability to daisy-chain up to four additional Winchester drives were also big selling factors.
Introduced: October 1983 Original OEM price: $9,750 Base Configuration: 8085 and 8088 CPUs, 256K RAM (1MB max), 19MB hard drive, 1MB floppy drive, 4 RS-422 and 2 RS-232 ports, color monitor, 83-key keyboard, printer, CP/M-80/86 and MP/M-80/86, BASIC, COBOL, Pascal, business software suite Video: 80 characters x 25 lines, 8 colors Important options: up to 4 additional 19MB hard drives, tape backup, PC-DOS
The PC XT (eXtended Technology), Model 5160, was IBM’s encore to the original PC. It used the same 4.77MHz 8088 CPU as its predecessor but offered incremental improvements such as more expansion bus slots, greater mass storage capabilities, better screen resolution, and MS-DOS 2.0.
IBM also offered new options for the PC, including an expansion unit that housed additional storage in a matching cabinet to the computer.
IBM later offered a version of the PC XT that would run its mainframe applications. The Personal Computer XT/370 used the Virtual Machine/Personal Computer (VM/PC) control program that provided compatibility with the Virtual Machine/Conversational Monitor System (VM/CMS) mainframe program.
Introduced: March 8, 1983 Original Retail Price: $4,995 Base Configuration: 4.77MHz 8088 CPU, PC-DOS 2.0, eight ISA slots, 128K RAM (640K max), 40K ROM, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, keyboard/keypad, RS-232C port, BASIC, operations manual Video: 25-line x 80-column text, 640 x 200 graphics Size/Weight: 20 x 16 x 6 inches, 32 lbs. Important Options: Model 002 Expansion Unit; second 5.25-inch floppy disk drive; 10MB hard disk drive; Color Display, Enhanced Color Display, or Monochrome Display monitor; EGA or CGA card; game port; PC Color, PC Compact, or Graphics Printer; technical reference; hardware maintenance and service manual
The Victor 9000 was an early competitor to the IBM PC, introduced about five months later. It wasn’t a true PC compatible, but it did have an 8088 CPU and came standard with MS-DOS (as well as CP/M).
The Victor 9000 was developed by Sirius Systems Technology and sold in the U.S. by Victor Business Systems, a company known for its calculators and cash register systems. Sirius sold the computer as the S1 in France and as the Sirius 1 elsewhere. Sirius bought Victor Business Systems in 1982 and changed its name to Victor Technologies.
Chuck Peddle, who created the MOS Technologies 6502 and designed the Commodore PET series, became Victor’s president. Sirius produced 1,150 Victor 9000/Sirius 1 systems in March 1982, and 3,000 the following month.
Introduced: January 1982 Original Retail Price: $5,000 Base Configuration: 5MHz 8088 CPU, MS-DOS and CP/M-86, four expansion slots, 128K RAM (896K max), two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives, 12-inch monochrome monitor, keyboard/keypad, two RS-232C and one parallel port, voice synthesizer Video: 40-line x 132-column text, 800 x 400 graphics Size/Weight: 7 x 15 x 13 inches, 28 lbs. Important Options: Z80 coprocessor, CP/M-80, 10MB hard disk drive
At a time when manufacturers like NEC, Toshiba, and Compaq were racing to shrink the size of portable PCs, Poqet leapfrogged them with its one-pound Poqet PC. Reaching that size came with compromises. Its reflective LCD screen was small and hard to read. Memory and storage options were limited, and the keyboard was not optimal for tasks that involved a lot of writing.
Still, the Poqet PC had appeal as a travel-friendly DOS-compatible system. You could keep only the files you needed in RAM or on a PCMCIA storage card and use popular software such as Lotus 1-2-3. It would run for up to 100 hours on standard AAA batteries.
Introduced: September 12, 1989 Original Retail Price: $1,995 Base Configuration: 80C88 CPU, 512K RAM (640K max), 640K ROM, 2 RAM or ROM card slots, MS-DOS 3.3 in RAM, RS-232C port, 8-inch LCD, keyboard Video: 80-character x 25-line, 640 x 200 pixel resolution Size/Weight: 8.75w x 4.3d inches, 1 lb. Important Options: 3.5-inch, 3.44MV floppy disk drive
Corona Data Systems was another contender in the early IBM PC compatibles market. The company was moderately successful at first, selling 5,000 desktop and portable PCs from December 1983 to January 1984. In 1985, South Korea’s Daewoo Group bought a controlling interest, later renaming the company Cordata in 1986.
The Corona PC and Portable PC were the company’s first IBM compatibles. They had fairly standard PC configurations and were true IBM compatibles. That fact drew the attention of IBM, which sued Corona (along with Eagle Computer) for copyright infringement on the BIOS. Corona ultimately settled by agreeing to use BIOS code that did not violate IBM’s copyright.
Corona PC Introduced: 1983 Original Retail Price: $2,595 Base Configuration: 8088 CPU, MS-DOS, four ISA slots, 128K RAM (512K max), 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, 12-inch monochrome monitor, keyboard/keypad, RS-232C and parallel ports, GW-BASIC, spreadsheet software Video: 640 x 325 graphics Important Options: CP/M-86, 10MB hard disk drive
Corona Portable PC Introduced: 1983 Original Retail Price: $2,395 Base Configuration: 8088 CPU, MS-DOS, four ISA slots, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, integral 9-inch monochrome CRT display, keyboard/keypad, RS-232C and parallel ports, spreadsheet software Video: 640 x 325 graphics Size/Weight: 9.6 x 18.6 x 19.8, 28 lbs. Important Options: 10MB hard disk drive, carrying case
Within a year or two of the IBM PC’s introduction, the handwriting was on the wall for the once-dominant manufacturers of S-100 bus, CP/M microcomputers. The PC was becoming the new small-system standard. Some vendors hedged their bets by introducing new dual-processor models that could run both CP/M and MS-DOS software, but not offer hardware compatibility with the PC.
Vector Graphic’s Vector 4 was one of the first such dual-processor systems, introduced in 1982. It kept the S-100 bus but added an 8088 CPU. CP/M was still the standard operating system with MS-DOS available as an option. In 1984, the Vector 4-S appeared, which could read PC-format floppy disks.
Introduced: 1982 (Vector 4), 1984 (Vector 4-S) Original Retail Price: $3,295 to $9,995 (4-S) Base Configuration: Z-80 and 8088 CPUs, CP/M (4)/CP/M-86 with GSX-86 (4-S); two S-100 slots (4-S); 128K RAM (256K max); floppy disk drive, integral monochrome CRT; keyboard; RS-232C, serial, and two parallel ports Important Options: MS-DOS or Oasis, second floppy disk drive, 5MB to 36MB hard disk drive, color monitor, communications card
The IBM Portable PC was not IBM’s first portable. That was the Model 5100 from 1975 (if you want to call a 50-pound computer “portable”). It was launched in response to the Compaq Portable, which was similar in appearance and was introduced more than a year earlier. Compaq had made inroads into IBM’s customer base with the portable and IBM had no answer.
Essentially an IBM PC/XT in a suitcase-like form factor, the Portable PC made a few trade-offs versus the desktop model. Most obvious were a smaller screen and three fewer expansion slots than the PC/XT’s eight. You could buy an external monitor and an expansion unit to compensate, but then you would have spent more money than if you had bought the PC/XT.
Quite a few of the original IBM Portable PCs survive today. They were popular and well built.
Introduced: March 1984 Original Retail Price: $2,795 Base Configuration: 4.77MHz 8088, PC-DOS 2.1, five ISA slots, 256K RAM (512K max), 40K ROM, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, integral 9-inch monochrome CRT, keyboard/keypad, carrying case Video: 25-line x 80-column text, CGA Size/Weight: 20 x 17 x 8 inches, 30 lbs. Important Options: Model 001 Expansion Unit; second 5.25-inch floppy disk drive; Color Display or Monochrome Display monitor; EGA card; serial, parallel, and game ports; Graphics or PC Compact Printer