3R Computers Avatar TC100 Universal Terminal Converter

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.

3R Computers Avatar TC100
Source: 3R Comptuers, 1983

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

Ultravision Portable Video Arcade Game System

Ultravision tried to be a universal game/computer system. At its heart was a Z80-based computer capable of running both CP/M and Apple software. The built-in display was actually a color TV, and it came with two of what the company called “semi-commercial” controllers.

Ultravision game system
Source: Ultravision, 1983

Among the big claims Ultravision made were that it could achieve video resolution far greater than on a standard TV and that it was compatible with any personal computer. The company also suggested using the system with VCRs, cameras, and home surveillance systems.

The promises proved too much to deliver. The company disappeared shortly after announcing the game system at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 1983. Cost might have been a factor. The CES press release gave the retail price as $595.95, but later sources showed the price at nearly $1,000–a princely sum for a game system.

Micro Source/MicroStandard Technologies M6000P Portable Microcomputer

Some early microcomputer manufacturers saw a better chance for success by targeting the industrial and government markets. By designing systems to be more durable and better equipped at certain tasks, they avoided competing in the cut-throat business market. It didn’t hurt that industrial and government customers were willing to pay a premium.

Micro Source M600P
Source: Micro Source, 1982
MicroStandard M6000 with color CRT and hard drive
Source: MicroStandard Technologies, 1983

The M6000P was one example. It was originally sold under the Micro Source brand, but the company changed its name to MicroStandard Technologies sometime in 1983 and changed the basic configuration of the M6000P at the same time, dropping the “P” designation. A 10-slot card cage became standard, and an Intel 8088 CPU became optional. A color CRT option was also made available in place of the standard monochrome display. The M6000 was sold for industrial, scientific, and military applications. The company later sold a model aimed at the general business market, the M3000

Introduced: 1982
Original Retail Price: $3,900 to $5,100
Base Configuration: 4MHz Z80 CPU, CP/M 2.2, eight STD slots (four open), 64K RAM (512K max), 8K ROM, two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives, integral 9-inch monochrome CRT, keyboard/keypad, C-BASIC, application suite, carrying case
Video: 25-line x 80-column text
Size/Weight: 17 x 20 x 7 inches, 33.75 lbs.
Important Options: 4MHz 68000 coprocessor, Unix, 10- or 12-slot card cage, external 8-inch floppy disk drive, 10- to 40MB hard disk drive, color graphics card, color monitor, serial and parallel interfaces, modem, acoustic coupler, integral printer.

Spectravideo SV-328 Microcomputer

Spectravideo was launched in 1981 as SpectraVision and originally produced games for the VIC-20 and Atari 2600. A couple of years later, it entered the microcomputer market under the Spectravideo brand and produced several lines of well-regarded home computers in the early 1980s including the SV-328.

Spectravideo SV-328
Source: Spectravideo, 1983

The SV-328 was a more robust version of the SV-318, which was introduced at about the same time. It had a real keyboard rather than the SV-318’s chiclet style one. It was a Z80-CP/M system with a typical configuration. The SV-328 was one of the more affordable CP/M systems with a base price of just under $600

The company ran into financial difficulty in 1984, a year after the SV-328 was launched, and was forced to sell a controlling interest to Bondwell Holding Ltd. of Hong Kong. The Spectravideo brand and products were discontinued, and a restructured company began selling Bondwell-branded PC-compatible laptop and desktop computers.

Introduced: 1983
Original Retail Price: $595
Base Configuration: Z80A CPU, ROM cartridge port, 64K RAM (256K max), 48K ROM (96K max), TV video interface, integral keyboard/keypad, Super Extended Microsoft BASIC, word processing and terminal software, three-voice sound
Video: 24-line x 80-column text, 256 x 192 graphics
Important Options: SV-601 Super Expander, SV-902 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, SV-903 cassette recorder, mouse, SV-901 printer, SV-700 modem

Computer Transceiver Systems Execuport XL

The Execuport was a hybrid CP/M, MS-DOS system. You could start with the base Z80 model running CP/M and later upgrade to an 8086 or 80186 processor for MS-DOS compatibility. Many if not most of the CP/M system manufacturers took a similar approach at the time as a hedge against the growing dominance of MS-DOS.

Execuport XL
Source: Computer Transceiver Systems, 1983

The base Z80 model was called the Execuport XL, and the 8086/80186 model was the Execuport XL+. The XL+ could also run CP/M as well as several multi-user operating systems. Both models shared the same physical configuration with a built-in monitor in a reddish brown case. One unusual feature was the 132-character-wide screen. Most systems of the era offered 80-column screens.

Computer Transceiver Systems had earlier produced Execuport-branded portable terminals. The company launched in the late 1960s as a manufacturer of computer peripherals.

Introduced: 1983
Original Retail Price: $2,495 to $3,195
Base Configuration: 4MHz Z80A CPU, CP/M 2.2, 80K RAM (512K max), two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives, monitor port, integral monochrome CRT, keyboard/keypad, two RS-232 and one parallel port
Video: 25-line x 132-column text, 960 x 288 graphics
Size/Weight: 18.12 x 15.62 x 6.5 inches, 28 lbs.
Important Options: 8MHz 8086 or 6MHz 80186 coprocessor, MS-DOS 2.11, 10MB hard disk drive, modem, portable printer

Kaypro Robie CP/M Desktop

The IBM PC and compatibles had eaten up much of what had been the market for CP/M systems by 1983. The PC offered the same level of hardware and software support, and it also had the strength of the IBM brand.

Robie prototype
Source: Kaypro, 1983

Kaypro, a leader among the CP/M system manufacturers, tried to stem the tide with a new design. Called the Robie, it was a departure from Kaypro’s portable-only line-up, though the desktop system did have some resemblance to the boxy portable Kaypros. It was unusual in that the system hardware and storage were in a unit that sat on top of the monitor. Kaypro claimed this design made more efficient use of desk space.

Robie production model
Source: Kaypro, 1985

The Robie was announced at the end of 1983, started selling in early 1984, and lasted into 1985. It didn’t really offer more functionality than other CP/M systems. The design might have worked against it, too. Kaypro touted the “large” 9-inch monitor. It was large compared to what Kaypro’s portable models offered, but by the mid 1980s PC users had a range of monitor sizes much bigger than the Robie’s.

Introduced: February 1984
Original Retail Price: $2,295
Base Configuration: Z80 CPU, CP/M 2.2, 64K RAM, two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives, integral 9-inch monochrome CRT, keyboard/keypad, application suite, internal modem
Video: 24-line x 80-column text

Vector Graphic Vector 4 Dual-Processor System

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.

Source: Vector Graphic, 1982

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

Sord M68 Microcomputer

Japan had a thriving computer industry in the 1970s beyond the usual suspects like Sony and Sharp. By the 1980s, some of those companies began entering the US market. Sord was one of them.

Originally selling under the Socius brand, the company initially sold a home computer called the M5 in 1982. It soon rebranded as Sord (SOftware and haRDware) and expanded with a range of systems. One was the M68, a dual-processor (68000 and Z80A) system that ran CP/M.

Source: Sord, 1982

The M68 was expensive at $13,000, but it was well-equipped for business with plenty of expansion capability and a monitor included in the price. A single-processor (68000) system, the M68MX, was available later at under $4,500.

Sord survived in the US for only a few years. It’s last systems in 1986 were UNIX-based.

Introduced: 1982 (M68), 1984 (M68MX)
Original Retail Price: $4,490 to $13,000 (M68)
Base Configuration: 10MHz 68000 and 4MHz Z80A (68000 only for M68MX); CP/M-68K; three expansion slots; 256K RAM (4MB max) plus 64K RAM and 4K ROM for the Z80A (M68)/512K RAM (3.5MB max) and 16K ROM (M68MX); one (M68MX) or two (M68) 5.25-inch floppy disk drives; RAM disk (M68MX); 20MB hard disk drive (68MX); 12-inch monochrome monitor; keyboard/keypad; two serial, parallel, and IEEE-488 ports (M68)/parallel port (M68MX); system manuals
Video: 25-line x 80-column text, 640 x 400 graphics (M68)/640 x 500 graphics (M68MX), 16 colors
Size/Weight: 18.9 x 15.7 x 4.7 inches, 33 lbs.
Important Options: 7.5MB or 20MB hard disk drive (M68), 8-inch floppy disk drive (M68), color monitor (M68), mouse (M68MX)

Sony SMC-70 Microcomputer

How many CP/M systems can you name from the early 1980s that used 3.5-inch floppy drives? The Sony SMC-70 is the only one that comes to my mind. Of course, Sony had just invented the 3.5-inch format and hoped it would become a standard. It did, of course, but on IBM PC-compatible systems.

Like a lot of Sony computers of the era, the SMC-70 was a well-designed system that was never a top seller. It used the Z80A CPU, the most common option for a CP/M system at the time. Not so common was the SMC-70’s form factor with keyboard and CPU unit combined–more like an Apple II than other popular CP/M systems like the Kaypro luggable or the Zenith Z-100 All-In-One model.

Sony also offered an SMC-70G version with enhanced graphics capabilities for video editing.

Introduced: 1982
Original Retail Price: $1,475
Base Configuration: 4MHz Z80A CPU; CP/M 2.2; two proprietary expansion slots; 64K RAM (256K max); 32K ROM; TV, RGB, and composite video ports; keyboard; RS-232C, parallel, light-pen, and cassette ports; Sony BASIC
Video: 25-line x 80-column text, 640 x 400 graphics, 16 colors
Size/Weight: 14.5 x 17.5 x 3.5 inches, 10.5 lbs.
Important Options: 8086 coprocessor, expansion box, one or two 3.5- or 8-inch floppy disk drives, hard disk drive, 12-inch monochrome or color monitor, keypad, SMI-7020 printer, 256K memory cache

Radio Shack TRS-80 Microcomputer System (Model I)

Source: Radio Shack, ~1978

This roomful of TRS-80s appear to be undergoing some kind of QA testing. Radio Shack, along with Apple and Commodore, was one of the first companies to sell microcomputers at scale in 1977. By 1979, it had sold 100,000 of these Z80-based systems.

Considered ugly and referred to as the “Trash-80” by some, this computer was reliable with a strong, fiercely loyal vendor and user base. Help was only as far away as the nearest Radio Shack store if you needed it.

The Model I was never officially branded as such. Radio Shack sold it as the TRS-80 Microcomputer System. The company followed it with systems branded TRS-80 Model II and Model III, and the original TRS-80 was commonly called the Model I after that, even by many at Radio Shack.

Original Retail Price: $400 to $600
Base Configuration: Z80 CPU, 4K RAM (16K max), 4K ROM (12K max), integral keyboard, Level I BASIC, user manual, AC adapter
Video: 16-line x 64-column uppercase text, 128 x 48 graphics
Size/Weight: 16.5 x 8 x 3.5 inches
Important Options: TRS-80 Expansion Interface, CTR-41 cassette recorder, external 5.25-inch floppy disk drive with TRSDOS, 12-inch monochrome monitor, Level II BASIC, RS-232 interface, Modem I