Thursday 2 July 2009

Five Computers I Longed to Possess in the 1980s

Back in the 1980's I owned a couple of computers, a Commodore 16 and a Spectrum +2. However, this didn't stop me wanting to own a whole range of other machines.
  1. Jupiter Ace: I loved this from the moment I read about it. A Z80 based micro with a built in Forth interpreter, what more could I desire? Only about 9000 machines were manufactured and I've been waiting patiently ever since for one to come up on eBay.
  2. Sam Coupé: a Sinclair Spectrum clone with 256K memory, a 6MHz Z80, optional internal disk drives and a 25MHz Z80 processor upgrade. Somewhere in the region of 12000 units were sold. A few years ago I picked up one of these at a car boot sale for a fiver! ;-)
  3. NeXT Computer: from the moment I saw screenshots and read about this workstation built around Motorola's 68030 I knew I had to have one. After seeing the hefty price tag I knew I never would. Even now these sell for a small fortune on eBay.
  4. Dragon 64: the Dragon's 6809 processor looked amazing compared to the 6502 used in most computers of the time. It boasted two stacks, plenty of registers and on chip multiplication. Whenever I wrote code for the 6502 I'd secretly hope to write for the 6809 one day.
  5. KITT: a sentient, artificially intelligent computer built by Knight Industries and installed into a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Unfortunately my diecast model came without William Daniels' voice and the cool red lights. If KITT is ever on eBay I'll likely sell my house to buy it!
Let me know if you think I've missed off any cool machines :-)


  1. I used a PC with WordStar, that's all I remember from computers in the 80's. Even though it had crashes and did lose everything twice, I still loved it versus the old typewriter.

  2. I was only born somewhere in the eighties so this list does not mean much to me. I am sure that all of these older machines played their particular role in the evolution of machines. I would love to see what is waiting for us in say another 20 or 30 years.

  3. We have much in common John. I was always intrigued by the Jupiter Ace simply because it looked like a very short flight of stairs.

    And I would have so loved to have my own KITT too...

  4. I wanted Edgar, from Electric Dreams. But that's quite understandable, since I am a woman. (for most men, Edgar would be a nightmare)

  5. I was born in 89 so I have never heard of any of these computers. How far we have come.

  6. If anyone's interested, there's a Jupiter Ace for sale on eBay. It's currently at £100 with 9 days left to bid.

  7. There was a computer called the Cromemco C-10. It was Cromemco's attempt at entering the personal computer market, all of their other stuff were massive multi-user boxes.

    I thought it looked very cool.

  8. I always liked the look of the Lynx 96K and the Sword M5. Rare as hens teeth though!

    Also, I quite fancied an Oric Atmos back in the day, though I could never admit it to my ZX Spectrum owning brethren.

    I was actually brought up on a TI-99/4A and am still happily involved in writing software for it ;-)

  9. Who didn't want their own KITT? Lets face it, that would be a dream computer beyound belif.

    Another gem would be ORAC from Blake's 7.

  10. Dragon. All of my friends had C64s and Spectrums. And I mean ALL. There was no other Dragon in 100 km radius IFAIKnew.
    Lousy text mode and ugly colours in graphics killed it, I think. But boot it to OS-9 and connect old surplus VT52 terminal and modem to RS-port, and you have such a serious system NONE of my friends had. Learned Pascal and C and plenty of things with that.
    Later my already-obsolete equipment was sent to Estonia, which had just gained its independence back from Soviets, and needed all the western technology it could acquire.
    I really hope the stuff ended in hands of someone who knew something about something...

  11. In 1979 I wanted a ZX80, could'nt afford is as impoverished student. I spent a lot of time playing with a TRS80 in our local RadioShack (they did'nt run me and I became an unofficial salesman). Then I finally bought a Nascom 2 in kit form, joy. I learnt more from that machine than from anything else (still have it, not working at the moment). Later on I had an Atari 520. Other early machines I lusted after were the Jupiter Ace and the Oric 1. I now have a variety of 80s machinery (ZX81, ZX Spectrum, Spectrum+, Spectrum+2, Atari 800, Atari 520, Amiga 500, Commadore 6, Commadore+4). I'd love a ZX80 (last one I saw on EBay went for >£200!), a Jupitor Ace and an Oric1.

  12. Same as anonymous above.

    Wished a ZX80, after seeing unafordable kits.
    Then the ZX81, Then the Spectrum.

    The Jupiter ACE was a sensible option, though with the 16K expansion become 50% (here) more expensive than the Spectrum.

    Big joy, anyway. Though 1K programming (actually around 800 bytes) was a pain to manage, though it was the equivalent of 4K in the other Z80 PCs available. And the hardware... was understandable.

    Just wished the ACE had 4K (16k like) and build around a 6809 CPU. So the big ones, to me, would be the ACE (pictures in wikipedia are it) and the Dragon, which I never have seen. (except in some blueprints I bought on eBay, and shared).

    The Dragon is a dream, for a FORTH Language and OS.
    Though never studied that hardware. Not without having one.

    Yes, they were very good times.
    Now everything is too much... you know.


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