Archive for the ‘S-100’ Category

NorthStar Horizon

NorthStar Horizon wooden case version

NorthStar Horizon wooden case version

Like many of the early strong competitors in the microcomputer game, North Star Computers is mostly forgotten these days. The company was founded by Mark Greenberg and Charles Grant in 1976 to sell IMSAI computers in Berkeley, CA. Originally called Kentucky Fried Computer, a lawsuit from . . . Kentucky Fried Chicken . . . and forced them to consider a name change, which they ultimately did. Also like some other computer startups of the time, North Star began making and selling add-ons for S-100 bus computers. Their first product was the Floating Point Board, which implemented a floating point coprocessor for 8080-based micros. They soon added a Z80A processor board, as well as RAM boards to their lineup. Continue reading NorthStar Horizon…

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Vector Graphic, Inc. Vector 1

vg_logoVector Graphic, Inc., like Cromemco which we recently covered, started out by creating expansion cards for S-100 systems. Thier first products were an 8K static RAM card and a 256×256 pixel “high resolution” card, called HRG, or High Resolution Graphics.

Before long, and also like Cromemco, Vector Graphic produced THEIR first S-100 clone, the Vector 1 computer, which went fully to market in 1977. One of the founders, Bob Harp, was the one who initially designed the Vector 1 system. Within the company, Bob was joined as co-owner by his wife Lore Harp, along with their next door neighbor, Carol Ely. Together, they springboarded a company that within four years, surpassed $3,000,000 revenue per month.

That was just a brief company introduction. M Continue reading Vector Graphic, Inc. Vector 1…

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Cromemco Z-1

Cromemco Z-1

Cromemco Z-1

Cromemco was founded in Mountain View, CA by two Stanford Ph.D. students in 1974, Harry Garland and Roger Melen. It received its name in honor of their residence at Stanford University, Crothers Memorial, which was a dormitory reserved for engineering graduate students. The two had already been working together on a series of articles for Popular Electronics magazine.The articles were for non-computer electronic hobbyist projects. In late 1974, Roger Melen was visiting the New York editorial offices of Popular Electronics and he saw the prototype of the MITS Altair 8800. He was so impressed with it that he immediately changed his next flight to go to Albuquerque, NM. There he met with Ed Roberts, president of MITS, and Roberts encouraged Melen to develop add-on products for the Altair. Continue reading Cromemco Z-1…

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IMSAI 8080

The IMSAI 8080 was arguably the first personal computer clone!

Closeup view of the IMSAI 8080

Closeup view of the IMSAI 8080

With the large and growing success of the MITS Altair 8800 early in 1975, IMS Associates, Inc. of San Leandro, California was able to capitalize on its success with an improved copy. Like the Altair computer, the IMSAI utilized the S-100 bus, Intel 8080 microprocessor and a front panel with LEDs and switches. You could utilize the switches to read and write to memory locations, single step the CPU, or even stop it. The LEDs would blink according to the values inside the address and data buses. The IMSAI 8080 could run all of the same programming instructions, and later software, when it became available. IMS Associates improved just about every aspect of the Altair’s design, with a higher specification power supply, an anodized aluminum chassis, more S-100 expansion slots and a better front panel with superior paddle switches.

Continue reading IMSAI 8080…

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Processor Technology Sol

Sol-20 with it's distinctive blue color and wooden sides

Sol-20 with its distinctive blue color and wooden sides

The Altair, the IMSAI, and then later, many other microcomputers created a cottage industry. MITS and IMS Associates only offered a limited number of products and upgrades, if you could get them given the high demand for them at the time. Gary Ingram and Bob Marsh, two friends in Berkeley, California, saw this as a business opportunity. Marsh, an active member of the Homebrew Computer Club, would hear complaints about the Altair at every club meeting, so with Ingram, they decided to form a company called Processor Technology Inc. Their first product was a reliable, static 4 kB memory board for the Altair, as they knew that MITS was producing an unreliable dynamic version. Processor Technology’s 4KRA RAM board became an almost instant hit and launched the company into a thriving business. Ingram and Marsh were then able to move out of their garage workshop and into a large industrial facility.

Continue reading Processor Technology Sol…

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