Siemens NotePhone

August 16, 2013

A lucky find on a recent local flea market.
NotePhone

  • Apple-Newton (OMP)-based Siemens-branded telephone (German version only)
  • This Newton has a special case so the Siemens modem (box on the right) can be attached (very firmly) to it
    • The Newton plus the modem can be used separately from the phone
    • The Power Supply connects to the modem which then can feed the Newton (this PSU is a generic 7V one; no need for the very special Newton PSU)
  • Then the two devices can be attached to the phone via a connector hinge
  • The modem would use the phone as its connection to the telephone line so you could dial a call from the Newton’s contact list or send a fax directly
  • The phone itself does not need any external power supply
  • iF product design award 1994 – TOP 10
  • RAM: 640KB
  • ROM: 4MB
  • CPU: ARM 610 @20 MHz
  • Newton OS: 1.11 (German)
  • Screen: 336×240, no backlight
  • Fax/Modem:  2400bps Data / 9600bps Fax modem
  • Original price (1994): DM 2400 ($ 1000 at that time)
  • Today’s value: about € 170 – 490

Matra Alice 8000

March 5, 2011

A new piece for my collection has arrived: an ultra-rare Matra Alice 8000 with LSE cartridge and LSE and Basic manuals. As there seems to be almost no English text on the Alice 8000 available, I compiled the following article from mainly French sources.

Apart from compiling existing information this text features data on the ROM size and more photos from the PCB, data on size and weight and warnings about disassembling the unit :-).

Matra

Mécanique Aviation TRAction or Matra was a French company founded in 1942 covering a wide range of activities mainly related to automobiles, bicycles, aeronautics and weaponry. In 1996 it started to operate entirely under the name Lagardère Group.

Alice 8000

After having failed to conquer the entry systems market for home computers in 1983 with the Alice series of computers in collaboration with the French publisher Hachette (Alice, Alice 32, Alice 90), Matra tried to apply for the French Informatique Pour Tous (Computer Science for All) program with the design of the Alice 8000 (codename Nano) in 1985. A preproduction run of maybe 250 devices has been produced. As the design is said to be too expensive, Matra abandoned all plans to stay in the home computer market and after then concentrated on the business market.

This first type of Alices was intended to work diskless via a local network (french: nano reseau, hence the code name Nano) thus using the storage capacities of a server.

Two programming languages were developed for (or at least, ported to) this machine. Digital Research’s P-Basic is contained in the ROM. LSE (see section below) is available via a cartridge. LSE uses the 8088 processor.

The ROM further on contains a rather powerful configuration menu as well as some file management possibilities (instead of having a DOS).

There are 4 ROM ICs on my PCB, with a total of 96 KB. 48 of which account for the Basic, 32 KB are labelled “Nano”, and 16 KB are called “6803”.

[1] claims that only 125 Alices have been built (although 250 mother boards have been produced), and 200 cartridges. Out of these machines, only 100 should be functional. Further, [1] tells that Matra trashed most of these Alices, only 20 machines were sold for a symbolic price to a school, and 10 others were given to developers and other members of the project. Later on the 20 school machines were also destroyed, so nowadays only about a dozen are known to exist (see list below).

From a collectors point of view the Alice 8000 is extremely attractive because of its rarity, home computer type, the 2 CPUs, and its beautiful design.

Keyboard unit

The keyboard unit contains the computer and most of the interfaces. It has a fixed cable that can be connected to the monitor unit for power. A second, proprietary Scart cable the connects both units video-wise. The expansion port would have probably offered the possibility to connect to a separate LAN module as this was needed from the concept point of view.

Please note that the SCART interface is the same as in the Alice 90 which requires a special cable. The following information are taken from http://membres.multimania.fr/romualdl/alice/alice_faq.txt :

Alice 90 Scart Cable (note: you cannot use an ordinary SCART cable, you'll have to make it)

Alice end             TV end
6 --------------------- 6
7 --------------------- 7
8 --------------------- 8
11 -------------------- 11
15 -------------------- 15
16 -------------------- 16
17 -------------------- 17
19 -------------------- 19
20 -------------------- 20

Attention! If you detach the keyboard half from the PCB, it might be the case that you cannot put back the keyboard connection into the PCB (at least this was the case for my machine)!

Monitor unit

The monitor unit contains the monitor and the PSU as well as (according to a photo) space for 2 3.5” disk drives (but there does not seem to be any means to connect or control these drives).

Attention! 1) it is not easy to put the front and back half together once you opened the case. 2) I was not able to disconnect the two halves due to many cable connections between them. 3) After fiddling with the fuse, the entire fuse component broke off the PCB!

Name Alice 8000
Manufacturer Matra Datasysteme
Type Home Computer
Origin France
Year 1985
End of Production 1985
Built in Language Basic
Keyboard AZERTY, mechanical keyboard, 67 keys (Cherry)
CPU + Speed Motorola 6803 @ 4.915 Mhz, Intel 8088
RAM 64 KB, 2 KB Video-RAM
ROM 96 KB (48 KB Basic, 32 KB “Nano”, 16 KB “6803”)
Text Modes 40 or 80 columns
Graphic Modes 160×125 (2 colors)160×200 (3 colors)
Color 3 colors
Sound Beep only
Size /Weight Keyboard unit (LxWxH, [mm]):395x235x75 / ~ 2 KgMonitor unit: 245x240x260 / ~ 5 Kg
I/O Ports Expansion port, 2 cartridge slots, RS232, Parallel, Scart, tape recorder, 2 joystick ports (Tandy DIN type)
Built in media -
Power Supply Power Supply in Monitor Unit
Peripherals LSE cartridge
Status Preproduction Run
Produced Devices 250 (estimated)

LSE

LSE or Langage symbolique d’enseignement (Symbolic Teaching Language) is a programming language developed at the beginning of the 1970s for teaching. It was widespread in French high schools as a result of an edict of the French ministry of education but vanished quickly with the upcoming of PCs as there was no implementation for these machines. Technically, LSE is similar to BASIC, except with French instead of English keywords. It also supports procedures.

Here is an example of a LSE program that prints out the French version of the song “99 bottles of beer” (from Wikipedia):

  1*CHANSON DES 99 BOUTEILLES DE BIERE
  2*PASCAL BOURGUIGNON, <PJB@INFORMATIMAGO.COM>, 2003
 10 FAIRE 20 POUR N←99 PAS -1 JUSQUA 1
 20 &STROF(N)
 30  AFFICHER['IL EST TEMPS D’’ALLER AU MAGASIN.',/]
 40 TERMINER
100 PROCEDURE &STROF(N) LOCAL S1,S0;CHAINE S1,S0;S1←"S";S0←"S"
110 SI N=2 ALORS S0←"S" SINON SI N=1 ALORS DEBUT S1←"";S0←"" FIN
120 AFFICHER[U,' BOUTEILLE',U,' DE BIERE SUR LE MUR.',/]N,S1
130 AFFICHER[U,' BOUTEILLE',U,' DE BIERE.',/]N,S1
140 AFFICHER['EN PRENDRE UNE, LA FAIRE PASSER.',/]
150 AFFICHER[U,' BOUTEILLE',U,' DE BIERE SUR LE MUR.',2/]N-1,S0
160 RETOUR

Note that the program contains a procedure STROF (100-160) while the FOR loop in 10 refers to line 20 as the body. The main program starts at 10 and ends at 40.

Relevant Links

Known Alice 8000s

00001: Carl Hervier
???: Bruno (http://bruno.maitresdumonde.com/perso/antiquites/alice8000.html)
???: Andry (http://www.andryshouse.com/index.asp)
???: Andrea Pier
003: Bernard (http://bmi56287.chez.com/id98.htm)
018: Romuald (http://membres.multimania.fr/romualdl/alice/alice_faq.txt)
053: http://www.mapetitecollection.com
084: Stefan Walgenbach (http://www.homecomputer.de/pages/MachineInfo/Matra_Alice_8000.html)
153: cyberfritz (http://www.randoc.wordpress.com)
192: Olivier Achelbaum
243: www.mo5.com (http://mo5.com/article-275-acquisition-le-matra-alice-8000.html)

Pictures

The following pictures have been taken (with permission) from http://siravo.fabrice.free.fr/alice/palice8000.htm .

See you at Classic Computing 2010

October 1, 2010

I’m off to the Classic Computing 2010 meeting in Walddorf, Germany. Maybe we meet there?

Dates: October, 2nd and 3rd 2010, 10:00 – 16:00 (Sa – 18:00)

Location: Festhalle Walddorf, Badstr. 33, 72213 Altensteig-Walddorf, Germany

I prepared a display on Magic Cap computers. Let’s see how the folks like it…

Xerox 6085

July 18, 2010

Recently, I could lay my greedy hands on a Xerox workstation (thanks to Daniel who transported it for me from Berlin!), probably a 6085 (codename Daybreak). Probably means that the case and the components resemble very much to a 6085 or a 1186 (which was a 6085 with Lisp instead of ViewPoint). But, the serial number prefix (or model number) is 82D, and it has an up-to-240V PSU (it came from a (probably German) university).

Unfortunately, it has no hard disk, or should I say, hard disk module (there is an empty module slot below the PSU). If somebody owns such a thing, it would be nice to know :-).

Nevertheless, it is a rare beast, and I took it apart and had some photos of the PCBs (as I did not found anything like that on the Internet I guess the photos are an Internet premiere…):

As you can see the serial number is 82D 155  107809 – 0.

This is the label. 120-240V, obviously for the international market.

Here are the 7 module slots. 5 on the left for large PCBs, 2 on the right, the top most is the PSU, the one below is probably the one for the hard disk module (taking a 5.25 inch hard disk like a St251 and maybe the controller).

The 5 modules on the left. The DCM (Display), MEP (Memory Expansion Board?), MPB (Main Processor Board?), IOP (IO Board), and PCE (PC Expansion?). The blackened numbers below the board serial numbers are probably the sizes or options installed (e.g. numbers of MB RAM installed). The modules itself consist of a PCB mounted on a metal sheet that can be inserted into the cage. Each board has one or two connectors to a backplane installed in the cage. Let’s have a look on the boards.

This is the DCM board. Note the display connector at the bottom and one backplane connector at the top.

This is the MEP board. 90 256 Kbit nMOS Dynamic RAMs (between 2 and 3 MB).

The MPB, containing the CPU. It is not a single CPU chip or a standard design, but a proprietary Xerox design based on some AMD 2900 series bit slice chips:

At least the design is not completely TTL-based as in the first D*-machine from Xerox, the Dolphin.

And here we have the IO board giving us Ethernet, Floppy Disk, Keyboard (and Mouse that was connected through the Keyboard), and 2 serial interfaces. And we have another processor on this board:

Yes, its an Intel 80186. But it is not (only??) used for the interfaces, but in conjunction with the

PCE board for the PC emulation (note the tiny board which has a size of only a 1/3 of the others :-).

So my next task is to find a hard disk module. Let’s see whether this works out :-) Nevertheless, isn’t it cool to own a Xerox 6085?

Vintage Computer Meeting in Stuttgart

June 12, 2010

I’m organizing a small Vintage Computer Meeting next week in Stuttgart (Germany :-). In case you’re interested: follow this link (German…).

Name: Stuttgarter Sommertreffen (StuS)
Date: 18.-20.06.2010
Location: Mahatma-Gandhi-Str. 13+15, 70376 Stuttgart
Duration: 2.5 days

Program (apart from talking and soldering):

  • Friday, 18.6.2010, 16:00 Guided Tour IBM Museum, Sindelfingen
  • tbd: Guided Tour Computer Museum at the University of Stuttgart

Other mystic rare old computers on Ebay

December 4, 2009

recently offered. None of them sold for the asking price:

  • Apple 1 with very good provenance: $50’000
  • TI99/8 plus TI99/4:  $2000

Prices for a RFT add-on keyboard

October 10, 2009

The price for a rather rare GDR Robotron A5105 according to my list is Euro 76 in average. The main unit has the typical homecomputer format, computer-in-keyboard-case. The keyboard itself is rather good. The same keyboard in a similar case existed also as an (very rare) add-on for another computer, the KC85 series (which are also nor that rare nor that expensive). However, these add-on keyboards sell lately on Ebay for between Euro 212 – 227. I’m wondering whether changing the A5105 into the dumb keyboard might be a business model :-)

Lately, there was a Kenbak-1 on Ebay

September 24, 2009

Did you see that Ebay auction where somebody wanted to sell a Kenbak-1? Well, it wasn’t sold. It seems that not everyone wants to have a piece of relatively irrelevant history (and a very very early computer) for $30000…

Addition to my collection: Comx PC1

September 24, 2009

After my move to a new flat (also that’s why it was so quiet for a while) I received the first addition to my collection: a Comx PC1 (traded for a Tatung Einstein 256). Boxed, complete, mint. Manual in Chinese :-)

Comx PC1

Comx PC1

The Comx PC1 is the Comx 35 in a different housing (i.e. a real keyboard instead of the rubber keys of the Comx 35). From what I can tell the PC1 is quite rare (old-computers.com’s database lists 22 Comx35, but only 5 PC1). There was only one PC1 on Ebay since 18 months.

Rare french computers appearing on the market

July 2, 2009

What’s happening in France? All of a sudden extremely rare french computers never seen before on Ebay in the last 15 months) appear in masses like mushrooms in autumn:


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