Archive for June, 2018

David Computer PROFI 203

June 12, 2018

As you might know by now I like rare and obscure computers you will not find much about from other sources in the Internet. But, at the same time, that’s also a problem for me if I want to write a new entry to this blog: I have to find out about another rare, strange computer, hopefully standing out from the waste mass of CP/M machines and PC compatibles. This task seems to get increasingly more difficult over time (maybe naturally so). If *you* have a proposal in this direction, go ahead and write a comment…

However, I was able to compile a short list of interesting contestants, and today I want to start to write about the first one. Of course, I could research the computer, and write an entry when I’m done, but why not doing it in the form of a logbook, extending the entry as I learn more about it. Maybe, there are some folks out there who would want to accompany me along the way. So, here we go.

June 12th, 2018

Today I learned about a model that is *really* obscure, almost a yeti of a computer. There is basically one entry in old-computers.com which we can use as a starting point. The model is called “PROFI 203” (Professional 203 if you like) from a company called “David Computer”. Never heard of any of that? Me neither. According to the mentioned entry, it is a 1983 machine from Germany with a Fairchild 9445 CPU.

A *what* CPU? Apparently, this was a Data General NOVA 3 computer-on-a-chip (running 10 times faster than the original NOVA 3) made at Fairchild, a successor to Fairchilds 9440 CPU which emulated the NOVA 2. Now, some of you might recognize the names Data General and NOVA because they play an important role in the popular 1981 non-fiction book “The Soul of a New Machine” by Tracy Kidder on the development of the Data General Eclipse MV/8000. The NOVA was a 16-bit computer, therefore the 9445 was a 16-bit CPU. As it can be expected, Data General was not pleased about the possibility of having competition by a code-compatible CPU and they sued Fairchild for many years. Bottomline: the 94XX cpu family was not a success. But it is very interesting to me because this is quite an exotic beast. First productions of the 9445 were delivered late in 1981. Initially, the 9445 ran at 16 MHz, later versions also on 20 MHz and 24 MHz. It could address 128 kB of RAM directly.

The old-computer.com entry contains a photo (the only photo I ever found so far):

Quite a beast of a computer. It seems that you have a small-refrigerator-in-a-desk form factor, with a printer on the top, and a display and keyboard in front of the user.

The entry does not tell us much more, only that it uses a “MIDOS” operating system, and that is has a monochrome display, RS232, IEEE 488, and Monitor interfaces, as well as one “or several” 5.25” disk drives.

One (of two) comments says “I just posted a bunch of information about the dAVID Computer, designed and built in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada in the early 1980’s. However, I got an error from this site when I submitted it. If there’s interest I can try again.” Well, Jack, the unresponsiveness of old-computers.com made me start this blog in 2009 🙂 (J.C., if you read this, *I* would be very interested…).

And that’s it what I know for now. When asking Google for “David Computer” “profi 203”, I get basically one other hit, namely a very brief 1983 mention in the German computer industry newspaper “Computerwoche” (who, thankfully, have their entire archive since 1974 online). Here is the translated text:

“Their family 200 with over 20 different models is presented by the David Computer GmbH, Stuttgart, at the Fair in Cologne.

The smallest member of the family is the upward compatible 16-bit micro computer profi 203. In the standard configuration the model has 128 kB RAM, two floppy disks drives with a capacity of 512 kB each, a screen, and a printer. Maximally, the profi 203 could be fitted with 356 kB RAM and a 40 MB hard disk drive. In the multi-user mode up to four screens can be connected. The price for the standard configuration is about 20’000 DM [which would be about 21’000 $ in 2018]. The maximum configuration of the largest model of the family, the profi 230 is 1024 kB RAM, 600 MB hard disk space and 24 screen interfaces. […]

David Computer also offers the software package Intext/M for their micro computer, a program with integrated data and text processing. In addition, the Stuttgart company will demonstrate the usage of Teletex and Electronic Mail using the profi 203.”

And, then, the best part: the address of the company. It is called “David Computer GmbH” and it is about 2km from my home. I could walk there if I could also move back 35 years in time (no, the company does not exist there any more). My jaw drops, this is a nice  coincidence in an area where most players used to sit in the U.S.

So, that’s all Google has to offer using these keywords. But, there is another dependable source of information if the computer was offered in Germany: my beloved CC Computerarchiv. And, low and behold, in the June of 1983 issue of the office equipment part, there it is:

The model 203/20, priced at 30’521 DM, with a 10 MB hdd, a terminal, and one 1.6 MB floppy disk drive. Another 5530 DM for an additional text terminal. The model 230 for a mere 37’940 DM with 256 kB RAM, and an additional 25’368 DM for 2 * 14 MB hdds. All prices for any option you can have.

No entry in subsequent issues. David Computer seem to disappear from the market after 1983.

So, what remaining leads can we follow?

  • we can try to find out more about the David Computer GmbH (especially given that I am living in the area where they used to be)
  • we can try to find out whether this computer is also known under another name (the Fairchild 9445 CPU was used only in a few computers)
  • we can try to find more about MIDOS, the operating system
  • we can try to find out more about Intext/M

And that’s what I will do in the course of the next days, so stay connected.

June 16th, 2018

Ok, I hate it when a mystery clears up so quickly. Let’s start with the leads that did not lead anywhere. Intext/M, not a thing outside the 203 computer. MIDOS, the same.

What actually tells us something are official information on the David Computer GmbH. There is an official registry portal of all German states that registers by and large all companies in Germany. You can ask it even for closed companies. You have to pay if you want to have detailed information, but some fields are free. So there was a “David-Computer Vertriebs-GmbH ” from 1977 to 1991. That’s probably the one we know of. The entry specifies also the Predecessor of this company, the “DDC Computer Vertriebs-GmbH”. And if we look into CC Computerarchiv, we immediately get a model “203” and “230” from “DDC” in 1982, with the same data and similar prices. But that’s not all, DDC is represented in all issues of CC Computerarchiv from 1976 on (although with different models). But the last entry for DDC is in 1982, and the only one for David Computer in 1983. So where did these computers go after that date? The solution again comes from the companies registry. From 1983 until 1991 there is a company called “SynTec System- und Software-Entwicklung GmbH” whose one predecessor was the “David Computer Systeme GmbH”. The other predecessor was the “Ericsson Information Systems Vertriebspartner GmbH” (Ericsson Information System Distribution Partner, Inc.). Ok, So Ericsson had a hand in this game. And, what do you know?, from 1984 the company “Ericsson Vertriebspartner” (not to be confused with Ericsson, who has an entry on its own with different models) is represented in CC Computerarchiv with the models 203 and 230. This continues in 1985. In 1986, three more models appear, the 240, 250, and 260. The same in 1987 and 1988. From 1989, there is no more “Ericsson Vertriebspartner” and no more models 203-250 represented.

Now, if we search for “Ericsson” and “203”, we learn that the family of computers is  called “Eritron” (probably after 1983). Using this new name, we can find more information on this computer system which we will do in a few days. Stay connected!

June 24th, 2018

So, let’s see what we can find out about the Eritron line of computers. There is a thread in a C64 forum (in German) on the machine, together with photos of components. The guy taking the photos (in another man’s garage) could figure out a PCB with some AMD Am2903 (4-bit) Bit-Slice chips and claims this would be the CPU. Hmm, I’m not sure on that.

Apart from the additional models 240, 250, and 260, there were also the models ET1 and ET1a (ET stands for Eritron Tower). An in this database, the CPU for the ET1 is stated as 9945. That’s the second mentioning of the 9945, but there are also not more.

What I found mentioned several times is that the 200 series used MULTIBUS as a bus system. And that the 200 series later on had a software product that ventured into “Computer-aided Translation”.

But, again, that’s it. No pictures except the one. CPU probably a Fairchild 9445. Main application area Word Processing for companies and institutions. Users sat on terminals connected to the servers via serial line. The business could keep up for some years until it was probably taken over by PCs. I think I have reached the end of Internet research possibilities for this model. If I ever find out more, I’ll post it here.

References

Advertisements