Archive for November 3rd, 2019

Gepard – An early German 68000 hobbyist workstation

November 3, 2019

Part One: What’s that all about?

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First Generation Gepard (Front)

I did not write an entry for quite some time now. Not because I was lazy, but because I was busy with a single retro computer project for almost a year now. It started like so many of my blog texts: I bought something unusual on Ebay. Normally, I then start to research it on Google, maybe make a few photos – voila a new blog entry.

This time however, it was so rare and obscure that there weren’t even enough information to fill a small text. So, I had to go to a journey first finding people that knew people that knew something substantial. I had to actually go out and phone up people and ask whether they would send me information, lend me hardware, software, and documentation. I made an actual phone interview with one of the key people of the original manufacturer. I scanned a lot of paper. I drove away and got computer, monitors, and keyboards handed out. I felt like an actual (re-)discoverer of things, charting virtual landscapes noone ever entered (after the original natives have left it that is :-).

But enough of this banter, you want to know what this is all about. I give you: the mighty Gepard (Cheetah) computer, a mid-1980s, modular, German 68000 computer with a proprietary operating system written with a proprietary Modula-2 compiler developed from nerds for nerds. Only about 300 systems have been built originally, probably only a few of them survived, and even less are in an operational state. The documentation is exclusively German, and the computer pre-dates the Web. Apart from a new mentions in forum posts, it’s the first time that something will be written about it in English. Currently, no Computer Museum has a Gepard (as far as I am aware).

I plan to have a (short) series of entries treating different aspects of the Gepard:

At the Vintage Computer Festival Berlin (VCFB) 2019 I gave a presentation and I exhibited a working Gepard. I’m afraid the presentation was given in German (as were the posters at the exhibit), but I figured it would be very unlikely for someone to have a Gepard and not speak German, so if you have and do not – read this blog :-).

I will provide all digital material I have via this blog.

I also plan to find a way to have the software available for download. However, this might take a while because the original distribution media are 3.5 ” floppy disks with a proprietary format.

Finally, if you have a Gepard, I would love to hear from you. There are not many of us around. The same holds true if you were one of the developers or original users. Send me an email or write a comment.