Archive for the ‘New entries to my collection’ Category

NCR 3125 under PenPoint

December 3, 2017

Yesss, finally. After having a presentation on GO and PenPoint and a booth on “A short history of Mobile Computing” at VCFB 2017 (I’ll soon report on both) with a NCR 3125 and an EO 440 but no working computer running PenPoint, I finally acquired another NCR 3125. And this time running PenPoint!


Oh, yes, plus a (probably) complete set of PenPoint developer documentation (only 2 volumes are missing).


Plus some replacement tips for the WACOM pen (comes in handy as the tip of the other pen disappeared).


You’ll get some photos soon and then I can submit one to Wikipedia (for their PenPoint entry).

My plan is to extract an HDD image of PenPoint and provide it on this blog. I think some people might be interested in that… If this image from is true also for my model, the HDD is a 2.5″ PrairieTek Prairie 120 IDE model (20 MB). So this sounds manageable. Update: Yes, the HDD is the model above. I was a little bit confused upon opening the computer when all I saw coming from the HDD were 2 flat flexible cables (I was looking for IDE connectors). Upon closer inspection I noticed that the HDD controller (usually screwed on top of the HDD) was mounted detached positioned next to the HDD body obviously to make the package more flat. You can see this in this picture quite well, the HDD is the black box on the top left corner plus the controller on the right:


(Picture taken from, in this case this page on the 3125)

The controller, of course, has the IDE connector.

In contrast to my old 3125, this one is equipped with 8 MB of RAM. I wonder whether this is required by PenPoint. Hmm, all the early mobile computers being able to run PenPoint (3125, EO 440, IBM 701T) had minimally 4 MB of RAM, so probably not. BTW, the PenPoint is a 1.0a version. Sounds quite early.

My first impression of this version of PenPoint on the 3125: quite slow! You have to be patient to work with this system… The computer came with a bare PenPoint, no additional software seems to be installed. The most fun part after the tutorial on how to use PenPoint is the feature to getting the gestures explained and then being able to train them.


Upon playing with the new system I realised the first time that the on/off switch of the 3125 is located on the (detachable) battery pack, so no switching on the system without a battery. Even the manufacturer’s name and the model name on the front is printed on the battery. I never saw a battery made an integral part of the system so clearly 🙂

Oh, yes, and a word of advice on starting an NCR 3125. Sometimes (e.g. when the battery was dead), it seems to employ a strange double booting procedure (probably due to the usual dead battery). First, the “BIOS” part of the computer is started and the memory tested (namely the main PC memory (640kB) and the extended memory). The computer will complain about invalid CMOS memory content and stuff and will allow to enter the BIOS settings. But do not worry. Simply exit this stage, and the real OS booting process will start. Again with a RAM test, but this time including 3 memory parts. For exiting the first stage your pen needs to work (maybe a keyboard will do, too). Clicking on the “<EXIT>” text usually does the trick.

Atari ATW800

August 16, 2015

There are rare computers and there are very rare computers, and there are computers that are extremely hard to come by. Recently, almost by accident, I was able to acquire one of the latter, one that I always (since the time you could actually buy it as a brand new product) wanted to have. It looks gorgeous, even nowadays, because it is basically a steel case where the colour is not ageing (and because it comes from a collector that obviously took very good care for this machine). But enough rambling, let’s look at my precioussss…

The Atari Transputer Workstation (also known as ABAQ, ATW-800, or simply ATW) was a workstation class computer released by Atari in 1989, based on the INMOS Transputer.

As some of you might remember, Transputers were considered to be the Next Big Thing in the late 1980s. Transputers wanted to solve the problem of increasing the performance of a computer system without the need of having to develop faster CPUs (which was already then considered to be economically feasible only up to a certain limit. This limit was reached in a way in 2001). Instead, an arbitrary number of cheap but complete CPUs should collaborate to provide the needed performance. Sounds familiar? Yes, its basically the same concept as multi-core machines today with the difference that Transputers were separate chips that also did not share caches. As the collaboration of CPUs was very important for this approach fast (for the time) interconnections between the Transputers were built into each of them that could extend even outside a single computer system and therefore connect multiple Transputer computers to a combined system. Transputers contained a built-in RAM controller, so RAM could be added easily.
Transputers were the product of a single British company, Inmos that released the first Transputer in 1985. Transputer systems could not hold up to their more traditional competition, and in 1989 Inmos was sold to SGS Thomson. After that, Transputers were basically discontinued.

Inmos designed these Transputer CPUs models in it’s lifetime:

name clock word remarks
T212 17.5, 20 MHz 16 bit
M212 17.5, 20 MHz 16 bit with on-board disk controller
T222 20 MHz 16 bit
T225 20 MHz 16 bit
T414 15, 20 MHz 32 bit
T425 20, 25, 30 Mhz 32 bit
T400 20 Mhz 32 bit stripped-down T425
T800 20, 25 MHz 32 bit 64 bit floating point support
T801 20, 25 MHz 32 bit 64 bit floating point support
T805 20, 25, 30 Mhz 32 bit 64 bit floating point support

The ATW and its operating system, HeliOS, was conceived by Perhelion, a company that was founded by former employees of MetaComCo. As MetaComCo had good connections to both Atari and Commodore, Perhelion tried to interest both companies in releasing a Transputer workstation running HeliOS. Commodore had expressed some interest in their new system, and showed demos of it on an add-on card running inside an Amiga 2000. It appears they later lost interest in it. It was at this point that Atari met with Perihelion and work started on what would eventually become the ATW.

The machine was first introduced at the November 1987 COMDEX under the name Abaq. Two versions were shown at the time; one was a card that connected to the Mega ST bus expansion slot, the second version was a stand-alone tower system containing a miniaturized Mega ST inside. The external card version was dropped at some point during development. It was later learned that the “Abaq” name was in use in Europe, so the product name was changed to ATW800.

The ATW system came in a large tower case. It consisted of three main parts:

  • the main motherboard containing a T800-20 Transputer and 4MB of RAM (expandable to 16MB)
  • a complete miniaturized Mega ST acting as an I/O processor with 512kB of RAM
  • the Blossom video system with 1MB of dual-ported RAM

All of these parts were connected using the Transputer’s 20 Mbit/s processor links. The motherboard also contained three slots for additional “farm cards” containing four Transputers each, meaning that a fully expanded ATW contained 13 Transputers. The bus was also available externally, allowing several ATWs to be connected into one large farm. The motherboard also included a separate slot for one of the INMOS crossbar switches to improve inter-chip networking performance.

HeliOS was Unix-like, but not Unix. Of particular note was the lack of memory protection, due largely to the lack of an MMU on the Transputer. This is not quite the issue it might seem, as the Transputer’s stack-based architecture makes an MMU less important. Meanwhile HeliOS was Unix-like enough that it ran standard Unix utilities, including the X Window System as the machine’s graphical user interface (GUI). In addition HeliOS ran on all of the Transputers in a farm at “the same time”, which allowed all computing tasks to be fully distributed. Turning off an ATW would not affect the overall farm, the tasks would simply move to other processors on other systems. Later HeliOS was ported to other processors including the ARM architecture.

The Blossom video system was developed specially for the ATW. It offered 4 different video modes up to 1280 by 960 pixels at 16 out of 4096 colours. The Blossom also included a number of high-speed effects (128 megapixels/s fill rates) and blitter functionality, including the ability to apply up to four masks on a bit-blit operation in a fashion similar to a modern graphics processing unit’s ability to apply several textures to a 3D object. The team in charge of the Blossom would later work on another Atari project, the Atari Jaguar video game console.

There is an ATW price list in Pound Sterling (GBP) stating the prices for the machine and various options excluding VAT:

Product Price Education Price
ATW 5000 2500
Farm Card 2000 1500
+4MB RAM 750 562
Expansion 500 375

5000 GBP in 1990 equals to about 13700 DEM or 8000$ at the time which corresponds about 9900 GBP or 14000$ today. Quite a price… On the other hand, an Atari TT was 3000$ in 1990.

It took quite long in a PC before a machine could handle more than 4 processors or cores.

I also looked into how the ATW compares to other product-level Atari computers in terms of speed. MIPS-wise, a corresponding list looks like this:

model clock CPU MIPS year
ST 8MHz 68000 1 MIPS 1985
MegaSTE 16MHz 68000 2 MIPS 1991
Falcon 16MHz 68030 3.84 MIPS (Motorola DSP: 16 MIPS) 1992
TT 32MHz 68030 8 MIPS (I guess because is runs at 2*16MHz) 1990
ATW 20MHz T800-20 10 MIPS (per T800, i.e. 130 MIPS for 13 T800-20) 1989

One can argue that the DSP inside the Falcon has a quite hefty 16 MIPS, and that a combined 20 MIPS for the Falcon (CPU + DSP) is more than the combined 11 MIPS of the ATW, but first, a DSP is not a general purpose processor, so this power is not available to every program. Second, you could add up to 12 T800-20 inside an ATW… So, although the ATW did not run TOS, and it therefore not the fastest ST that has been sold by Atari, it was the fastest computer by Atari. Of course, later projects (e.g Hades) would have been much faster.If we look at the cost per MIPS, we can state the following:

So, if you needed to have compute power, a loaded ATW was an economic option.It is said that only between 200 and 350 ATWs have been built, out of which 50 to 100 were prototypes that were released already in in May 1988. The production run has been released in May 1989. Another rumour is that 200 ATWs were sold to Kodak. The label on the back of an ATW say something like:Serial Number: AB84A 90XXXXThe serial numbers that I know are:

  • 909131
  • 909215

It says also: Made In Germany. That sounds unusual. It probably means that the ATW was assembled by a 3rd party.If you have ever heard of Transputers outside this text, it was probably a long time ago. This effect typically indicates that a technology was not successful as it is also the case here. For the ATW 800 there are three groups of reasons for the failure of this machine:

  • this machine was ways too pricey for the mass market
  • Atari seem not to have invested much time and effort in supporting this model or to develop successors (I can also imagine they made a loss on every machine)
  • HeliOS was a too exotic environment
  • Perihelion remained the exclusive distributor in England (and it was always a small company)
  • Transputers as a technology failed because they had problems in terms of pricing, and later on performance compared to the (traditional) competition
  • Inmos as the sole manufacturer of these CPUs was a too small company
  • finally, Inmos folded basically in the same year as the ATW was published

Still, despite the failure of the machine for the masses (:-)), the ATW 800 was a good computer and had the potential to be used advantageously in some niches like scientific computing. A running ATW 800 is still the best opportunity to experiment with the Transputer technology. If you can get one, that is. It is rare to a ridicule degree.Technical Data

  • CPU: Inmos T800-20 @20 MHz (10 MIPS)
  • RAM: 4MB (expandable to 16MB)
  • HDD: 44MB
  • OS: HeliOS
  • Graphics: Blossom video system with 1MB of dual-ported RAM, supporting
    • mode 0: 1280 by 960 pixels, 16 colours out of a palette of 4096 (including 16 true greyscales, on a monochrome monitor)
    • mode 1: 1024 by 768 pixels, 256 colours out of a palette of 16.7 million
    • mode 2: 640 by 480 pixels (2 virtual screens), 256 colours out of a palette of 16.7 million
    • mode 3: 512 by 480 pixels, 16.7 million colours
  • Interfaces: RGB component display interface
  • Contains: a miniaturized Mega ST with 512kB RAM with all its interfaces
  • Released: May 1989
  • Number of produced machines: between 200 – 350 (of which 50 – 100 were prototypes)
  • Initial price: 5000 GBP


model cost per MIPS configuration
TT 375$
ATW 800$ no farm card
ATW 240$ 1 farm card
ATW 135$ 3 farm cards

Western Digital Pascal MicroEngine WD900

May 1, 2014


The WD-900 is the main board of a very rare computer whose CPU can execute P-Code (compiled from Pascal) directly. Before I come back to this computer please allow me a short detour 🙂 .

There are few computer architectures that aim at executing code that is closer to a certain programming language directly on the CPU. And none of them were successful in the sense that they sold to a larger extend because simply the technical progress on CPUs that do not have to obey such restrictions is faster than for these special CPUs. As a result, executing the programming language on general CPUs of the next generation is faster than doing it on the special CPU.

The list of programming languages for which such special CPUs exist(ed) is rather short:

  • Lisp (starting in 1975)
  • Forth (starting in the early 80s)
  • Prolog (starting in the 80s; research level only)
  • Java (starting in 1996)

Lisp machines did have some commercial success, but vanished in the early 90s.

Prolog machines never came out commercially although their development was one of the promises of the Fifth Generation projects.

Forth is considered by some not so much a high-level programming language, but something very close to computer hardware. There are still some interesting Fort CPUs products, so it’s probably more the low interest in Forth that leads to a low interest in Forth hardware (don’t get me wrong – I love Forth).

In contrast to that, Java is a high-interest programming language. Now, Java does not need to be executed directly on a CPU as it is often compiled into “Bytecode” anyway. Bytecode is a stack-oriented language like Forth. Of course, in contrast to Forth Java supports e.g. objects, but the principle is the same. Bytecode is a much simpler language than Java and better suited to be executed in hardware.

Now, the concept of Bytecode was not invented by Java. It existed long before Java, notably as the runtime system of UCSD Pascal, and now we are back at the WD-900.

In 1979, Western Digital, then a manufacturer of CPU and controller chips, looked for another use case of their MCP-1600 micro-coded, multi-chip microprocessor consisting of 3 types of chips:

  • CP1611 RALU – Register ALU chip
  • CP1621 CON – Control chip
  • CP1631 MICROM – Mask-programmed microcode ROM chip (512 – 22 bit words)

The main use of this CPU was as the processor in DECs LSI-11 computer, a compact, integrated version of the PDP-11 minicomputer. As the CPU was micro-coded and as the microcode was stored in one or more separate chips, it was easy to let the CPU execute a different command set by switching the microcode storage chips.

So what they did was to change the microcode to directly execute “p-code”, the bytecode of UCSD Pascal (of course, also p-code is a stack-oriented language). To that end they developed the WD-9000 chip set consisting of

  • CP2151 Data chip (was no different from the CP1611 of the MCP-1600 chipset and could be interchanged)
  • CP2161 Control chip
  • 3 CP1631 MICROM chips

The difference was in the CP2161 control chip (and of course the MICROMs).  Though the CP2151 contained multiple registers, but as the the p-code implementation was a pure stack machine, it did not use the registers.

In 1979, the competition were mainly 8bit machines. As a result, the MicroEngine outperformed e.g. a Z80-based machine at the same clock speed by almost a factor of 10. Of course, later 16bit machines like the 68000-based HP9836 (at 8 MHz, sold from 1981 for $11950) were faster by a factor of 3. Also, the performance advantage was eroded by the later availability of p-code to native machine code compilers.

The WD-900 board that I own is reportedly a New Old Stock board bought as a spare for a WD-90 computer that never has been used. It is boxed. The WD-900 board contains all the electronics: the CPU, RAM, serial interfaces and a floppy disk controller (WD1791/2) for two disks.

The WD-90 system contained a WD-900 board and a power supply. The (up to two) floppy disk drives needed to be attached externally.

The first boards shipped were poorly designed (power and ground traces the same size as signal traces, very few capacitors), required a large number of modifications, and even then did not work reliably. A couple of years would pass after introduction before a well-engineered MicroEngine was available. Between a damaged reputation and the introduction of the IBM PC, in the end the MicroEngine was not successful. You can see the lack of craftsmanship in the board design very clearly if you have a closer look on the photo of my board. Many patch wires, additional components and hand-soldering on a New Old Stock board…

The MicroEngine series of products was offered at various levels of integration:

  • WD-9000: five chip microprocessor chip set
  • WD-900: single board computer ($2995)
  • WD-90: packaged system ($5000)
  • SB-1600: MicroEngine single board computer
  • ME-1600: Modular MicroEngine packaged system

Technical Data:

  • CPU: WD-9000@ 3.0 MHz
  • RAM: 64 kB (32k 16bit words)
  • Interfaces: 2 x RS232, 2 x parallel (i.e. floppy disk)
  • Released: 1979
  • Initial price: $2995


Dauphin DTR-1

April 27, 2014

DTR-1 pictureReleased in 1994, the optimistically named “DeskTop Replacement 1” is an early pen-based, mobile computer. Like the NCR 3125 3 years earlier it’s a PC that you can carry in your hand and that  you can operate using a pen as a mouse. Of course, the DTR-1 used updated hard- and software, but the idea is the same. Therefore, the architecture of these devices did not allow much freedom and required a desktop-class performance CPU. As a result, all these devices are the most heavy mobile pen computers with a weight almost twice as much as  the one of an Apple Newton or a Magic Cap-based PDA. Not only were they heavy, the PC architecture also meant that the price was double or triple the price of a Newton or a Magic Cap device (a similar problem exist nowadays
in a lesser form for Windows-based tablets as opposed to Android-based tablets).  The upside of the used PC architecture was that it sported all the standard interfaces also found on desktop PCs.

The machine ran on NiMH batteries. They were advertised to last for 3.5 hours.  The pen ran on SR48 batteries and lasted for 350 hours.

The Dauphin DTR-1 could recognize handwriting and convert it to text on the fly.

The DTR-1 was manufactured by IBM.

The operating system was “Windows 3.1 for Pen Computing”.

Another very interesting feature about this computer is that it uses a tiny HP Kittyhawk 1.3″ harddisk.  It seems to be the only computer where this drive came as a standard (it was an option in AT&T’s EO 440 Personal Communicator).

Of course, the DTR-1 was not a success (else this blog would not write about it 🙂 ). A quite steep price tag of  over $2500 dollars where the initial Apple Newton costed only $700 a year earlier, a high weight, and  an OS that was very exotic in the mobile market made the company starting to collapse in 1995. From the reported assets and debts, divided  by the price for a DTR-1 I assume that Dauphin made at least 18000 units. Dauphin, however seemed to survived  somehow at least until the year 2000.

The power supply of the DTR-1 is notoriously bad. People who own DTR-1’s recommend to use modern 12V DC power  supplies instead of the original one. The original one is specified at 2.1A. The plug is center-positive. As a pen replacement old Fujitsu pens can be used.

In 1996 Dauphin also released a second model (called DTR-2) which was selling for $4445, but very few of them (in the few hundreds)  seem to exist. The DTR-2 had a 486SLC2@50 MHz CPU, a 120 MB HDD, and 2 PCMCIA2 slots.

There are articles from 1999 about a “Dauphin Orasis” computer based on a Pentium@266 MHz, and there are people  that report that they once had such a device, but these machines seem to be even more rare.

Technical Data

  • CPU: Cyrix 486SLC @ 25 MHz (has about 35 MIPS)
  • RAM: 4MB(expandable to 6MB)
  • HDD: HP 1.3″ Kittyhawk microdrive 40MB
  • Size: 5 x 9″
  • Weight: 1100 grams
  • Pen: active, requires batteries
  • Display: pen-sensitive, backlit, passive-matrix, monochrome VGA (640 x 480)
  • Interfaces: VGA (800 x 600, 256 colors), parallel and serial ports, Ethernet, Modem
  • Modem: Hayes-compatible (the modem and serial port are set to the same interrupt, so they can’t be used simultaneously)
  • Ethernet: the Ethernet module (apart from the connector) is an option
  • Keyboard: separate, but included
  • Released: 1994
  • Initial price: $2595
  • Options:
    •  3.5″ floppy disk drive $200
    •  Ethernet module $300



Siemens NotePhone

August 16, 2013

A lucky find on a recent local flea market.

  • 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 :-).


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 :

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 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):

 10 FAIRE 20 POUR N←99 PAS -1 JUSQUA 1
 20 &STROF(N)

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 (
???: Andry (
???: Andrea Pier
003: Bernard (
018: Romuald (
084: Stefan Walgenbach (
141: has been seen at in July 2016
153: cyberfritz (
192: Olivier Achelbaum
243: (


The following pictures have been taken (with permission) from .

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?

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 (’s database lists 22 Comx35, but only 5 PC1). There was only one PC1 on Ebay since 18 months.

Atari Stacy 2 & Mattel Intellivision ECS

April 19, 2009

I received a working Atari Stacy 2 (with the display separated and the display back cover missing), and a Mattel Intellivision ECS. All I need now is an Intellivision 🙂

Acorn A4 Notebook

March 21, 2009

Finally, I managed to get an Acorn A4 notebook computer from 1992. Actually, I got a working one and pieces of a second one. The only one(s) I saw on any Ebay since more than one year. As I do not know how many of these were made, I have to try to find serial numbers again. Here are the ones of my A4s:

  • AKB64-1015464 (no inner number)
  • no outer one (inner: 005220)

The A4 is a A5000 with a 24MHz ARM3 CPU, 2-4 MB RAM and 0-80 MB HDD. The case is shared with some machines of the other brands and OEM machines of Olivetti, namely:

  • Olivetti S20
  • Triumph-Adler Walkstation SX20(?)
  • DECpc 320sx(?)

i.e. the case, screen, battery, floppy drive, and DC/DC converter boards were the same and can be taken from these (cheaper and easier to get) machines.

The A4 weighs 3 kg… It is meant to be used with (Acorn) mouses, but you can simulate the mouse using (keyboard) keys. The interesting thing now is, that the mouse pointer also accelerates faster if you keep pressing the key, in contrast to e.g. a Atari ST where the mouse-over-keyboard behaviour was quite linear and therefore not fast enough.