torsdag 15 januari 2009

Background: The early years of home computing!

Back in 1980 I bought and assembled my first personal home computer, the Compukit UK101. This was during the era of the "microcomputer revolution" started in the mid 70's when small companies, mainly in the US, began to develop and market computer systems and software for hobbyists, homeusers and small businesses, all based on microprocessors. This was the beginning of homecomputing boom and later on, the PC! You probably heard this story before.....!
A lot of these companies were successful (MITS, IMSAI, PET et al, and also the swedish TV-set maker Luxor with the ABC80, that I used the last year in highschool) and some firms are still in business, such as Microsoft and Apple! :-)
The Swedish tech magazine "Radio & Television" published in issue 1/1980 a review of the Ohio Scientific Superboard II that caught my first interest. Here you had an inexpensive, simple and yet "powerful" computer available as a kit or assembled, aimed for hobbyists!
Based around the then very popular 6502 uP (MOS Technology) and Microsoft's 8K BASIC-in-ROM, the Superboard was equipped with full ASCII keyboard, 300 baud cassette interface (Kansas City), a RS232 port, 4K of RAM and a video output for a TV-monitor.
Some minor quirks existed, such as a 60Hz video refresh rate which was not suitable within Europe, only 24 characters width and no inboard PSU.
Price was about 2900 SEK fully assembled (some 240 GBP). Less than any other computer on the market but still a large amount for a student in 1980, about to enter mandatory military service the same year!
My memory is lacking but I believe it was a friend's sisters boyfriend (working in UK or was it from reading in Practical Electronics?) that discovered a computerkit in the UK based on the Superboard II.
Anyway, my friend eventually bought the UK101 from the swedish distributor and I was hooked!!
Soon, after saving any penny (öre) I could get hold of and persuading my father to buy a UK101 on the firm (some discount), I finally got my own UK101!
After a couple of evenings and nights, soldering components and inserting IC's, the UK101 soon was ready for work! Power on.... Nothing happened!
After doing "bus-shortening", removing IC's one-by-one, I soon discovered a classic mishap. A bent pin under a IC, very hard to detect by eye.
Fixed that and the famous prompt showed up on the screen:

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