Life seems to be a constant round of exhibitions at the moment! Having
only just got PCW out of the way, a couple of weeks ago it was Compec’s turn. But
Compec must be THE show of the year. It goes under the title of ‘Trade Only’, but
a quick walk around reveals that this is not really the case. It is the show,
however, that every manufacturer HAS to go to, and one at which many products are
often seen for the first time.
When I made my first visit to Compec (in 1978) it was mainly a show for
minis and mainframes, with hardly a micro to be seen. Over the last few years the
balance of the show has shifted, and this year it reached the stage of being
probably about 85-90% micros – a real reflection of the way in which the market
has moved. With the advent of cheaper memory, cheaper mass storage, and more
intelligent peripherals, the range of 64K systems with, say, 10 Megabytes of hard
disk storage for less than £3000 is growing rapidly. And below the £200 mark
things are moving even more rapidly.
In 1978 the Nascom 1 was not only one of the very few micros available in
the UK, but at less than £200 was an absolute bargain. Now everybody and his
brother is producing, or announcing, a sub-£200 and even sub-£100 micro. And yet
these are totally different. Expansion is limited, and consequently the life of
the product is too. Many Nascom owners have had their systems for 4 years now,
and yet they have available to them, if they wish, all of the facilities of
today’s £200 or £3000 systems. Yes, it has cost them more to get there, but that
is the cost of buying ANY electronic goods sooner rather than later.
It is the bus that makes Nascom and Gemini products so flexible. Purchase
a single board computer, watch technology change, and watch your computer become
out-moded by its inherent inflexibility. Buy a multiboard (or MultiBoard!) micro,
and add colour, speech, floppy-disks, hard-disks, A to D or IEEE488 capability
etc. as need, technology, or even finance permits. And that, in a round about
sort of way, brings me back to Compec.
Nascom and Gemini were both at Compec. Nascom were showing various Nascom 3s
sporting floppy-disks, AVCs and running Nas-Net. There was also a Kenilworth
Computer on show, more of which in a moment. Gemini were sharing their stand with
Quantum. There were two Galaxy 2s on show, one standard and one with Winchester,
and three Quantums, one standard, one with Pluto, and one with Winchester. Plus
another Kenilworth Computer (see on!). But a fair proportion of the stand was
dedicated to showing Gemini’s MultiBoard range. Gemini are now finding that,
because of the flexibilty of the bus, and because of the growing range of bus
compatible product from themselves, and a number of other British manufacturers,
that OEM sales (i.e. sales of boards to other manufacturers to use in their own
‘brand named’ equipment) are growing rapidly. And that is good news for
everybody, as many OEMs want guarantees that the equipment will still be
available in two or three years time, and that obviously means that 80-BUS must
continue to grow.
And so, what is the Kenilworth Computer? Well, it is rather difficult to
describe, but in the absence of a photo I will have a go. It is available in two
versions, one Nascom based and one Gemini based. It is portable, weighing about
28 lbs. It contains two slimline 400K drives and a 9" screen. Starting at the
bottom, the cards are mounted vertically on the left, and the drives, side by
side, on the right. Above this is the screen, and above that the PSU. Total
dimensions approx. (guessed) 9" wide, 13"deep and 17" high. The Nascom based
version contains N2, AVC, RAM, FDC with N2 keyboard. The cheaper Gemini based
version contains the GM813 CPU-RAM, GM812 IVC and GM809 FDC, with the GM827
extended keyboard. A novel looking unit and I will be watching with great
interest to see how it goes. Osborne watch out!
Well, that’s my bit over once again. A Merry Christmas to you all, and
may Santa stumble down your chimney with a Winchester unit!