80-Bus News


January–February 1983 · Volume 2 · Issue 1

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Random Rumours (& Truths)

by S. Monger

Me again. And with ‘not a lot’ of new products to reveal. All is relatively quiet, although I think that there is a fair amount of behind-the-scenes activity in certain quarters.

It seems that anybody looking for a video card will soon be faced with a bewildering choice. In monochrome, for 80x25, there is the ‘de facto’ Gemini GM812 IVC. This is now about to be joined by the MAP VFC, a combined 80x25 video and 5.25″ FDC card. It’s good to see another company producing 80-BUS/​Nasbus compatible cards, but it is a shame that they are trying to reinvent the wheel instead of bringing along totally new boards. The majority of dealers feel that this card is unlikely to break any sales records. As a video card it loses to the IVC by having no PCG (programmable character generator), no on-board CPU (for intelligence and secondary programming), only one screen format, no light pen socket, and an unbuffered keyboard input socket (as an option). One also has to consider that neither Nascom or Gemini are likely to include support for this card in their CP/M or other operating systems, and nor is Richard Beal likely to include it in his SYS BIOS program. Price of a ‘video only’ VFC is £110 against the IVC at £125.

As a disk controller the MAP VFC is claimed to be 100% 5.25″ compatible with the Gemini GM809 and GM829 cards, no doubt so that MAP can say that CP/M is available (through Gemini) until the day they can afford their own Digital Research licence. It does NOT however have 8″ floppy and SASI hard disk support, like the GM829, or an 8″ option, like the GM809 and Nascom FDC. Thus at £115 ‘yer pays yer money and yer takes yer choice’ against the Gemini GMS829 and Nascom FDC at £145, or the soon to be discontinued GM809 at £125. (N.B. exchange (second-hand & Gemini retested) GM809s will be available from MicroValue dealers at £100 as/if people upgrade to GM829s.)

In fairness (wot, me fair?) to MAP, the card does make a little sense when bought in its combined form at £199, or when bought as a kit, and it may provide a desparately needed spare card slot, but the comments on software still hold, and it is a shame that they haven’t put their efforts into something else.

In colour the choices become bewildering. In order of cost there is the Nascom AVC at £185 (10″x8″, relatively slow, but with some excellent support software for Nascoms), the Climax at £199 (super fast vector drawing, but only just about to actually become available), the Baby Pluto at £299, and Pluto at £399 (very difficult to get hold of due to ‘run-away success’, also see Dr. Dark’s review).

Finishing off on my video topic, I will also throw in the rumours heard that there will shortly(?) be available a low-cost colour card (circa £100) ideal for games and simple animation, and also another (more expensive) monochrome card, with more advanced graphics facilities than on the two current cards.

Lucas/​Nascom have recently had a dealer meeting where they handed out pretty display cards. One advertised Nas-Net at ‘only £39.95 per station’. Does this mean I can have a 10 station networked system for less than £400? I don’t think that is what they meant somehow!

Conspiracy? Why else are Lucas/​Gemini/​MAP/​Quantum in consultation? Well, look out for a new computer from one of these companies, that has the physical appearance of a product from one of the other companies, and contains boards from three of these companies. Puzzled? Well, there isn’t anything revolutionary to get excited over, other than the fact that these people are actually talking to one another!!!

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