80-Bus News


May–June 1983 · Volume 2 · Issue 3

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Random Rumours (& Truths?)

by S. Monger

I could hardly believe it when I was asked for another contribution so quickly. What could I find to write about so soon after my last load of rubbish? Well, I suppose a reasonable start would be talk about things that have NOT arrived.

Where are they now?

For example, the Sinclair Microdrive! Yes, it’s only 15 months(ish) since it was first announced, and I only mention it here because I know of one certain individual who intends to try and interface one to their 80-BUS machine. Could be interesting, and somewhat cheaper than a Winchester. Which reminds me! (Note the subtle way of changing topic – very clever!) In a long, long lost price list from Nascom (or should that be Lucas Logic, or even Lucas/​Nascom? – I get confused so easily) I seem to remember a line that said something like “5MB Winchester Disk Drive – price to be advised”, and at about the same time there was a Nas-Net leaflet with “optional hard disk” mentioned – where has that got to? And how about Gemini, their last catalogue mentioned “GM818 Serial Board” – no sign of it yet. And nor is there any sign of IO Research’s Pluto Pallette, Frame Grabber or IO-Net boards. What are these people all so busy doing that they can’t produce these almost forgotten (but not by me!) ‘products’?

What are they doing instead?

Lucas must be putting all their current effort into the Lucas LX range. What is that? Well, remember the ‘Conspiracy’ that I mentioned two issues ago – that’s to do with the LX. The original idea was to take a Quantum 2000 case and put a Nascom 2, AVC, MAP RAM board and Gemini GM829 FDC/​SASI board inside it. It was first shown at Which? in January, but I don’t think that it has been sighted since. Interesting developments afoot?

And Gemini? Well they have launched one or two new things in recent months. There is the GM839 prototyping board at £12.50. Made of fibre-glass, and laid out for high density packing, it’s ideal for that washing machine and central heating controller! Then there’s their GM833 RAM-DISK board. (It seems they managed to resist the temptation to call it a Virtual Disk board, because of the possible abbreviation of the latter!) This board provides 512K bytes of RAM, port-mapped in such a way as to allow very easy interface software, using the otherwise little-used Z80 INIR and OTIR instructions. Apparently a DIL switch on board allows upto 8 Megabytes of the things. Fancy a dose? Then there’s the Gemini Multi-Net (briefly described last issue) and a permutation on the Galaxy called “M-F-B”. And what does that stand for? Multi-Format-BIOS of course. A Galaxy is supplied, fitted with (or surrounded by) drives of different TPI (tracks per inch), an optional Winchester, and an optional 8″ drive. M-F-B links it all together, and allows easy transfer of software between almost all soft-sectored 5.25″ and 8″ formats. “Superbrain to Xerox? – No problem. IBM to Osborne? – One moment sir.” They are obviously looking at Software houses as their market for the M-F-B, and I am sure that there is little point in printing a price here. (Actually, I don’t know it, but I don’t want to admit to that.)

And finally, IO Research. Well, to be quite honest I have heard very little about what they are upto. I understand that sales of PLUTO are pretty good, mainly to non-80-BUS computer owners, who also have to buy special interfaces. Why don’t these people buy a REAL microcomputer, which this board would plug straight into? Some people have no idea!

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