(in my interpretation, anyway) that this would be an IBM AT clone with EGA
(Enhanced Graphics Adaptor) colour board and display. The number of
alternatives was still large, but definitely narrowing.
Which AT ?
The next decision is really whether you want a known brand name or not? The
less well known, the cheaper the product. At the top of the scale you have IBM
itself. Then has move down through Compaq. Epson, Tandon, etc, and eventually
arrive at the Mess, Elonex, Packard Bell, etc. Initially I felt thet I should
go for an Epson or Tandon. They are recognised names in the industry, have
large numbers of dealers, and are unlikely to disappear tomorrow (hopefully!).
One day, during my deliberations, I was talking on the ’phone to someone
(“Mike”), and mentioned that I was looking at AT-clones. They responded that
they had recently purchased several from Elonex, based on the North Circular
Road, London, and that they were very pleased with them. This started me
wondering whether I should in fact go for one of these lesser known breeds. A
bit more digging established that most of the low cost Taiwanese clones are
based on one of about three different main boards, and that servicing should
therefore not be a particular problem if the chosen supplier suddenly
&ldisappeared*;disappeared”. As there is a considerable saving to be made by going this route
I became interested.
A Look at Elonex
Several days later I had to go into London, and on my way back called in at
Elonex. They occupy about half s dozen rooms in a larger building, and there
were boxes of computers everywhere. I was given s demo of their AT clone, that
they call the PC-286. Various well-known packages were run to demonstrate its
compatibility, all without hitch. It seemed to well built, and was certainly
competitively priced. I commented that I had read that some packages did not
like running at the higher clock speeds that many of these clones offer,
something that I had never quite understood anyway. The response was that they
always ran their systems at 10MHz, 0 wait states, and had no problems.
I decided to go away and consider the situation further, but before leaving
asked about the delivery and payment situation. I was told that delivery would
be about three weeks. I queried what all the piles of computers were around the
rooms, and was told that these were all sold, plus the next shipment that was
due in from Taiwan! High demand like this seemed a good sign (unless they were
all empty boxes to fool people like me!). On the payment side, this could be
made in advance, or a Banker’s draft, Building Society cheque, or cash, brought
along on the day of collection, if indeed you were collecting yourself. Again
this seemed a good sign, as like many people I am very wary about payment in
advance to any company, particular a relatively large sum to an unfamiliar one
in such a high-risk industry.
As luck would have it an issue of Practical Computing came out a few days later,
and carried a comparative review of the Elonex with two other similar machines.
The comments were sufficiently favourable to strengthen my interest. A further
’phone call was made back to Mike – what was his opinion now that he had had the
machines in use for a few weeks? Very good, no real complaints, other than a
keyboard that had stopped working after being given a cup of coffee to drink!
I phoned up Elonex and placed my order. Two weeks’ delivery I was told, and as
I was going to collect they would call when it was ready. Mike had said to give
them their stated time, but then to call them as it seemed to prompt swifter
reaction. I called after two weeks (a Thursday) and was told it would be
available Monday. Along I went, handed over the specified cheque, and left with
my purchase, like a kid with a new toy! [Ed.’s wife – yes, a big kid with a big