The CompuColor II, also called the "Renaissance Machine", is said to be the first home-computer available with a colour display. ISC (Intelligent Systems Corp), who was a large color computer manufacturer, conceived the CompuColor II built into a RCA color TV chassis (sans tuner assembly). The main problem of the system was that the machine had *no* RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) shielding what-so-ever and the FCC was soon on their butts. They planned to redesign the system but then prefered to stop production...
The first Compucolor system (model 8001) was in fact an 8080 based terminal (model 8001) and was later followed by the CompuColor II (model 8051), with BASIC and a floppy interface. It seems like the system was sold by ISC, Compucolor and Intecolor; but in which order ? Any idea someone ?
Different models with different keyboards were available. The one pictured here is the Deluxe model with a full implemented keyboard. There were models with 16, 32 or 48 kb RAM. Later models seemed to have a built-in 300 baud modem. Apparently, you could not format the 5.25" disks yourself, surely because Intecolor wanted to make money by selling these preformated disks... But many users ended up by writing their own formating programs.
The system was very vulnerable to certain hardware tinkering. Tampering with the addresses that accessed the hardware registers could wipe out all the RAM (it did something fatal to the refresh logic). It used an Intel CRT controller for screen processing. Altering the number of scanlines to too high a value could kill the CRT.
The ROM contained a ripped-off version of Microsoft BASIC and a simplistic file system. Microsoft found out about them, and forced ISC to become a Microsoft distributor. They also collected royalties on all machines sold up to that time.
The disk drive was originally designed to use an 8-track tape cartridge for storage (yes, you read that right!). When that proved to unreliable, they switched to a 5.25 inch disk drive. They didn't change the file system, which still thought it was a tape drive. When you deleted a file, it re-packed all remaining files back to the front of the disk. Used the 8K of screen RAM for a buffer to do it, which led to some psychedelic I/O.
Some games were available, such as the famous Star-Trek, Othello, Chess, Black Jack, Tic Tac Toe, etc.
I started my career with ISC right out of school in 1978. I enjoyed reading the post and it sure brings back memories. ISC was one of the fastest growing companies, and formed product names like Intecolor and Compucolor. I worked for this company until it closed in 2001. The name changed along the way from Intelligent Systems Corp (ISC) to Intecolor to Rockwell Automation (1996). I had the priviledge to work with Mr. Charles Muench for most of my working life. I remember working on every product that was designed from the 8001 Terminal that had the 8080 based processor through the Flat Panel Displays and Industrial Computers at the end. Charles launched Printacolor and Colorocs companines too. All were based on Color. Hello to all the readers who remember this great company and thank you to Charles Muench for his vision.
Tuesday 28th September 2010
David Shockley (Athens Georgia)
I worked at FSU 1981-1986 in the Math/Computer science department under Dr. E.P. Miles Jr., who was director of the Center for Color Graphics. The center built one of the original Intecolor 8001 terminals from a kit. E.P. Miles delveloped a relationship with Intecolor president Charles Muench who donated several computers over the years including some Intel 8080 based systems like the 8051 running the FCS O/S and 8063R running CP/M-80. I recall in one particularly generous year when they donated 40 Intecolor 2427 terminals along with five Dataview 3000 (8-cpu) computers and Printacolor color printers we used to set up a student lab facility. I spent many hours studying the source code assembler code, writing device drivers, tweaking CP/M, etc.
Monday 1st December 2003
Raymond Curci (Tallahassee FL)
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology purchased a few of these machines when they were available. The objective was to have meteorologists write programs in Basic to enable forecasting aids to be written and shared around the various forecasting offices. Unfortunately the disk drives were of such a poor quality that a file written on one floppy disk drive couldn't be read on another drive. As the drives deteriorated, only files written in the last few days could be read by the same disk drive. Still, it was a learning process, and the Bureau moved on to the NEC APC II and IV
Thursday 19th June 2003
Robin Hicks (Melbourne, Australia)
ISC (Intelligent Systems Corp)
BUILT IN LANGUAGE
Full-stroke keyboard with colorful keys! Separate numeric keypad, function keys and arrow keys
Intel CRT controller
16, 32 or 48 kb depending on models
40 x 24, 64 x 32
128 x 128
Keyboard, monitor, serial port, external disk drive
BUILT IN MEDIA
5.25'' disk-drive (51,2 kb, 40 tracks, average access time 400ms, transfer rate 76,8 Kb/s), built-in the monitor