The SWTPC 6800 was the first computer system made by The SouthWest Technical Products Corporation and the first based on the Motorola 6800 microprocessor. Before manufacturing computers, SWTPC sold home audio kits and a kind of computer terminal called "Television Typewriter".
The SWPTC 6800 was introduced in 1975. The first system included a case with power supply housing a SS-50 and SS-30 bus based motherboard, a 6800 CPU card, a 2 KB. static RAM card and a serial I/O card. User had to buy an additional terminal to enter information, and thus a ROM monitor allowed him to examine and modify memory, load/save programs on tape or boot from a floppy disc unit.
Every original card was built around the Motorola family chips which made the SWTPC 6800 an inexpensive system for the time. The system was sold in a 2 KB kit version ($395) or 4 KB, 8 KB or 40 KB assembled versions. It came with a complete documentation including the 6800 programming manual and a program examples book.
The ROM and RAM was organized as follow: The MikBug chip (instant-on ROM BIOS) was 1024 bytes, of which 512 bytes were useable; MikBug let you write programs immediately in hex. The CPU board had a 2K bit RAM chip on it organized as 256 Bytes. The memory board included with the kit was 4K but it came with only 2K of RAM chips, 16 X 1024 bit.
Thanks to Michael Holley's SWTPC 6800/6809 documentation collection for some informations and pictures.
Dave O'Neil reports:
Loved seeing the old 6800 on your site. I am a high school physics teacher (I just retired). I built one in early '76 and two of my students went on to build one, too! At least 5 were immediately guided into computers when they saw it that year. I sent a passle of my BASIC physics programs to Wayne Green at Microcomputing and he published them in the June '80 issue of Microcomputing, p. 138.
There were a few newsletters printed and sent out free with all sorts of great stuff to input. Everyone grabbed the hex-binary one for finding bad memory chips. There soon was an assembler that everyone started writing programs with. Then a co-resident assembler/desembler. When Uiterwyck's 4K BASIC came out everyone, went to 8K or 12K. When his 8K came out, we went from 8K to 12K or 16K. I tell people that if IBM had gone Motorola instead of Intel, he'd be the richest man, now.
Chip Gill replies:
I am one of Dave O'Neil's students that also built this machine. Loved using it through 2 years of high school and 4 years of college. My college senior project was a 32K byte memory card for this system which replaced the 4 cards that were 4K each. Thank you very much Mr O'Neil for the inspiration and understanding of computers that I've enjoyed for over 30 years now.