In 1982, Digital introduced an option board which turned a VT-100 terminal into a personal computer using the CP/M operating system. It was called the Digital's Personal Computing Option. Customer could purchase just the option board or could buy the complete terminal/computer package called the VT-180.
The VT-100 terminal was introduced by Digital in August 1978. It rapidly enjoyed great popularity and soon became the most widely imitated asynchronous terminal. Its control codes and escape sequences still form the basis of the xterm set and of the ANSI or IBM PC standards. VT100 compatibility is still provided by most terminal emulators. All terminals that came after the VT100 was able to emulate their ancestor, although they offered new features in addition to what the VT100 could do.
The VT-180, also called 'Robin', was thus basically a VT100 terminal with an extra board installed which includes a Z80 processor, 64 KB of RAM memory, a floppy disk controller and an extra serial port controller. The single sided floppy disk drives came in a dual case. The system supported up to four individual disk drives (two dual drive units).
I purchased two new VT180''s when they were first available, with four drives each. There was lots of good software to purchase back then from a company called Lifeboat. DEC published the CP/M source code, and so it was possible to do things like increase the size of the serial FIFO buffer (beyond it''s default 4 bytes) so that serial comm speeds greater than 2400 baud would not $ bytes. I wrote quite a few utilities (in BDS C) for the VT180''s, including one that communicated between the two VT180''s over the extra serial port, allowing them to spool each other''s print jobs. I still have both systems and they are in good condition. DEC hardware back in the 1980''s was truly "commercial grade" and nearly indestructible. Looking back, it''s hard to believe that those 5-1/4" floppies were sufficient, but they were.
A VT180 was my first computer. I bought it used from a DEC employee. It had 4 drives that would whirl away, one for CP/M, two for applications and one to store files. It included a BASIC program with with hand typed, Xeroxed instructions from a company called "Micro-Soft" based in Albuquerque, as well as Multiplan and WordStar. I became a master of formatting WordStar because you only saw the commands and had to print out the finished product. Many many years later someone asked me if I knew HTML. I said no, I wasn''t a programmer. Later, I looked over the person''s shoulder and asked, "Where did you find WordStar? I have not seen that in years!" She said, "What are you talking about? What''s WordStar? This is HTML." That is how I lovingly remember my old Robin. My wife eventually forced me to donate it as it was talking up precious closet space in a one-bedroom apartment. Sure wish I''d kept those old "Micro-Soft" instructions.
Friday 30th September 2011
Chris Wildermuth (USA)
I have a VT180 ( robin ) up running and still used with multiplan for accounting
Saturday 7th August 2010
Jan-Erik Karlsson (sweden)
Digital Equipment Corporation
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BUILT IN LANGUAGE
None (Microsoft M-BASIC was included on diskette)
Full-stroke 77 keys with numeric keypad & arrows keys