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E > EXELVISION  > EXL 100


ExelvisionClick here to read to company history
EXL 100

Untitled Document


The most spectacular feature of the EXL-100 is the infra-red connections, apparently directly inherited from a canceled Texas-Instrument project. So, the keyboard and the joysticks do not use any cord, but send infra-red signals to the main unit to communicate. This allows the user to stand up to four meters away from the screen, but it also means several drawbacks : first, the keyboard and each joystick have to be powered by a battery cell. Then there must not be any object in between the IR sender and the IR receiver. The IR signals also often interfere with other IR domestic equipments such as the TV ! Thus, some IR signals sent by the keyboard can increase the sound volume or simply turn off the TV...

Another drawback is that only one key can pressed at a time. Thus when using key combinations, you must first type the SHIFT, CONTROL or FUNCTION key before the second key, not the two keys pressed at the same time like on a majority of other computers.

The two optional IR joysticks are stored in a small plastic drawer housed by the main unit. These joysticks can be used to play games (of course), but also to move the cursor on the screen.One of the keys of their keyboard acts like the spacebar and the others like a numeric keypad.

Original keyboard

The IR keyboard is quite small and the tiny rubber keys are a bit unpleasant to use. Fortunately, a better keyboard was available with "normal" full-stroke keys but still infra-red featured, so key combinations had still to be made key by key.

The "infra-red" idea surely came up in the Texas-Instrument research department where the Exelvision team worked... TI had plans for IR controllers for their TI-99 4/A system.

There are two slots on the front panel. One is the cartridge slot and the other is blocked and is housing the infra-red receiver. Next to them are two switches : on/off and reset. The reset is a "hard reset", i.e. if you press it you loose your program.

At the back of the main unit are two large connectors : the expansion port and the Exelmémoire slot. The Exelmémoire is a CMOS RAM card (16k or 64k) which acts like a small hard-disk. It is generally used to store small programs and can be directly used from the Basic using the CROS (Cmos Ram Oprerating System). The lithium cell can keep the information from 1 to 2 years.

The design of the system is quite sober and was intended to facilitate the integration of the EXL-100 in the living-rom next to the TV and the Hi-fi. Only two cables are needed to start to use the computer (power in & video SCART).

> INSIDE

Inside the system, no surprise, the most important chips are from Texas-Instrument. I remind you that Exelvision was founded by ancient "Texas-Instrument France" employees, who took a lot from the CC-40 technology to create the EXL-100. For example, the heart of the system if composed by two TI chips, the TMS-7020 (cpu) and TMS-7041 (I/O). The TMS-7020 has its own 2k RAM memory, and the EXL-100 has 32k of Video RAM (VRAM) which can be used by the user programs too. So it's total of virtually 34k RAM. But if you use the high-resolution on the whole screen, there is not much left for programming.

The mainboard also includes the TMS-5220A sound chip which can act as an excellent vocal synthesizer ! Some software (Tennis, Wizord) use this feature and the result is really amazing. The sound chip can be used from the Basic with the CALL SPEECH statement, but its syntax is quite complicated. For a shotgun effect wich last 2 seconds, you would have to type in 200 hexadecimal characters ! It's nearly impossible to invent a new sound or a new word.
The sound is composed by sections of 25 milliseconds. Each of these sections are defined by an amplitude, a frequency and a tone. The hexadecimal codes used with CALL SPEECH correspond to these parameters. But all the problem lies in finding the right numbers for the sound you want to produce...
Exelvision has a solution to create the sentences you hear in the games for example. They record the sound they want on a tape and send it to Texas Instruments in Dallas. The sound is sampled there and analysed by a big VAX computer which outputs the right parameters to be used with the TMS-5220A. The results are then sent back to Exelvision at Valbonne... Hard to do this alone at home !

The graphic features of the EXL-100 are not bad at all. The TMS-3356 from Texas-Instrument enables the EXL-100 to display 320 x 200 pixels with 8 colors and no proximity conflicts. In fact you can choose the size of the graphic screen : 320 by N x 10 pixels, where N can be from 1 to 20. The rest of the screen is then in text mode.

Christian Pietot, head of the Exelvision hardware and former employee of the TI "home computer" and later "vocal synthesis" departments in Nice (France), recalls : "From our first prototype we were wondering about the screen controler. Having chosen a chip developed for Videotex, i.e. conceived to display text and not animate objects, we wondered if we would be able to move graphical objects fast enough. Thus we finally adopted a bi-processor solution. One handles the display and the other the peripherals".

> EXELBASIC

The basic called Exelbasic was delivered on a ROM cartridge. It is largely inspired by the TI CC-40 one, which is itself derived from the TI 99 Extended Basic (remember CALL CHAR function ?). Exelvision asked and obtained the right to develop their own Basic from it. An american employee who participated in the development of the CC40 Basic, even came to Sophia Antipolis (where is based Exelvision) to test the Exelbasic (wow !).

The Exelbasic enables to handle easily the errors with statements like ON ERROR and CALL ERR. This is quite rare feature for that time. It is also possible to build independant functions with local variables.

The EXL-100 offers a set of 127 redifinable characters which can be used to create graphics for games for example. IMAGIX is a software that helps the user to conceive these characters.


IMAGIX

The editor is a full page editor and makes it possible to scroll the listing up (!) or down to point the right line to be corrected.

The interpreter can also be used in a "direct" mode. Type "3 x 6" and you get "18" as the answer ! Thus the EXL-100 can easily be used as a simple calculator.

> SOFTWARE

Some games were available for the EXL-100. Most were classics but some were quite good such as the Tennis game which was adapted to many classic computers (Match Point for Sinclair Spectrum for example). But the original version was developped by D&L Research for the EXL-100. The game actually speaks quite impressively !

Sadly, the number of good games available was not enough and the other programs were poor educative software. This didn't help the EXL-100...

> CONCLUSION

The EXL-100 was a good and quite innovative machine, but who suffered a lot from the competition, and especially from Thomson and its computers (MO5, TO-7/70) which were clearly targeted as THE competitor. Despite its qualities, the software developed was not good enough. Hopefully, in 1985, 9000 EXL-100s were placed in schools thanks to the "Informatique Pour Tous" governemental plan. This litteraly saved the company which could then work on their next computer.
The EXL-100 was replaced by the Exeltel, putting the "telematique" orientation of the system in concrete form.

 

coin_vert_1.gif (126 octets) dotclear.gif (172 octets) coin_vert_2.gif (127 octets) coin_rouge_1.gif (147 octets) dotclear.gif (172 octets) coin_rouge_2.gif (146 octets)
Good points dotclear.gif (172 octets) + The infra-red keyboard and joysticks
+ The built-in speech synthesizer
dotclear.gif (172 octets) Bad points dotclear.gif (172 octets) - The lack of software
- The keyboard
dotclear.gif (172 octets)
coin_vert_4.gif (125 octets) dotclear.gif (172 octets) coin_vert_3.gif (126 octets) coin_rouge_4.gif (145 octets) dotclear.gif (172 octets) coin_rouge_3.gif (147 octets)

 

> SOFTWARE LIST
NAME EDITOR
Algenubi Minipuce
Amiral Cup Minipuce
Anaconda Minipuce
Arcade Parallèles
Ati 42 Minipuce
Backgammon Parallèles
Bugs Busters Free Game Blot
Capitaine Menkar Exelvision
Car Crash Minipuce
CB5 Exelvision
Cité d'or Exelvision
Coloric Free Game Blot
Echecolor Minipuce
L'énigme Algenubi Minipuce
Exelcalc Exelvision
Exeldrums Exelvision
Exelfile Exelvision
Exelmax Exelvision
Exelogo Exelvision
Exelmodem Exelvision
Exelpaint Exelvision
Exelpoker Electron Software
Extensions Basic Exelvision
Extensions Vocale Exelvision
Fixel Minipuce
Fitext Minipuce
Fixtab Initiel
Généalogie Parallèles
Géoméga le monde Minipuce
Golphabet Minipuce
Golfachiffres Minipuce
Graphix Minipuce
Guppy Exelvision
Histoire de théâtre Free Game
Imagix Exelvision
Initiation aux additions Minipuce
Initiation à la multiplication Minipuce
Introduction à l'Exelbasic Initiel
Introduction à l'Exelogo Initiel
Knowledge base Initiel
Kung Fu

Exelvision

L'Anneau de l'union Initiel
Le trésor de Tout Ankh Amon Parallèles
Meutre à grande vitesse Cobra Soft
Microprocess Exelvision
Mnemologik Minipuce
Monopolic Free Game Blot
Musique Parallèles
Neurone Exelvision
Numbers and words Minipuce
Otho Initiel
Pascal base Free Game Blot
Pindo Minipuce
Polichinelle Minipuce
Quizzy Exelvision
Remi Minipuce
Robix Vidéomatique
Romulus, Rome et moi Free Game Blot
S.O.S. Space Minipuce
Tank Attack Exelvision
Tennis Exelvision
Tour d'Europe Initiel
Tour de Hanoï Minipuce
Vega X4 Minipuce
Verbes irréguliers Allemands Minipuce
Virus Exelvision
Wizord Exelvision
Zeke Minipuce

 





 
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