Sandy Ganz's memories:
Had a color one for many years, had it
during my college days wrote assembler for the 7220, did most of my
college work with it for my CS degree. Wrote tons of CPM/86 pascal
programs with Borland Turbo Pascal v1.00 (Still have the 8" floppy).
Had MS-DOS also and Autocad and a
ton of other odd apps. Rock solid machine, odd but nice keyboard. Stupid
marketing for sure, and the giant drive could only appeal to a computer
hack. It had good support in Japan, had the japaneese version of the os
(PTOS) and it had a nice basic interpreter that had support for the 7220.
I finally got tired of moving it around as I went from dorm to house to
house. Add in the Spinwriter (7730) and I needed a uhaul for it. It had a
very well built chassis almost VME buss like but not quite.
The poor NEC marketing was definitly
the kill on this box, no one knew anything about it, no one could find out
anything, but it was the graphics accelerator that drove me to a purchase.
I miss the keyboard the most as it was a different spacing or somthing but
it suited me :-)
I had also heard that the were used for the FBI as finger print
workstations but that maybe bs.
Brian Empey's experience:
This computer was at least 3 years old by the time MS-DOS came out for it
in 1982. It ran the 8086 at max. speed (5 MHz) and full 16-bit bus.
It was screaming fast back then.
The 1st OS was the UCSD P-System. PASCAL was the language, but the
graphics were actually supported with a PASCAL library. CPM-86
appeared around late 1981.
NOTE: All machines came with a MONO card running an NEC7220 graphics
controller in TEXT mode. The Graphics card had its own NEC7220 running in
bit-mapped graphics mode with 3 planes (Red, Green, and Blue). Each plane
had 128k of memory. There was an unused "plane" as well, so
there was 128k spare memory. Graphics card had 512k on it in total.
We ran with extra memory boards totalling 784k of base RAM so total memory
was 1.25 MEGA-bytes ... years before the IBM PC appeared with 64k
expandable to 256k.
BTW: The graphics video card connected to the MONO card via a
ribbon-cable, and the video signals ran through XOR gates, so that the
TEXT was superimposed over the GRAPHICS in HW, meaning that as the text
scrolled up (like on a long DIR CMD) it zoomed over top of your graphics
image. It was like having 2 monitors in one!
The graphics were rendered in a 1024 x 1024 window with HW panning. We
wrote our own routines for that. In fact, I wrote graphics-primitives for
all functions, and re-programmed the video to 640x512 from its native
We developed a complete CADD package for it called "Arthur" and
demo'd it against AutoCAD at shows.
We had a detailed drawing of the Lions' Gate Bridge. You could zoom in to
see writing on the rivets! It took 45 seconds to load from floppy, but
each re-draw (zoom-in/out) only took a couple of seconds (that's with on
Autocad had the less detailed demo of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was in
all their ads ... seemed to be the only drawing that existed to Autocad
back then. It took 6 minutes to load from a hard-drive and render using
the 8087 math co-processor. Every time you did a PAN or ZOOM it took
another 6 minutes to re-render the screen. Back in 1981 AutoCad was
the most useless SW that money could buy! It was impossible to do any
BTW: to get the CAD speed, we used 32-bit integers exclusively. I wrote
line, arc, circle, and ellipse drawing routines entirely in assembly
language for the NEC7220. I even wrote an integer square-root
function to avoid floating point.
The source for the CAD program was roughly 3/4 of a meg by the end. We did
all compiling and assembling from Floppies!
I seem to recall them being 1.44 megs in size.
This was a screaming fast computer for its time. IBM didn't catch up until
the PC/AT was released running the 80286 processor in late 1984. And they
didn't ahve graphics to match until the Professional Graphics Adapter
As for price, our systems were pushing close to US$9000 each fully
configured with NO HD! We also bought the first production ink-jet
printers. They were something like a model 3695? and cost US$3500
each. With 120 DPI and 8.5" print area, they matched the 1024