The Sorcerer II was the successor of the Sorcerer I (launched in 1978).
The computer used programs on 16KB ROM packs encased in 8-track tape cartridges. It shipped with Microsoft
MBASIC and a development tools assembler / editor ROM pack. A word processor
ROM pack was also available.
Exidy initially provided an expansion chassis that would accept up to 6
S-100 cards, and a Micropolis dual-disk quad-density 16-sector hard sector
floppy disk drive was available. These disks would hold up to 330kb of data
on a single side. A later version of the expansion chassis also included a
green-screen monitor and two floppy drives, but may have held only 4 S-100
slots. A standard serial port was available, but shared internal resources
with the keyboard which made baud rates higher than 300 a problem. The
Pennywhistle 300-baud modem was often provided with this machine.
The MECA digital "intelligent" tape drive could also be used and inserted into the Exidy monochrome monitor. (1 MB storage capacity, 8000 bauds transfer rate, file access in 10s, plugged into the parallel port)
Dutch CompuData (CD) imported the Sorcerer into the European mainland. When sales in the US dropped because of the heavy competition in home computers market, Exidy Inc. stopped production of the Sorcerer. CompuData then produced the original Sorcerer in Holland in exactly the same outfit, but with the CompuData Systems Trademark for the European market. EXIDY Inc. of Richardson, Texas, finally closed the doors on March 26th 1982.
Brian Shoebridge adds:
The Exidy Sorcerer II was used in Australia by a few scientific and research people, like my father. Not many were sold as it was hugely expensive (>AUD$3,000 1981) and no good for games (the best was "Tank-Trap"). Sorcerers here shipped with either 32k or 48k. As it used a standard cassette tape for data storage, volume control was always an issue when loading or saving. Disk drives cost as much again as the basic machine, but there was a urious "stringy-floppy" which was less expensive. I owned one for a year or two, and used it with a large Unisys greenscreen monitor unit i sourced from a mini-computer.
Tim Bishop specifies:
The sorcerer had better games than Tank Trap. (Though I fondly remember the game, playing it for hours when I was a kid, and would love to get a copy of the source code.) The graphics were quite good, with Chomp a Pac Man clone and Glaxians a Space Invaders clone.
Alan Meyer reports:
I bought an Exidy Sorcerer II for $715 some time near the end of its sales life from a store that wanted to get rid of the last one it had. My son, then aged 6, wrote his first program on the machine and played "Arrows and Alleys" for hours. In addition to a 6.5KB MBASIC interpreter that was smaller and less functional than those found on Apple, Radio Shack, Atari or Commodore computers, a Forth compiler / interpreter was also available. It produced programs that were intermediate in efficiency between Basic and assembler.
Two distinguishing features of the Sorcerer were the ROM cartridge port and the screen size. It supported, IIRC, a 30 line by 64 column display. The good part of that was that far more information could be displayed than in the competing systems. The bad side was that a real video monitor was required. A TV RF modulator would not produce readable text on screen. The keyboard was also quite nice, as can be seen from the image.
Sorcerer sales were never very high and the manufacturers never had the money to get all the bugs out of the hardware and software. Crashes and hardware failures seemed to me to be more common than on other machines - though that may have just been my experience.
We had a Sorcerer as the only computer at my school (in about 1980).
Not a very good machine. Tended to freeze, and we put a sticker on the top of the case saying "hit here to unfreeze".
The wierdest thing was the "bounce-free" keyboard. To prevent bouncing, the key registered on the up-stroke of the key rather than the down-stroke. That is, you pressed a key, nothing happened. Released the key, and the character was entered.
*Not* a good idea.
Sunday 1st May 2011
Andy Holyer (UK)
I remember it being the first Micro Computer in Austrailia with the top 128 Characters being programable. My Homebrew was a cross between a Trs-80/System 80 and Sorcerer. With a monitor program writen by myself and a friend and Basic copied/mod-ed from TRS-80 Remember the wiz.
Monday 17th January 2011
James Perrett (Melbourne)
The sorcerer II was my first non-mainframe computer. It totally used 8-track carts for the ROM packs. I don't remember it being terribly colorful, but that's probably because we had a mono monitor. I totally remember programming like mad in basic, and playing some of the games..