Thanks to Michael Hoyle for this information:
The HeadStart had two models. HeadStart VPU and HeadStart ATS.
The VPU was an impressive machine. It was a portable or a desktop machine.
Notice the picture has a smaller keyboard that snapped on the front bezel
and a handle on the back. No customers ordered the portable version.
The VPU had a Z-80 and an 8086 and could support up to 1MB RAM. Inside the
computer consisted of three circuit boards. Two (over the top of the CRT)
was the processor and the RAM. The 1MB RAM took up a whole board.
The unit had a 3½" diskette drive that read Intertec's proprietary formats. The
machine could convert CP/M 2.2 format and MS-DOS 2.1 format data. The
machine had a coaxial network board (proprietary protocols) that connected
one of two server machines. A 10/20MB and a 50 MB.
The machine was not popular because of:
- CP/M was dying, no one thought 3½" drives would be accepted (I think this
was the first to install 3½" drives),
- IBM compatibility (Lotus 123) was a huge issue.
The IBM compatible ATS was created to answer these objections. The diskette was dropped out and an external 5¼ drive was added. The machine was sold with IBM PC-DOS 3.1 OS. It ran Lotus 123 and others and was very fast. It
maintained the local area network capability. The ATS downfall was
monochrome video, an external drive and no hard drive.
Intertec stopped production of the HeadStart in 1984 and the company reduced
itself to 12 employees. Service of the HeadStart continued however. A
Netherlands company picked up the HeadStart name illegally (I remember a
wrestler was used as the spokesperson for them). The legal issues were
resolved out of court.
Intertec was a public company. The name was changed to Wells American
Corporation around 1985.
In 1985 Wells American began production of the A*Star. The A*Star was an IBM XT compatible that was exactly like the IBM. It used the 80286 and the speed could be switched: A*Star I 6/8 MHz, A*Star II 6/8/10/12/14/16 MHz. The
A*Star used PC-DOS 3.x OS and would accept any of the IBM add-ons. Top
memory was 1MB. The proprietary network was included with the A*Star I and
was promoted as network ready. Wells American added an ISA bus NIC to allow
IBM compatibles to access the HeadStart file servers.
The successful A*Star was sold directly to the enduser and was the first to
break the $1000 barrier. The A*Star was never updated beyond the 80286 by
Wells American. A*Star's were sold with a 30 day money back guarantee,
on-site serviced by RCA/GE Computer services and guaranteed compatibility
with IBM software and hardware add-ons.
After the A*Star, Wells American designed a dual bus 80286/80386 machine
called the CompuStar I. This machine was a floor standing tower and was
designed with the first processor local bus. A separate motherboard held the
bus interface circuitry. The bus architecture could have been a combination
of Microchannel or ISA. Only ISA was ordered as microchannel was a flop. The
CompuStar had a single board processor (proprietary design) that was
interchangeable. An 80286 machine could be switched to an 80386 in 10 min.
The case was built from extruded aluminum and was a hefty design. "The Robb
Report" picked the CompuStar I as the "Ultimate" computer and it received
the highest rating given to any hardware product by "Infoworld" magazine for
the year it was reviewed. 386 processor speeds reached 16/20/25MHz.
The CompuStar II in contrast was a very small machine. It had
interchangeable processor boards but only the ISA bus. It could mount 3 half
height 5¼ drives and a 3½ fixed drive. Each of the CompuStar machines could
hold up to 16MB RAM. 80386 Processor speeds were 16/20/25/33 MHz.
With the recession of 1988/9 the expensive CompuStar sales slowed and Wells
American could not keep up financially, declaring bankruptcy.
The A*Star and CompuStar trademarks were sold to CornerStone Technologies,
Inc., in SC. The A*Star is still manufactured by CornerStone.
I was the production manager when the A*Star was first produced and then
became the Product Manager for the A*Star and CompuStar lines. I am the
President of CornerStone Technologies, Inc. so I have been building the
A*Star since 1985.