The Orb computer was designed and made by ABS Computers Ltd (Allied Business Systems) in the early 1980's. ABS was situated in Portslade (near Brighton) Sussex England. It was a multi-user system running the multi-user version of CPM.
The main processor unit was housed in the rectangular box along with the monitor logic card and two 800K 51/4 floppy drives. Sitting on top in the ball part was the monitor which was a rehoused mono Tatung RS232 terminal. There were Orb satellite units which again were rehoused Tatung RS232 terminals which had a flat base containing the Tatung logic card and a ball on top containing the screen, raster card and its PSU. All the housings were made of metal so you could have it sprayed any colour of your choice (The London Fire Brigade had bright red).
The idea was to have the main CPU unit with up to seven RS232 serial satellite terminals scattered around the office with a parallel printer. Serial printers could be used in place of two of the serial terminals.
The keyboards were made by Rafi in Italy and they were very flat with keycaps which flew off if you typed too fast!
I believe up to 1 MB of memory could be fitted along with a SASI (early SCSI) board to run initially either a 10 MB or 20 MB external Rodime drive, fitted with a SASI-ST506 converter board or later versions could run an 85 MB Fujitsu Drive or an Arapaho cartridge drive. A Kennedy 1/4 Cartridge tape drive could also run externally off the SASI bus. An external 8" floppy drive was also available.
I think that ABS held the rights to the name "Multi-Buss" which Intel wanted to use so they did a deal which meant that ABS got the first batches of 8086 CPUs and Intel got the name. Unfortunately these early CPUs had a number of bugs in them, the 80186 was then used. When all the bugs were sorted out they ran ok and it was one of the first, if not the first, multi-user user microprocessor systems. In true British tradition it was very badly marketed and not many were sold and they usually ended up being used as single user systems "PC's" running WordStar. Sales were better when the ball monitor was removed from the top and it was just a rectangular box which we called a "Flat top". Another version was in a tower case which was called a "Torb".
The development costs were high and a large number of components were bought in for the expected sales which never materialised. As the company was owned by the Trafalgar House Group (they also owned the Cunard shipping line and John Brown Engineering) they survived the losses. ABS were taken over by a company called Datapro Computers in 1994 and then they in turn were taken over by the 4Front Group, an American financed company, in 1997.
The main designer was a clever chap named Dave Goddard.
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please send us pictures or anything you might find useful.