After the launch of the Apricot PC, largely inspired by the Victor S1 which sold well in the UK, ACT developed another computer, the Apricot F1. This new system was marketed equally as a business system and as a home-computer (with its TV video output for example).
The design of the F1 is quite innovative with its original shape and infrared keyboard. The main unit is much more deep than large, and the straight line of the whole system was quite stylish for the time.
There was no lead or cord between the keyboard and the main unit. All the communication was made through infrared signals. This is quite useful if you want to work from your sofa, four meters away from the main unit but you also must be sure that there is no obstacle between the keyboard and the infrared receivers located on the front of the main unit.
The Apricot F1 was however originally shipped with a plastic light-pipe that could be connected between the keyboard and CPU so that obstacles would not block the signal. Another drawback was that the keyboard had to be constantly powered with batteries!
This infrared feature is quite rare and the F1 is one of the only computers to be equiped with it, alongside the ACT Apricot Portable and Exelvision EXL-100 and a few others...
Just above the quite comprehensive membrane keyboard are four small round buttons used to set the date and time of the internal clock, to change the rate of the keys auto-repeat feature, to lock the keyboard and to reset the computer.
Even if the F1 used an 8086 it wasn’t really IBM PC compatible (though minor changes could make it BIOS compatible). The MS-DOS 2.11 used by the system is an Apricot modified version of the "real" MS-DOS.
The Apricot F1 was delivered with a nice icon-based graphical interface called "Activity" along with quality bundled sotfware for graphics, communication, wordprocessing and system tools. The same infra-red mouseball pointing device used with the Apricot Portable was available for the F1.
As the F1 was not IBM PC compatible and not particularly cheap, it didn't have great success outside its native country (UK). A slightly less expensive version was also released, labelled F1e. It was the same machine but the 720 KB floppy drive was replaced by a single sided 320 KB version. This version was about 300 Euros cheaper than the normal version.
Whoa... Are there really so few owners/fans of this great machine? My own has a single 3.5" slot, no HD, 9" green screen and I broke the fibre optic cable for the IR keyboard. I couldn''t afford the IR trackball while it was available but I added 512K to the default 256K on board.
I also managed to get copies of SuperCalc 3, DBase II and Friday!, a database program created using DBII. I still giggle at the MS Windows 1.0 vouchers it came with. (This machine recalculated the most basic spreadsheet with figures scrolling along for several seconds, like those cliche ''80s movies.)
However, at the time it was about a year ahead of IBM''s PCs. They still had 5.25" floppies, 64K RAM, 8088 chips and locked-in servicing.
I can $ a single disk to launch MSDOS 2.0, SCalc/SWriter and all the data I have. It will all run from a RAM disk and batch save my data back to disk before shutting down.
Computers today don''t seem to do anything any faster than before. Graphics look great but we still sit and wonder what to do next...
Thursday 1st January 2009
I took one of these F1 computers to Yemen, and wrote a multi-currency book-keeping program in Turbo Pascal. It was a great computer, complete with four colours! My kids enjoyed simple games as well. I am not sure what happened to the computer. I am sure it is gone, now that the war had destroyed most things.
Tuesday 21st November 2017
I used the Apricot F1 in an educational environment. Use of the machine could survive loss or breakage of the IR pipe but it was possible to pick up your keyboard and reboot your neighbour''s machine. Other machines did not have this issue. Use of the Apricots came to an abrupt end when $ing a 3M diskette instantly decapitated the drive head rendering the machine useless. Other machines did not have this fatal flaw. There didn''t appear to be much different about 3M diskettes but the metal shutter contacted the lightly suspended disk head and ripped it out of position.
Saturday 22nd July 2017
Nosher (Bradford, UK)
END OF PRODUCTION
Infrared membrane keyboard, 92 keys, 10 function keys
Z80 for I/O control and Video
256 kb, up to 758kb
32 kb, up to 64 kb
80 x 24
640 x 200 and 640 x 256 with 4 colors, 320 x 256 with 16 colors
SIZE / WEIGHT
42 x 22 x 16 cm / 5,6 kg
RGB and Composite video outputs, RS232c, Centronics, Expansion bus, Internal connector for optional RF modulator
BUILT IN MEDIA
3.5'' disk-drive, double sided, 720k RAM disk feature through BIOS
MS DOS 2.11 (Concurrent DOS, CP/M 86 in option)
10Mb hard-drive, external disk-drive, infrared trackball, RF modulator for TV output
With monochrom monitor : 2370 (France, 1985)
The F1 is beautifuly designed and has cool features. It's a good example of british ingeniousity. Very smart !