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H > HEWLETT PACKARD  > HP-9830     

Hewlett Packard

The HP 9810, 9820 and 9830 were all announced simultaneously by HP in the December 1972 HP Journal. They were all four bit machines and all of them used a serial bus internally.

The 9830 was by far the most capable machine of this group and ran what HP called BASIC Plus. In many ways, it was one of the first true "Personal Computers" ever marketed.

The 9830 was also significantly more expandable than the 9810/9820, with five user-accessable ROM cartridge slots. The 9830-B was introduced four years later in the 1977 HP catalog. HP said that three things set the HP 9830 apart from the other desktop systems:
• First, it's used of BASIC Plus with it's English like vocabulary and structure,
• Second, the entire operating system and firmware were in ROM and did not take up any of the read/write memory space,
• Third, the use of the cassette tape drive with features that they said were only found on large computers.
The basic 9830 came with 1760 16 bit words of memory, a 32 character display, the cassette tape drive and a large well-featured keyboard.

In addition to the ROM cartridge slots, the 9830 could hold three more ROMs internally. The internal ROMs were on cards instead of plug in cartridges and had to be installed by HP. When the internal ROMs or extra memory were installed, a sticker that listed the ROM or new memory size and option number was added to the outside ROM door. The 9830A came with 3520 bytes (1760 words) of memory and could be expanded up to 15808 bytes (7904 words). The 9830B came with 15808 bytes (7904 words) of memory and could be expanded up to 30144 bytes (15072 words). The Matrix and String Variables ROM cards were also standard in the 9830-B.

The HP 9830 was commonly found with a special version of HP 9866 printer (see picture) that sits on top of the calculator and looks like it's part of the original machine. The 9866 was a full width page printer that printed up to 80 columns of characters on thermal roll paper. It could print a full 80 character width using 5 x 7 dot matrix characters at 240 lines per minute. It could also print simple plots and tables or other formatted text. The "B" version of this printer was introduced in 1977 and it added the capability of printing both upper and lower case letters and vertical lines. The printer used a short cable that connected to a special socket on the back of the computer.

The HP 9830 was dropped from the HP catalog after 1977 or 1978. But, in 2000, some companies still used it...since 1975!

Thanks to Joe for most of the information.


Kevin Kost specifies:
The HP-9830a was the first machine I ever programmed (in high school). In addition to the things noted in your article...
- The machine was identified as "Desktop Calculator" on its label, not "Professional Computer".
- The version of HP BASIC in ROM included buit-in matrix manipulation commands... very rare in those computing days.
- Internally the machine used a serial bus architecture.
- The price you mention might be low. I remember hearing that our system (9830 + thermal printer + card reader) was purchased for ~$30k.



I worked at the Bureau of Ag. Economics, Canberra and an HP salesman tried to sell us one but unfortunately we never did. He told me that a Brisbane accountant bought one and programmed some accounting work on it, then there was the 1974 flood and his beloved computer was buried under about 20 feet of mud and water. He rang up the salesman and the two of them took it to the accountant''s home, opened it up, flushed out the mud with the garden hose, dried it with the account''s wife''s hair dryer, put it back together and it worked perfectly.

He also told me that some of the calculations to get Apollo13 back safely were done on a 9830 series, but since Apollo 13 began 1970/4/11 and the 9830 came out December 1972 I assume this must have been a NASA "special" prototype.

Tuesday 11th January 2011
Jalaluddin Morris (PJ, Selangor, Malaysia)

I want this for Christmas!!!(2011) please with a f***''n cherry on top!

Thursday 6th January 2011

I used this in high school in 1978 or 1979. It was in the dean''s office and was not available for use by the general student population. I felt so special to be able to program it to do silly things like print banners on the thermal printer 9866.

One thing I''m wondering: it had a hard drive next to it which was about 3''x3''x3'' and creaked and groaned whenever it was accessed. Supposedly it had a capacity of 5MB! Anyone know what it might have been?

Monday 13rd December 2010
Jim D.


NAME  HP-9830
MANUFACTURER  Hewlett Packard
TYPE  Professional Computer
YEAR  December 1972
KEYBOARD  Full stroke 107 key with numeric keypad, Function and arrow keys
CPU  4-board CPU set, 16--bit microprogrammed processor
SPEED  Unknown
RAM  3.5 KB up to 16 KB - 9830B: 16 KB
ROM  From 15 KB up to 62 KB (31 KB of 16-bit words)
TEXT MODES  LED display. 1 line x 32 alphanumeric chars.
COLOrsc  Red!
SOUND  Built-in speaker and "BEEP" command in the Basic interpreter
SIZE / WEIGHT  46 (W) x 63.5 (D) x 15.2(H) cm / 21 kg
I/O PORTS  5 x ROM module slots, 4 x interface module slots
BUILT IN MEDIA  Cartridge tape drive (2 x 64 KB sides)
POWER SUPPLY  Built-in power supply unit
PERIPHERALS  I/O modules: Serial, Parallel, BCD, external FDD, HDD, General I/O, AD/DA converter, etc...
PRICE  $6000



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