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M > MINDSET CORP. > Graphics computer   

Mindset Corp.
Graphics computer

This little-known graphics workstation is an intriguing example of the many, varied machines introduced in the mid 1980's.

The Mindset microcomputer, designed by two ex-Atari engineers, offered graphics performance far beyond that of other personal computers on the market at the time of its introduction in early 1984.

Based on the rarely seen, 16-bit Intel 80186 (also used in the Tandy Model 2000), the Mindset was a powerful graphics workstation built on a (mostly) MS-DOS compatible core. Two custom VLSI chips shouldered the burden of graphics heavy lifting; offering graphics performance 50 times that of the IBM PC, leaving the CPU free to handle other chores.

The system unit was striking to behold. Crafted by industrial design group, GVO, of Menlo Park, CA, the Mindset was chosen for a place in the Museum of Modern Art.

The main system unit lacked floppy disk storage but instead sported two, front-mounted ROM/NVRAM module ports. The system's serial and parallel interface, as well as system memory expansion, were also modular. A dual floppy drive expansion module attached to the top of the unit, giving it a futuristic, double-decker look (most units were sold with the floppy drive module bundled in).

The Mindset was one of the very first computers to come standard with a mouse; in this case, a two-button unit with a somewhat unwieldy, heavy cord and a metal mouse ball.
11 advanced graphics modes which could be seen on any of the system's three graphics outputs; impressive flexibility for its day. A very powerful paint program, Lumena from Time Arts, Inc., was available for the Mindset, allowing the creation of stunning, static images from its palette of 512 colors. Beyond the static, however, the machine's custom graphics hardware was capable of performing frame buffer animation at a speed 50 times greater than that of the IBM PC.

There were rumors that Atari CEO, Jack Tramiel, was considering purchasing the Mindset to bring it under the Atari flag. This did not happen, but it is interesting to note that the original Atari ST series computers, released a year later, featured almost exactly the same graphics modes and palette depth as the Mindset micro.

More information about this notable entry in computing history can be found at this on-line version of a Feb. '85 Creative Computing review.

Thanks to Blake Patterson for information.

Special thanks to Mel and MaryJane Portnoy who donated us this computer !

NAME  Graphics computer
TYPE  Professional Computer
YEAR  1984
KEYBOARD  Full-stroke 84-key keyboard with separate numeric keypad
CPU  16-bit Intel 80186
CO-PROCESSOR  Two custom VLSI chips that handle graphics load
RAM  128 KB expandable to 384 KB
ROM  Unknown
TEXT MODES  40 or 80 columns x 25 lines
GRAPHIC MODES  320x200, 640x400 (interlaced)
COLORS  16 (for 320 mode), 2 (for 640 mode) all from 512 color palette
SOUND  4 voice sound (optional stereo module planned, adding another 4 )
I/O PORTS  RF modulator, NTSC composite out, analog RGB, synch, mouse, sound
BUILT IN MEDIA  Two modular ROM/NVRAM cartridge slots. Optional dual 5.25
OS  MS-DOS 2.11
POWER SUPPLY  Built-in Power switching supply unit
PRICE  $2400 (2 floppy drive, 256K RAM configuration)

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