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C > COMX > COMX 35


COMX-35 review by the New Zealand magazine Computer Input, in December 1983:
With the marketplace in its current condition - a new home computer being launched every week, it seems - the Comx 35 has come at a time of stiff competition.
The Comx has some very attractive features - 32K user RAM, built-in joystick, tough construction, moving keyboard, built-in speaker & some very interesting BASIC commands, etc - but also a few darker features.
The Comx is of a sturdy design, it would take more of a beating than many other computers I'v
e seen (especially with the inevitable seven-year-old).
We gather that the Comx will be either a black or cream case with gold front and black keys.

The keyboard is moving-key type, with a good positive feel to it. The keys give an audible click when pressed and have about 2-3mm travel.
The keyboard is basically QWERTY with RESET, ESCAPE, CONTROL and DELETE down the left hand side. Pressing reset & space bar causes a complete restore of the machine back to 'switch-on' status.

Everything needed to get the Comx up & running is provided (except the cassette unit), power
supply, leads to & from cassette (ear & mic) and lead to TV. It's quite a relief to find an on-off switch on the rear of the Comx.
There is an edge connector on the back too, presumably for expandable RAM, ROM cartridges, printer and disk, although no information yet on them.

The BASIC is average with a few surprizes - fixed (allows you to fix the decimal places shown), f
ormat (allows yu to tabulate figures neatly), fval (allows you to input expressions
as a string to be worked out by the Comx), exit (allowing you to escape from a loop or subroutine).
There are three commands for colour. Colour controls the colour of all printing on the screen (a choice of 12 colours). Screen, which gives you a choice of 8 colours for the back-ground and Ctone which sets the output colour to a lighter shade of the background colour.
The graphics of the Comx 35 although acceptable, are slightly less than average. The Comx allows you to program your own graphics as well as the standard graphics provided, does not have any form of high resolution graphics.
Sound is quite good on the Comx, without going into too much detail it allows you a lot of variation with the commands being - music, noise, tone & volume.
The manual is quite good and gives you all the information you need to get you a long way down the Comx road.

In conclusion, the one thing that might detract from the popularity of the Comx 35 is its CPU. The 180R is, in the realms of modern home computing, a veritable dinosaur. This poses the problem of software, I doubt if there are many 180R programmers still around. However, if Comx can achieve a good amount of software backup (despite the 180R) this should prove to be a good little machine. Although a lot would depend on the price of the Comx. At the right price this machine should be popular.

COMX 35 in the Netherlands, by Stefan de Bruijn:
In the Netherlands there was a club called CGON (Comx Gebruikers Organisatie Nederland -- freely translated as Comx User Organisation Netherlands) distributing source code, event announcements and general news (competitions and so on) across the country.
The speed was actually exactly 1 MHz for the old COMX-35. The 32Kb that was available for programming purposes was actually smaller; video memory and other peripherals started at A000 and the lower range (if I recall correctly everything beneath 3000) was claimed by COMX-Basic.
COMX basic was copy-protected using "garbled code". The code was so mixed up with so many jumps, that it was near impossible to track exactly where what happened. I imagine that's why the flicker-screen bug upon setting of a shape was introduced and never fixed.
All 128 characters could be programmed with shapes; shapes were 6 (horizontal)x8 (vertical) pixels (bits), where 2 bits were added by the horizontal pixels to make up one of the four possible colors of the 6 pixels that followed. Of those 6 pixels you could only program the 'on' color; the 'off' color was the background color (usually black; but that could be changed as well into one of 8 different colors).
A screen consisted of 40x25 characters - but in Basic you could only use 40x24 because line 25 would make the screen scroll one line.
Not using assembler meant a performance hit of a factor 10, flickering screens when using shapes and a reset (making the horrifying sound "piep-poing-poing") when you had a nasty bug.

The 1802 processor was quite cool. Not only was it RISC, there was no cooling system and it was nearly impossible to break it (not even water was a problem).

In 1985 Han de Bruijn actually managed to create a (parallel) MIDI interface for the COMX 35 using an electronic organ.

About the keyboard, Robbert Nix confirms:
It was even puppydogcrap-proof. Washed it and used it for another year.
The computer had a very slow display, because the video memory was available only 1/3 of the time.

Graeme Burton reports:
I did see one at my local computer shop before the UK distributor, Computers For All, recalled them all. Apparently, they were made in Hong Kong and had a 75% failure rate. If you want to get yourself one, buy yourself a submarine and examine the sea bed of the Pacific Ocean. I think that's where they all ended up.

About the sound capacity, Jochem Welvaadt specidfies:
It was only a single channel synth, but you could use 'noise' with different spectra to generate drum sounds to accompany the melody. The beeper was also tonal, so you could make melodies very easily. Volume could be adjusted too, so you could do something with increase-decrease volume to create more subtle sounds.
Jochem also adds:
You could also add the space shuttle to the list of space applications. Not as the 'heart' though. I believe it is the shuttle's TV system that uses the 1802.
Actually a very nice processor. As the basic interpreter was very slow, I started to use 1802 machine language very quickly (at the age of 12). There are a total of 16 2-byte registers on the processor, each of them can be used as stack pointer or program counter. This made multitasking possible. Also, you could use these registers for calculus or temp storage. Much faster compared to Dram storage ofcourse.
The major drawback was the limited capabilities of the video chip. The 8 colors mentioned could not be used all at the same time. Video was also very slow. I believe the video chip is the reason for this computer being called 'outdated at release' and not the processor.
The basic interpreter has a funny bug: try to use line 65535 and the computer will currupt the screen with garbage, make some beeps and noises and then reset.


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