Savvas Sidiropoulos recalls:
I acquired my NewBrain in 1981 and it was the AD model. I already had experience with single board computers so assembly was more appealing to me than Basic. My first program was a Z80 assembler, written in Basic. It was crude and slow but it was used to produce an assembly version of that. I built that because there was no Z80 assembler available for the machine.
I later obtained the disk expansion module with CP/M. That was my biggest benefit from the machine as I was able to understand the operating system and later put that knowledge into use for work.The FDD system was really unique as it could handle (IIRC) 4 floppy drives with 720kB capacity - enormous for the time.
The two RS-232 ports on the NewBrain were invaluable as they were programmable for baudrate and bit length so the machine was later used as a cross interface between other machines.
One interesting feature of the Basic is that it was a real time compiler. The first time a line of code was executed, it was compiled and stored for future use. This allowed for speedy loops and helped when generic subroutines were used. Helped me adopt correct programming skills. The bad thing about the interpreter/compiler was that it ate up memory. The machine needed more than the 32kB in the basic configuration to shine.
I wrote my own software (the lack of software was the reason the machine died in the market and the lack of color and sound was the reason why nobody wrote software). I wrote a word processor with my own scheme of formatting tags in it. Due to lack of memory it was split in two programs: EDIT and PRINT. Even built my own parallel port interface to connect to the expansion port to connect an Epson printer. Cheaper to build an interface than buy a serial interface for the printer.
I still have the machine in full working condition, including the technical manuals and technical notes.
Richard Court reports us the following information
It would display 80 column text quite adequately on a black
and white (UK PAL) TV, something which only the BBC micro B (more expensive) could also attempt
at that time. But the lack of a printer port that available printers could use
was a silly mistake.
The screen could be set to have "extra" lines,
which would scroll up and down on the TV to display, if you weren't using a lot
of RAM, you could have 200 lines, but entering text into strings etc. would eat
ROM too, so you couldn't really use all that was theoretically available.
There were all sorts of *planned* add-ons including ram expansion to 2
megs, I think a RAM expansion to 96 k was worked out, perhaps even built in
prototype. A disk drive unit was also available when the company folded.
The graphics were good, for mono, but the graphics screens ate RAM very
fast, so there wasn't much space left for programs. There were also character
graphics, which a firm called Kayde used to produce a version of their 'The
Valley' program, written in basic, and also sold for the electron, C64, Dragon
32 etc. As games go, it was not very good, but reasonably cheap, and almost
the only game available for the newbrain.
Steve Bolingbroke, who worked on the Newbrain, reports:
You're right about the RAM expansion to 2Mb. I wrote the
paged memory version of the O/S that used an unassigned Z80 instruction to page.
Sadly Grundy (who bought the designs from Newbury Data who invented the
NewBrain) folded before it really took off.
Rui M. Dos santos experience in Angola:
The new brain was was used to the extrem in Angola - Africa.
At the time the computer was used to almost everything.
The information that the printer was not available is incorrect... We used EPson printers with RS232C interface.
1 - We made one basic word processor made in BASIC
2 - We made book keeping, salaries and stock control programs... Initially in BASIC and later in CP/M using COBOL from Microfocus.
3 - We used the network in a classroom with its master control station
4 - We used as well the NEVER used later by any other machines which is, THE SPECIAL function where the disk drives could read and write ANY disquete format.... This function permited us to import and export data and programs from machines with FDD´s with different data formats. This function was particulary helpfull at the time mainly when using some machines that came to market with no software at all or with limited software such as the DDR ROBOTRON Z80 based PC.
5 - We used a lot as well, the hability of the two cassettes drives... We used to read in one, make calculations, print, and record results in another.
6 - The central planning of Angolan Ministry of Commerce in Angola in 1981/2/3 and 1984 were made using this machine.
7 - It was funny to see a small machine with two cheap cassetes and one MX100 EPSON printer to recalculate all the central plan of the Ministry of Commerce in less than 4 hours, while one IBM 370 mainframe computer costing millions could not perform the operation in less than 2 months as things like "re-programming", "punching cards", "lots of energy", "high class analysts and engeniers" etc were necessary
8 - This machine had, at the time, functions that still do not exist today .....
The way the memory was organized was fantastic,
the BASIC was the best and the FDD format less system was unique.
9 - The reason of the failure, in my opinion was the lack of color that made the machine un-actractive for home users.