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E > EAGLE COMPUTERS INC. > Eagle


EAGLE COMPUTERS INC.
Eagle

Untitled Document
Eagle Computers were originally manufactured by AVL (Audio Visual Labs) as a controller for audio-video projectors. The original models, the Eagle I and II, had AV ports on the back.

The computers proved so popular that the AV ports were removed, and standard RS-232 and Centronics ports added. The computer division was spun off and Eagle Computers, Inc. was created.

> THE MODELS

The complete line of CP/M computers they made was: Eagle I, II, III, IV, and V. All were the same except for the storage. The Eagle I had a single single-sided (SS) double-density (DD) 96-tpi 5.25" floppy-disk drive, the Eagle II had two of these. The Eagle III had two double-sided (DS) DD 96-tpi 5.25" FDD. The Eagle IV had one of these and a 10-Mb hard disk, and the Eagle V had one of these and a 32-Mb hard disk.
The Is and Vs were not sold in large numbers, because of the small storage capacity of the former, and the high capacity and higher price of the latter. Who needed 32 Mb?

Later on the whole line was renamed the Eagle IIe line, and the little metal insert below the numeric keypad said "IIe" instead of "I", "II", etc. But the model numbers could be found on a shiny label on the back which said IIe-1, IIE-2, IIE-3, etc.

Later on Eagle made PCs, both MS-DOS boxes and full clones. The non-clones, the Eagle 1600 series, were the first PCs with hard disks; Eagle took the Xebec controller, Eagle SASI card, and hard disks from the CP/M models and put them right into the 1600 series, long before any other manufacturer did so.

The Eagles systems were also sold by Multitech in some countries..

> THE HARDWARE AND DRIVES

The commonest failure of the machines was the video ROM dying. By the time that began happening, the ROM was no longer being made, which made it hard to find a replacement.

Eagle also made hard-disk peripherals, a 10-Mb and 32-Mb box which attached to a SASI port on the back of the computer, called a File 10 and File 40 respectively. If you hooked up a File 10 or File 40 to the back of a III, for instance, the computer and the File 40 would talk to each other, and instead of booting from a floppy on the III, the combined system would boot from the hard disk in the File 40. That was the ultimate CP/M Eagle; four 8-Mb partitions (A, B, C, and D) and two 784-Kb floppies (E and F) gave you 33.5 Mb of storage!

Eagle had two CP/M disk formats, a single-sided 384K format for the I and II, and a double-sided 784K format for the III, IV, and V. On the III, IV, and V, you could read the single-sided format of the first two models.

Drive letters: The drives on the Eagles were A on the I, A and B on the II and III. On the IV the hard-disk partitions were A and B, and the FDD was E; on the V the hard-disk partitions were A, B, C, and D, and the FDD was E. However ...

On the III you could read, write, and otherwise access a single-sided disk in the top drive by using the drive letter I, and in the bottom FDD by using the drive letter J. That is, if you used the drive letter A, the computer would look at the top drive and expect to find a double-sided floppy disk there, but if you used I, it would expect a single-sided disk in the drive. You could also access a single-sided disk in the IV or V's single FDD by using the drive-letter I. However again:

If you hooked up a File 10 or File 40 to a I, II, or III, the system booted from the File 10/40, and the hard disk's partitions became A and B (and C and D, if it was a 40); single-sided FDDs became I and J, double-sided FDDs became E and F. I don't know what happened if you hooked up a File 10 or 40 to a IV or V, I never tried it. But the IV, V, File 10, and File 40 all used the same BIOS, which only supported two single-sided FDDs, two double-sided FDDs, and four 8-Mb hard-disk partitions, so more than two FDDs or more than four hard-disk partitions would have been ignored. Which hard disk it would boot from, and which partitions would get which drive letters, I never tried to find out. Sorry!

Jerry Davis and David McGlone of the Eagle Computer Users Group once put two 10-Mb hard disks in an Eagle III, each with its own SASI card but running off the same Xebec controller, as an experiment. It worked! The first drive's partitions became A and B, and the second drive's, C and D. It was a waste of parts, though, because the Eagle-manufactured SASI card was the rarest part on the machine and the hardest to find a replacement for, if it failed.

You could upgrade any machine by adding the appropriate hardware and using the right BIOS. Changing a I to a II was a simple matter of putting in another single-sided FDD with the jumpers set to drive 1 instead of 0. This doubled its storage from 384K to 768K. But you could also replace the 1 SS FDD with 2 DS FDD, turning it into an Eagle III with four times the storage of a I. Or you could add a Xebec controller, SASI card, and hard disk and make it a IV, V, or "IV.5" (if you used a 20-Mb hard disk instead of 10 or 32). If you had the parts, it wasn't hard.

The IV and V BIOS supported 2 floppy-disk drives, though they came with only a single full-height drive (all the floppy-disk drives and hard disks in the Eagles were full height). Replacing the single full-height drive with two half-height drives was a common modification. David McGlone used to bring to meetings an Eagle IV with two half-height FDDs and a half-height 32-Mb hard disk. It was lighter than anyone else's Eagle, had the maximum storage (33.5 Mb) the BIOS supported, and ran cooler because of the lower requirements of the newer drives.

All the Eagles had power supplies in the left rear of the bottom of the machine, but the IVs and Vs had a second power supply just inside the lid, to support the hard disk.

The FDDs were noisy, because of the way the Eagles ran them. Bob Vinisky discovered that when you ran Z-System instead of CP/M 2.2, the drives became quiet and faster, apparently because ZRDOS handled them more intelligently than the Eagle implementation of CP/M.

As they aged, the hard drives were real howlers, you could hear them moan from 30 feet, and they sounded like they would die any minute...but ran for years.

The hard-disk formatting software program Eagle used would only work with certain MFM hard disk models that had the right number of heads and cylinders. There was only one version, and it began by formatting the first 8 Mb, then the next 8, then the next 8, then the next 8. On a 10-Mb drive this gave two partitions of 8 and 2 Mb; on a 20-Mb hard disk you got 8, 8, and 4; on a 32-Mb hard disk you got four partitions of 8 Mb each.

> SOFTWARE

The Eagles originally came with Accounting Plus, a big accounting package like Peachtree or Quicken today. Most users didn't need or want it, so it was replaced with Ultracalc, a cheesy spreadsheet program, on later Eagles.

The software for the I, II, and III came on floppy disks. There was a CP/M disk with CP/M 2.2, the CP/M utilities, and the Eagle utilities; a Spellbinder disk; and an Ultracalc disk. If you had one of the older Eagles, instead of Ultracalc you got Accounting Plus, which took up six disks even with the III's double-sided 784K format! The software documentation was contained in a big white plastic binder; there was a Spellbinder section, written by Eagle instead of Lexisoft, that covered only the bare basics of Spellbinder; an Ultracalc section; and a CP/M section, that had a book on CP/M inserted. On the IV and V, you got the same binder, but of course the software was already on the hard disk.

If you want to know more about Spellbinder click here.

If you booted from the CP/M disk, you got a standard CP/M prompt: A> However, if you booted from the other disks, you got a menu. This menu allowed you to go straight into Spellbinder or Ultracalc without seeing the CP/M prompt at all, simply by selecting the number from the menu. Other menu items allowed you to format disks, copy from one disk to another, etc. The menu was tailored to your model: the I's menu had no disk-to-disk copy because it had only one disk, and
the II's menu had no way to deal with double-sided disks because it had only single-sided disk drives. The III's menu could deal with one disk drive or two, single-sided or double-sided; the IV and V had an option for turning off the computer, which parked the hard disk's head before telling you it was OK to turn off the power. If you booted from the Accounting Plus main disk, or had Accounting Plus on your IV or V, it was also included in the menu.

You could exit from the menu and work from CP/M directly, or set up your files so that the menu never loaded, but the Eagles were designed for business users who would take them home (or to the office), unpack them, plug them in, and start using them. Unlike the Heath computers, which offered you the option of building them from the circuit board up (with complete instructions) and encouraged you to tinker, the Eagle turnkey system had all you needed already set up. A truly amazing number of Eagle users never left the menu and never installed any other software on their computers!

CP/M computers in general came with two sets of utilities. There were standard utilities that came with CP/M, then there were utilities written by the manufacturer that were specific to each machine. For example, the software to format disks was also manufacturer-created and machine-specific.

The Eagle utilities included a Backup program on the IV, V, and File 10 and File 40. This program let you specify what files you wanted to back up and you could save the specification list in a file. When you ran Backup, it asked for a name for the set and a comment to identify it; this information was stored on each floppy disk of the set. Another neat feature of the backup program was that it didn't matter what size the files were. If you ran out of disk space in the middle of a file, Backup simply asked you to insert the next disk, and continued backing up the file onto the next disk. You could restore the file using the Restore utility, which like Backup allowed you to specify the file(s) to be restored in a specification file. If a file to be restored had been divided across two or more disks, Restore would prompt you to replace disks as it needed them, and tell you if you put in the wrong disk. Of course, if a file weren't divided, and you knew what disk it was on, you could also restore it with PIP or some regular copy utility.

CBASIC was Digital Research's professional BASIC. It was a much better product that Microsoft's MBASIC, with a host of conditional toggles that a programmer would appreciate, but the rank amateurs doing most of the BASIC programming those days didn't even understand.

> USER GROUPS

There weren't a lot of user groups, because the Eagle was so easy to use. The only ones I ever heard of were the Screaming Eagles, that met in San Francisco and had a newsletter whose name I can't recall; and the Eagle Computer Users Group, in the San Jose area. The latter had a nameless newsletter that came out faithfully every month for years and years; it just had the Eagle Computers logo at the top, and varied from 1 page on up, depending on the news. Shirley Welch did it the first year or two, then David McGlone was elected editor and ran it after that. It had the occasional article on Spellbinder tricks, or special projects he and Jerry Davis did, but mostly listed the members, announced when and where the next meeting was, etc.

Thanks a lot to Leo D.Orionis and Tim Gieseler for all this info !


A side note from John Barrett:
The original president died when his sports car flipped off the road and landed upside down in the GTE pole yard. Eagle's headquarters were in Los Gatos, California.  They actually advertised for a president in the San Jose Mercury news for quite a while...
I worked for GTE and we shared a building with them.  Ate lunch with them in a common atrium...

 





 
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