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I > ISC (INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS CORP) > CompuColor II


 

This mini forum is intended to provide a simple means of discussion about the ISC (Intelligent Systems Corp) CompuColor II computer. If you want to share your own experience or memories, or add relevant information about this system: post a message! For other purposes like sales messages, hardware & software questions or information requests, please use our main forum.

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Tuesday 28th September 2010
David Shockley (Athens Georgia)

I started my career with ISC right out of school in 1978. I enjoyed reading the post and it sure brings back memories. ISC was one of the fastest growing companies, and formed product names like Intecolor and Compucolor. I worked for this company until it closed in 2001. The name changed along the way from Intelligent Systems Corp (ISC) to Intecolor to Rockwell Automation (1996). I had the priviledge to work with Mr. Charles Muench for most of my working life. I remember working on every product that was designed from the 8001 Terminal that had the 8080 based processor through the Flat Panel Displays and Industrial Computers at the end. Charles launched Printacolor and Colorocs companines too. All were based on Color. Hello to all the readers who remember this great company and thank you to Charles Muench for his vision.


Monday 1st December 2003
Raymond Curci (Tallahassee FL)

I worked at FSU 1981-1986 in the Math/Computer
science department under Dr. E.P. Miles Jr.,
who was director of the Center for Color Graphics.
The center built one of the original Intecolor 8001
terminals from a kit. E.P. Miles delveloped a
relationship with Intecolor president Charles Muench
who donated several computers over the years
including some Intel 8080 based systems
like the 8051 running the FCS O/S and
8063R running CP/M-80. I recall in one
particularly generous year when they donated
40 Intecolor 2427 terminals along with
five Dataview 3000 (8-cpu) computers
and Printacolor color printers we used to
set up a student lab facility.
I spent many hours studying the source code
assembler code, writing device drivers,
tweaking CP/M, etc.


Thursday 19th June 2003
Robin Hicks (Melbourne, Australia)

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology purchased a few of these machines when they were available. The objective was to have meteorologists write programs in Basic to enable forecasting aids to be written and shared around the various forecasting offices. Unfortunately the disk drives were of such a poor quality that a file written on one floppy disk drive couldn't be read on another drive. As the drives deteriorated, only files written in the last few days could be read by the same disk drive. Still, it was a learning process, and the Bureau moved on to the NEC APC II and IV


Tuesday 10th June 2014
Scott Larson (United States)

Our junior high school had three or four of these. The biggest pain was those floppy drives. There was some kind of alignment issue with the heads. One could read floppies from one or two other machines. Most could only read floppies written on that machine making it impossible to share data. I always wondered if mounting the drives close to the CRT had something to do with it. I''m happy to say this is the only computer model that had this fault.


Tuesday 17th September 2013
Ray Curci (US)

According to Charles Muench from his web page, he started the company in 1972, had a color computer terminal by 1973,
and a color microcomputer with BASIC by 1976.
http://camuench.com/work.html$1972


Wednesday 20th March 2013
woody

In 1980 I graduated from college. My first job was working for a company called ESMARK in South Bend, Indiana. Steve Toussaint owned it, and we sold compucolor II''s to the Kings Cellar liquor stores. The pos program was written in Basic. We had endless problems with the disks getting corrupted, until Steve figured out that you could use mu metal applied in strategic spots to shield the disk. We would take a new one out of the box, open it, install the mu metal shield and sell it. My first real programming job was an interrupt driven printer for the cash registers, and it resulted in a bug that took 36 straight hours to find. The interface with basic, was when the assembly language routine was called, to scan through the basic variable space looking for I$. The next two bytes were a pointer to a string in memory (ram). The microsoft format had a 2 byte length followed by the data if I remember right. Any rate, periodically, the printer would print garbage. It just happened to be pointing to the system rom some how, and printed out some text in the rom. It took 24 hours of solid work to finally figure it out. The crazy thing was that it happened only when one of the numbers was an even multiple of 2. Finally I tracked it down. Variable space was organized in 6 byte chunks. I was doing a linear scan. It just happened that one of the floating point values had the first two bytes matching I$ and I was picking up the last two bytes of the floating point number and using it as a pointer....in this case it pointed into rom.... The fix was simple, increment through the variable space by 6, so you were always looking at a variable name......


Thursday 27th December 2012
Jeff Brown (United States)

I worked at Intecolor in the 80s. The 3650 was my first computer on which I learned BASIC and then 8080 ASM. I lost my 3650 years ago when someone cleaned out a closet at my father''s office. I had stored it there and had signs on it that said don''t throw away. I contacted some of the people I worked with then and after a few years I am finally going to pick up a 3651 tomorrow. I''ve spent the last few days going through my old software and manuals. Hopefully I can get M80 and L80 off one of the disks. If I can get that I can write a program and connect it to my PC and transfer all my software over. I hope to dump the ROMs and then write an emulator. I''ll keep the group here up to date with my adventures.


Friday 17th August 2012
Chuck Luciano (Denver)

I developed industrial controls software on an intecolor machine from 81-84 mostly in assember with calls to FCS.

During that time I spent a lot of time on the phone talking to Mike Higgins who was in tech support. Besides being very knowledgeable, Mike was fun to talk to. I''d love to know where he is these days and maybe BS with him for a few minutes about the ''glory days'' of ISC (I worked for ISD (Industrial Systems Design) at the time).

If you see this Mike, look me up on LinkedIn


Thursday 26th July 2012
Glenn (San Diego/USA)

Funny reading all the memories of everyone who had one of these - usually as a kid - me too!!!

I bought mine when I was 15 and we drove down to Canberra to pick it up - I recall it was about 3˝ grand back then for the 16K model 4 with extended keyboard.

I was able to afford it as I had just started an apprenticeship as a sparky at BHP Newcastle steelworks (which is gone now - don''t let the San Diego location fool you - Aussie born and bred although I live here now)

Like many others, after learning BASIC I ended up in the Computer Software game - That computer changed my life!

Spent hours playing Swarms and Star Trek etc for hours.

Strangely enough I still have the original keyboard for it at my old man''s place - the rest of it I gave away to an aspiring geek who lived next door.

Hope he had half as much fun from it as I got.


Monday 20th February 2012
zame stahl (usa/ca)

i have one of these intecolor 8001g and sold they keyboards on ebay to a guy in los angeles he wont respond to me back about buyiong them back so i guess im burnt so anyways i''m in the markert to buy to keyboards for the 8001g thanks


Wednesday 11th January 2012
Ron Lisoski (Fort Myers USA)

I worked for Transart who wanted to market the Councillor machine to the public in a Marry K style party. I wrote some basic programs that demonstrated the machines capabilities. As I remember it the only printers it supported were serial you had to set the baud rate and bit configuration a la teletype. You also had to flip pins two and three (xmit and receive). Also it had sound using phones, and the speaker that came with tv, very advanced for the time. The competition was the IBM Peanut and early Apples. My line was,"Don''t fool with th fruits and nuts guys.


Friday 16th September 2011
ken kerrison (australia)

A Compucolor 11 was my first computer bought around 1984 The tax database program I wrote in basic was later upgraded with Quckbasic and graduated through a succession of PCs until I ceased using it about a year ago.
In retrospect, the fact that ISC ceased support for this machine was beneficial. People is US, Australia and elsewhere not only developed powerful add-ons and software but sold this stuff within the community which developed. My two (or three) Compucolors are still tucked away somewhere - they had sound, basic in firmware and other features added.
I recall writing a program (which won a prize) to help my son learn the trumpet - It could generate random tunes - it displayed the music, could play it, and showed the fingering for each note. .


Friday 16th September 2011
ken kerrison (australia)

A Compucolor 11 was my first computer bought around 1984 The tax database program I wrote in basic was later upgraded with Quckbasic and graduated through a succession of PCs until I ceased using it about a year ago.
In retrospect, the fact that ISC ceased support for this machine was beneficial. People is US, Australia and elsewhere not only developed powerful add-ons and software but sold this stuff within the community which developed. My two (or three) Compucolors are still tucked away somewhere - they had sound, basic in firmware and other features added.
I recall writing a program (which won a prize) to help my son learn the trumpet - It could generate random tunes - it displayed the music, could play it, and showed the fingering for each note. .


Friday 16th September 2011
ken kerrison (australia)

A Compucolor 11 was my first computer bought around 1984 The tax database program I wrote in basic was later upgraded with Quckbasic and graduated through a succession of PCs until I ceased using it about a year ago.
In retrospect, the fact that ISC ceased support for this machine was beneficial. People is US, Australia and elsewhere not only developed powerful add-ons and software but sold this stuff within the community which developed. My two (or three) Compucolors are still tucked away somewhere - they had sound, basic in firmware and other features added.
I recall writing a program (which won a prize) to help my son learn the trumpet - It could generate random tunes - it displayed the music, could play it, and showed the fingering for each note. .


Wednesday 31st August 2011
Geoff Duncan (New Zealand)
geoffduncan.co.nz

my dad was using these back when I was a kid, developing what became a fully functional Dental system.

I used to write simple code to do graphics, plot circles on the screen etc. I ended up with a couple of full screen images which were created using ASCII characters..such a lot of fun.

Now I do CG VFX work, so I guess all that mucking around on the Compucolor II paid off!!


Sunday 7th August 2011
Bruce Williams (Pasadena, CA)

I worked for Compucolor, first in production and then as Software Manager under Greg Whitten.
Charles Muench - "Charley" was my mentor and inspiration as he was for so many young people coming into the microcomputer revolution. The CCII as technology offered much more than the Apple II, but the disk drive was ahead of it''s time. I often feel if we were in Sunnyvale we would have beat Apple head-to-head.
I also remember Dr. E.P. Miles coming to ISC. He was working on Mandelbrot programs on the Intecolor.
I left ISC to work for Williams in Chicago and then Atari.
Those were the days!


Friday 14th January 2011
Greg (Russia)

In response to Mike Ungerman, there was a series of unique graphics based strategy games on the Compucolor, which you may be referring to. Some of the titles were Lightning Command (a board-type war game), Bomb Squad (you attempt to defuse various bombs - some humorous), Target Omega (a submarine simulator) and Space 2020 (a trading game set in outer space between aliens). These were all original games, and one footnote is that the guy who wrote Bomb Squad went on to write the popular "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?" The other games were written by me, and sold at Byte Shops and other early computer retailers. One other note - the name of the 8-track storage device was the "Stringy Floppy" (yes, seriously - that''s what they called it.)


Monday 27th December 2010
Jim Rieder

I programmed FCS for the InteColor 8001 in 8080 assembly language. I played with Charlotte in the basement.


Tuesday 7th December 2010
Mike Ungerman (Orlando, Fl/USA)
Musings from Mike

My first computer was a CompuColor II. It was 1979 and the Apple II had just come out, but it stored data on an audio tape, and the CCII used floppies! Unfortunately, the hardware reliability was very poor. I shipped it to ISC three times for repairs$ on the third time the airline lost it in transit$ insurance paid off and I did purchase that Apple. But I learned to program in BASIC on that CCII$ actually wrote and marketed a program to do multiple choice testing, but there wasn''t much in the line of sales. I vaguely remember a unique graphics based strategy game that I liked but have never seen on any computer since. I''d love to find out what it was and whether it is available somewhere for a PC.


Tuesday 27th July 2010
Charlotte Murray (Naples, FL)

I learned to spell my name on this computer. My dad, Charles Muench, designed the computer when I was very young. I remember dad had a few employees at the time and they worked in our basement. Dad graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in electrical engineering. He first started working with his brother at another company I think it was called Integrated Systems. He then left to build the first home color computer. He did take some basic from Bill Gates but they settled when he shared some of his work with Mr. Gates.

I think I promised the guys from this site a copy of the brochure that I was actually in to advertise the computer. I will try to get on that and also I will see if I can get my dad to post something here. I know that seems like a lifetime ago to him though.


Friday 14th May 2010
Allison Newman (France)

Ahhh, the Compucolor II. I learned to program on one of these guys! The thing I remember most vividly was the way the graphics system worked. The graphics resolution was a weak 128 x 128 pixels, but you could have 8 colours on the screen at once. However that didn''t allow for arbitrary use of those colours. The way the system was implemented was as a 64 x 32 grid of "characters" with each character being made up of a 2 x 4 array of pixels. For each of those characters you could specify a foreground and a background colour. The 2 x 4 array was represented as a byte, with the 1s being drawn with the foreground colour and the 0s being drawn with the background colour.

The input system was fun too. In the Basic interpreter, the only way to read key input other than by "input" (which of course needed a carriage return before being read) was to "peek" at a certain memory address to see if anything had been written there. One thing that irked me in my career as a budding programmer was that it was pretty much impossible in Basic to trap the down arrow key which was the Compucolor''s equivalent of Ctrl-C. It used to annoy me because I couldn''t write "proper games" that used the cursor keys, like the "real" games did.

One very vivid memory comes to mind. Sometimes a Basic script could get corrupted on disk - there would be some junk written into the file. This resulted in an out-of-order line being put into the file - the listing would go

1720 REM BLAH BLAH BLAH
1730 PRINT "HELLO WORLD"
jibberish
1740 GOTO 1720
when you tried to run the program, it would blow up at line 1730. The recommended fix was to $ a line
1731 REM $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
and then peek into memory to find the long string of 0x35s. The badly formatted line was then zeroed out or jumped or something, I don''t remember which. I still remember the ascii code for ''$'' to this day thanks to this hack :-)

You could also read what was on the screen programatically - I remember writing a disk utility that provided a graphical interface for doing disk operations such as deleting, renaming and copying files, which worked by printing a listing of the directory to the screen, and then scraping the screen to know the name of the file that the user had $ed.

I/O was very simple - I was only about 10 at the time but I managed to write a utility that could read the graphics buffer and then send the right codes to my epson dot matrix printer to spit out what was on the screen - I don''t remember the command actually used to send control codes out of the serial port, but it must have been simple, because I managed to grok it without any help other than the two programming manuals that I had for the machine.

Speaking of programming manuals, does anyone remember the name of the manual that was mostly black on the cover, but had a 3d plot of some math function done with blue (cyan!) dots? I owe my entire career to that book.

As others have already noted, it was possible to damage the hardware by writing bad values to certain parts of memory. The result of that was that my father forbid me to use the "poke" command whilst I was programming :-) Oddly enough, he didn''t bat an eyelid when I started playing around with assembly language, although the computer was already several years old by then and maybe he just didn''t care anymore if I destroyed it.


Friday 2nd April 2010
Jim Stone (GA, USA)

I bought a Compucolor II in 1979 and took it to Saudi Arabia with a book on programming. It ran on power a generator that was not very reliable and during surges smoke wold come from the Compucolor.

In three months I was able to write a complex billing program that reduced our invoice preparation time (to the government) by seven days and reduced our collection time by 21 days. I was hooked!

I have now spent over 25 years in business software and look forward to many more.


Thursday 11th December 2008
John Bell (VA, USA)

I bought one when I was in college (RIT) and I think David Suits, who contributed the comment on 3/15/07, was one of my teachers there. I was surprised to see him at a local club meeting. I went all-out and bought the InteColor version of the machine, which had the keyboard and monitor in a single, attractive, white case. During my senior year I spent more time on the computer than I did on homework, but I graduated anyway. I wrote an image editing program (all in BASIC) where you could "draw" on the screen and create/save/display your artwork. My CCII stopped working years ago and several keys have come off the keyboard, but I''m fairly sure I still have it (and the doc and dozens of disks) down in my basement. Is Bill Freiberger still fixing CCIIs? After college I moved to northern NJ and I met Bill there and brought my machine to his house several times for repairs and upgrades. My favorite programs for it were Swarm (someone else mentioned that) and a program that would fill the screen with colored squares in a mesmerizing pattern.


Tuesday 25th November 2008
Stanford Hudson (USA)

I first saw the CCII in my 8th grade algebra class back in 1981. A student, who''s family was known to be wealthy, brought one in for show-and-tell. It was the first computer I had ever laid my eyes on. Colorful keyboard, graphics, simple-looking system... I was immediately hooked. I do remember the disk taking a long time to read/write during the student''s demo of his system. The graphics were incredible - colors very brilliant. My parents ended up buying our family an Apple II+ later that year, but the CCII has always stuck in my head as this mysterious, untouchable system. I finally found one on eBay last night and snatched it up fast. Manuals and software are also forthcoming.


Wednesday 15th October 2008
Paul Wakefield (UK)

I was quite excited, as I have one of these in the computer closet (complete with colourful keys !). However, on opening it up, I see someone has enterprisingly grafted a ZX81 motherboard onto the Compucolor keyboard (maybe those membrane keys really did get to him !)


Thursday 15th March 2007
David Suits (USA)

I cut my teeth on the CCII's BASIC, and quickly moved to 8080 assembler. Wrote a little book for the Compucolor, sold some software for it, and helped Disney put up some Intecolors (Compucolor's big brother) at EPCOT Center. Although the machine could be a temperamental beast, it was always a thrill to program for it. I regret selling mine.


Friday 1st December 2006
Matt Calman (USA)

I used the beloved Compucolor II in high school in 1979-1983. Two thing I remember very clearly: 1. ESC-D pull up the file system. The Basic interpreter and the file system operated independently. More importantly, 2. You had to be sure to remove your floppy disk before powering on. The degaussing action of the CRT power-on would usually erase any floppy in the drive! My high school, Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusettes, had two of these. An older student, named Chris Keener, learned to work in assembler with the device and wrote a bookstore management system with it, and even had a dual 8" floppy drive hacked onto it.


Sunday 23rd October 2005
Steven Myers (Los Angeles, CA USA)
Trusted Peer Technologies

My Dad bought my Brother and I one of these back in the 70s for round $2000. I think it had 16K of RAM and we upgraded it to 32K. We typed in our own BASIC programs which we found in books. My Dad kept the computer and all the floppies and manuals that go with it. He even saved the old newsletters. The only thing we're missing is the power cord! does anyone know what sort of cord it needs (model #) and/or where I can get one so we can try firing it back up? It is a strange horizonal three prong thing. Thanks!


Wednesday 19th October 2005
Anthony DeHart (Earth)

I remember this old computer fondly. I used to go to a friends house who had one of these and we'd spend all day programming in basic and doing peeks and pokes to change things on the screen. It blew me away because it had color and it was dot addressable to boot.

The model my friend had must have been a later model than I originally thought as it most definitely had the 8" drives on it. The one thing I recall the most is playing BASIC versions of a game called SWARM where killer bees were attacking the US from the south and of course where would any computer be without a version of STAR TREK.

Although I'd dabbled with the TRS-80 Model I a bit, I cut my programming teeth on this computer. I finally convinced my parents to get me my OWN computer, an APPLE II.


Saturday 26th February 2005
Joel Provost (USA)

My father bought a Compucolor II back around 1979. I learned how to program on it at first in BASIC, then in assembler. It also happened that the Hillsborough Country school system( Tampa, Florida), bought these systems for their high schools. I went to high school with the nephew of Charles Meunch, but thats another story. This was during the early arcade game days. I wrote a version of Space Invaders, Galaxian and some home designed video games ( Space Orbs, Galactic Attack). I was able to trade these programs for hardware from the Compucolor company. I was also able to sell the software via the user group magazines. This money helped me get through college. The thing constantly broke down and was in the repair shop frequently. I eventually learned how to repair it myself, replacing power supply capacitors, etc.


Wednesday 10th September 2003
Scott Larson (Portland, OR)

My junior high school bought a couple of CompuColor 2's back in 1981. The district didn't have the money for Apple computers and felt these were essentially the same thing. The worst thing about them were the unreliable disk drives. Once you pulled a floppy out of the drive there was a good chance you would never be able to read anything off it again. Your odds improved if you used the floppy in the same computer. I always wondered whether the proximity of the CRT to the drive was causing this. These machines taught us kids a lot about computers, that's for sure.


Thursday 5th September 2002
Chuck Lewis (Philadelphia, PA)

Back in the late 70's my dad and I got one of the "smart" terminal versions of this computer (probably the 8001 model referred to on the summary page). Anyway, it was built around a 19" color monitor - very nice for the day. The machine stopped working in the late 80's and was discarded, however I still have the keyboard, dual external 5.25" floppy drive unit, and a bunch of manuals including a lot of "OS" source code and schematics. I'd really like to get some of the assembly/BASIC code that my dad and I wrote off of the floppies, but at this point my only real possibility of doing this would involve recreating portions of the old circuitry interfaced to a modern PC. I'm not certain that path would bear fruit (bad drives, incorrect / incomplete schematics, unreadable floppies). Anyone out there got a working Intecolor 8001 I could plug the floppy drive into and see if the ISC FCS ("file control system") would read my collection of old floppies? Or has anyone ever successfully used a modern floppy controller/drive to pull the information off. I seem to recall some ISC Intecolor owners had a CP/M PROM... we didn't, we opted for the BASIC PROM upgrade, but information from someone who had the CP/M based system might be useful too.





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