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I > IMSAI  > VDP 80   

VDP 80

The IMSAI VDP-80 was the first commercially succesful business computer, accounting for almost 50% of the store sales where I worked at the time.

It was delived with 48 KB or 64 KB of RAM, and newer systems offered the Persci 299, double-sided, double density floppy drives. Both models of Persci (277 or 299) were a dual drive with a shared voice coil positioner in the center.

The primary CP/M applications were Electric Pencil or Wordstar which made them a hit in law offices. FMS-80 (database), Supercalc (spreadsheet) and Accounting Plus were also used.

Several languages were also available for this computer : BASIC (with compiler) and Fortran IV level 2 ANSI compiler.

These units were the first used by the Alexandria Police department to automate their booking and arrest database in 1978.


Douro says :
This computer had a very simplified design; it was built around the Intel 8085. This processor contains the complete 8080 core and additional glue logic (i.e. the clock chip). The 8085 performed five times faster than the 8080 due to its smaller transistor size and the use of very large scale integration (VLSI). The CMOS version of this chip was the Oki 80C85, and the EPROM version was the 8075.

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My first micro was the IMSAI 8080 - programmed via red and blue switches on the front panel, storage via cassette, 4K of RAM. The VDP 80 was a major upgrade! But yeah, a bit flakey here and there. Nonetheless, it did serve pretty well as a platform for the software that continues to be the driving force of the industry. Full disclosure: I wrote FMS-80.

Monday 29th October 2018
David Rodman (Hawaii/USA)
Red Road Telecom

I worked as a computer salesman in Atlanta from 1979-1981, and this was one of the machines we had on the shop floor. At first, I was thrilled by the level of integration of the machine - the all-in-one format, the dual disk drives, built-in terminal hardware, and the gloriously expansive 64K of RAM! There were also some advanced features in the display hardware, including special characters, multiple character size, and the promise of something that looked like bitmapped graphics.

But, as I experimented with the machine, writing some BASIC programs, I found the hardware was unreliable, and the machine tended to freeze up. It only took one or two major program losses before I walked away disappointed.

The IMSAI VDP-80 was long on concept, but short on execution. Another few months in development might have written a different story for the computer industry!

Monday 3rd April 2017
Christopher Shubert (USA)

We used to have one of these when I worked at The Byte Shop in Atlanta, GA. The UPS man thoughtfully rolled it up the flight of stairs to our shop on the 2nd floor. The case was a type of fiber glass, and he managed to break it in a couple places.

I spent many many hours in front of one of these machines, and I wouldn''t mind running across one somewhere.

Monday 27th June 2011
JC Wren (USA)


TYPE  Professional Computer
YEAR  1977
KEYBOARD  Full stroke keyboard
CPU  Intel 8085
RAM  48 or 64 KB
ROM  Bios'es were located on the VIO-C video card and the DIO-C floppy controller
TEXT MODES  80 x 24 (with inverse video and 256 programmable characters)
COLORS  Monochrome
SIZE / WEIGHT  55 kg (121 lbs)
I/O PORTS  Parallel port - Serial port (asynch/synch, programmable from 0.05 to 56 Kbauds)
OS  CP/M 1.4 to 2.2
POWER SUPPLY  Built-in power supply unit
PRICE  between $9,995 and $12,995, depending on RAM and FDD configuration

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