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Hewlett Packard

The HP 9810, 9820 and 9830 were all announced simultaneously by HP in the December 1972 HP Journal. They were all four bit machines and all of them used a serial bus internally.

The 9830 was by far the most capable machine of this group and ran what HP called BASIC Plus. In many ways, it was one of the first true "Personal Computers" ever marketed.

The 9830 was also significantly more expandable than the 9810/9820, with five user-accessable ROM cartridge slots. The 9830-B was introduced four years later in the 1977 HP catalog. HP said that three things set the HP 9830 apart from the other desktop systems:
• First, it's used of BASIC Plus with it's English like vocabulary and structure,
• Second, the entire operating system and firmware were in ROM and did not take up any of the read/write memory space,
• Third, the use of the cassette tape drive with features that they said were only found on large computers.
The basic 9830 came with 1760 16 bit words of memory, a 32 character display, the cassette tape drive and a large well-featured keyboard.

In addition to the ROM cartridge slots, the 9830 could hold three more ROMs internally. The internal ROMs were on cards instead of plug in cartridges and had to be installed by HP. When the internal ROMs or extra memory were installed, a sticker that listed the ROM or new memory size and option number was added to the outside ROM door. The 9830A came with 3520 bytes (1760 words) of memory and could be expanded up to 15808 bytes (7904 words). The 9830B came with 15808 bytes (7904 words) of memory and could be expanded up to 30144 bytes (15072 words). The Matrix and String Variables ROM cards were also standard in the 9830-B.

The HP 9830 was commonly found with a special version of HP 9866 printer (see picture) that sits on top of the calculator and looks like it's part of the original machine. The 9866 was a full width page printer that printed up to 80 columns of characters on thermal roll paper. It could print a full 80 character width using 5 x 7 dot matrix characters at 240 lines per minute. It could also print simple plots and tables or other formatted text. The "B" version of this printer was introduced in 1977 and it added the capability of printing both upper and lower case letters and vertical lines. The printer used a short cable that connected to a special socket on the back of the computer.

The HP 9830 was dropped from the HP catalog after 1977 or 1978. But, in 2000, some companies still used it...since 1975!

Thanks to Joe for most of the information.


Kevin Kost specifies:
The HP-9830a was the first machine I ever programmed (in high school). In addition to the things noted in your article...
- The machine was identified as "Desktop Calculator" on its label, not "Professional Computer".
- The version of HP BASIC in ROM included buit-in matrix manipulation commands... very rare in those computing days.
- Internally the machine used a serial bus architecture.
- The price you mention might be low. I remember hearing that our system (9830 + thermal printer + card reader) was purchased for ~$30k.

Please consider donating your old computer / videogame system to or one of our partners from anywhere in the world (Europe, America, Asia, etc.).


I worked at the Bureau of Ag. Economics, Canberra and an HP salesman tried to sell us one but unfortunately we never did. He told me that a Brisbane accountant bought one and programmed some accounting work on it, then there was the 1974 flood and his beloved computer was buried under about 20 feet of mud and water. He rang up the salesman and the two of them took it to the accountant''s home, opened it up, flushed out the mud with the garden hose, dried it with the account''s wife''s hair dryer, put it back together and it worked perfectly.

He also told me that some of the calculations to get Apollo13 back safely were done on a 9830 series, but since Apollo 13 began 1970/4/11 and the 9830 came out December 1972 I assume this must have been a NASA "special" prototype.

Tuesday 11th January 2011
Jalaluddin Morris (PJ, Selangor, Malaysia)

My first paid programming job was on a HP9830B with 15k memory and 5MB removable HD platter. I talked the boss to buy this over an IBM 5100 with cartridge tapes only. It was fun with only 36/72 character visual display. Loved it then moved to a Service Bureau with IBM 360 20/50s and RPGII .. :-( Been a fun ride and as I write this on a MBP 16GB 1TB I''m glad I started on a HP9830B :-)

Sunday 24th April 2016
Glenn Boswell (USA)

I bought one of these at IBM in order to get funding for the IBM 5100. The management didn''t believe you could actually put a computer on a disk, and lo and behold, without a raised floor. So, I bought the HP 9830, a Wang 2200 and an MCM/70. When Dave Slattery a vice president of development told me you couldn''t put a Basic compiler into less than 128k I wheeled one of these machines into his office. I got the funding, a story for another day about politics and bureaucracy.

Friday 4th September 2015
Alvin Ginsburg (United States)


NAME  HP-9830
MANUFACTURER  Hewlett Packard
TYPE  Professional Computer
YEAR  December 1972
KEYBOARD  Full stroke 107 key with numeric keypad, Function and arrow keys
CPU  4-board CPU set, 16--bit microprogrammed processor
SPEED  Unknown
RAM  3.5 KB up to 16 KB - 9830B: 16 KB
ROM  From 15 KB up to 62 KB (31 KB of 16-bit words)
TEXT MODES  LED display. 1 line x 32 alphanumeric chars.
SOUND  Built-in speaker and "BEEP" command in the Basic interpreter
SIZE / WEIGHT  46 (W) x 63.5 (D) x 15.2(H) cm / 21 kg
I/O PORTS  5 x ROM module slots, 4 x interface module slots
BUILT IN MEDIA  Cartridge tape drive (2 x 64 KB sides)
POWER SUPPLY  Built-in power supply unit
PERIPHERALS  I/O modules: Serial, Parallel, BCD, external FDD, HDD, General I/O, AD/DA converter, etc...
PRICE  $6000

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