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I > ICL  > Personal computer   

Personal computer

In the early 70s, the British government whished an English computer company could compete with the world major manufacturers. Some years later, the ICL company became one of the larger manufacturer of computers in Europe and did really compete with U.S. companies.

In 1980, before the ICL Personal Computer was born, the company met serious financial problems, the English government paid several million pounds and ICL asked the British RAIR CIE to provide the ICL-PC hardware.

This ICL Personal Computer is thus exactly the same machine as the RAIR Black Box system, a backplane 8085 based system using a serial video terminal as video display, and CP/M (single user) or MP/M (multi-user) operating systems.

Two series were released. The PC1 series is the model pictured here. The PC2 series was the same design case as the ICL PC Quattro. This used an Intel or AMD 8085AH-2 CPU at 5MHZ

The model numbers for the PC1 series were:
Model 10 (pictured here) - 64 KB RAM, 2 x 5.25" FDD, CP/M O.S.
Model 30 with a 5 MB hard disc, CP/M O.S.
Model 31 64 KB RAM, three users, 5 MB hard disc, MP/M O.S.
Model 32 256 KB RAM, three users, 10 MB hard disc, MP/M O.S.

Those of the PC2 series were:
Model 15 64 KB RAM, 2 x 5.25" FDD, CP/M O.S.
Model 25 with a 5 MB hard disc, CP/M O.S.
Model 26 64 KB RAM, three users, 5 MB hard disc, MP/M O.S.
Model 35 256 KB RAM, three users, 10 MB hard disc, MP/M O.S.

Agnus WR Gulliver reports us:
There were a few simple games written for it, mostly text based (what do you expect, it uses CP/M), but it's main use was of course as an office machine.
I recall it being a slow machine to use, even boot-up took about a minute. You had to be very careful with the hard disk because it didn't have auto-parking heads. After it was switched off you had to wait about a minute to switch it on again.

According to K.-L. Butte,there were 3 different models of it marking the 3 major development steps: The first incarnation wit 8085 and MP/M, the second with 8088 and Concurrent CP/M and the third with 8086 and Concurrent CP/M.

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


I used to work as a test engineer in the ICL plant in Kidsgrove where these machines were made. I automated the test suite by utilising the 25th line of the screen which you could both write to and read from. This enabled the machine to know where it was up to after a reboot say after formatting the Hard Disc. This greatly reduced the number of manual interventions required to test the machine and earned me an award from the ICL Suggestion Awards Scheme.

Wednesday 9th March 2011
Steve Johnson (USA)

I have the icl model 31 but it doesn''t work I was hoping someone would be able to help. It''s been in a attic for a long time got it down to try it all iy dose is show ":" on the screen. It did power up once and had some righting then "A: " But froze and touching keyboard did nothing but beep. I put an ms dos fopy in nothing happened.

Monday 6th September 2021
Ruben Hillier

In about 1982, I was working in the Magnetic Tape Group, part of “Peripheral Product Engineering” in ICL Kidsgrove. The department received a “Robbogram”, demanding a £100 terminal for this machine. Robbograms were terse messages from Rob Wilmott, so rather like a command from God! Somehow this requirement ended up with George Fitzgerald, my manager, and it ended up in my lap. I had NO idea about terminals, keyboards, RS232 etc, so it was a steep learning curve. I first played with an ADM3A terminal, a very basic machine, almost a glass teletype, Not really up to the job, and costing well over £200. Fortunately someone in our commercial department contacted Nissei Sangyo, who represented (amongst many other manufacturers) Kokusai Electric, a terminal manufacturer based not far from Tokyo. They were developing a new range of terminals, and we had 3 prototypes, KDS7361, KDS7362 and KDS7363. KDS7362 had the right balance of features, and we validated it using a Rair Black Box. When ICL wanted to launch the Personal Computer, the tooling wasn’t ready for injection moulded cases, George Fitzgerald and I persuaded Kokusai to make 250 machines with vacuum moulded cases. They weren’t happy, but George could be very persuasive. Real typists found that the 2-key lockout keyboard slowed them down, and some Wordstar issues led to a “release 2” product, with n-key rollover keyboard and a specific Wordstar mode which prevented characters disappearing if you typed too fast. I got two (exhausting) trips to Japan out of this project. I remember bringing a release 2 product back as hand luggage, only to find at Heathrow I couldn’t raise the import duty, and had to phone a friend! It was a very successful product, an OEM sales group selling it was formed, and later colour terminals were introduced, but by this time I was back in my comfort zone, introducing 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch cartridge tape drives. Jim Hancock

Wednesday 10th March 2021
Jim Hancock (UK)


NAME  Personal computer
TYPE  Professional Computer
ORIGIN  United Kingdom
YEAR  1981
KEYBOARD  Full-stroke 102 keys with function keys and numeric keypad
CPU  Intel or AMD 8085A
RAM  64 KB up to 512 KB
VRAM  Depending on the video terminal used
TEXT MODES  80 characters x 25 lines
COLORS  Monochrome
SOUND  Beeper
SIZE / WEIGHT  50.5(W) x 40.5(D) x 14(H) cm.
I/O PORTS  2 x serial ports. Serial printer and keyboard on terminal
BUILT IN MEDIA  2 x 5.25'' 256 KB Double sided / Double density FDD
OS  CP/M or MP/M
POWER SUPPLY  Built-in power supply
PRICE  From 1,800

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