Interesting Toshiba T100 evaluation from David H. Ahl
CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 9, NO. 11 / NOVEMBER 1983:
The Toshiba T100 is a small business computer that boasts an element of portability for the executive on the move. In its normal desktop configuration, the T100 consists of a CPU/keyboard unit, disk drive unit, and monitor. For travelling, the CPU/ keyboard unit tucks into a hardside attache case along with a 40-character by 8-line LCD display, and optional Lexicon direct/acoustic modem.
This type of portability is a cross between the total portability of the TRS-80 Model 100 and the carry-around portability of the Osborne. The T100 in its carrying case with LCD display and coupler weighs in at a hefty 21 pounds. By way of comparison, a Model 100 weighs around one pound, and an Osborne around 28. Unlike the Model 100, the T100 is not battery powered, but it does have memory cartridges which have their own self-contained batteries. When it is being carted about, these memory cartridges take the place of disk drives, although the capacity is considerably less. CPU/Keyboard Unit
The T100 is based on an 8-bit Z80A running at 4 MHz. In our benchmark test (in Basic), the T100 was the fastest of the twenty 8-bit machines we have tested to date. It ran the benchmark program in 1:09 minutes compared to most other Z80 computers which took around 2 minutes.
The T100 is equipped with 64K of RAM, 16K of video memory, and 32K of ROM. In addition, 16K and 32K RAM and ROM packs can be plugged into two slots on the upper right corner of the unit. These ROM and RAM packs are not in addition to main memory; rather, they are like disk drives. ROM packs contain certain application programs, and RAM packs can be used to store user programs.
The CPU/keyboard unit measures 16.5" X 11" and slants from a height of 4" at the rear to 1.5" in front. The keyboard has 89 keys divided into a standard keyboard, numeric keypad, and top row of function keys.
The layout of the keyboard is refreshingly standard--both shift keys are where they ought to be, and "extra" symbol keys are to the right of the alphabetic keys.
Three keys that seem to wander around on the keyboards of different manufacturers are the caret (up arrow), apostrophe, and amerpsand. On the T100, we find the caret as a shifted 6, the ampersand as a shifted 7, and apostrophe with the quote key to the right of the middle row.
The numeric keypad, surprisingly, does not have the four arithmetic operations adjacent. Instead we find four cursor movement keys and a CLS/HOME key.
The tope row of keys includes a green GRAPH key; holding this down while pressing another key on the keyboard produces a graphics symbol. For example, GRAPH plus 2 produces a heart symbol on the display. We would rather have had the GRAPH key toggle graphics mode on and off; instead it must be pressed for each graphics character.
Also in the top row are BREAK, ESC, COPY (causes current screen display to be copied to the printer), and LABEL (displays the meanings of the function keys on the 25th line of the display). In graphics mode, the copy function is designed to work with the Toshiba 1010 printer. On other printers, even the top-of-the-line Toshiba 1350, it produces gibberish.
Eith programmable function keys cause particular functions to be executed without pressing RETURN. These keys are assigned different functions in different software packages, or may be user-defined in Basic.
The computer normally operates in overstrike mode, i.e., typing over a character replaces it with a new one. The INSERT key opens up a space to type in an additional character. Unlike some other computers, the T100 does not stay in insert mode; the key must be pressed for each character inserted.
The DELETE key operates in a somewhat unconventional manner. Instead of deleting the character over the cursor, the character to the left of the cursor is deleted. This is very strange, and not at all what one would naturally expect.
However, for normal typing of text and programs, the keyboard has an excellent tactile feel; there is absolutely no keybounce; and it is very pleasant to use. All keys repeat when held down for more than one second; individual keystrokes are silent, but automatic repeats are accompanied by a click sound in the built-in speaker.
Another delightful feature is that the power switch is on the left top of the unit along with a green LED which indicates if it is on--no more reaching around the back to search for an elusive rocker switch.
On the rear of the unit are eight connectors and two controls. A reset pushbutton is on the lower right; this is rarely needed except when loading a new disk operating system. A recessed volume control adjusts the volume of the internal speaker.
Two identical 7-pin DIN sockets provide I/O to a cassette recorder and RGB color monitor. This seems to be the emerging standard for non-IBM compatible machines, which is too bad. We have already seen two people try to plug cassette cables into a monitor. Fortunately, the T100 monitor calbe terminates in a unique rectangular 8-pin connector at the monitor end, but this is not the case on all machines.
The cassette interface operates at 1600 bps, a moderately high speed. However, we can't imaging using a cassette for storage on a business-oriented computer in this price range, so we did not test this capability.
A small 8-pin connector connects to the LCD display, and an RCA phono jack connects to a B/W monitor. No RF output is provided, so the machine cannot be used with a standard TV set.
The T100 has two RS-232 connectors: a male for a Centronics parallel printer, and a femal for a modern, plotter or other RS-232 serial device.
A D50 female connector is provided to connect the disk drives to the CPU/keyboard unit. High-Resolution Display
Two displays are available for the T100, a monochrome green screen unit and an RGB color display. Much of the software is designed to take advantage of a color display, so it is this one which we tested with the computer.
The RGB display has only two user-accessible controls: vertical hold on the rear (adjust it once and forget it) and brightness on the front. A pushbutton power switch turns the unit on; a green LED indicates when it is on--a nice touch.
Eight well-defined colors can be displayed simultaneously in any of the three display modes: text, low-resolution graphics, and high-resolution graphics.
In text (or character) mode, the display can be set to either 80 characters by 25 lines or 36 characters by 24 lines. Both modes use an 8 X 8 dot representation for characters. The bottom-most dot is used for interline spacing as well as for lowercase descenders; this leads to less legibility than one might desire.
In low-resolution graphics mode, two resolutions are also available: 160 X 100 pixels or 72 X 96 pixels. In high-resolution graphics mode, pixel resolution is either an astonishing 640 X 200 or 288 X 192.
Unfortunately, the manual is not clear on how to obtain the two different resolutions within each graphics mode. We found by trial and error that in Basic the WIDTH command would do it, while in CP/M, specifying MONITOR selected the higher resolution and TV selected the lower one.
To produce color graphics, it is somewhat easier to use the low-resolution mode as color can be directly specified in commands such as LINE, PSET, and CIRCLE. In high-resolution mode, color must be specified with the COLOR command which is somewhat more cumbersome to use.
The PA7161U RGB monitor is mounted on a base which permits it to swivel 45 degrees to the right or left and tilt from 5 degrees forward to about 20 degrees back. This makes it easy to adjust for nearly any mounting position or room condition. While a tablestop position is recommended, we put ours on top of the disk unit for a significant saving of desk space. Disk Drives
The T100 comes with a floppy disk drive unit measuring a sizeable 16.5" X 10.5" X 5". It contains two 5-1/4" double density, double sided drives capable of storing 280K per disk (formatted). Thus, the du al drives provide about 560K of on-line storage capacity.
The power switch for the disk drives is on the right side at the rear, although a green LED on the front indicates the drives have power, as does the whine of the muffin fan in the unit.
A red LED on each drive indicates when input or output is taking place, but is not always lit when the drive is spinning. Thus, it is probably wise to wait a few seconds after the LED goes out before removing a disk from the drive. Portability Kit
For portable operation, the T100 requires a hardside attache case, LCD display (8 lines by 40 characters), and one or more RAM packs. Optionally available is a Lexicon LEX-12 modem. The T100 CPU, display, RAM packs, and modem all fit into the case.
In operation, the T100 and modem require 110 volts, so "portable" really means "carry around" and not "operates anywhere."
The LCD display is the same as that found on the TRS-80 Model 100. This one, however, clamps to the rear of the t100 and the entire unit tilts back and forth for legibility under different lighting conditions. This is not as convenient as the adjustment on the Model 100, but it is satisfactory.
When the computer is powered up, it automatically "knows" which display is connected and uses it. The monitor and LCD display cannot be used simultaneously; if both are connected, gibberish appears on both screens.
The 300-baud modem is supplied by Lexicon Corp., and can be used directly connected to a modular telephone jack or as an acoustic coupler. The modem requires an external low voltage power supply (included).
RAM packs are available in either 16K or 32K capacities. Two cartridges can plug in simultaneously. In operation, these RAM packs are considered to be disk drive 5 and standard disk commands are used to save and retrieve data and programs.
We had a preliminary T100 Portability Software Kit which consisted of four programs: Memopad (a memo writer similar to the Model 100 Text program), Smaltern (for remote communications), Expense/Accounter (for reporting expense account data), and LCD/LCD3D (demonstration programs for the LCD display). System Software
The basic T100 CPU has T-Basic resident in ROM. A disk-based system comes with two systems disks, one containing T-Disk Basic and the other with CP/M 2.2 and CBasic 2. Both disks also contain six or seven utility programs.
The resident T-Basic is actually Microsoft Basic and we have no idea why the manual does not refer to it as such. When the T100 is powered up, it goes through a six-second self-check followed by a screen query, "How many files (0 to 15)?" Upon answering, the screen displays:
Toshiba T-Basic (c) 1982 by Microsoft 29066 Bytes free
Why are only 29,066 bytes free in a 64K machine with Basic in ROM? Apparently, this is due to the addressing limitations of Microsoft Basic whic can use only 32K of user memory, no matter how much is available in the computer.
Disk Basic has even less free memory, 24,820 bytes. These figures are for no files; if files are specified, each file buffer takes up an additional 200-plus bytes of user memory space.
T100 Product Manager Dr. Sorel Reisman tells us that the full RAM space is available under CP/M, but we had no easy way to determine exactly how much there was.
CP/M comes with the base core of CP/M utility packages for disk operations (format, copy, reconfigure), file operations (name, rename, copy, examine, delete), DDT (dynamic debugging technique), CBasic (and CRUN), and several demo programs. CBasic is a compiler Basic written by Gordon Eubanks, who recently merged his company, Compiler Systems, with Digital Research. In any event, CBasic is very fast compared to an interpreted Basic such as Microsoft Basic.
Toshiba does not furnish any documentation on CBasic and gives no hint that CBasic programs must be written using a word processing package such as Word Right and executed using CRUN2 (included on the CP/M disk). Nevertheless, it is a nice extra for the serious programmer.
The documentation for CP/M itself is rather sparse, but we were told by Toshiba that this is deliberate. Rather than overwhelming the customer with something he may not need or want, Toshiba felt that CP/M users would either (1) be experienced and know what they were doing or (2) need so much tutorial information that it would substantially add to the cost and bulk of the system. Microsoft Basic
The T100 version of Microsoft Basic is exceptionally powerful with a rich set of commands, statements, and functions. It has extensive string and file handling capabilities, and good tutorial manuals that describe how to get the most of it and are available from many independent publishers.
T100 Basic has all of the expected operations, single- and double-precision variables, two-dimensional arrays, six Boolean operators, string operations, and the ability to call assembly language subroutines.
The T100 implementation supports multiple program calls using CHAIN, COMMON, and MERGE. Moreover, files can be on either disk or RAM pack.
Both sequential and random files can be used. Although, it is more complicated to create and access random files than sequential files, there are many advantages to using them. In particular, with random files, data can be located anywhere on a disk or RAM pack; it is not necessary to read through all the information to access a single record.
Full on-screen editing is supported with both the monitor and LCD display. This means that the cursor can be moved about a program listing on the screen, a change made, and RETURN pressed to enter the change.
The T100 has a real-time clock which is set and accessed with the TIMES$ function. We would have expected that if a battery-powered RAM pack were installed, it would be used to store permanently the time of day. This is not the case, and TIME$ must be entered each time the machine is powered up.
T100 Basic includes extensive graphics and sound capabilities. Commands such as PSET (turns on a single pixel), PRESET, LOCATE, LINe (draws a line between two points), PAINT, CIRCLE, and COLOR are supported in all of the graphics modes. WE found it just as easy to draw plots on the LCD screen as on the monitor. The only difference in using the two graphics modes is that the high resolution mode does not allow a color attribute to be appended to the LINE, PSET, or CIRCLE statements, nor is it as easy to display the eight colors simultaneously.
In addition to the graphics statements mentioned above, the T100 also has a graphics macro language (GML) within Basic. GML has 14 commands such as U (draw up), L (draw left), and H (draw diagonally down right). In addition it has A (rotate coordinate axis 90 degrees), C (color), S (scale factor), and a powerful string command which allows nesting of drawing actions. In general, GML is very similar to the turtle graphics commands in Logo.
Sound may be produced in two ways. The easiest is by the use of the SOUND (p,d) command which causes notes of pitch p to be played for duration d. The range is five octaves.
A more powerful sound capability is the music macro language. This has seven commands to specify pitch, duration, note or rest, octave, pause, and tempo. As with GML, a string command allows nesting of sound sequences.
In summary, Microsoft Basic as implemented on the T100 is one of the best we have seen and, except for the memory usage limitation, gives the user access to the full capability of the hardware. Word Processing
The standard word processing package furnished with the T100 is Word Right by Structured Systems Group. This package runs under CP/M, v. 2.2. Although page 1.2 of the manual indicates that it is distributed on two 5-1/4" double density disks, we received only one disk. Missing also from our package were the key labels without which it is nearly impossible to use the system.
World Right requires a computer with a minimum of 56K, two disk drives, 24 row by 80 column display, and a printer with a print width of at least 85 columns.
The manual is prepared by SSG and is very comprehensive and thorough. However, the manual is written for a "typical" CP/M system and is not customized at all for the T100.
The manual includes installation instructions, a section on getting started which explains the various screen movement keys, a 30-page tutorial section, a 100-page reference section, and several shorter sections about using the system with files generated on other software packages. All of the sections have illustrations of the keyboard, screen, or both as appropriate--a welcome touch.
A review of Word Right could be a feature review in itself. Let us just say that it is a capable word processing package with all the features that one might expcet. It is largely menu-driven with Help screens available at any time during creation of a document. Phrases and text from one location or file can be easily used in another, and functions such as Erase, Insert, Cut, Copy, and Paste all work with a single character, word, line, phrase, paragraph, or page.
Depending upon the printer being used, Word Right can produce boldface, underline, proportional justification, super- and subscripts, and soft hyphenation.
Word Right works with the SSG Name and Address (NAD) system, which is also included with the T100. The NAD package is for the creation of mailing lists. Each name may have up to eight reference variables for sorting or printing. In addition, names may be called by Word Right for producing "personalized" letters. Magic Worksheet
The spreadsheet package included with the T100 is Magic Worksheet by Structured Systems Group.
As with Word Right, the documentation is for a "typical" CP/M system. The 212-page manual is very complete and includes an 82-page tutorial section with plenty of examples and screen illustrations. In addition to this helpful printed information, Magic Worksheet also has a built-in Tutor subprogram, a Help key for detailed explanation of any command, and the option of having a short instructive message appear each time a command key is pressed. With all this help, it would be tough not to learn how to make effective use of Magic Worksheet.
The package can create a spreadsheet of up to 1014 columns and up to 255 rows. It supports the expected spreadsheet operations and, in general, is very similar to the original VisiCalc. Problem Solving
Two unexpected software packages included with the T100 are MatheMagic and GraphMagic by International Software Marketing. Unlike the other packages, the documentation is produced specifically for the T100. Two booklets are included with MatheMagic, a User's Guide and Sample Applications.
MatheMagic is a package for solving mathematical and business problems that can be expressed by one or more formulae. In many ways, it is like a powerful scientific calculator, but the package goes one step further in that it can "back in" to solutions that cannot be directly calculated from your equations. It is an outstanding tool for solving simulations in mathematics, physics, electronics, and business. The 12-page booklet of examples barely begins to scratch the surface of possibilities.
GraphMagic is a graphics package which helps create charts and graphs from data entered directly from the program or retrieved from MatheMagic, Magic Worksheet, SuperCalc, or dBase II.
GraphMagic is a menu-driven system. The software, in combination with the T100-specific 54-page manual, makes it very easy to create high-resolution bar, line, and pie charts. We would have liked some screen illustrations in the manual, but managed to muddle through without them.
As with printing graphics in Basic, only the Toshiba 1010 and 1150 printers are supported. Other Software
Dr. Reisman tells us that in addition to the software packages mentioned above, a bundled T100 also includes Analyst, Q-Sort, and Prism, an illustrated and animated story about a boy's quest for three magical keys of color. The keys exist in real life and are hidden in three locations in the U.S. To find the keys, you must unravel clues hidden within the Prism story.
Two other programs are on the MatheMagic disk, TbPUT and TbGET. These are utility programs that allow files to be transferred between CP/M and T100 Basic operating systems, and vice versa. Documentation
As with so many otherwise outstanding computers, the documentation for the T100 is a mixed bag. It is neither the best nor the worst we have seen; indeed, for a Japanese machine, it is quite good.
The 120-page Owner's Manual is divided into four parts and six appendices. Part 1 describes setting up the system in great detail and Part 2 describes basic system operation. Both sections are generously illustrated and written in an easy-to-read tutorial style.
Part 3 is a trouble-shooting guide which, it is to be hoped, will never be needed. Part 4 is a five-page introduction to writing Basic programs which is woefully inadequate for a beginner and rather trivial for an experienced programmer.
The Programmer's Reference Manual is, as its name implies, a reference manual, and not a tutorial. Section 1 is a 20-page guide to using CP/M and ten of the included utility programs.
The bulk of the manual, 170 pages, is devoted to describing the commands, statements, and functions of T100 Basic. It is excellent for an experienced programmer, but the first-time user will want to obtain one or more tutorial guides and books of sample programs.
The appendices describe disk I/O and Basic utilities, as well as presenting several useful lists (error messages, character sets, etc.).
As mentioned earlier, each applications software package is accompanied by a manual provided by the manufacturer of that particular package. For the most part, these are very good.
Each hardware component is accompanied by a small booklet designed to be inserted in the three-ring Owner's Manual binder. These guides are well-written and nicely illustrated. Warranty and Service
The T100 and peripherals are covered by a 90-day limited warranty which covers the usual defects in workmanship and material, as well as non-conformity with Toshiba's standard performance specifications. After the initial 90 days, you are on your own.
Service is available from Toshiba dealers, regional service centers, or the corporate service center in Tustin, CA. Pricing
Although the components are available separately, Toshiba offers a very attractive price on a system with software bundled in. Also, the components of the portability kit are offered in an attractively priced package.
The individual prices are as follows: T100 computer/keyboard $795 Dual disk drive unit 945 Monochrome monitor 255 RGB color monitor 895 LCD display 295
A bundled system includes the T100, dual disk drive unit, monochrome monitor, CP/M 2.2, T-Disk Basic, Magic Worksheet, Word Right, MatheMagic, GraphMagic, NAD, Analyst, Q-Sort, Prism, and several utilities for just $1995.
The Portability Kit includes the LCD display, LEX-12 modem, 16K RAM pack, hardside attache case, and cables for $795. A 32K RAM pack adds $90. Toshiba Means Business
All in all, the T100 is an exceptionally capable computer system at a very attractive price. It has been on sale in Japan for about a year and has logged many thousands of hours of successful and reliable service.
The T100 is a no-nonsense business system, although its exceptionally high-resolution color display coupled with an excellent version of Basic make it quite suitable for many CAD, graphics, and entertainment applications as well.
The inclusion of CP/M 2.2 means that many software packages can be easily converted to run on the system. This should enhance its utility for many varied applications.
The documentation is weak in spots, but books from independent publishers are available to make up for these lapses. We were disappointed that the T100 does not support the top-of-the-line P1350 printer, but we understand Toshiba's rationale for not supporting a $2200 printer with a $1995 computer system.
After a few days use, we found ourselves regarding the T100 as the standard of comparison for easy-to-use, high-resolution graphics. The day came all too soon when the system had to be returned to Tustin.