|Eagle Computers were originally manufactured by AVL (Audio Visual Labs) as a controller for
audio-video projectors. The original models, the Eagle I and II, had AV
ports on the back.
The computers proved so popular that the AV ports were removed, and standard
RS-232 and Centronics ports added. The computer division was spun off
and Eagle Computers, Inc. was created.
> THE MODELS
The complete line of CP/M computers they made was: Eagle I, II, III,
IV, and V. All were the same except for the storage. The Eagle I had a
single single-sided (SS) double-density (DD) 96-tpi 5.25" floppy-disk
drive, the Eagle II had two of these. The Eagle III had two double-sided
(DS) DD 96-tpi 5.25" FDD. The Eagle IV had one of these and a 10-Mb
hard disk, and the Eagle V had one of these and a 32-Mb hard disk.
The Is and Vs were not sold in large numbers, because of the small storage
capacity of the former, and the high capacity and higher price of the
latter. Who needed 32 Mb?
Later on the whole line was renamed the Eagle IIe line, and the little
metal insert below the numeric keypad said "IIe" instead of
"I", "II", etc. But the model numbers could be found
on a shiny label on the back which said IIe-1, IIE-2, IIE-3, etc.
Later on Eagle made PCs, both MS-DOS boxes and full clones. The non-clones,
the Eagle 1600 series, were the first PCs with hard disks; Eagle took
the Xebec controller, Eagle SASI card, and hard disks from the CP/M models
and put them right into the 1600 series, long before any other manufacturer
The Eagles systems were also sold by Multitech in some countries..
> THE HARDWARE AND DRIVES
The commonest failure of the machines was the video ROM dying. By the
time that began happening, the ROM was no longer being made, which made
it hard to find a replacement.
Eagle also made hard-disk peripherals, a 10-Mb and 32-Mb box which attached
to a SASI port on the back of the computer, called a File 10 and File
40 respectively. If you hooked up a File 10 or File 40 to the back of
a III, for instance, the computer and the File 40 would talk to each other,
and instead of booting from a floppy on the III, the combined system would
boot from the hard disk in the File 40. That was the ultimate CP/M Eagle;
four 8-Mb partitions (A, B, C, and D) and two 784-Kb floppies (E and F)
gave you 33.5 Mb of storage!
Eagle had two CP/M disk formats, a single-sided 384K format for the I
and II, and a double-sided 784K format for the III, IV, and V. On the
III, IV, and V, you could read the single-sided format of the first two
Drive letters: The drives on the Eagles were A on the I, A and B on the
II and III. On the IV the hard-disk partitions were A and B, and the FDD
was E; on the V the hard-disk partitions were A, B, C, and D, and the
FDD was E. However ...
On the III you could read, write, and otherwise access a single-sided
disk in the top drive by using the drive letter I, and in the bottom FDD
by using the drive letter J. That is, if you used the drive letter A,
the computer would look at the top drive and expect to find a double-sided
floppy disk there, but if you used I, it would expect a single-sided disk
in the drive. You could also access a single-sided disk in the IV or V's
single FDD by using the drive-letter I. However again:
If you hooked up a File 10 or File 40 to a I, II, or III, the system
booted from the File 10/40, and the hard disk's partitions became A and
B (and C and D, if it was a 40); single-sided FDDs became I and J, double-sided
FDDs became E and F. I don't know what happened if you hooked up a File
10 or 40 to a IV or V, I never tried it. But the IV, V, File 10, and File
40 all used the same BIOS, which only supported two single-sided FDDs,
two double-sided FDDs, and four 8-Mb hard-disk partitions, so more than
two FDDs or more than four hard-disk partitions would have been ignored.
Which hard disk it would boot from, and which partitions would get which
drive letters, I never tried to find out. Sorry!
Jerry Davis and David McGlone of the Eagle Computer Users Group once
put two 10-Mb hard disks in an Eagle III, each with its own SASI card
but running off the same Xebec controller, as an experiment. It worked!
The first drive's partitions became A and B, and the second drive's, C
and D. It was a waste of parts, though, because the Eagle-manufactured
SASI card was the rarest part on the machine and the hardest to find a
replacement for, if it failed.
You could upgrade any machine by adding the appropriate hardware and
using the right BIOS. Changing a I to a II was a simple matter of putting
in another single-sided FDD with the jumpers set to drive 1 instead of
0. This doubled its storage from 384K to 768K. But you could also replace
the 1 SS FDD with 2 DS FDD, turning it into an Eagle III with four times
the storage of a I. Or you could add a Xebec controller, SASI card, and
hard disk and make it a IV, V, or "IV.5" (if you used a 20-Mb
hard disk instead of 10 or 32). If you had the parts, it wasn't hard.
The IV and V BIOS supported 2 floppy-disk drives, though they came with
only a single full-height drive (all the floppy-disk drives and hard disks
in the Eagles were full height). Replacing the single full-height drive
with two half-height drives was a common modification. David McGlone used
to bring to meetings an Eagle IV with two half-height FDDs and a half-height
32-Mb hard disk. It was lighter than anyone else's Eagle, had the maximum
storage (33.5 Mb) the BIOS supported, and ran cooler because of the lower
requirements of the newer drives.
All the Eagles had power supplies in the left rear of the bottom of the
machine, but the IVs and Vs had a second power supply just inside the
lid, to support the hard disk.
The FDDs were noisy, because of the way the Eagles ran them. Bob Vinisky
discovered that when you ran Z-System instead of CP/M 2.2, the drives
became quiet and faster, apparently because ZRDOS handled them more intelligently
than the Eagle implementation of CP/M.
As they aged, the hard drives were real howlers, you could hear them
moan from 30 feet, and they sounded like they would die any minute...but
ran for years.
The hard-disk formatting software program Eagle used would only work
with certain MFM hard disk models that had the right number of heads and
cylinders. There was only one version, and it began by formatting the
first 8 Mb, then the next 8, then the next 8, then the next 8. On a 10-Mb
drive this gave two partitions of 8 and 2 Mb; on a 20-Mb hard disk you
got 8, 8, and 4; on a 32-Mb hard disk you got four partitions of 8 Mb
The Eagles originally came with Accounting Plus, a big accounting package
like Peachtree or Quicken today. Most users didn't need or want it, so
it was replaced with Ultracalc, a cheesy spreadsheet program, on later
The software for the I,
II, and III came on floppy disks. There was a CP/M disk with CP/M 2.2,
the CP/M utilities, and the Eagle utilities; a Spellbinder disk; and an
Ultracalc disk. If you had one of the older Eagles, instead of Ultracalc
you got Accounting Plus, which took up six disks even with the III's double-sided
784K format! The software documentation was contained in a big white plastic
binder; there was a Spellbinder section, written by Eagle instead of Lexisoft,
that covered only the bare basics of Spellbinder; an Ultracalc section;
and a CP/M section, that had a book on CP/M inserted. On the IV and V,
you got the same binder, but of course the software was already on the
If you want to know more about Spellbinder click
If you booted from the CP/M disk, you got a standard CP/M prompt: A>
However, if you booted from the other disks, you got a menu. This menu
allowed you to go straight into Spellbinder or Ultracalc without seeing
the CP/M prompt at all, simply by selecting the number from the menu.
Other menu items allowed you to format disks, copy from one disk to another,
etc. The menu was tailored to your model: the I's menu had no disk-to-disk
copy because it had only one disk, and
the II's menu had no way to deal with double-sided disks because it had
only single-sided disk drives. The III's menu could deal with one disk
drive or two, single-sided or double-sided; the IV and V had an option
for turning off the computer, which parked the hard disk's head before
telling you it was OK to turn off the power. If you booted from the Accounting
Plus main disk, or had Accounting Plus on your IV or V, it was also included
in the menu.
You could exit from the menu and work from CP/M directly, or set up your
files so that the menu never loaded, but the Eagles were designed for
business users who would take them home (or to the office), unpack them,
plug them in, and start using them. Unlike the Heath computers, which
offered you the option of building them from the circuit board up (with
complete instructions) and encouraged you to tinker, the Eagle turnkey
system had all you needed already set up. A truly amazing number of Eagle
users never left the menu and never installed any other software on their
CP/M computers in general came with two sets of utilities. There were
standard utilities that came with CP/M, then there were utilities written
by the manufacturer that were specific to each machine. For example, the
software to format disks was also manufacturer-created and machine-specific.
The Eagle utilities included a Backup program on the IV, V, and File
10 and File 40. This program let you specify what files you wanted to
back up and you could save the specification list in a file. When you
ran Backup, it asked for a name for the set and a comment to identify
it; this information was stored on each floppy disk of the set. Another
neat feature of the backup program was that it didn't matter what size
the files were. If you ran out of disk space in the middle of a file,
Backup simply asked you to insert the next disk, and continued backing
up the file onto the next disk. You could restore the file using the Restore
utility, which like Backup allowed you to specify the file(s) to be restored
in a specification file. If a file to be restored had been divided across
two or more disks, Restore would prompt you to replace disks as it needed
them, and tell you if you put in the wrong disk. Of course, if a file
weren't divided, and you knew what disk it was on, you could also restore
it with PIP or some regular copy utility.
CBASIC was Digital Research's professional BASIC. It was a much better
product that Microsoft's MBASIC, with a host of conditional toggles that
a programmer would appreciate, but the rank amateurs doing most of the
BASIC programming those days didn't even understand.
> USER GROUPS
There weren't a lot of user groups, because the Eagle was so easy to
use. The only ones I ever heard of were the Screaming Eagles, that met
in San Francisco and had a newsletter whose name I can't recall; and the
Eagle Computer Users Group, in the San Jose area. The latter had a nameless
newsletter that came out faithfully every month for years and years; it
just had the Eagle Computers logo at the top, and varied from 1 page on
up, depending on the news. Shirley Welch did it the first year or two,
then David McGlone was elected editor and ran it after that. It had the
occasional article on Spellbinder tricks, or special projects he and Jerry
Davis did, but mostly listed the members, announced when and where the
next meeting was, etc.
Thanks a lot to Leo D.Orionis and Tim
Gieseler for all this info !
A side note from John Barrett:
The original president died when his sports car flipped off the road and
landed upside down in the GTE pole yard. Eagle's headquarters were in Los
Gatos, California. They actually advertised for a president in the
San Jose Mercury news for quite a while...
I worked for GTE and we shared a building with them. Ate lunch with
them in a common atrium...