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This mini forum is intended to provide a simple means of discussion about the Advance Technology Advance 86 computer. If you want to share your own experience or memories, or add relevant information about this system: post a message!

  Click Here to add a message in the forum


Friday 20th April 2012
Bob Eager (UK)

I had one of the very early ones (initially without heatsinks on the Ferranti ULA chips). They were fitted on an engineer visit.

I fitted a hard disk to mine, and the top power supply overheated regularly. I always had to run it with the lid off!

It wasn''t totally IBM compatible. Because it used an 8086, with a 16 bit data path, extra logic was needed to make the 8259 interrupt controller respond on the correct ports. They didn''t do this, so where a real IBM compatible would use ports 20 and 21, the Advance only used even numbered ports$ in this case, 20 and 22. Any software that programmed the interrupt controller would not work correctly.

Advance provided a conversion program that (mostly blindly) changed 21 to 22 in executables files. Not a success. I did it by code inspection with DEBUG, and was usually successful.

Wednesday 7th April 2010
Ramon Zarat (Canada)

@Micah B. Haber

"Internally" refers to the processing word width. In this case, 16bit words can be computed at each cycle. But it takes nearly twice as long as computing an 8bit words, save some overheard because the process is inherently serialized. That''s why 16bit computing is only marginally faster than 8bit. 16bit real advantage is for bigger address space, not speed.

On the other hand, "Externally" refer to the bus the CPU use to communicate its information to and from the system, including RAM. A 16bit bus can effectively carry twice the information of an 8bit bus and thus, is twice as fast, because here we are talking about parallel communication.

While it''s true a 16/16 system is not twice as fast as an 16/8 system, the 8bit bus of the 16/8 setup can seriously bottleneck the 16 bit CPU in some scenario. We should say then the 16/8 is slower than the 16/16, not the other way around. Todays 32 and 64bit CPU have external bus much wider than their internal address space /processing width and are not directly comparable to the 16bit CPU era.

Friday 10th November 2006
David Martin (Crewe, UK)

The 86B was my first introduction to the 'PC' world after a string of home computers. It did everything an IBM junior did but was cheaper and had the 'perfect suite' of software too, which was actuall pretty good for it's day.

I remember it would regularly crash when it got warm because of poot contacts between the A and B boxes - ended up soldering the ribon cables into place to fix the damn thing once and for all!

If my memory serves - these were only available through the WHSmiths stores in the UK. Not ideal marketing as Smiths weren't big in the home or business computer markets at the time.

Thursday 12th August 2021
Dave (United Kingdom)

The Advance 86a was the first machine I worked on when I started my career in programming, I remember when saving to tape if you accidentally didn''t have the record button down you could not interrupt the save process and would have to wait 2 minutes for it to complete before trying again. I also recall the coiled keyboard cable acted as a receiver for radio waves from cab drivers where occasionally loads of random characters would appear on the screen. We were writing software for WH Smiths to sell with it. I vaguely remember the machines getting withdrawn due to a lawsuit between IBM and Ferranti..

Tuesday 30th August 2011
digitalhippy (bristol, UK)

I still have one of these, its huge, all plastic though. Yes only marketed though WHSmiths, but what a price £1000 for everything !! 360k disk wow!
It got me through college into a career in IT in the City and now an Architect, although I have bought a few computers ever since! I keep thinking about taking it out of the store and putting an old Mac mini inside the case!

Saturday 23rd October 2010
James Griffin (Australia)

The Advance 86 was sold in Australia re badged as a Dick Smith Challenger , the first and cheapest available in AUSTRALIA at the time ,

Wednesday 23rd June 2010

From Mr. Martin''s post I presume the cases where connected through ribbon cables. Are there any more details how this was?

Where there openings provided or did you have to open up the case to attach the cables?

Sunday 13rd April 2008
Jim Campbell Andrew (UK)

Hi - just reading your page on the Advance 86 machines. One thing you don't mention (and I'm _fairly_ sure is correct) is that they were only sold through the WH SMiths chain of newspaper/magazine/book stores in the UK.

Saturday 10th March 2007
Micah B. Haber (Nashua, New Hampshire)

"but had a different CPU, the 8086 which was a true 16-bit processor. It could thus compute twice as fast for a much lower price !"

This is incorrect. An 16-bit internally and 16-bit externally CPU is not going to be inherently twice as fast as a 16-bit internally and 8-bit externally CPU. Doubling the bits does not double the performance, as can been seen in the current transition from 32-bit to 64-bit x86 CPUs.

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