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This mini forum is intended to provide a simple means of discussion about the Columbia Data Products MPC 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 28th September 2018
Wayne Stanley (Florida USA)

I worked as a lead technician for CDP until laid off.
I Remember all of the Help I received from David Howse and how much I learned from him. I hope he is doing well.

I am working as a Test Engineer these days for a big company in Florida I miss many of the friends I made at CDP.

Saturday 1st September 2018
Bill K (USA)

Very nice machine. Well styled and solidly built. Mine was paired with a Zenith monitor, an Oki printer, and a SuperSoft C compiler that could be run from one disk while the source and executable files were in the second disk. The MPC was reliable and a pleasure to use. The only failures were an 8250 printer interface chip (which fortunately was socketed as I recall) and one disk drive (easily replaced). Many thanks to the pioneers that developed and produced this nice machine, and to Old-Computers for hosting this site. (I purchased mine in 1982 (ish), and used it for a number of years to develop hardware and software for transcription of audio (voice) into a musical score, and for pitch recognition.)

Tuesday 30th January 2018
Wife of Don Rein

My now deceased husband, Don Rein, worked for Columbia Data Systems in the early 80’s. He was able to do both hardware and software at the time, but mostly worked on the programming associated with the BIOS and ROM, I believe. I was just learning about all of it then. We had the version in our home that had two floppy drives (5 1/4) and no hard drive. I learned to program in Basic on these computers.

Tuesday 12th December 2017
David Howse (Usa)

I was the hardware engineer that designed the MPS. I have my original, hand drawn schematics.

Wednesday 14th January 2015
Jodean Schoenberger (Minnesota USA)

I worked for Bell $ Howell Co. in the 80''s and we were the national service provider for Columbia Data Products. I was based in Minneapolis and Control Data had hundreds of the 1600 series.
They were great IBM clones. Eagle was also a brand we serviced and while they were good computers they weren''t as good of a clone as CDP.
One of the things that killed CDP was that their production was pushed so hard, because of their popularity, that their out of box failure rate went up to about 25$. I know because Control Data would get pallets of them in and hot stage each unit before sending it to their end user and would call us with stacks of them to fix.

Wednesday 8th October 2014
Harry K

My first computer job was at Columbia. I did BIOS testing and in those days that meant Lotus 123, Wordstar, and games like Decathlon, etc... It was lots of fun watching them grow. It was a damn shame their Accounting and business side could ship a heck of a lot of these units on credit but never get paid. If not for bad business practices, they would have gone the route of Compaq. Too bad for all those dedicated workers...

Saturday 25th August 2012
Bill Dempsey (USA)

I have the original version of the Columbia MPC. Unfortunatly it does not have a newly developed chip that solved a problem on this version MPC. Does anyone know if this chip is available?

Tuesday 26th October 2010
Edgardo Marrero (Puerto Rico)

I worked as Board Test Technician in Gurabo, Puerto Rico for Columbia Data Products. If you want to know where was manufactured, check in the Mother board the serial number label with the prefix PR.

Sunday 30th December 2007
David (Dallas, TX)

The colombia MPC was not my first computer, the ZX81 was. But this was the first computer I could do real programming for college. I was a computer science student in systems software and the programming was getting complex. I was using my atari and a 300 buad modem as a terminal into the main frame. But with this computer whcih I bought in 1985 for $700, I had 256k ram, and a floppy drive to store my programs on. I also loaded my programs from floppy. I had no hard drive. I had no printer. I had no color monitor. I had a composite green screen and a hericlies card. That card meent I could do graphics and play games and such but everything was shades of green. But I could run turbo pascal 3.0. Which was abut the hotest thing since sliced bread at the time. You had 64k max program size, but you could edit, compile and run in one program. And compiling was super fast which was the attraction. It was much faster than the mainframe. I also got into playing with video memory on the machine, and assembly language and dos calls. I eventually went CGA color, then two floppies, then a 20 gig hard drive. The original floppies where 360k in size. The article ehre indicates 320k which is wrong. I originally had full height floppy drives and then went half height so I could fit the hard drive intot he machine. it was great to plug all that into the machine and have everything work. A friend of mine had a AT&T 6300 and he could not get much of anything to work with the computer. He went with a 20 gig hard card. That was a hard drive controller and drive on one card. I put sound on mine, and added a printer. A brother 9 pin dot matrix printer. The printer worked great. I ultimately tossed it because I got tired of slow noisely low quality print outs. But it was great for printing program listings for classes. It was funny I got this for $700 in 1985 buying it out of someones living room who was selling them on the side. I didn't get much of the bundled software. I got perfect file, and that was about it. I never used that. This purchase of a computer started a 10 year friendship that went through many computers. The guy who sold me this computer ultimately got out of it because the area of going to the bay area and buying computers cheap and taking them up into northern california swap meets and making 10k in a weekend was over. Things where a changing. Dell was coming onto the seen. That saw margins drop to almost nothing where they have stayed. But I did learn how to build this computers and overhaul them myself from my new long term buddy. It was great. Too bad columbia didn't do much with the computers they built. The built a few like this one and the portable listed here and then disappeared instead of prospering. It is strange which companies make it and why. I mystery now why Sinclair didn't make it...he was using scrap electronic parts. But columbia was using first run electronics, and was extremely compatiable with the IBM product.

Monday 11th April 2005
Dennis Miller (South Bend, Indiana)

The MPC was my first computer also. I had the same one that T. Fenstermaker describes. As the technology progressed I kept updating it until eventually it had two half-height 20Mb hard disks, two half-hight floppies, VGA graphics an Intel Inboard Expanded (1 Meg) Memory module/CPU accelerator that simulated AT speeds. It taxes my memory to remember all the hardware changes I made to that system, as well as all the innovative software that supported them. I finally sold it in 1988 to a teen-ager down the steet who thought it was the greatest thing in the world. These days I have 4 computers, the fastest running an AMD 64 FX-55. I remember that Columbia with real fondness, but I'm glad to say that both the technology and I have come a long way, baby.

Sunday 15th February 2004
robert vahovick (port huron michigan)

I have a columbia data products mpc computer it was my dad first computer my motherboard is no good where can I get a columbia data products motherboard guys.

Saturday 29th November 2003
T Fenstermaker (Washington DC)

The MPC was my first computer. My parents searched ads in computer magazines and newspapers for months before settling on Columbia's offering as the best deal. Apparently it was *the* machine to have for a while; even my highschool Physics teacher commented how jealous he was when I mentioned I had one.

It arrived on my birthday in 1984. It had 128K of RAM, dual 5.25" floppies, a CGA card, and a monochrome monitor. It also came with a boatload of software, including TWO operating systems--CPM/80 and MS-DOS, version 1.0 (which had NO ability to do sub-directories). All the software, of course, ran on MS-DOS, so CPM was mostly a curiosity that I explored when I wanted something different.

The software bundle included what we'd today call an "office automation productivity suite." Perfect Writer, Perfect Speller (the spell-checker was a separate product, gee), Perfect Draw (I think) and some spreadsheet program. There was also a charting program called Tim IV. I still have manuals for many of these.

I used this machine all through highschool to type papers, at a time when most kids used long-hand or, if being fancy, a typewriter. I loved the right-margin justification. But the spell-checker was something only my Luddite English teacher could love: it didn't actually suggest correct spellings for words; it just told me they were wrong. I had to look up the correct spelling myself.
Come to think of it, the word processer wasn't WSYIWYG, anyway; the formatting was done through tags.

I used this machine well into the mid-90's, though by then it had been reduced to mostly being a dumb terminal to connect to Unix systems through a modem. I physically had the machine until the late '90s, when I unfortunately left it behind in a divorce.

Interestingly my father, at one point, paid $200 for a "technicians manual" of the MPC. It has detailed technical drawings and specifications of the entire machine. I'm sure he still has it in his basement.

Anyway, I wasted many, many hours in front of this machine, doing school work, typing letters to friend (to send thru snail-mail), writing dumb GW Basic programs, surfing BBS's (when I got my hands on a used modem a year later), running a BBS for my friends (in the evenings because we were too cheap to get a second line) and playing cheesy but unforgettable CGA games, like Flightmare and the Space Invaders-like game that came with the software bundle.

One fun thing I'll always remember about it: when it was booting, one could press a key (which one I don't remember) to have it perform a detailed memory test. If one pressed the letter "S" while it was doing this test, it would play a little electronic song while it tested. If for no other reason I'd love to have my machine back to sample that little tune and mix it into some club hit.

Ironically I now live less than a half-hour from the quondam headquarters of CDP, but according to their current website, that piece of their history ended all the way in 1986, or two years after I got the thing. From king of the clones to also ran in no-time; establishing another fine tradition of this crazy field.

Thanks for the memories.

Thursday 3rd April 2003
Reuben (NW Washington state, USA)

I have a Columbia Data Products 1600VP/110 portable ('luggable') and know NOTHING about it! it turns on, boots (from a floppy) and plays microsoft flight simulator 2.1... bios date is 1983. anybody know anything about it?


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