The ADAM Survival Guide
Chapter III: Creation of ADAM
by Phil Kosowski, former Coleco employee


COLECO INDUSTRIES INC.: The "COLECO" part from the company's original name "COnnecticut LEather COmpany" was in some ways a very amazing company. I still remember being on an empty floor when a high up official gave the order to start making boards. Within three hours the floor went from empty, to having a line set up and running. The line was assembling digital data drive boards.

They were taking bare circuit boards, stuffing them with parts, then putting them through a wave soldering machine.

That day I was impressed with how much work could be done by this company it such a short period of time.

I have heard ADAM owners "putting down" Coleco for stopping production and support of the ADAM and ColecoVision. But I feel that these people are unaware of the kind of dedication that was typical of Coleco with respect to their products.

Coleco was a company that, throughout its existence, has gone 'all out' on a number of different products. Some of these products earned them large amounts of money, and others almost sank the company. The ADAM was one of the products that placed a large financial strain on the company.

Why was support dropped for the ADAM? I am not sure, but most likely it had something to do with deals Coleco made at the end of 1984 or beginning of 1985, when Coleco decided to get out of the electronics business.

Coleco put a great amount of effort into the ADAM, even to the point of selling off some very profitable products it order to generate a cash base to continue production. One such line that was sold off, was the "above ground swimming pools", of which Coleco was the largest manufacturer in the country.

Coleco went all out on the ADAM, taking a great financial risk, which, because of certain events, did not turn out as they might have hoped.

The only blame that I put or Coleco is that they released the ADAM too soon. The bugs should have been worked out before the ADAM was released to the market. The releasing of a computer that did not work wrecked consumer confidence in the ADAM name; and still today a bad impression remains in the minds of many people. I cannot believe the number of people whom I know, who bought ADAMs when they first came out, and returned them because they would not work.

The ADAM was as extremely large protect for Coleco to start up. Coleco not only produced most of the circuit boards and assembled the printer, data drive, and memory console; but also produced its own plastic aid metal parts for the printer, data drives and memory console. The metal parts such as shields and power supply chassis were made in Coleco's Gloverville, New York plant. The plastic parts such as the housings, covers, latches, etc., were made in Coleco's plastic plant in Mayfield. Coleco even made its own computerized test equipment for test boards and assemblies (in Amsterdam New York).

The amount of testing that Coleco performed was just unbelievable. The testing that was performed on various parts of the ADAM was done with computerized test equipment.

The testing that the data drive went through was:

  • First, the read/write and servo boards would each go through a short test
  • Second, they went through a go-no-go test, and
  • Third, through a final tester for that much of the assembly.
  • Fourth, the boards were put together and went through another go-no-go teat, and
  • Fifth, went through another final tester for that much of the assembly.
  • Sixth, the boards were then assembled in a data drive, and
  • Seventh, were tested again before going to,
  • Eighth, the "one hour burn in" test. This test read aid wrote to every block on a blank tape, and took about one hour to perform. That is why Coleco called it the "one hour burn in" test.
  • Ninth, after this test, the data drive was installed in a memory console and was then tested again. When the memory console was paired up with the rest of the items that make up an ADAM system,
  • Tenth, the drive was tested again.

This basic testing method was done on all the ADAM items that were made by Coleco.

The ADAM Family Computer System package consists of the following items: memory console, keyboard, printer, two joysticks, digital data drive, along with various cords and cables to connect items together and to the owner's TV.

MEMORY CONSOLE

The ADAM was produced in two forms: one for the US and another for the Canadian markets. The only difference between them was in the memory console and the power cord for the power supply.

The whole ADAM computer system is referred to as the "stand alone". The Coleco workers called the memory console the "delta", and the printer had a flat cord.

The second system which requires ColecoVision is called the Expansion Module #3 (which Coleco workers called the "gamma") and the original power cord was round. The Expansion Module #3 was made for people who owned a ColecoVision, so they could expand their ColecoVision into an ADAM computer. The memory console of the Expansion Module #3 is the only difference from the "stand alone" model in that Expansion Module #3 or "gamma", a monitor cannot be used unless the "gamma" is modified.

There were two different models of Expansion Module #3: one for the US and Canadian markets and the other for overseas markets. There are two differences between them. In the overseas model, the power supply in the printer was for 220V at 50Hz, and the memory console was wired for a language board. This was done so that the word processing program would pop up in a different language.

The have personally seen an ADAM with the French chips working and have heard that German chips were also made.

The way these language boards word is that when the ADAM is first turned on, it checks the center expansion slot first to see if anything is there. If the slot is empty, it then goes to the normal EOS chips. When a language board is installed in the center expansion port, the EOS and word processing chips are installed on it. The normal EOS and word processing chips on the logic board are removed.

So when the ADAM is turned on, the z80 searches the center slot and reads the EOS chip from the language board into upper RAM. Then when someone presses the word processing key, the system reads the word processing chips on the language board into lower RAM, which would turn out to be whatever language is installed on it. By having a set of language boards, one can can switch between languages just by turning the ADAM off, inserting a different board, and turning the ADAM back on.

A simplified explanation of how the ADAM works begins by explaining that the ADAM is a "z80" computer. The z80 micro processor controls the video output and also the master 6801, according to the instructions provided by ADAM programmers. Similarly, the master 6801 controls the memory RAM, and also the slave 6801 micro processors. It can control up to 15 total devices. Each hardware component has its own 6801 slave micro processor. The 6801s are linked together by a 62.5 bps, half duplex, shared serial bus which Coleco called ADAMNet.

The memory console (delta) houses a cartridge slot, two printed circuit boards, two ADAMNet ports, three card connectors, an expansion port, a TV port, a monitor port and up to two digital data drives. The two printed circuit boards are the game (top) and logic board (bottom).

The game board is the same as that of a ColecoVision with buffers added to it. This board has the 16K video RAM, a cartridge slot, a TV port, a monitor port, and the z80 on it. The clock frequency of the main clock is 3.58 MHz, the video chip clock runs at 10.74 MHz, and the sound chip modulator uses a 4.5 MHz circuit. A couple of different revisions were made, but all will work with any revision logic board. The game board has no effect on what revision the memory console is. This board was produced in both the US and Taiwan.

The logic board contains the 64K of standard RAM, the EOS and word processing chips, the master 6801, an expansion port, and various slave 6801 micro processors.

This board (and the ROM EOS and ROM SmartWRITER programs on the board), went through many changes, and was manufactured in both the US and Taiwan. Some of the different revisions floating around are 57, 59, 77, 79, and 80. To find out which revision you have, turn your ADAM on and in Electric Typewriter Mode, press the control key and R at the same time. A Smart Key (IV) will appear showing what revision you have. For example, "R80" will appear if you have the latest and greatest revision that Coleco produced.

If you don't have an "R80" EOS/SmartWRITER ROM, your board can be converted by Kosowsky's ADAM Repair (See the author's name under "DEALERS and SUPPLIERS" chapter in this book.

DIGITAL DATA DRIVE

The digital data drive was produced in three different models. The first was known as the "US-made data drive". When first produced, these drives had various problems and I believe it was one of the reasons for which production of the ADAM was held up just prior to the public release.

One particular problem that I personally recall was called by a simple mistake on how a part was specified on a drawing. The straightness tolerance of the pin upon which the encoder wheel rotated, was not called out correctly. What happened was that Coleco received a box about 8" square that had 10,000 encoder pins in it, each of which met the drawing specifications, but only about 30% of which functioned properly. These were sent back to the manufacturer, and Coleco ended up sending an employee out of town for about a week to sort through these 10,000 pins to find good ones to use. They were in a hurry and needed the pins badly.

Luckily, I was in a car pool that day and didn't have a car, or yours truly would have been the one doing the sorting! These drives were made in Amsterdam, New York, in building #6.

Production was stopped on the US drives in 1984 in favor of using the new style JVC drives. The second and third models were both made by JVC, and were known as the old style and new style JVC data drives. The old style JVC drives were produced near the beginning of ADAM production in 1983 after some of the bugs had been worked out of the US drives. Basically the old style JVC and US drives were the same, with only small differences.

If you wish to tell them apart, look at the motor drive hubs and the label which states made in either Japan or US. This is not a certain method of identification, however, since tape drives, which may have gone through the repair lines at Coleco, sometimes got the back plastic covers switched. What this means is that sometimes a "made in the US" drive has a "made in Japan" label and vice versa. The hubs on the US tape drives have a spring behind the hubs and the Japanese drives do not.

The third model has many improvements over the first two models. Some of the improvements are: speed adjustment screw on top (which means that the speed of the data drive can be adjusted without having to remove the drive from the memory console), holes added on the top shield and on the sides of the plastic housing (increasing air flow, thus reducing the temperature), improved head mounting (wires being attached with screws rather than with solder), better tape mounting/ejection system, connectors added inside drives, tape insertion button made longer (resulting in less error readings that a tape is not inserted when it is), and generally better quality than either the US or old style JVC drives.

With all of these changes, it is easy to see which are the new style JVC drives. The easiest way to see is that the motor screws on the new style JVC drives are flush with the plastic, and that two of the three screws line up vertically. On both of the older drives, these screws are not flush and none of the motor screws line up vertically. Both JVC models were built in Japan.

Under the top ventilation cover (on top of the console), are two 8 pin and two 9 pin connectors. Two digital data drives can be installed in the console by plugging them into the two sets of 8 and 9 pin connectors.

KEYBOARD

The ADAM keyboard has 75 full travel keys, including ten command keys and six programmable function keys. These keyboards are very dependable and were produced in Japan.

PRINTER

The ADAM printer is a friction feed bi-directional letter quality "daisy wheel" printer. The printing speed is 10 characters per second and the pitch is 10 characters per inch. The printer contains two printer circuit boards, the printer logic board and the ADAM's power supply. The printer logic and power supply boards went through various different revisions, but all revisions work fine.

The printer itself went through one major change which was associated with the printing head. The printing head and switch were greatly improved to increase reliability, print quality, provide a better adjustment system, and to make it slightly quieter. The change made on the printer head switch was to change from the troublesome contact points to a micro switch. The printing head was redesigned by replacing the mechanical 'hammer type' print mechanism with an electrical solenoid printing mechanism. Also, parts were added so the printing head could be adjusted with a screw driver instead of a pair of pliers. Near the end of production, the contact point switch in the gear train was also replaced by a micro switch.

The printer was produced in Mayfield, New York, in Coleco's building number 1, known to us then as the "Patch Road Plant". There was also an optional tractor feed mechanism which was never offered for sale to the public.

DISK DRIVE

The ADAM disk drive is a double density, single-sided 160K half-height drive. The disk drive was built in Singapore by JVC. The drive, like all other hardware, was tested in Amsterdam, New York.

ADAMNET

The memory console was designed to have up to 15 devices attached on the ADAMNet. Any device that Coleco made to connect to the memory console, like digital data drives, disk drives, ADAM printer, keyboard, and RS232 parallel/serial printer interface, all use ADAMNet. All other hardware options plug into expansion ports or card edge connectors.

Two disk drives can be attached by plugging the first drive into the console through one of the two ADAMNet ports external to the ADAM case. These are designed in the form of telephone jacks, one on the left side, one on the front, and although they are marked individually as "KEYBOARD" and "ADAMNET", either the disk drive or the keyboard may be attached at either jack. The second disk drive plugs into the first disk drive.

Concerning the three card connectors under the top lid, the one on the right is for a memory expansion board. Coleco made a 64K memory expander but several other companies have since produced expanders anywhere from 64K to 1 MB! The center card connector Coleco intended for 32K ROM cards and an 80 column card. This connector today may be used for a parallel printer interface or an addressor card interface. The connector on the left is for the Colecophone modem, and Coleco also planned this for a real time clock.

On the back of the console are outlets to which a TV or composite monitor can be attached. On the right side of the console, is a "card edge" expansion port to which the Atari 2600 adapter can be attached. Coleco also made some prototype 8 inch disk drive interfaces that used this port. These interfaces were only used in-house and were never intended to be offered for sale. Some other companies have also designed devices to use this port, devices like the 5 1/4 inch double sided drives, a parallel/serial interface, and an 80-column video display expansion card.

The cartridge port on the top of the console had some prototype devices made to operate from it, like tape drives and drawing pens.

There were also two hardware devices of which I know Coleco planned for the printer. One was a printer tractor feed which was to attach to the top of the ADAM printer. The other was an RS232 parallel/serial printer interface. This interface was to plug into the memory console in the same way as the ADAM printer is plugged into it. Then the ADAM printer was to plug into the printer interface. This interface would provide for printing on a parallel printer, serial printer, or the ADAM printer. No patches would have been required. One would simply flip a switch to select the desired printer. One could have even switched between printers as they were printing, by flipping the switch while printing was in progress.

Of course there are many other hardware devices from many fine companies like 80-column board for TDOS, the user friendly replacement of CP/M, M.I.D.I. (Music Keyboard Interface), Speech synthesizers, serial/parallel printer interfaces, serial ports, hard-disk interfaces, heavy duty power supplies, sound digitizers, mouse, tape formatter, and clock (see the chapter on "HARDWARE FOR THE ADAM" and "ADAM MUSIC WITH A MIDI").

Phil Kosowski

Editor Note: For more details concerning the upgrades mentioned in this chapter, contact your user group or the author (see "IMPORTANT NAMES AND ADDRESSES").

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