Nostalgia!
by Geoff Oltmans


I stopped by the library to find some information on the TMS 9918 VDP that's used in the ADAM and stumbled across this. I also found an informative article on how to program 68701 microcontrollers as well.

This is from the Sept '83 issue of Popular Science: regarding the summer CES '83...

"Adam was the sensation of the show. It attracted attention because it offers a complete system at a price far below anything available until now. The system includes a computer with 80k of memory, full-size keyboard with word-processing function keys, high-speed data recorder, and, most surprising, a letter-quality printer. The package also includes BASIC, a word-processor program, and a game. The price: $600.00 for everything. All that's needed is your home TV."

We all know this information. Down the aisle from Coleco though was Atari, peddling a "similar" system for $600.00

"It's a public-relations coup, nothing more," a rather upset anonymous spokesman for Atari retorted, referring to the overwhelming attention Adam has been paid. "Did you get a chance to even touch Adam? Have you spoken to anyone who has? How good is its software? You've got to look at a competitor with respect, but we have three systems now-ready to go-at a comparable price."

(Now, I'll interrupt here and say that this seems an awful lot like the pot calling the kettle black...considering that the ADAM already had a tremendous amount of software available for it in the form of ColecoVision cartridges...which we know are high-quality software programs, and outnumber those available for Atari's own rival 5200 SuperSystem. Just thought I'd throw that one in there. :)

Now, here's what Atari's idea of a "comparable price" was...

"The system includes Atari's 600XL computer, AtariWriter word- processing software in a plug-in cartridge, a book on how to write, paper, and a letter-quality printer that types at 20 cps. (that's twice as fast as the Adam's printer.) To complete the system, you'll have to add a disc drive or cassette recorder- to save or retrieve your text- and a TV."

Okay, so Atari's idea of comparable in price to the ADAM was to give you a system that had only 16k of memory, NO STORAGE CAPABILITY (at least at the $600.00 price tag) and a printer that's twice as fast. This is actually quite typical of Atari back in those days.

What I find extremely interesting about the article is the contradictory specs found throughout that are different than the production model Adam...for example: They show a picture of the Expansion Module #3 (the ColecoVision upgrade) and it doesn't have the typical DDP drives in it. Instead it looks as though you would insert cassettes the same way you would in a car. The unit is also physically smaller...about the same depth as the ColecoVision. In addition, the following statements were made in the article: "Each cassette holds up to 500,000 bytes of data and can transfer data at about 19.2K baud."

We know now that the Adam DDPs can hold only 256k, rather than 500k, and are substantially faster than 19.2k bps. ' "...That makes it CP/M compatible," said Kahn. To actually use CP/M, however, you'll have to add a CP/M option, disc drives, and an 80-column display board that will be available soon." ' Very interesting, that...about the 80-column display board. Hmmm.... "Most of the electronics for the Adam system is contained in the main console, including the main power supply, which also powers the printer." We know that this is not true now. :) The PS of course is housed in the printer. They also mention a release date 60 days past the publish date of the article (Sept '83), which would place the release in November. November articles reveal that the release date was pushed past the Christmas '83 season.

Oh yes. I think that the DDP's are not what we were supposed to get as well. While Coleco was working on the Adam, they were also developing a device known as the Super Game Module. Now, essentially the Super Game Module was supposed to be a memory upgrade and a drive for larger games than would fit economically on a cartridge (the unit is about the size of Expansion module #1... the 2600 adapter). Pilot games for it included Zaxxon, Super Buck Rogers, and Super Donkey Kong. Sound familiar?

However, the Super Game Module was not designed to use the familiar DDPs. Instead it was to use what was called a 'Wafertape' drive, which holds approximately 160k per tape, and is housed in a cassette which is physically about the same dimensions as a 3.5" floppy disc (though a bit deeper). This was never produced however, from what I've seen it appears that the agreement between Coleco and the company that manufactured these Wafertape drives broke down, and likely Coleco didn't want to give CV owners a choice between a cheaper Super Game module and the relatively more expensive Expansion Module #3.

At about this time, TI was also supposed to get the Wafertape drive as well, they called it WaftertapeTM, and information about it can be seen on the back of the beige console's box...however, again I don't think this was produced. At any rate, I think Wafertape would explain the 3.5" disk drive-like slot on the front of the pictured Expansion Module #3. This is mostly speculation on my part, but I do think it fits the scenario very well.

Anyways, the article I found rather interesting, and I thought I would share it. :)


*Geoff Oltmans*

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