<html> <head> <title>The SWTPC. SOUTH WEST TECHNICAL PRODUCTS M6800</title> <meta name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft FrontPage 4.0"> </head> <body> <p align="center"><img src="pclogo2.gif" width="338" height="65" alt="pclogo2.gif (1638 bytes)"></p> <p align="center"><img src="swptc.gif" width="210" height="104" alt="swptc.gif (35560 bytes)"></p> <p align="center"><font color="#0000ff"><big>SOUTH WEST TECHNICAL PRODUCTS M6800</big></font></p> <p align="center">&nbsp;</p> <font FACE="Tms Rmn"><div align="center"><center> <table border="1" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="3" width="90%"> <tr> <td width="20%" valign="top" align="left" bgcolor="#00FFFF">&nbsp;<p><font color="#0000FF"><strong><big>The SWTPC</big></strong></font></td> <td width="80%"><p ALIGN="JUSTIFY"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">South West Technical Products (SWTPC) was the most unusual of the early personal computer companies. First, it lasted the longest of all the pioneers, and second, it existed before the start of the personal computer age and contributed as much as MITS or <span class=SpellE>Imsai</span> in establishing it. In addition, it was always owned by one man, Dan Meyer, whose personality and ideas determined the products it made and the way it did business. STWPC was also unique in that it made a complete line of computers, peripherals, and software, and made most of the parts in its own factory.<o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">South West established its own unique bus architecture, the SS-50 Bus, which came to be used by several other manufacturers. In spite of this, it's a safe bet that most of my readers have never heard of South West Technical Products.<o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">One day, a tall young man came into the store and asked, &quot;Do you have any SWITS?&quot; <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><font size="4"><span class=GramE><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal"><span style="font-family: Times New Roman">Kelvin Smith, my manager, not knowing what was meant more than half the time when the computer nuts asked something, repeated, &quot;Stan, got any <span class=SpellE>Swits</span>?&quot;</span></b></span><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal"><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman"'> <o:p></o:p></span></b></font></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">So I came out of the back room and asked the kid, &quot;What's <span class=SpellE>Swits</span>?&quot; <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;I mean South West Technical Products M6800 Computers, SWITS!&quot; he replied. <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;Well, no, but I have Sphere 6800 computers.&quot;<o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;Junk,&quot; the kid answered. &quot;How can you call this a computer store if you don't have South West?&quot; <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;Go on. Beat it,&quot; I snarled. I was tired of being told off because I didn't have everything advertised in Byte! <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">He left.<o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><font size="4"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman">Sometime later, I went to a meeting of the Amateur Computer Club of </span></b><st1:State><st1:place><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family: "Times New Roman"'>New Jersey</span></b></st1:place></st1:State></font><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family: "Times New Roman"'><font size="4">, and a 14-year old named <span class=SpellE>Tod</span> <span class=SpellE>Loofbrourrow</span> showed a computer he had built. It was a small black box with no front panel, and it looked a little like <span class=GramE>a</span> audio power amplifier. <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">I was finally seeing a &quot;<span class=SpellE>Swits</span>!&quot; <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><font size="4"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman">The demo was astounding. The computer worked, ran software, and powered a teletype. I was impressed. When I returned to </span></b><st1:State><st1:place><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal"><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman"'>New York</span></b></st1:place></st1:State><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family: "Times New Roman"'>, I spoke with Leslie Solomon, Technical Director of Popular Electronics Magazine, about it. <o:p></o:p></span></b></font></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;Sure, SWTPC is one of our oldest kit makers, and Dan Myers the owner is a great guy. You ought to sell his computers.&quot; <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><font size="4"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman">So I called South West in </span></b><st1:place><st1:City><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman"'>San Antonio</span></b></st1:City><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family: "Times New Roman"'>, </span></b><st1:State><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal"><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman"'>Texas</span></b></st1:State></st1:place><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family: "Times New Roman"'>. <o:p></o:p></span></b></font></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;Mr. Myers,&quot; I said, &quot;I'd like to sell your computer line in my computer store.&quot; <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;No,&quot; Dan replied. &quot;I sell them myself, by mail. I don't sell through stores.&quot; <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;Well,&quot; I answered, &quot;computers are something new. It's not like your audio equipment. People want to see how they work before they buy them. Les Solomon says I should sell '<span class=SpellE>em</span>.&quot; <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;Les says that? Okay, I'll give you 25% discount and ship you ten computers as a trial. You'll get five this week and five next week. You pay me in 30 days or we're finished.&quot; <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">My God, he was offering me 30-day credit! Nobody else in the industry gave any <span class=SpellE>credit_they</span> even wanted pre-payment!&quot; <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">The five computer kits arrived on time, and I took one home and built it. It was so easy even I could build it, and I was a slob with a soldering iron. <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">A week later, the tall kid was back. <span class=GramE>&quot;Heard you got SWITS.</span> Now you're cooking. Would you like me to bring in my video terminal?&quot;<o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;What video terminal?&quot; I asked.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> </span><o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;South West makes <span class=SpellE>it_goes</span> with the computer instead of the <span class=SpellE>Teletyper</span>.&quot; <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;Sure,&quot; I answered. &quot;Bring it in. By the way, what is your name?&quot; <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;Ken <span class=SpellE>Stamm</span>,&quot; he told me. &quot;See you tomorrow.&quot; <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">The next day he returned, bringing with him a strange wooden box with a keyboard sticking out of the front and a lot of wires out of the back. In a few minutes Ken had it hooked to my computer and one of the video monitors in the store. He turned on everything and started typing on the keyboard. Wonder of wonders, the characters he typed started appearing on the video screen. It worked! Soon he was running programs on the 6800 computer. This kid knew something! <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;How would you like working here after school?&quot; I asked him. <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">&quot;Okay,&quot; he said. &quot;I'd like that.&quot; <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><font size="4"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman">The next day, he appeared with more things he said I needed for the 6800. Soon, Ken was on the phone with South West ordering all kinds of things for us to sell. He worked for us as long as the Computer Mart of </span></b><st1:State><st1:place><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family: "Times New Roman"'>New York</span></b></st1:place></st1:State><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family: "Times New Roman"'> was in business and became our expert on SWTPC. In fact, he just about ran that portion of the business. <o:p></o:p></span></b></font></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><font size="4"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman">Dan Meyer founded SWTPC in San Antonio, </span></b><st1:State><st1:place><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal"><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman"'>Texas</span></b></st1:place></st1:State><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"> as an electronics company devoted to building low-cost electronic kits, many of which were originally projects in magazines such as Popular Electronics and Radio Electronics. Some of their products, like the 250-watt &quot;<span class=SpellE>Tigersaurus</span>&quot; Amplifier, enabled hobbyists who were skilled with the soldering iron to have a high-powered audio amplifier for only $154.00. South West also made the Tiger 60 watt amp and a Pre-Amp for it. Other products, such as a Guitar Pre-Amp, Input Mixer, and Stereo Octave Equalizer, rounded out the audio kit line. Then there <span class=GramE>was<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> </span>the</span> <span class=SpellE>Theremin</span> Electronic Musical Instrument, which was played by moving your hands, and the <span class=SpellE>Psychedelia</span> Color Organs. <span class=GramE>These,</span> and other products developed as kits from magazine articles, put SWTPC on the leading edge of electronic experimentation. <o:p></o:p></span></b></font></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">The unusual thing about these kits was that they were priced low so that the hobbyist could afford them, yet they were engineered so they worked well when they were assembled. Dan Meyer carried these principles over to the personal computer business, which was one of the reasons for the long survival of his company. No one was ever mad at SWTPC after completing their computer assembly. Nine out of ten computers worked the first time when the power was switched on.<o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">The first digital products SWTPC built were a Digital Logic <span class=SpellE>Microlab</span>, which enabled an experimenter to learn about digital logic with the aid of Don Lancaster's RTL Cookbook. The second computer product was the KBD-2 Keyboard and Encoder Kit. This was a fully ASCII-encoded 53-key system with standard digital logic output. It was ready to connect into any video terminal, including a product like Don Lancaster's TV Typewriter, which had appeared in Radio Electronics magazine. The amazing thing about this keyboard was its price of $39.95, a true bargain at a time when surplus keyboards cost twice as much. The kit did not make the highest quality keyboard. Its key switches occasionally went bad, leaving you without a character, but it was cheap and easy to fix.<o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">Before South West built a computer, they made an affordable terminal kit for the many hobbyists and students who were beginning to <span class=GramE>access college</span> computer networks. The CT-1024 Terminal Kit was capable of displaying 32 uppercase, alpha-numeric characters on a video monitor or a modified TV set. It could not communicate with IBM equipment, which used the EBCDIC code system, or with the old 5-level <span class=SpellE>Baudot</span>-coded <span class=SpellE>Teletypesr</span> <span class=GramE>( which</span> were often in use in those days because hobbyists could buy them very cheaply.)<o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">The CT-1024 terminal had a memory composed of six 2102 static RAM chips, which could store 1024 (1K) characters. The unit did not have scrolling, and was only capable of displaying 512 characters at one time on the screen (this was called &quot;a page.&quot;) You could then flip a switch and display the second page of 512 characters. When it got to the last character position, of the last line, the cursor would return to the first character position of the first line.<o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">The CT-1024 Terminal had quite a few optional boards which extended its capabilities. A Computer Controlled Cursor option was available as a kit. This allowed computer control over the position of the cursor on the screen. Input or output (I/O) for the terminal was provided by adding another kit of parts. You could put together either a serial I/O option or a parallel I/O option. The builder was warned that while the serial option was in accordance with the usual standard for connection, RS-232C, there was no equivalent standard for parallel interface, and therefore it might be difficult to make the interface work. SWTPC recommended that you use the serial kit.<o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">Another option was the Screen Read Board. This gadget was used when information that had been typed into the terminal was edited, and had to be read out of the terminal and into another device. This was not needed with a computer in the interactive mode.<o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">SWTPC would sell you the basic video terminal kit for only $175 without the keyboard, power supply, interface, or cursor control. The complete CT-1024 terminal kit was $275, with only the baud rate kit at $14.75 and the parallel omitted.<o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">The <span class=SpellE>Altair</span> computer was introduced to the world in the January <span class=GramE>1975<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> </span>issue</span> of Popular Electronics magazine, and the personal computer revolution started. However, the Intel 8080 CPU upon which the <span class=SpellE>Altair</span>, and later the IMSAI, <span class=GramE>were</span> based was not the only microprocessor. Motorola had developed the M 6800 MPU (Micro Processor Unit) which was somewhat different from the Intel design. The 6800 MPU was part of a family of chips that made computer design, and use, quite a bit easier. <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">SWTPC used these chips to design a computer that was simpler to build and program than the <span class=SpellE>Altair</span> <span class=GramE>design,</span> and cost much less to manufacture. In addition, since SWTPC was an established company, it had the facilities to build the machines, and the organization to meet its delivery dates.<o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">When you first looked at the SWTPC 6800 Computer System, you noticed it was completely unlike the <span class=SpellE>Altair</span> or IMSAI computers. All you saw was a black and silver box with a cover made of black grillwork and two illuminated push buttons on the front. It might have been an audio amplifier, except that it said &quot;SWTPC 6800 Computer System&quot; in large black letters. There were no red and green lights, or rows of switches to set. How did you operate this computer? The secret was in a ROM chip which contained a monitor program called MIKBUG. When you turned on the system, it came to life and permitted your computer to communicate with a terminal. MIKBUG was also a mini-operating system that allowed you to display and change data in memory, dump memory to tape, load a program, display or change the contents of registers, and jump to and execute a program in memory. It also had a routine for debugging programs. All of these system functions were initiated and monitored by a serial terminal. In addition to these system features, MIKBUG understood Hex notation instead of machine code needed for programming front panel switches on other computers. <o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"><font size="4">Contrast this with the <span class=SpellE>Altair</span>. To make the <span class=SpellE>Altair</span> talk to a terminal you had to go through the long process to load a bootstrap loader program. If everything went well, you could be up and running within 15 or 20 minutes. This was one more reason the Motorola system was so popular. It made the SWTPC 6800 such an easy-to-use computer that its owners seldom ever had any complaints to talk about. Boring, boring, when the hobbyists got together at the computer club to discuss their problems; the SWTPC 6800 owner just sat and had no problems to contribute. Dan Meyer made this situation a feature of his advertising after a user wrote in about it.<o:p></o:p></font></span></b></p> <p style="text-align:justify;text-indent:18.0pt;line-height: 13.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly"><font size="4"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style="font-family: Times New Roman">We sold a lot of these computer kits to customers all over the world. People would come to </span></b><st1:State><st1:place><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family: "Times New Roman"'>New York</span></b></st1:place></st1:State></font><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><font size="4"><span style="font-family: Times New Roman"> and head for our store because they had heard that we sold SWTPC products, and we had employees who spoke many languages. </span></font><big><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family: "Times New Roman"'> <o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Subhead2 style='line-height:15.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly'><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'>Building <span class=GramE>The</span> SWTPC 6800 Computer</span><!--[if supportFields]><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'><span style='mso-element:field-begin'></span>tc &quot;Building The SWTPC 6800 Computer&quot;</span><![endif]--><!--[if supportFields]><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'><span style='mso-element:field-end'></span></span><![endif]--><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'><o:p></o:p></span></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>The 6800 had very few parts for a computer. Eliminating the front panel board used with the <span class=SpellE>Altair</span> design was a big help, but the integrated 6800 chip family also required fewer support chips. The 9 by 14-inch motherboard came with all the sockets you would ever need, and they were very different from the <span class=SpellE>Altair</span> (S-100) design which used card-edge sockets and very thin plated lands on the boards. The SWTPC design used <span class=SpellE>Molexr</span> connectors that were long metal pins that stuck up through the motherboard. The circuit cards had sockets which fit over the pins, providing a positive contact. SWTPC provided all the pins for each motherboard. The motherboard held seven 50-pin sockets for processor and memory boards, and eight sockets for the smaller interface boards. You could parallel another motherboard if you ever needed additional slots. The power supply was large enough to support the full compliment of plug-in cards, which originally was </span></b><st1:time Minute="0" Hour="13"><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>one PM</span></b></st1:time><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'> board, 4K of static RAM, plus eight interface cards. The design of the motherboard made it simple to build, and although it was tiresome to solder in all of the socket pins, it did not require the close work needed to install S-100 sockets, which had twice as many pins per socket. <o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>The MP-A Microprocessor/System Board (MP-A Board) was the primary logic board used in the system. It contained the 6800 CPU, the 6830 ROM, and the 6810 Scratch Pad Memory (128-bytes) for the </span></b><st1:country-region><st1:place><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>ROM.</span></b></st1:place></st1:country-region><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'> The MP-A also mounted the crystal-controlled processor clock driver and baud rate generator, plus reset and other circuits. The beauty of the SWTPC design was that the lands on the cards were very, very broad compared to S-100 cards. This made it much easier to solder them, and prevented the dreaded solder bridges. <o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>The original memory capacity of the SWTPC 6800 was a huge 16K of RAM. Each MP-M memory board had a capacity of 4K, but when you bought the computer system you got the board with 2K of RAM chips. You could buy the extra memory chips to fill the board, and you could buy extra memory boards. The memory board with 2K was $85 and the additional RAM was $45. Four memory boards fit into the motherboard for the total of 16K. Of course later, when 4K chips became available, you could expand the memory, since, like all 8-bit CPUs, the 6800 was capable of addressing 64K of memory. However, the 2K of static 2102 RAM consumed 0.75 amps of power! By this same scale of measurement, if we used the same kind of chips today, 640K of RAM would draw 240 amps of power at 5 volts DC, thus consuming 1200 watts of power. You would need a separate power line to run the computer, and you could not also run the stove in an average house.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>At first glance, the SWTPC 6800 system did not look much cheaper than the <span class=SpellE>Altair</span> or <span class=SpellE>IMSAI_they</span> all cost about $475_but with the 8080-based computers all you got for that price was a barebones computer. No memory, no I/0, and no software. You only got four slots, and even they didn't have all the required connectors. Your $450 was only a down payment on a very expensive computer. With the SWTPC 6800 computer you got all the connectors, an operating system in <span class=GramE>ROM,</span> and a memory board with 2K of RAM for $395. The extra 2K of RAM was only $45, and the I/0 <span class=GramE>board</span> was $35. For $475, SWTPC sold you a kit for a complete operating computer. Of course, you could add to it, but your total final cost was nowhere near the price of an S-100 system.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Subhead2 style='line-height:15.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly'><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'>Software for the SWTPC 6800</span><!--[if supportFields]><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'><span style='mso-element:field-begin'></span>tc &quot;Software for the SWTPC 6800&quot;</span><![endif]--><!--[if supportFields]><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'><span style='mso-element:field-end'></span></span><![endif]--><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'><o:p></o:p></span></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>From the beginning, Dan Meyer and Gary Kay, his engineer/designer, recognized that the secret to the success of their computer lay in software. Having the operating system in ROM was a break for them, but more software was essential. Fortunately, there was an Assembler program available for the 6800 that could be adopted for their computer. SWTPC made it available to owners for $14.95, in either paper tape for <span class=SpellE>Teletyper</span>, or audio cassette format. This low pricing set the pattern for all SWTPC software. While MITS was charging $150 for BASIC, Dan Meyer set the price by the &quot;K,&quot; 4K BASIC cost $4, 8K BASIC was $8 and 12K BASIC was $12! Although the SWTPC 6800 did not have <span class=SpellE>Altair</span> BASIC, they had a version written by Robert <span class=SpellE>Uiterwyk</span> that was one of the best cassette <span class=SpellE>BASICs</span> on the market.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Subhead2 style='line-height:15.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly'><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'>The AC-30 Cassette Interface</span><!--[if supportFields]><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'><span style='mso-element:field-begin'></span>tc &quot;The AC-30 Cassette Interface&quot;</span><![endif]--><!--[if supportFields]><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'><span style='mso-element:field-end'></span></span><![endif]--><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'><o:p></o:p></span></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>The greatest need for the early computers was a reliable method of mass storage. The paper tape of the <span class=SpellE>Teletyper</span> was only available to those who were lucky, or rich enough to have access to such a machine, and they were a painfully slow method of saving programs and data. At that time, &quot;real&quot; computers used digital tape drives that cost thousands of dollars, or the new disk system recently invented by IBM. Computer hobbyists, ever inventive, discovered that they could record the tones of a modem on an audio cassette and save them. When replayed, they would recreate the ones and zeros of a digital data stream, and from that beginning came the cassette data storage method. The only problem was that each manufacturer had a different recording method, and the tapes were not interchangeable. In November 1975, Byte magazine called a meeting in </span></b><st1:City><st1:place><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>Kansas City</span></b></st1:place></st1:City><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'> to set a standard for the recording of digital data by audio cassettes. SWTPC attended and accepted the resulting Kansas City Standard of 300 baud data speed, with 24OOHz sine wave representing a logical one, and 12OOHz sine wave representing a logical zero. As a result, SWTPC built a cassette interface unit capable of supporting two cassette recorders and able to control the motors of both the cassette recorders. The unit was designated the AC-30 and sold in kit form for $79.50. While this unit was used with the 6800 computers it never became accepted by any other system because no other company used the &quot;Standard.&quot; Both Apple and SOL computers had a cassette system that was reliable at 1200 baud.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Subhead2 style='line-height:15.0pt;mso-line-height-rule:exactly'><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'>The PR-40 Printer</span><!--[if supportFields]><span style='font-size: 12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='mso-element:field-begin'></span>tc &quot;The PR-40 Printer&quot;</span><![endif]--><!--[if supportFields]><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'><span style='mso-element:field-end'></span></span><![endif]--><span style='font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-weight: normal'><o:p></o:p></span></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>Low cost, high quality printers are the usual thing these days, but I remember when printers cost much more than computers. The <span class=SpellE>Centronics</span> 779 finally broke the $1,000 price barrier in 1977, and Epson was the first to offer a quality printer at $600.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>Way back in 1976, SWTPC alone found a way to sell a really low-cost printer to hobbyists. Seiko made a print mechanism for cash registers that would print 40 columns and Dan Meyer obtained these printer mechanisms. His company incorporated them into a little printer that printed <span class=GramE>5 x 7 dot matrix, upper case</span> only, at a rate of 75 lines per minute. The print line was 40 characters wide on a roll of 3 7/8&quot; adding machine paper, but it was enough for listing programs or short notes. Such a machine would attract scant notice today, but in those days a printer for $250 was a great bargain. The PR-40 was sold as a kit although the print mechanism was completely assembled. The electronics had to be constructed, and the entire assembly mounted upon one of <span class=SpellE>SWTPC's</span> metal chassis.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>This completed the full starting lineup for SWTPC, and they advertised widely that here was a computer system that almost anyone could build. I say almost because we did have some people who ruined their kits. One of them glued all the parts to the board and brought the mess in to be wired so it worked. Another burnt the motherboard by using a torch for soldering. One accountant had such trouble that he kept coming into my store. We became friends, and he eventually became my partner. Needless to say, from then on he kept the books, and my technicians built his computers.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>At the big computer show in </span></b><st1:place><st1:City><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>Atlantic City</span></b></st1:City><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>, </span></b><st1:State><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>New Jersey</span></b></st1:State></st1:place><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'> in the summer of 1976, Dan Meyer and his entire crew came to the Shoreham Hotel to show off their computer system. Dan was very proud of his complete line. He and all of the SWTPC crew wore tee-shirts emblazoned with &quot;<span class=SpellE>Altair</span> Sucks&quot; on the front. This was a little too much for the show management, who did not want to offend their largest exhibitor. Meyer was requested to remove the shirts. However, he had already made his point, and he got a lot of attention.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>After the show, the SWTPC 6800 continued to do very well; however, things were changing in the industry. Floppy disks were rapidly replacing cassettes as storage devices. At first, when the 8-inch floppies came out, they were too expensive for the price range of the SWTPC customers, although other companies sold them to use with 6800 computers. However, when the 5 1/4-inch floppies became popular, South West immediately designed a system to go with their machines. This started problems that Dan Meyer never expected.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>SWTPC had no problems with software until the first floppy disks were ready to be connected to the 6800 computers. Bob <span class=SpellE>Uiterwyk</span>, who had written SWTPC BASIC, had promised to produce an operating system and actually produced a system called FDOS. There were problems with this system because it only supported sequential files and not random files. To those not familiar with disk files, I must explain that this deficiency meant that FDOS was nothing more than a cassette system used on a disk. You <span class=GramE>see,</span> a cassette stores programs and data sequentially, like a row of ducks, and you have to search through the entire tape to find what you are looking for. <o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>The normal disk operating system, with its random file system, rapidly locates data anywhere on the disk. This is the major advantage of disks over tapes, and without it the speed advantage of disks does not exist. Well, the lack of such a system hurt the sales of SWTPC systems just at a time when floppy disks were replacing cassettes all over the industry. Finally, Dan Meyer and his staff wrote a specification for a real DOS, and it was implemented by TSC under the name of FLEX. This single-user system became quite popular and later was expanded to multi-user operation under the name UNIFLEX. Another DOS often used with 6800 systems is OS/9, which will also run on SWTPC machines with the 6809 CPU.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>The problem with the disk system also produced terrible strains in the dealer organization. When the system was selling well, Dan never shipped all the components we ordered. I don't know if this was because demand exceeded production or because he still sold equipment direct and the more computers the dealers sold, the greater the demand for add-ons, which often only he could supply. Our strategy was to order much more than we needed. SWTPC would cut our <span class=GramE>order,</span> and we would end up with the quantity we actually needed. The slowdown in sales hit our store much later than it did others because a lot of our business came from overseas, but it did affect us. <o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>Then I began to notice that we were receiving a lot of packages from South West in our daily UPS shipments. I called Kenny in and asked him what was going on. Did he have a large foreign order to fill? He told me that he did not have any unfilled orders and that stuff was starting to fill the storage cabinets. Then I called </span></b><st1:City><st1:place><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>San Antonio</span></b></st1:place></st1:City><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>, and they told me that they were filling back-orders that had not previously been shipped! I quickly took an inventory and canceled all back orders we absolutely did not need. However, the damage had been done, and I owed Dan Meyer more money than I could pay him by the end of the month. I called and told him my problem. Dan was not very pleased. <o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>&quot;I told you had to pay me at the end of the month, and there would be no extensions,&quot; he tartly snarled at me. <o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>&quot;Okay, but I have a cash flow problem right now. My taxes are due, and if it comes to a choice between paying my taxes and paying you, it is an easy decision for me to make. I will pay what I can now and pay you the rest as soon as possible. Just don't send me any more stuff.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>&quot;Don't worry, I won't. But from now on you are on a C.O.D. basis.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>&quot;That's your decision,&quot; I told him. &quot;You won't find it easy to replace our store in </span></b><st1:State><st1:place><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>New York</span></b></st1:place></st1:State><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>So three years of close friendship went down the drain. <o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>Later, I met one of his other dealers at a computer show. &quot;How are you getting along with Dan Meyer?' I asked him. <o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>&quot;Dan is mad at me,&quot; he replied. &quot;He shipped me so much stuff I couldn't pay for it.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>I told him of my experience, and when we talked to other dealers, it was the same story! The story we pieced together was probably true, although I cannot completely vouch for it.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>It seemed that what Dan had done was to repeat an old trick attributed to Henry Ford. He had a commitment to <span class=SpellE>Shugart</span> Associates for a large quantity of floppy disk drives, and they shipped them in every week. If he canceled the contract they would charge back the price of all his drives at the smaller quantity price. They might also sue him for violating his contract. He was not selling the drives and did not have the cash to meet his payments. So he scrapped together every part he could get and used them to fill all the dealer's unfilled back orders. He shipped them all over the country and thus built up his accounts receivable, which he could borrow against to meet his obligations. The trouble came when the dealers could not pay all the bills on time. <o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>I do not know what happened next, since, with my credit cut off and sales of SWTPC stuff declining, I sort of lost contact with Dan. We continued to sell the SWTPC 6800, but with the growth of Apple II our sales were at a minimum. We finally all but dropped the line as far as selling new computers went.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>This may have had something to do with Dan's later decision to get out of what he called &quot;hobby computers&quot; and concentrate on &quot;business machines.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>SWTPC did improve its products. It introduced a new, improved 6809 CPU, and both a line of 8&quot; floppy disk drives and 5 1/4&quot; floppy disk drives. The powerful UNIFLEX operating system was <span class=GramE>introduced,</span> and much-improved terminals: the CT-64 and the CT-82.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>SWTPC had always been a kit <span class=GramE>company,</span> and they never attempted to produce a factory-manufactured computer product. This was completely in tune with the hobbyist market that started this industry. However, only so many people want to actually build their own computer, and by 1978 most of them had already done so, and they were committed to their particular type of machine. The advent of the Apple II, the TRS-80, and the SOL changed the market completely. You could now buy a better computer than you could build, and for less money. The market for kits collapsed.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>SWTPC then offered their System B, a completely built computer system with two floppy disk drives and a terminal mounted in a desk. The system cost $4,495 and had 40K of RAM, and 1.2Mbyte of disk storage. It ran the FLEX operating system, and came with BASIC and Assembler.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> <p class=Bodytext><b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><span style='font-family:"Times New Roman"'>I do not know how successful this system was, but at almost $5,000 1 doubt if many were sold. The industry at that time was offering much better value in CP/M systems. However the SS-50 Bus was still very strong in the 6800/6809 <span class=GramE>field,</span> and many special-purpose computer devices were sold for industrial purposes. Two other companies, GIMIX and Smoke Signal, built SS-50 bus machines, and they did very well for a long time. SWTPC eventually withdrew completely from the &quot;hobbyist&quot; market, and only built business machines and special purpose computers that were used in point-of-sale systems and other commercial applications.<o:p></o:p></span></b></p> </big> <P> <center><a href="index.html">Back to PC History</a> </center> <P> </td> </tr> </table> </center></div><!--webbot bot="HTMLMarkup" startspan TAG="XBOT" --><<p ALIGN="JUSTIFY"><!--webbot bot="HTMLMarkup" endspan --> </font> </body> </html>