Apricot Portable

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Apricot Portable
Apricot portable.png
Developer Apricot Computers[1]
Type portable computer
Release date 1984; 33 years ago (1984)
Introductory price £1965
Operating system MS-DOS 2.11, Concurrent CP/M Version 3, CP/M 86
CPU Intel 8086 CPU @ 4.77 MHz
Memory 256 KiB RAM
Storage 3.5" floppy drive
Display 80-column/25-line LCD
Connectivity Infrared Wireless keyboard / Optional wireless mouse
Dimensions 45 cm x 20 cm x 17.2 cm
Weight 5.8 kg

The Apricot Portable was a computing device manufactured by Apricot Computers, and was released to the public in November 1984. It was Apricot Computers' first attempt at manufacturing a portable computer, which were gaining popularity at the time. Compared to other portable computers of its time like the Compaq Portable and the Commodore SX-64, the Apricot Portable was the first computer to have an 80-column and 25-line LCD screen and an input/output speech recognition system.[2]

Apricot Computers designed the Apricot Portable to be transportable for easy accessibility wherever one may be. It consisted of a screen monitor and a wireless, infrared keyboard that made up its main parts. It also included other notable features such as a built-in disk drive and a software bundled set.

Design[edit]

The Apricot Portable was contained inside a hard charcoal gray carrying case and consisted of two main parts: the central unit (monitor) and the keyboard. An optional mouse-like track board was also available. It was used by either pointing the track board at the computer and moving the trackball around with one's thumb or rolling the trackball on a flat surface.[3] A basic Microsoft mouse could have also been used in place of the track board via the RS-232 serial port located in the back within the computer.[4] The mouse and the keyboard are both battery-powered. However, the central unit itself must be plugged in to a three-wire wall outlet.[5]

Being 450 mm long x 172 mm wide x 200 mm high, the Portable's size was designed to be not too big nor small, making it easier for it to be portable.[6] It massed an overall weight of 13 pounds.[3]

The Portable's overall design was thought to be very unusual because the model's central unit and keyboard were not connected at all physically with any sort of wire. Instead, the connection between the keyboard and the central unit was made by infrared signals passing between the two parts. If an object blocked the space in between the two, the communication between them would become disconnected. Apricot Computers chose to use an infrared signal communication system because it was cheaper than using a cable connection.[2]

The Portable was known for being the first to harness a full 25-line liquid-crystal display (LCD) screen on a portable computer. The LCD screen was originally made by Hitachi in Japan however, Apricot Computers was not satisfied with parts of its design. Specifically, the speed of its controller chip, which is responsible for adjusting certain parts of the screen like the contrast, was too slow. This prompted the company to design its own controller chip for the screen that operated very fast.[4]

The Portable had the ability to hold a maximum memory amount of 1 MB.[3]

Features[edit]

The Apricot Portable contained a variety of features including a built-in disk drive, an input/output voice speech recognition system, and a software bundle.

Disk Drive[edit]

A single 3.5" floppy disk drive was built within the central unit and is located on its right side. It could be used to store up to 720k of data memory on a regular Sony 3.5" floppy disk that is double-sided.[3] Apricot Computers also provided an external 10 MB Rodime 3.5" hard drive for extra data storage purposes.[4]

Voice Recognition System[edit]

The Apricot Portable was the first portable computer to utilize an input/output voice speech recognition system. A microphone was clipped to the front of the unit that was used specifically for this system. It could have been used while clipped to the unit or it could be unclipped and used in hand. The voice recognition system had the ability to hold a vocabulary file up to 4096 words. However, only 64 words could be held in RAM at a time.[6]

The speech recognition system had the ability to learn and respond to foreign languages or even a personal code.[3] This was possible because the system worked by training the computer to understand one's commands to certain words. First, a vocabulary disk file needed to be created with a .voc extension. Then, words needed to be entered into the machine along with the corresponding command that one wanted the machine to respond to. After entering those words, the system needed to be trained to get used to the commands one created. This was accomplished by repeating the words one entered into the external microphone. The more times a word was repeated, the better the result.[6]

Software[edit]

The Apricot Portable came with a software bundled set. The set included a variety of useful applications such as a word processor software called SuperWriter, a spreadsheet software called SuperPlanner, and even a personal diary software called ACT Diary. Other applications included SuperCalc and ACT Sketch.[4] The Portable also came with a free interactive tutorial disk that demonstrated how to use the system and all its features.[3]

The Portable could have also processed over 2000 software packages that Apricot Computers offered including programs such as Lotus 1-2-3 and many more.[3]

Price[edit]

A basic model of the Apricot Portable containing 256k of RAM space was sold for £1695 (which is approximately $2460). An additional color display containing 128k RAM and a mouse added an extra £300 (or $435) to its price.[6] The price of the original model was lowered in 1985 when a new version of the model was released containing 512k RAM space instead of the usual 256k.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "1984 advertisement for Apricot Portable". 
  2. ^ a b "Apricot Portable - Computing History". www.computinghistory.org.uk. Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "ACT/Apricot - Apricot (and related) advertisements". actapricot.org. Retrieved 2016-02-09. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "OLD-COMPUTERS.COM : The Museum". www.old-computers.com. Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  5. ^ Inc, InfoWorld Media Group (1985-06-10). InfoWorld. InfoWorld Media Group, Inc. 
  6. ^ a b c d "ACT/Apricot - Apricot history". actapricot.org. Retrieved 2016-02-02. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Apricot Portable at Wikimedia Commons