Canon Cat

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Canon Cat
Canon Cat front profile.jpg
Canon Cat
DeveloperInformation Appliance, Inc.
ManufacturerCanon Inc.
Typetask-dedicated single-unit desktop computer
Release date1987; 36 years ago (1987)
Introductory priceUS$1,495 (equivalent to $3,850 in 2022)
Discontinued1987; 36 years ago (1987)
Units sold20,000 units
Operating systemForth
CPUMotorola 68000 @ 5 MHz
Memory256 KB of RAM
Storage3½-inch 256 KB floppy disk drive
Display9-inch (229 mm) black-and-white monitor
Graphics80 x 24 characters, 672 x 344 resolution
ConnectivityInternal 300/1200 bit/s modem
Mass20.3 pounds (9.2 kg)

Canon Cat is a task-dedicated desktop computer released by Canon Inc. in 1987 at the price of U.S. $1,495.[1] On the surface, it was not unlike dedicated word processors popular in the late 1970s to early 1980s, but it was far more powerful, and incorporated many unique ideas for data manipulation.


Canon Cat is primarily the creation of Jef Raskin, the originator of the Macintosh project at Apple.[1] After leaving the company in 1982 and founding Information Appliance, Inc., he began designing a new computer closer to his original vision of an inexpensive, utilitarian "people's computer". Information Appliance developed the Swyft computer prototype, and then developed and licensed it to Canon as the Cat. BYTE in 1987 described the Cat as "a spiritual heir to the Macintosh".[2]

It features a text user interface, not making use of any pointer (mouse), icons, or graphics.[1][3] All data are seen as a long "stream" of text broken into several pages. Instead of using a traditional command line interface or menu system, the Cat makes use of its special keyboard, with commands being activated by holding down a "Use Front" key and pressing another key.[4] The Cat also uses special "Leap keys", which, when held down, allows the user to incrementally search for strings of characters.[5]

The machine's hardware consists of a 9-inch (229 mm) black-and-white monitor (80 x 24 character display, 672 x 344 resolution),[6] a single 3½-inch 256 KB floppy disk drive, and an IBM Selectric–compatible keyboard. It uses a Motorola 68000 CPU (like the Macintosh, Lisa, Atari ST, and Amiga) running at 5 MHz, has 256 KB of RAM, and an internal 300/1200 bit/s modem. Setup and user preference data are stored in 8 KB of non-volatile (battery backed-up) RAM. The Cat's array of I/O interfaces encompasses one Centronics parallel port, one RS-232C serial port (DB-25), and two RJ11 telephone jacks for the modem loop. The total weight of the system is 17 pounds (7.7 kg).

An extensive range of application software is built into 256 KB of ROM: standard office suite programs, communications, a 90,000-word spelling dictionary, and user programming toolchains for Forth and assembly language.

A text-only machine, the Cat includes graphics routines in ROM as well as connectors for a mouse or other pointing device that are never used.[7]

There is a defunct software project called Archy, initiated by Raskin, to develop a similar yet even more capable system for current computing systems. The project was designed to eventually replace current software user interfaces.

See also[edit]

  • Jupiter Ace, a British home computer of the early 1980s that also used Forth


  1. ^ a b c "CAT Canon". Retrieved 2023-02-23.
  2. ^ Shapiro, Ezra (October 1987). "A Spiritual Heir to the Macintosh". BYTE. p. 121. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  3. ^ "Online Help Screens from the Cat". 2004. Retrieved 2023-02-23.
  4. ^ "Canon Cat". DigiBarn Computer Museum. Retrieved 2023-02-23.
  5. ^ Canon Cat Quick Reference Card (PDF). Canon Inc. 1987.
  6. ^ David Alzofon, David Caulkins (April 26, 1987). "Cat Reference Guide" – via Internet Archive.
  7. ^ " / gui discussion :: jef raskin response".

External links[edit]