Compucolor II

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Compucolor II
Compucolor II Computer.jpg
Compucolor II computer with Centronics 737 printer (Zagreb, 1980)
Manufacturer Compucolor Corporation
Release date 1976
Retail availability 1976-1983
Units sold 1000+
Operating system Compucolor FCS OS
CPU Intel 8080/8080A 8-bit uP
Memory 8K, 16K, 32K
Storage Proprietary Floppy Drive
Display 13" color delta-gun CRT
Input Proprietary parallel keyboard interface, modified EIA RS-232-C modem port, 50-pin custom bus.
Camera None
Touchpad None
Connectivity EIA RS-232C
Power 120 or 240 AC 50/60Hz
Online services ISIS (Intelligent Systems Information Service)
Predecessor ISC 3620 Family
Successor ISC 3621...

The Compucolor II was an early color home computer product introduced in 1976 by Compucolor Corporation located in Norcross, Georgia USA. It was clearly a major product breakthrough in color graphics, text, and storage.

The Compucolor II initially became available at three price points: $1,395.00 (base), $1,595.00 (Extended), and $1,795.00 (Deluxe) in USD. The price difference governed by the internal "User" memory. The "base" unit came equipped with 8 KB RAM, followed by "extended" as 16 KB, and then "Deluxe 32 KB". It was the first color home computer system with built-in color graphics, floppy based data storage, and a specialized "QWERTY"-style keyboard. The RAM memory of that time was generally dynamic RAM.

The Compucolor II color computer and integrated monitor was built into a standard General Electric (GE) 13" color television set cabinet. These cabinets were procured without TV components and modified to house a custom set of video analog electronics, digital board, and floppy drive. This was by design.

The machine was based on the Intel 8080 operating at 1.99 mHz clock rate and used a SMC CRT5027 video controller programmed to provide the 64 character by 32 line screen format. Internal proprietary ROM firmware allowed a plot graphics array of 128 H by 128 V available in 8 colors. Again, the system was sold with as User RAM in increments of 8 KB of RAM, expandable up to 16 or 32 KB.

Three available keyboards having 72 (standard), 101 (expanded), or 117 (deluxe) individual keys. which attached to the computer with a 25-pin ribbon cable. The keys were deluxe full-travel "Cherry brand" type having golden cross-bar contacts with excellent feel and reliability. Key tops were engraved with special legends to help manage computer functions.

The Compucolor II used a custom designed 51.2KB 5.25" floppy disk drive, which was placed on the right side of the monitor cabinet. The design utilized a serial interface and was referred to as the "Compucolor Drive" or "CD". There were reliability issues with this design since any variance in motor spindle speed would cause difficulty reading or writing floppy media. Also there were a few electromagnetic issues within the cabinet space that interfered with the floppy recording and read process.

A ROM-based BASIC was included as an improved and sub-licensed version of Microsoft BASIC. Compucolor Corporation took a few steps to improve BASIC. The real fact is that Compucolor Corporation worked closely with Microsoft Corporation. A licensing agreement was agreed to the best interest of both companies. The past stories of Compucolor "bootlegging" Microsoft's BASIC are not true.

The disk operating system known as "File Control System" or "FCS" was designed in-house before the more modern MSDOS or PCDOS designs. FCS was developed, expanded, and proven to be a viable method to store data at the time

In the case of FCS, when a file was deleted, the individual file would be "removed from the file list volume" and remaining data would be moved to fill sequential empty space, using the 4 KB portion of display video RAM as a transfer buffer memory. In modern-day terms, files would be automatically defragmented to prevent cross-linked files.

Most legally available software for the Compucolor II was written by in-house software programmers. There was a large groundswell of hobbyists and user groups who created software for sale or "shareware" among its groups.The most important title for the Compucolor II was probably a game called "Star Trip" which mimicked the "Star Trek" genre.

Over 20 software titles were officially released by Compucolor Corporation with custom 5-1/4" artwork title covers. In no particular order public release order:

Air Raid, Othello, Blackjack, Bounce, Chess, Cubic Tic Tac Toe, Lunar Lander, Maze Master, Sharks, Shoot, Solitaire, Star Trader, Star Trek (Renamed Star Trip), Swarms

Compucolor Corporation opened its first retail computer store in Norcross, Georgia USA in 1979. It was aptly named the "Compucolor Computer Store". The store had limited success in the six months of operation. The general public did not know what a color home computer could do! The store concept was abandoned.

By 1983, Compucolor Corporation was closed. Follow-on Compucolor II color home/office computers manufactured by Intelligent Systems Corporation of Norcross, Georgia USA would continue for additional years in different product formats.

This 2016 data update is provided by an original Compucolor II / ISC employee & digital historian.

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