Mindset (computer)

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The Mindset is a graphics workstation which was somewhat PC compatible. Introduced in spring of 1984 at list price of US$1099, the base Mindset featured 64K RAM and no floppy disk drive. A 128K model with single disk was available for $1798, and a 256K dual disk version cost $2398. The system architecure was based on the Intel 80186, with proprietary VLSI chips that enhanced and sped up the graphics. Although InfoWorld judged its primary competitor to be the Tandy 2000, Mindset's president claimed its graphics capabilities were unmatched except on US$50,000 workstations. In 1985, John J. Anderson published a review of the system decrying that the "matured" personal computer market was beginning to value compatibility over cutting edge technology.[1] Mindset's primary strategy was to be the premier platform for running Microsoft Windows, but a final version of Windows was not yet released at the time of the system's introduction.[2] The case was well designed and distinctive enough to get it into the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.[3][4]

Technical information[edit]

Unlike most PCs at the time, Mindset only generated bitmap graphics—there was no true text mode. The Mindset was one of the first PC compatibles to feature a custom graphics processing unit designed for generating a graphical user interface display. Mindset's graphics subsystem was a 2-chip VLSI design with one chip acting as a vector processor and the other handling input/output. Mindset's president compared the chipset to the Intel 8087 floating point processor.

Although it was disk compatible with the IBM PC's DOS, its enhanced graphics capabilities made achieving full IBM compatibility more difficult than its competitors.[2] Bill Gates became involved with development, assisting Mindset in emulating IBM character graphics without losing performance. Once Mindset officials determined that most of the desirable software was compatible, development was frozen and the OS burned to ROM, which locked out 20% of the PC software base, including Microsoft Flight Simulator. WordStar was one of the PC applications reported to run, and Mindset publicized a list of 60 applications that ran unmodified. The software base was expected to increase dramatically once a final version of Windows was released.[2]

Mindset's design was modular in many aspects. The top of the case had an opening to access its system bus, this allowed for the expansion module to plug into the main computer module to add memory and one or two disk drives. The Mindset was designed by several ex-Atari engineers[2] like the Amiga 1000, another computer of the era with an advanced graphics subsystem and modular expandability. Jack Tramiel (forming TTL – Tramiel Technologies Limited) tried to buy Mindset's technology in Spring of 1984.[3]

A dual 5.25" floppy drive module that sat above the main unit was available and part of the common sales configuration for the system. The module also included Expansion memory as well.

Mindset had dual front-mounted ROM cartridge ports with a locking knob on the left side of the main computer module to lock the ROM modules into place. The Mindset had the option (through its System Configuration Utility) to be able to select whether the system booted from left or right ROM carts, or disk drive. Cartridges could also contain CMOS RAM, which would be retained when unplugged by a battery in the cartridge case. Cartridges were envisioned to be a primary medium for software distribution on the Mindset, but sales of the system were too low for cartridges to be economical, and software was distributed on disk instead.[3]

While released in 1984, models of the M1001 Mindset computer with BIOS ROM code 1.07 and earlier show a copyright notice of (c) 1983 Mindset Computer Corp.

Mindset II[edit]

The Base System Unit was referred to as Model M1001; later a "Mindset II" computer was released, a badge engineered version of the M1001, with an adhesive label designating "II" under the embossed name. Internally the Video Processor Board is a separate mini-daughterboard. Its enhanced functionality is not totally understood - but from the "Mindset II Advanced Professional Videographics System" users guide it makes mention "Chaining" two Mindset's:

It is possible to genlock any Mindset System to a Mindset II. In such a case, the composite video output of one Mindset is used as an external video source for the Video Production Module connected to the Mindset II. It is very important that the Mindset System being used as a video source be set in the interlaced mode. Otherwise, vertical locking will not occur.

The Mindset II is referred to on the front of the user guide as Model# M1500, however other internal pages reference is an M1000-II and also make mention of Mindset Video Production Module Model# M1011.

Rear ports[edit]

The rear of the computer is equipped with the following ports:

  • Audio left
  • Composite out
  • TV/RF
  • Channel 3/4 select wwitch
  • RGB video
  • EXT sync
  • Aux in
  • Aux out

The rear of the main computer module also has 3× 36 Pin Expansion bus slots.
The Dual Disk/Memory Expansion Unit adds an additional 3 36 Pin Expansion bus slots to the system.

Expansion Modules[edit]

  • Dual Disk Drive / Memory Expansion Module

(Note: While no noticeable internal or external differences, some Dual Disk Drive/Memory Expansion modules are marked Model # M1003 and others have been found to be marked M1004)

  • Parallel "Cartridge Module"
  • Serial "Cartridge Module"
  • Modem "Cartridge Module"
  • 128 km memory "Cartridge Module"
  • Hard Drive System, consisting of an Interface "Cartridge Module" and HD loader on NVRAM cartridge


  • Mouse
  • Analog joystick
  • Touch Tablet
  • Video Fader


  1. ^ "Mindset micro; pushing the envelope, or whatever happened to innovation?". ...the marketplace has "matured," and in its maturation process it has lost much of its original spark, innovation, and imagination. Today supposed graphics "experts" think of graphics in terms of when to use a pie chart as opposed to a bar chart. Today a program like City had better run on the Commodore 64, or else be capable of charting the cost of equity capital. Today the idea of designing machines that push the envelope of graphics price/performance has caved in to the design of machines that are compatible but cheaper. It is a shift in emphasis that makes the micro world a colder place for those who are motivated enough to seek something more. 
  2. ^ a b c d "InfoWorld Mar 19 1984". 
  3. ^ a b c "Mindset micro; pushing the envelope, or whatever happened to innovation?".  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "creativecomputing" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  4. ^ "MOMA The Collection Robert Brunner, Mindset Personal Computer, 1983". 

External links[edit]