NABU Network

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The NABU Network was an early home computer system which was linked to a precursor of the Internet, operating over cable TV. It operated from 1982 to 1985, primarily in Ottawa, Canada. Its functionality was then revolutionary, though it was not a commercial success. It has been called "The Internet — 10 years ahead of its time" [1] (even though elements of the history of the internet predate it).


Families, schools, or individuals would purchase a NABU Network PC, which would be connected via cable TV to NABU's servers. In addition to normal PC capabilities of the time, the computer could download software and information content through the cable feed and could upload primitive information back up to the servers. Applications included games, the programming language Logo, news/current events, and rudimentary PC banking/shopping. At its peak, approximately 100 applications were available.

The NABU Network can be credited as being the first online version of fantasy baseball. The Game, aptly named Managers Baseball, allowed for choosing teams based on the real names and statistics of MLB teams and players. Player performance in the game was based on real life player statistics and as a Manager you would draft your team and compete against another owner in a mock up game in a purely managerial role.

The NABU Network PC cost $950 CAD, approximately the same price as the wildly successful Commodore 64 at the time, and the network service cost $8 to $10 per month.[2]


The heart of a NABU (which stands for Natural Access to Bi-directional Utilities) PC was the Z80A processor chip (running at a then lightning-fast 3.57 MHz) and the cutting-edge TI 9918 video chip, which was able to produce some very good graphics for its time. All this was served up via a Gould SEL mainframe. The logic module included four socketed chips: a TR1865CL-04, a full-duplex UART, an SC87253P 8-bit microprocessor, an N8X60N FIFO I/O controller and a pre-programmed ROM. The remainder of the parts on the board were numerous 74LS series logic ICs. There was an RF module that down-converted signals from the cable connection and up-converted requests to be sent to the server. There were four circuit boards for frequency synthesis, data in and out and RF conversion and dual helical coil bandpass filters.

Download speeds over the cable TV line were up to 6.4 Mbit/second.

By default, the PCs lacked any individual offline storage, but an optional hard drive could be purchased.

Business success[edit]

The NABU service first became available in 1983 through Ottawa Cablevision and Skyline Cablevision, through the efforts of John Kelly and Bruce Hempell. The project was heavily subsidized by the Canadian government, and . A major weakness of the Ottawa network was the strictly one-way connection as it was implemented on Ottawa Cablevision. The NABU system itself was bi-directional, but most cable networks of that era did not support this feature due to the cost required for a bidirectional cable infrastructure — a "chicken and egg" problem that limited NABU's market potential.

Campeau Corporation was a major investor in NABU but pulled out in 1984.[3][4]

Another network was started in Japan. However, NABU never achieved commercial success and ceased operation in 1985.

Display at York University Computer Museum[edit]

York University Computer Museum (YUCoM) and Center for the History of Canadian Microcomputing Industry provides a display and a virtual tour of this and other Canadian inventions.[5][6][7][8] [9][10][11][12]


  1. ^ "The Internet Before Its Time: NABU Network in the Nation's Capital". Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  2. ^ "NABU Network". Archived from the original on 2006-05-03. Retrieved 2015-02-05.
  3. ^ Powell, James (2018-10-29). "Remember This? The NABU Network". Ottawa Matters. Retrieved 2020-01-04.
  4. ^ "NABU Ends Service to Customers". The Washington Post. 1984-11-21. Retrieved 2020-01-04.
  5. ^ "YUCoM Artifacts - 1970". Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-01-04. Retrieved 2012-02-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "NABU Network was an idea well ahead of its time" (PDF). YFile – York's Daily Bulletin. April 28, 2009. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  8. ^ "The NABU Network" (PDF). 7 January 2010. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  9. ^ "Homepage (Archived)" (PDF). The Ottawa Citizen – March 4, 2004. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  10. ^ Sutcliffe, Mark (2009-04-24). "NABU Network an idea well ahead of its time". Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-06-03. Retrieved 2012-02-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-08-27. Retrieved 2012-02-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]