Origin of the term minicomputer (was Re: PDP-1 as minicomputer

Tony Duell ard at p850ug1.demon.co.uk
Sat Aug 21 15:36:13 CDT 2010


> Heh!  After looking at hp9830.com for just a bit, I think I see your 
> problem.  There are some really interesting turns of phrase on that page 

The HP9830 was marketted as a 'calculator', but IMHO it was full-blwon 
computer. It has a QWERTY keybaord, an alphanumeric display (albeit one 
line of 32 characters, which is a 'window' onto a 96 character logical 
line IIRC), and programs in BASIC. 

I find it to be an interesting machine. It's certainly a candidate for 
the title 'first personal computer' in that it is an all-in-one desktop 
machine with ROM BASIC. Put it on a desk, plug it into the mains, turn it 
on and start typing BASIC. Pretty amazing for 1973.

As I mentioned earlier, the processor is mostly simple logic chips with a 
few ROMs (micorocede and ALU tables). The rest of the machins is also 
mostly stnadard chips, the only custom parts are ROMs -- those are very 
custom, not just in the programming, but also the decices themeselves 
which are HP 512 byte parts (IIRC the chip is 2 256 byte halves, which 
can be donded out as either a 512*8 or a 256*16 device -- the 256*16 
state machine ROM in, e.g. the 59309 digital clock is one of those). 
Anyway, the ROMs are sufficiently odd that replacing them with more 
modern parts is non-trivial. The RAMs are standard -- Intel 1103s -- but 
now very hard to find. But the machine is otherwise very repairable.

Of course being HP of that period it's very well made and pleasant to 
work on. 

Bit serial machines are not common anyway, which makes this one 
moderately interesting...


> using forms of the words "calculate" and "compute" in the same sentence. 
>   Gotta go read that site in more detail when I have a chance.  You'd 
> mentioned it enough times I just had to google and see what it was. 
> Looks like a quite fascinating machine!  I'd love to try lunar lander on 
> one.

I don't rememebr a lunar lander for it (there's a very famous one for the 
DEC GT40 terminal...), but anyway.

There is some information on the 9830 on http://www.hpmuseum.org/ and 
rather more (including downloadable user and service manuals, scheamtics, 
etc) on http://www.hpmuseum.net/

-tony



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