Intelligent Systems Corporation (ISC)
8001 CRT

[JPEG image of ISC 8001]

    The ISC 8001 is a very early desktop implementation of the concept of an "intelligent CRT" dating from 1977.

    The machine is housed in a single cabinet with all CPU and monitor electronics in the same housing. The monitor is a 19" colour monitor and is capable of limited graphics rendering (160x192 "pixels") with 8 foreground and 8 background colours. In text mode, the screen displays 48 lines of 80 characters. The keyboard is a separate component and is connected to the base unit by about four feet of cable.

    The CPU is implemented around Intel's 8080 chip, regarded by some as the "granddaddy of all micros". The 8080's 64 kb memory space is divided in half, the lower 32 kb devoted to ROM space, with the upper 32 kb split between 8 kb video memory, and the user program space (of which this example has the maximum of 24 kb).

    Connected to this system is a dual 5 1/4" floppy drive subsystem (shown atop the 8001 in the photo), the drivers for which are located in ROM. The floppies are standard Shugart Associates devices with a formatted capacity of 110 kb each. The floppy controller is an FD1771 and the format for the mini-floppies is merely a shortened version (fewer sectors per track) of that used on standard 8" floppies.

    There are currently two DEC RX-180 units (also of Shugart Associates manufacture) attached to the 8001. They are just visible to the left of the main cabinet.

    The keyboard on this system is a bit of an oddity in that instead of switches for each of the keys, this one uses an optical system based on shutters and light beams. While extremely rugged and immune to RFI, the optical system requires large key movements and does not support key rollover.

    The machine has a basic File Control System (DOS, sort of) in ROM, a built-in terminal emulation program, a BASIC interpreter, and a (very good) debugger.

    This was quite the advanced machine in its day, and served for years as my primary system through the mid- to late- '80s. I programmed it using an assembler written in BASIC on my TRS-80 Mod 100 , then uploaded the resulting binary to the ISC via an RS-232 line.

    I'm not sure how many of these devices were produced, but there were enough to warrant a terminfo entry in many modern UNIX systems. Look for it.

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Last Modified: Thu Aug 22 21:46:31 EDT 1996