|The SWTP Effect -The Microcomputer Revolution In The UK|
|Written by Historian|
|Thursday, 16 August 2018|
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What software could you hope to run on this sort of machine? The answer was a BASIC interpreter written to fit into only 3Kbytes so that a 4Kmachine would just have room to run a program. This was loaded from cassette and could save programs back to cassette.
There was also an assembler/editor and some very simple games such as Star Trek - a character based game played on a grid much like battleships. While the rest of the world was working with Microsoft Basic the UK had already struck a blow for freedom by mainly using SWTP Basic!
An original SWTP ad - click to enlarge.
The system grew from a simple cassette based machine to one that had disk drives - and disk drives need an operating system.
Again the UK opted for something other than the standard. SWTP standardized on an operating system called Flex produced by a little known company called TSC. Flex used an elegant design and was easy to use. The first version used a linked list filing system that only used a basic directory and made sequential file reads fast. Its only problem was that the disk filing system didn’t handle direct access files at all - but in those days you were pleased to get a computer, let alone one that would let you build a database system!
One morning the trade magazines suddenly announced that an operating system called CP/M was the standard. What they really meant was that it was the standard in the US. In the UK when a machine had disk drives it probably used Flex but suddenly CP/M became important here too and guess what - CP/M didn’t run on 6800 systems. The SWTP product was now well and truly isolated.
The final round of machines incorporated memory bank switching and a new operating system called UniFlex, a completely rewritten operating system modeled on Unix. The machine was beginning to look like the minicomputers of the time.
For example its hard disk was a 10” model built into a case the size of a blanket box and too heavy to be picked up by one person.
Picture Credit: Michael Holley
The UK 1970s Big Board Computers
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|Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 August 2018 )|