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JonB
November 10th, 2014, 12:07 PM
I seem to be getting very interested in CP/M and I'm wondering which is the best retro computer to run it on.

My parameters for "best" are performance, interfaces, hard drive availability, floppy size, keyboard quality, screen quality and graphical capability (not too important that one!)

I have a few already: TRS80 Model 4, amstrad 6128 and 8512, Tatung Einstein and Memotech MTX512. Of these, only the TRS 80 and the Memotech have hard drives (both implemented with modern flash memory).

None of them seem to fit the bill (although I do like the Model4).

What should I look out for, and why?

tezza
November 10th, 2014, 12:45 PM
I'd be interested to know why you don't think the Model 4 fits the bill? Or is it that you just want a few more choices.

The Epson QX-10 is a lovely CP/M machine, although I'm not sure if hard drive implementation is easy.

Tez

Chuck(G)
November 10th, 2014, 01:14 PM
Do you mean 8-bit CP/M? CP/M-86? CP/M-68K?

geoffm3
November 10th, 2014, 01:53 PM
If it weren't for the lack of RS-232 port, I'd say Commodore 128DCR.

The Coleco ADAM is an oft-overlooked option, and it's my favorite, if only because I can also play ColecoVision games on it too. ;) You do need a few bits and bobs to make it more palatable as out of the box it only does 32/40 column modes. You can add a serial port card and run a workalike called TDOS on it. Again lacks serial port out of the box.

I had an Epson QX-10 and I think it was the nicest in terms of form factor.

per
November 10th, 2014, 02:08 PM
I've not used too many CP/M machines, but to my knowledge CP/M itself is mainly text-based. In other words anything that uses graphics has to have been custom-made for the machine.

I've only used the Tiki-100, a sort-of Z80 hybrid between a home-computer and a desktop. It's not really running official CP/M, but rather a clone equivalent to 56K CP/M version 2.2. It's more customizable than the official CP/M in terms of disk-formats and terminal emulation, but otherwise the software interfaces are just the same (letting most CP/M software run on the machine). What's great is that you could also get a x86 card for the machine, adding support for CP/M-86 "CMD" programs.

The CPU is a 4MHz with 1 waitstate on M1, and otherwise waitstates on video RAM access. There is 64K of RAM, up to 16K of ROM (bank-switched), 32K of video RAM (bank-switched as well), 3 graphics modes (256/512/1024 pixel x256 lines bitmap @ 4/2/1 bits per pixel respectively), 256-color palette selection, hardware vertical repositioning (can be used for scroll-effects), Analog out, digital out (limited palette), composite out and RF out. All 50Hz-PAL of course. AY-3-8912 Soundchip, Western Digital FD1797 Floppy controller, Parallel port with auxilliary cirquits for a casette connection (run by a Z80-PIO), dual serial-port (Z80-DART), a timer (Z80-CTC) and a keyboard with full n-rollover.

There was a few addons. As mentioned, a card with a 6MHz 8088 and up to 512K RAM was available and a HDD controller (WD1010-on-a-card) at least supporting half-height equivalents of the ST-412. I've only seen a single of these machine with HDD though, so that one is really hard to come by. Other additions were two different analog/digital I/O interfaces, a video-sync expansion, and a light-pen interface.

It's a very capable machine; sort-of like an Amstrad CPC 664 on crack. Only problem was that it really didn't catch on outside the educational sector due to inconvenient circumstances. The machine was designed from specifications set forth by the national educational departement, and they demanded CP/M compatibility. On release, it was clear that x86 and PC-compatibility was the future in business computing, and the Tiki-100 was simply to big and clunky to compete as a home computer. Needles to say, not much non-educational software was made, and only a fraction of that really took advantage of what the hardware could deliver.

But as a CP/M "text-only" machine it's very good. Using the different terminal-emulators and floppy-configurations gives it great compatibility, and the keyboard is rather comfortable as well. With the addition of the x86 card you can run CP/M and CP/M-86 programs seamlessly from the same command-line interpereter, and if you ever wanted to CP/M in 40x12 text using a font somewhat similar to Comic Sans, then I believe no other vintage machine gives you that option.

PS. The OS and its tools is in Norwegian.

barythrin
November 10th, 2014, 02:38 PM
May seem boring but you could theoretically get an IBM 5150 or 5160 and run cpm-86. Then at least you have dos also and all the nice compatibility and cheapness of the x86 market.

lisa2
November 10th, 2014, 02:53 PM
Get a DEC Rainbow. Excellent build quality, super sharp smooth scrolling video (with color support), large capacity disk drives, and the best keyboard ever.

Rick

Chuck(G)
November 10th, 2014, 04:01 PM
May seem boring but you could theoretically get an IBM 5150 or 5160 and run cpm-86. Then at least you have dos also and all the nice compatibility and cheapness of the x86 market.

Yup, you can run CP/M-86 with all of the graphic goodness of the PC interface (if desired), or Concurrent CP/M or MP/M-86 if you want to get fancy. If you've got a 5160, you can run CP/M-80 if you use a V20 CPU and the appropriate emulation package.

Or you can just run the whole shebang on whatever modern platform you have using virtualization software, like VirtualBox.

CP/M-80 suffers from the fragmentation of the 8-bit world, so you have some very basic command-line applications that will run on anything, and then the rest, which, if they aren't preconfigured for your particular hardware, will drive you nuts trying to get them to work.

There was a pretty good set of applications published for PC CP/M-86, including some applications that are also present in MS-DOS versions.

mnbvcxz
November 10th, 2014, 05:11 PM
I seem to be getting very interested in CP/M and I'm wondering which is the best retro computer to run it on.

My parameters for "best" are performance, interfaces, hard drive availability, floppy size, keyboard quality, screen quality and graphical capability (not too important that one!)

I have a few already: TRS80 Model 4, amstrad 6128 and 8512, Tatung Einstein and Memotech MTX512. Of these, only the TRS 80 and the Memotech have hard drives (both implemented with modern flash memory).

None of them seem to fit the bill (although I do like the Model4).

What should I look out for, and why?

Since all your machines use the Z80, I will assume you are interested in CP/M 80.
I think you already have one of the best machines, the pcw 8512, this machine was designed for "professional" users, there are a lot of them about, add-ons and CP/M software for it much easier to find than for older, more obscure systems.
I am not keen on the "rounded" look of the monitor and prefer the 9512 or pcw 10.

You may be able to find the 8Mhz accelerator that was developed for that range of systems, the HxC floppy emulator is almost as good as a hard drive, which of course were also available for the range, if you want larger floppy disks then you can fit 8" drives :) or 720/800k 3"/3.5" drives.

TRS-Ian
November 10th, 2014, 07:29 PM
The TRS-80 Model 4, it's the best CP/M system hands down. Quality keyboard, sharp screen, extremely rugged design and very reliable.

Ian.

Chuck(G)
November 10th, 2014, 08:06 PM
And high-resolution color graphics too, eh? :) Really, the OP didn't give us much to go on. What's the intended use? Some people play around with CP/M and get rather bored.

JDallas
November 10th, 2014, 09:57 PM
Workhorse CP/M:
Xerox 820s were good CP/M workhorses for me. Not fancy but solid.
I built systems around 3 motherboards from the Xerox factory surplus store.
I used them for:
. . . word processing,
. . . programming in Z80 assembly and BASIC,
. . . playing CP/M games,
. . . accessing BBSs over modem,
. . . running my BBS on one of them.
Floppy capacity was initially poor. I made a small PROM hack to take it from SSSD-40track to DSSD 80 track, quadrupling my floppy storage.
I wrote a BBS Diplomacy game (Avalon Hill) in Z80 assembly language and wrote a lot of cryptanalysis tools.

More Capable Workhorse CP/M:
The Ampro Little Board was a better system with more storage capacity on floppies. It ran CP/M 2.2 with ZCPR3; Ampro went a little crazy trying to make ZCPR3 menu applications. I just used these Ampros for writing and assembling firmware.

CP/M Disappointment:
I bought an SB-180 from Micromint in '86. It had CP/M 2.2 with ZCPR3... but I found it unremarkable and tedious. It only ran Non-Banked CP/M so the rest of the 256KB of memory just made a small RamDisk. I expected the SB-180 to be more useful, but I just ported my BBS to it.

My Best CP/M System:
My favorite CP/M system was the Japanese import, Mountainside Computers LTD, "Lat-1". It used CP/M Plus with ZCPR3 and EGA graphics... that was a very nice CP/M system. You could run Banked or Non-Banked versions; I used the rest of the 512KB DRam as a RamDisk. I used a Wyse 50 terminal as the console and had a Princeton color monitor hooked up for the EGA. I did a lot of astronomy programming for its graphics capability... took the Yale 9000 star chart database and condensed it to a useable form for displaying star maps.

eeguru
November 10th, 2014, 10:03 PM
Obviously The World's Fastest CP/M Computer (using a Z80 emulator) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tianhe-2)

Frank S
November 10th, 2014, 10:40 PM
Ferguson BigBoard II
This is/was a versatile DIY board with lot of I/O capabilities (FDC, SASI, 2xserial, par in/out).
For upgrading it has an STD bus connector.
Best implementation is done with the VarBios from Twente Digital (Netherlands) and ZCPR 2.
Here (http://www.vintagesbc.it/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/BigBoard-IIa3.jpg) is an picture of it.

Frank

JonB
November 10th, 2014, 11:21 PM
Thanks for the replies so far!

The TRS80 M4 is a pretty good CP/M machine but I think it suffers due to the low quality keyboard. However, as you may know I also have a proper Wyse 120 terminal which is easy to configure as the console, and of course there is the "El Cheapo" IDE adapter as well as FreHD (which I haven't got round to trying yet). The M4 also has a good range of I/O ports.

I should have said that I want to stick to the Z80 based machines, and the most important things for me are the keyboard, screen and hard drive availability. Model 4 has easy HDD options but the screen & keyboard are not great. I want to use it for assembly programming and general tinkering, and I want it to be quick (relatively speaking). Emulation is out, because I want to use the real hardware.

For example: the Philips P2000C has a twin CPU design (one for applications & OS, the other to handle I/O like the Superbrain) and there is an optional board to support MS-DOS (there was one of these on eBay last week but I didn't bid enough). It's also got some graphics capabilities that you program via escape sequences (it seems to have an internal terminal board) as well as a built in SASI HDD interface with boot support baked into the ROM. It has a small green screen which looks very clear and a separate low profile keyboard (not sure how it feels). It's a luggable machine in the same form factor as a Kaypro.

I'm looking at a Kaypro 10 on eBay right now but I'm not sure the hard drive is working. And I have a Superbrain QD coming at some point which I committed to buy because I'd always wanted one. What do people think of these?

There are also the Amstrads, of which I have several, but they are poorly equipped for I/O, hard drives are rare and the screen & keyboard are poor. They also have those horrid 3" disks which make transferring data a total pain. I could fit 3/5" drives to one but I don't want to damage it.

Cheers

JonB

glitch
November 11th, 2014, 05:21 AM
Kaypros are solid CP/M systems, not super fast and not really expandable though. Big benefit is their rugged, industrial design -- plus, they fold up and can be stowed out of the way when you're done! Also common and cheap. I've only ever had/used Kaypro II systems, the biggest limitation there is floppy density.

The SuperBrain is supposed to be a decent machine -- I've wanted one for a while, but never have spare cash when they show up. Kermit was written on the SuperBrain.

With a bunch of S100 hardware around, my "best" CP/M system is of course a stack of S100 boards. Mostly I like playing around with S100 hardware, plus you get to use whatever terminal you like with it, including a PC running terminal emulator software. It's probably the most flexible option, but also the least likely to "just work," unless you find a turnkey system like the CompuPro 8/16.

glitch
November 11th, 2014, 05:23 AM
There are also the Amstrads, of which I have several, but they are poorly equipped for I/O, hard drives are rare and the screen & keyboard are poor. They also have those horrid 3" disks which make transferring data a total pain. I could fit 3/5" drives to one but I don't want to damage it.

The Amstrad Z80 systems are an interesting bunch! They can have a standard 720K floppy added in addition to the Amdek drive. That big 50-pin Centronics connector on the back has pretty much the entire Z80 pinout, plus some extra Amstrad specific lines. One of my "maybe eventually" projects is to build a S100 card cage to go with the Amstrad. That would make it a really awesome little CP/M box!

JDallas
November 11th, 2014, 07:21 AM
Kaypros are solid CP/M systems, not super fast and not really expandable though. Big benefit is their rugged, industrial design -- plus, they fold up and can be stowed out of the way when you're done! Also common and cheap. I've only ever had/used Kaypro II systems, the biggest limitation there is floppy density...

Kaypros are solid CP/M systems
Agreed. Nice reliable system in its day. We had about 4 in the lab at ECA back in the mid 80s hooked up to a receiver to monitor our local clients' radio packet communications. If they had a problem we could access it from the lab immediately.

Kaypro IIs were also tough. I had ECA send me one when I was assigned to Phoenix for a few months. It survived the air freight on its own. It was a very capable system and it allowed me to work on my other project during the slow periods at that site.

codeman
November 11th, 2014, 07:40 AM
The problem I have with the TRS-80 Model 4 is that it is terrible for writing C code having to use ctrl and shift for the missing keys {} [] .
My current favorite Performance Business Machines PBM-1000 (http://www.vintage-computer.com/vcforum/showthread.php?44668-Performance-Business-Machines-PBM-1000) its quick and works very well .
ken

Chuck(G)
November 11th, 2014, 08:02 AM
There were a few fairly spectacular CP/M Z80 boxes from Japanese sellers such as Fujitsu and NEC. Multi-CPU, lots of memory, etc.

I started losing track when the "super" Z80 CPUs, such as the 64180 came out, but I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't some choice hardware using those.

But you still haven't said what you'd like to do--and that complicates matters. For example, I have an Amstrad "Joyce" word processor, but it has 512K of RAM and high-resolution graphics. Swap the awful 3.0" CF2 floppies for 3.5: 720K ones (you could probably even use 1.44M floppies with a bit of patching) and you really have a nice floppy-based system that runs CP/M plus. Yet, it wasn't that long ago, that you could have one of these for the asking--I think that they're still considered as landfill.

There were lots of Z80-based CP/M computers--many of which you've never heard of.

glitch
November 11th, 2014, 08:24 AM
For example, I have an Amstrad "Joyce" word processor, but it has 512K of RAM and high-resolution graphics.

That's the one I have, didn't know it was called a "Joyce!" The screen is very nice, lots of RAM, keyboard is decent, just by default there's nothing to plug in except a printer. I really want to build at least a serial adapter, if not a full blown expansion converter.

CanadaPhil
November 11th, 2014, 08:42 AM
If it weren't for the lack of RS-232 port, I'd say Commodore 128DCR.

.

Yes, but easily remedied by a number of third party 232 interfaces from companies like Cardco & others that would plug right into the User Port.

Chuck(G)
November 11th, 2014, 09:03 AM
That's the one I have, didn't know it was called a "Joyce!" The screen is very nice, lots of RAM, keyboard is decent, just by default there's nothing to plug in except a printer. I really want to build at least a serial adapter, if not a full blown expansion converter.

There was a serial option available, but it should be simple to pretty much build whatever you want, given that there is plenty of information (maybe still) out there.

lowen
November 11th, 2014, 09:05 AM
For retro computers, I would have to say that the 'best' CP/M machines are probably the Z80-based Altos units. Fantastic hardware; I had an ACS8000-series with twin 8 inch drives that as far as I know is still running for the person who got it from me; codeman just sold a 580-10 on eBay that boots up to three-user MP/M from hard disk (I'm glad he got a fairly reasonable price for it, too).

The TRS-80 Model II would qualify if only counting the hardware capabilities, but as I recall the major CP/Ms for it weren't exceptionally reliable. And the 'cost-reduced' Model 12 has some odd issues to keep it out of the running.

If you're interested in the most floppy formats supported, then the Montezuma Micro CP/M for the M4 is nice. The Model 4's performance is a bit less than what the Model II could deliver, though, and there is the bit with the lack of some keys on the M4 (hey, I am an M4 junkie, but I vastly prefer LS-DOS to CP/M for my retrocomputing! And now that I'm used to having some of those characters on my keyboard the lack of them on the M4 is noticeable.).

Now, if you want the retro CP/M feel with modern-retro hardware, you really should look into building an N8VEM Z80 system. If emulated hardware is enough, codeman's z-80 sim is quite nice, on pretty good hardware (I just bought a Duinomite from codeman through eBay.... just wish the TRS-80 sim code was public :-).....).

glitch
November 11th, 2014, 09:17 AM
There's also the well-done, fairly modern Zeta SBC:

http://n8vem-sbc.pbworks.com/w/page/44366173/Zeta%20SBC

It's like an Ampro Little Board for 3.5" floppy drives.

SGTSQUID
November 11th, 2014, 09:37 AM
May seem boring but you could theoretically get an IBM 5150 or 5160 and run cpm-86. Then at least you have dos also and all the nice compatibility and cheapness of the x86 market.

Theoretically? I have a copy of CP/M-86 on a shelf in an IBM binder, just like the early DOS offerings. IBM offered it as an option along with DOS and UCSD P-system.

On another note, there is a version out there that has been edited to support HD floppies and some other goodness. I have it installed on a DECpc with a 100MHz 486.

On a related note, what is the latest computer that anyone has installed CP/M-86 on? I couldn'tget it to boot on anything later that that 486 with an ISA bus.

JonB
November 11th, 2014, 10:28 AM
I have both 8256 and 8512 Amstrad "Joyce" machines and an AMX mouse. The interface slips over the edge connector. The 8256 has twin drives, one of which is double sided. I thought I'd get it out and have a play and I think it is very slow. You can see it updating the screen a character at a time. I mean, you can follow the screen update horizontally with your eyes which is to my mind really terrible. In the UK they are still cheap. I think I paid 15 each, both with printers and disks. The keyboards are awful, I have to say. Very light and plasicy, but usable.

It's probably worth fitting a pair of 800k 3" floppies instead of the horrid Amstard drives, but it really needs a hard drive and a speed boost.

To answer another question, I will use it for development. The M4 already has C compilers installed on its Cheapo IDE widget and I am looking to build a vi clone for it (an early version of stevie which I am going to port to CP/M). Missing keys on the M4 keyboard (tab, escape, [] {} etc) are a pain but as I said I have it connected to a dumb terminal. The worst thing is having to exit source code with WordStar. Slow and awkward for me as I don't know the keystrokes. I can see its a powerful word processor otherwise.

Naturally this version of vi will be released with source and credits, but I have a long way to go yet.

Chuck(G)
November 11th, 2014, 11:13 AM
On a related note, what is the latest computer that anyone has installed CP/M-86 on? I couldn'tget it to boot on anything later that that 486 with an ISA bus.

How about a quad-core AMD64 system? You can do it with Virtualbox. See info here (https://ford.ischool.utexas.edu/handle/2081/31389). I believe that there's someone who got it running under QEMU also.

If you want to work in native mode and can keep your CBIOS interface down to PC BIOS calls, there's no good reason that you can't run it on the most bleeding-edge x86 hardware. You'll probably have to start with the OEM kit, though.

acollins22
November 11th, 2014, 11:17 AM
I've used a good number of CP/M-80 machines in my time and I still have a few. One machine I used to use and enjoy working on was the NCR Decision Mate V but I've never owned one.

The build quality is very high. Much better than most. It has pixel graphics, a solid expansion system, good floppy capacity and a hard disk.

The only downer is that they are rare and expensive but great if you can find one.


Cheers,

Andy.

per
November 11th, 2014, 01:24 PM
I have both 8256 and 8512 Amstrad "Joyce" machines and an AMX mouse. The interface slips over the edge connector. The 8256 has twin drives, one of which is double sided. I thought I'd get it out and have a play and I think it is very slow. You can see it updating the screen a character at a time. I mean, you can follow the screen update horizontally with your eyes which is to my mind really terrible.
The Amstrads don't have any text-mode in hardware, so every character has to be drawn as bitmap graphics. It's a lot more flexible but the tradeoff is as you mention; display update speed.

When not outputing to the screen, it should be as fast as any other 4MHz Z80 machine.

geoffm3
November 11th, 2014, 01:38 PM
The Amstrads don't have any text-mode in hardware, so every character has to be drawn as bitmap graphics. It's a lot more flexible but the tradeoff is as you mention; display update speed.

When not outputing to the screen, it should be as fast as any other 4MHz Z80 machine.

I suppose the other tradeoff (for back then) would be greater need for RAM vs the CRTC/Character ROM route.

lowen
November 11th, 2014, 02:02 PM
There's also the well-done, fairly modern Zeta SBC:

http://n8vem-sbc.pbworks.com/w/page/44366173/Zeta%20SBC

It's like an Ampro Little Board for 3.5" floppy drives.

Now that's some sweet kit.

Chuck(G)
November 11th, 2014, 02:13 PM
I suppose the other tradeoff (for back then) would be greater need for RAM vs the CRTC/Character ROM route.

It's actually what you want for Wapro mode--I suspect that the ability to have several fonts on the screen was viewed as a necessity. I don't know if it was done, but prop spacing would have been possible. Speaking of which, does anyone know of any real systems that used the Intel character controller chip that varied the dot clock to change the width of individual characters?

JonB
November 11th, 2014, 11:22 PM
Good point about the screen! As far as I can see, the bitmap was not used for multiple fonts in Locoscript (the WP that came with it). It just acts like a normal character based interface, only slower.

There were some games for it, and also some desktops (really, "program launchers") that used the mouse. Don't forget these machines had 256k RAM (512 on the 8512) which were used for a RAMdisk in CP/M but when running directly (without CP/M as Locoscript does) you can page it.

Interesting factoid: the screen implements "roller RAM" which is a lookup table that tells you where each line begins. You can get some interesting effects (other than scrolling) by manipulating this table.

Tor
November 12th, 2014, 02:19 AM
I liked the BASIS-108 (http://www.a2clones.com/apple_clones_1/basis_108/) back in the day. That was the Apple clone in a box you could jump up and down on, with 128K RAM and Z80 built-in. Two floppy drives. Could handle both Apple and CP/M disks. Came with CP/M Plus and full DRI documentation. Separate low-profile full keyboard. I wish I had one of those computers but I was too late when they were disposed of. An Apple and a CP/M 3 computer in one nice box made a flexible useful system. I used one for a satellite tracking setup I wrote, it ran continuously for about ten years.

glitch
November 12th, 2014, 01:47 PM
Tor indirectly brings up another decent CP/M system: an Apple II with a CP/M softcard. Not the fastest, but it does run CP/M as well as Apple software! Don't expect to directly exchange disks with anything other than more Apple II CP/M users, though.

tezza
November 12th, 2014, 02:52 PM
Yes, I've configured one of my clone machines for just this purpose.
http://www.classic-computers.org.nz/collection/rx-8800.htm


Don't expect to directly exchange disks with anything other than more Apple II CP/M users, though.

Indeed. Mind you the same can be said of most CP/M machines. Unlike MS-DOS computers, most CP/M ones had specific disk formats that were standard only to that computer.

Tez

Chuck(G)
November 12th, 2014, 03:03 PM
Tor indirectly brings up another decent CP/M system: an Apple II with a CP/M softcard. Not the fastest, but it does run CP/M as well as Apple software! Don't expect to directly exchange disks with anything other than more Apple II CP/M users, though.

Dig up a Micro Solutions MatchPoint PC card and you can format, read and write those on a PC using both Apple DOS and CP/M--MS included a copy of Uniform tailored to the card. The USPS bought those by the caselot.

1ST1
November 13th, 2014, 03:28 AM
If you want a very special CP/M machine of very good hardware design and quality, try to get Olivetti ETV 250/300/350. But for 300/350 take care that you also get the fitting typewriter from the Olivetti ET 22x/11x series with the optional serial interface as these act as keyboard and daisywheel printer for the ETV system. The ETV 250 has everything included. ETV 250/350 are 3,5 inch disk based and 300 is 5,25 inch. But all of these ETV systems are a 'bit' unusual... :)

Another thing I still remember as an interesting CP/M machine was the Olympia Boss. See klick (http://www.homecomputermuseum.de/comp/276_de.htm). Olivetti also provided a Z80 CP/M card for their famous M24 PC (AT&T 6300, Xerox 6060).

bonedaddy
November 13th, 2014, 03:49 AM
Now that's some sweet kit.

I have Sergey's Zeta SBC bare PCBs available. PM or email tsg@bonedaddy.net if interested.

Todd

JDallas
November 13th, 2014, 06:39 AM
...included a copy of Uniform tailored to...
I got a copy of Uniform tailored to the SB-180 and in 1986 found it more promise than deliver. I pulled the manual out last summer to see again if it would be of any use and punted it a second time. That's basically why I decided to do my own hardware/firmware solution for universal format instead of FDC bounded.

I recall that with SB-180 and with the drive types I used, the only thing I could match with my collection was Kaypro formats; something I could do with Ampro Little Boards without an application program. About all I could say for Uniform is that I liked their product graphics. :)

I'm not saying that Uniform wasn't wonderful for other systems. But for the SB-180, it really didn't offer any advantage for me.

Chuck(G)
November 13th, 2014, 07:54 AM
Uniform (and UniDOS) got quite a bit better during its lifetime, but it dug pretty deep into MSDOS-version specific structures and it was a resident device driver set. It could get in the way. I mentioned it only in that it was bundled with the MatchPoint to handle Apple CP/M formats--something it did pretty well.

I suspect that very few people have heard of the Matchpoint PC.

per
November 13th, 2014, 08:23 AM
Tiki-100 can support standard FM/MFM CP/M formats up to 2DD/800K and 250Kbps, including software sector-interleaved formats and formats starting on sector 0 (Kaypro). The people who developed this machine knew for sure they had to support as much CP/M software and formats as possible to even stand a chance.

Did all CP/M use FM/MFM, or did some of the Apple II versions use GCR?

glitch
November 13th, 2014, 08:33 AM
Did all CP/M use FM/MFM, or did some of the Apple II versions use GCR?

It depends entirely on the controller hardware. CP/M was very flexible, in that respect. The Apple II with a CP/M softcard does use GCR with the standard Disk II controller. Some early controllers, like the OSI 470 disk controller, were nothing more than a synchronous UART and a few parallel control lines. Basically, if someone could write a driver for the controller, you could make CP/M run with it.

Chuck(G)
November 13th, 2014, 08:52 AM
Really, the disk encoding and format has little to do wither with CP/M or MSDOS. As glitch has mention, CP/M was extremely flexible.

And, so is MS-DOS. Consider, for example, the Sirius/Victor 9000. Runs both, with GCR zoned floppies.

per
November 13th, 2014, 09:42 AM
What I mean is that the OS of Tiki-100 came with a tool that let people change the disk parameters easily, so they didn't have to write custom software to do so.

Chuck(G)
November 13th, 2014, 09:54 AM
There was at least one other system that did that as well--I don't recall which one, though.

The Serpent
November 13th, 2014, 11:42 AM
As a schoolboy in Australian in the 80s, my school had a computer lab consisting entirely of Microbee CP/M machines. Diskless Z80 32k ram workstations with green monochrome displays all linked to a fileserver that had a 5 Mb HDD and dual 5.25 floppies.

Oh, and the fileserver had a colour display. COLOUR!! O.O

Microbee was an Australian computer company and I don't know if those machines ever left our burnt horizons.

I remember thinking it was pretty cool. We learned to touch type on those bad boys. TypeQuick. Also WordStar!

I'm new and I should post an intro thread in the right place so apols if I've broken rules or such-like.

RickNel
November 16th, 2014, 08:22 PM
This discussion started with a parameter "retro" that has to be guessed at.

If you are looking at Z80 but not limited to a system that is physically old, then you might find the best performance options by putting together your own S100 bus system ( more retro than anything else discussed here so far). John Monahan's new DIY S100 boards offer many combinations of I/O, RAM, storage, and peripheral interfaces, with a range of CPU options. Kind of hotrod versions of the machines CP/M-80/86 was designed for. See s100computers.com site and the N8VEM project site for what's available.

But you might want to skip over the ones pushing S-100 into later *86 CPUs.

Rick

SGTSQUID
November 16th, 2014, 09:00 PM
This discussion started with a parameter "retro" that has to be guessed at.

If you are looking at Z80 but not limited to a system that is physically old, then you might find the best performance options by putting together your own S100 bus system ( more retro than anything else discussed here so far). John Monahan's new DIY S100 boards offer many combinations of I/O, RAM, storage, and peripheral interfaces, with a range of CPU options. Kind of hotrod versions of the machines CP/M-80/86 was designed for. See s100computers.com site and the N8VEM project site for what's available.

But you might want to skip over the ones pushing S-100 into later *86 CPUs.

Rick

Does that mean my 100MHz 486 with CPM-86 installed doesn't count?:(

bonedaddy
November 17th, 2014, 05:44 AM
Does that mean my 100MHz 486 with CPM-86 installed doesn't count?:(

It counts to someone. :-)

RickNel
November 20th, 2014, 09:33 PM
You'd have to tell us whether your CPM-86 can count or not.

I'm just recalling that the OP said, more than once, that he was looking for a Z80-based system. That's 8-bit. So that seems to be one factor in his paramater "retro". But the OP has been quiet for a while.. overwhelmed with options?

Rick

JonB
November 22nd, 2014, 06:21 AM
Nope, just waiting for you all to slug it out! :)

Z-80 only is correct. If you look at my earlier posts, the parameters are laid out.

I think S-100 machines will be out as they tend to be very expensive. At the moment, as I said, I have TRS80 Model 4 with Montezuma CP/M and supposedly a Superbrain QD on the way, but I'm not sure what has happened to it. I guess the Superbrain is a good 'un but I think it has no lower case descenders which might look odd, and it has no I/O whatsoever apart from a pretty meagre couple of serial ports. Yes, there is a bus inside, but provisioning some sort of HDD will be difficult.

So it either needs an interface built in, or should have something modern that's not too expensive.

MicrocomputerSolutions
December 5th, 2014, 06:11 PM
Interesting that all the discussion has been about computers in a box. Appliances as I refer to them. I thought the OP was inquiring as to the ultimate Z-80/CPM system. Which to me would be an S-100 based system. Yes, they were the most expensive, but they were/are the most flexible and expandable, and had more accessories and add-on available than any of the appliances that came later.

I am still running (on a daily basis as needed) a Compupro System that has parts that date back to the 1980s. I have Z-80B, Z-80H, 8085, 8088, 8086, 286, 68K main processors for it that I can swap in as necessary. The system also has Z-80H, 80186, and 8085 slave processors running all the time. It's set up to support up to eight users with up to four virtual screens each, right now with the 8085/8088 dual processor installed, I can boot CPM-80, CPM-86, MS-DOS, MPM-80, MPM-86, and Concurrent DOS from, 5.25". or 8" floppy drives, a hard drive, or a tape drive.

Can you do that with any of your appliances?

per
December 5th, 2014, 06:38 PM
I don't think S-100 systems really caught on in Europe, and if you don't got one from back in the day it might be a bit of a hassle getting together just the right hardware/configuration you want.

Still, S-100 is problably the way to go if you want the absolute ultimate CP/M system.

Chuck(G)
December 5th, 2014, 08:48 PM
"Best" from a technical standpoint probably would not be S100. STD, Eurocard or Multibus would be my vote. For a long time, S100 was viewed by industry as a "hobbyist" bus.

James has put together a very nice Eurocard system. Multibus systems abound and even extend to the early generation Sun systems.

ChickenMan
December 5th, 2014, 11:33 PM
"Best" for me has to be the Australian Microbee 128 Premium Plus. Has 1GB memory, Z80 @ 3.375, boots CP/M 2.2, ZCPR2, CP/M 3, (even uClinux) and all standard CP/M 80 software. Full colour with 512x256 graphics and clock. Boots from SD card or 3.5" 776kb Floppy. Latest Shell supports function keys, Icons for chick launch and mouse, see https://www.dropbox.com/s/9ht3b7rq9g8p5vh/microbee_shell.jpg?dl=0 There are Microbee Hard Drive models as well, but this one using the SD cards load everything faster anyway. Microbees were first released in 1982 but the company still exists and released the PP+ last year. Check out http://microbeetechnology.com.au/premiumpluskit.htm

JDallas
December 6th, 2014, 06:13 AM
S-100 is still probably the best solution for hobbyists as there are more S-100 boards around today (vintage and retro) and you can more easily fit together a personalized system to suit individual tastes without the burden of more sophisticated system drivers in more advanced buses.

My advice is that you look at all the vintage and retro systems that CP/M and MP/M can run on, and if you're still not happy... design your own single board computer (SBC). That's a lot easier today than in the early 80s due to PC CAD and more powerful chips, bigger memory, silicon storage, and little need of all the logic gates common in old designs.

lowen
December 6th, 2014, 06:48 AM
...Multibus systems abound and even extend to the early generation Sun systems.

Multibus is nice; Proteon (now-defunct competitor to Cisco in the router space) made a nice 68020 on Multibus; early Cisco routers were also Multibus. Multibus was very well-designed for its time, and would be ideal for a stable platform.

Were there many Z80 Multibus cards available? I know Intel had an 8085 (I have one of those in a junk pile here), and there was at least one Z8002 board out there, but it would be interesting to see if anyone here has a CP/M Multibus system running.

To put it in PC-speak, S-100 was the VESA Local Bus of its day; PCI was more expensive but was the 'better' bus. (S-100 was the 8080 bus brought out to the card edge and Multibus was CPU-agnostic to a degree; VLB brought the '486 bus to the card edge and PCI is CPU-agnostic to a degree (the 486 and Pentium buses are quite different. There were attempts at doing VLB for Pentium (I had a Pentium 60 with three VLB slots years ago) but the performance was dismal)).

Al Kossow
December 6th, 2014, 07:32 AM
Were there many Z80 Multibus cards available?

Several, including Monolithic Systems, and National. There are some up on eBay if you search for Multibus Z80

I don't know how many had memory banking though, so getting CPM 3 going would be difficult.