History of the PC-3201
written by Maurice Hawes / SUC/UK
Source: SUC-magazine November 1999, Volume 19 Number 3, p. 17
|A Brief History of the PC-3201|
Re-reading the review, I recalled the many non-standard and now archaic-sounding commands in the FDOS and BASIC systems for the PC-3201. For example, CAT A0 / CAT A1 instead of DIR A: / DIR B:, INIT instead of FORMAT, and DISP instead of PRINT.
The rewiewer noted early on that the wiring between the main unit and the peripherals was like platefuls of spaghetti; but he complimented the arithmetical accuracy and some of the other features of the BASIC, and concluded his review by saying:
This is a good-looking, apparently reliable .. computer. The keyboard is excellent and so is the adjustable screen, except that there are no true descenders. Drawbacks are that it only supports BASIC and it is extremely slow.
The prices quoted in the review were:
All these prices are EX VAT; in the same Magazine the most obvious competitor is a 64K SUPERBRAIN QD £2195 ( 2 x 360K FDs but no printer ).
The big problem with the PC-3201 as supplied, not mentioned in the above review, was that it had a BASIC-IN-ROM wired in at $0000 - $3FFF. Such a machine cannot run a normal version of CP/M. Sharp later got round this by writing an idiosyncratic version of CP/M which starts at $4200 and requires programs to load and run at $4300, thus defeating the whole object of having CP/M at all, which was to provide a standard program platform for all Z80 disk-based machines. A better solution came from Microtechnology Ltd; they provided a relocator card for the PC-3201 which allows the ROM chips at $0000 - $3FFF to be replaced by RAM, and they could then write a version of CP/M which starts at $0000 and requires programs to load and run at $0100 i.e. in the usual way.
I bought my PC-3201 in April 1992, for £50. lt was a useful experience as it did not have a relocator card, and I thus learned about the machines idiosyncracies. I later acquired the necessary card and was then able to transport all my favourite CP/M programs to the PC-3201 and run them O.K. under the Microtechnology version of PC-3201 CP/M 2.2. But the machine is now out of action due to a fault on the main board, and I am finding it hard to raise the enthusiasm to search for it.
In short, I hesitate to recommend anyone to take on the PC-3201, even
as a gift. The MZ-3500 provides a similar platform but offers the distinct
advantages of having built-in disk drives, printer and RS-232 ports,
and much better graphics. So if you want to get the feel of an early
Sharp business computer, go for the MZ-3500 rather than the PC-3201,
which is, Im afraid, a Dodo.
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