There are a couple of computers I want to put my hands upon before I kick the bucket. The Ampere WS-1 and a vintage GRiD computer are on the top of that list. Today, I can cross-off the GRiD. Although it is not the Compass 1100 – the most beautiful computer in the world as SVM stated it in April 1984 – I have that warm and fuzzy feeling when I play with my new GRiDCase3.
If you don’t know, the Compass’ was flown by NASA in the Space Shuttle flights STS-35 and STS-36, under the name SPOC (Shuttle Portable On-Board Computer – see links at the end of the post for more). Beside the plasma display, the early GRiD computers (Compass and Case) have their revolutionary clamshell design, an iconic magnesium allow shell, OS and SW on ROMs, bubble memory as storage – so no mechanical parts – and a nice spread of I/O interfaces, including a MODEM (1200 bps) and HP-IB. Note that GRiD still exists today, as a UK compute defense systems provider: https://www.griduk.com/. Back in 1985, the GRiDCase3 was powered by an Intel 80C86 @ 4.77 MHz and an Intel 8087 math coprocessor. It also has a 3”5 floppy drive. This is good news since I believe that ROMs for this puppy is quite rare.
Another good point is that users had the choice of the OS. Either the GRiD OS or MS-DOS. My model is booting DOS 2.11d. It was essential to me that my GRiD has a plasma display to complete my collection (25 lines x 80 columns and a resolution of 640 x 400 pixels). Indeed, I own an HP-207 with a yellow plasma screen (booting HP-UX – https://jameltayeb.com/2015/12/31/hp-207-part-1-presentations/) and the T3200 systems from Toshiba (https://jameltayeb.com/2014/11/09/the-glowing-beauty-of-a-gas-plasma-screen/). To close on the specification’s topic, I would add 11 x 15 x 2,2 inches for 12,7 pounds, and 128 KB of bubble memory! This is remarkable if you compare it to the first PC desktops. One could buy such marvel for $4.5K in the ’80s, which in today’s dollar flirts with the cost of a car!
If you want to learn more on GRiD systems, you may be interested in the following links:
- History of GRiD by GRiD UK
- A Laptop in Space
- Computer, Onboard, GRID Compass II, Shuttle
- On board the Space Shuttle by Len
- GRID TURNS 25!
- A collection of GRiD spotting and more…
- Run SPOC on your computer
- SPoC Boot and configuration for world map