The SHARP PC-1500 pocket computer family is fantastic! Every model is well built, durable, and reliable, with a long battery life, a pleasant BASIC, access to machine language, graphics, and an extensive software library. Ah, I almost forgot; they also have a plethora of peripherals and expansion modules. In other words, a must-have in your pocket computer collection, and even better, spend time using them.
I used my PC-1500 for years as a kid and have a sweet spot for this machine. I wrote about it several times (here or here). Proof of its success, the PC-1500 was produced under license in the U.S. (Tandy), in Hungary (Hiradástechnika Szövetkezet), and even in China (Nanfeng). You can find a lot of information about this remarkable system by reading the excellent PC-1500.info website (here).
But today, I will share about the uber-rare PC-1500D. Even the name is uncertain. Indeed, the sole document I found referencing this name can be found at PocketGriffon‘s museum at Muuseo (here). You can see the D denomination on the packaging of the machine. But besides the gorgeous blue bezel, nothing about model D differs from one of the Japanese versions. The keyboard has support for Japanese characters. The good news is that the 1500D was shipped, circa 1984, with the CE-157 module. This small plug-in package gives access to the Kana characters and 4 KB or additional RAM. Indeed, without this module, even if your PC-1500 has Japanese characters printed on the keyboard, you cannot use them (in-line or on a program).
If you search the web for this version of the PC-1500 – a.k.a. blue – only seven sites have this system (make it eight with this one 😊). I listed them at the end of the post for your convenience.
- PocketGriffon‘s Muuseo page (here)
- The Pocket Computer World page (here)
- The PC-1500.info page (here)
- The page on Kyoro’s Room (here)
- The page on Kyoro’s Room Blog (here)
- Dom‘s presentation on the Silicium forum (here)
- The page on Pir2‘s side (here)
The blue color of the 1500D is not a production error, although I found nothing that could explain its existence. I suspect this was a special edition, maybe related to a contest organized by SHARP or, more likely, a magazine. At this time, I can’t access my Pokecom magazines – they are still buried deep in my storage – so I could not check. However, such special editions existed in the past, for example, with the also blue SHARP PC-E500 Pokecom edition (here). I will update you once I learn something verifiable.
In the meantime, although coincidental, other special blue editions of calculators or computers have been produced. For example, the blue HP-50G (here). More than the color, we should focus on the origin of these systems. Indeed, these variations – color, name, etc. – often come from Brazil and target the Latin American market—for example, the Prestige version of the HP 12C financial calculator.
The next obvious question is, why Brazil? The answer goes back to the 1973 oil crisis, a.k.a. Oil Shock. For my youngest readers, in October 1973, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) proclaimed an oil embargo to protest the Yom Kippur War. As a result, Brazil had a severe balance-of-payment problem, importing 80% of its oil like many other countries. In addition to the trade disequilibrium, national security concerns of the military government – a dictatorship – pushed for nationalization and protectionist measures. One of them was to close the Brazilian market to foreign companies and produce locally the computers the country needed.
In the February 19, 1978 issue of the New York Times, David Vidal explains it in his “Brazil Declares Computer Independence” article. Vidal reports that after several months of negotiations with the most prominent companies, the decision was made to control how international companies could do business in Brazil. These companies had to agree to technology transfers and become Brazilian joint ventures. IBM, Burroughs, Hewlett‐Packard, NCR, Olivetti, Four Phase, and TRW refused.
In fine, the Brazilian government awarded the market to Computadores Sistemas Brasileiros S.A. (a.k.a. Cobra)., SHARP Equipamentos, Eletronica Digital S.A. and Labo Eletronica, four national companies. In turn, these Brazilian companies purchased technologies from international corporations. Cobra purchased its technology from the Canadian Sycor, SHARP from the French Logobax, Eletronica from the Japanese Fujitsu, and Labo from the German Nixdorf. One could therefore argue that the Brazilian variant of the PC-1500 (PC-1500 RP2) result from the computer industry nationalization in the 70s!
For now, enjoy the new pictures of the extremely rare SHARP PC-1500D ポケットコンピューター.
Credits: PocketGriffon, Owen Franken/Corbis Historical/Getty Images, IDF ARCHIVES, DEFENSE MINISTRY, The Brazilian Report, and others.