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1980s Computers Explanation of terms

The Coleco Adam

Coleco Adam


Coleco (US)



Date Launched

August 1984 in UK, though anounced in Summer 1983.


£700 approx.

Microprocessor type

Zilog Z80A @ 3.58 MHz
There were also four 6801 microprocessors controlling various subsystems.

ROM size

32 kilobytes

Standard RAM

80 kilobytes
(64 KB available to user, 16KB for display)

Maximum RAM

144 kilobytes

Keyboard type

Typewriter style with extra keys for wordprocessing.
Unusually for the time the keyboard was separate from the main unit.

Supplied language

SmartBASIC (loaded from tape).
This was claimed to be compatible with Applesoft BASIC but in fact there were significant differences.

Text resolution

36 characters per line in word-processing mode, 31 cpl in BASIC, and 24 lines.
In word processing mode this could act as a window onto an 80 column printout.

Graphics resolution

256 x 192 pixels

Colours available



3 channels

Cassette load speed

19200 baud.
There was a digital tape drive built into the base unit and space for a second. Each had a capacity of about 256 kilobytes and held a directory, allowing easy access to the files.
Special cassette tapes were needed - the tape was moved past the head at the high speed of 20 inches per second and ordinary audio tapes did not work.
If tapes were left in the drives while the computer was first switched on they were likely to be erased!

Dimensions (mm)
Weight (grams)

476 x 364 x 105 (main unit)
Not known

Special features

Had a word processor built into the ROM and this was its default operating mode.
Adam printerThe Adam was supplied with a daisywheel printer which also contained the power supply for the whole computer.

Good points

The Adam was a self-contained word processor.
It could run cartridge games written for the ColecoVision TV games console.

Bad points

Being supplied with a printer and tape drive made the initial purchase price high.
There was no facility to add an alternative printer, and daisywheel printers are text only in a single font.
Both the printer and the tape drive had a reputation for being unreliable, and the operating system lacked a way to make backups of tapes, even if two drives were fitted.
The BASIC manual was badly written – many commands were not even listed.

How successful?

The Adam seemed uncertain whether it was meant to be a low cost business machine (primarily a word processor), or a home games machine with a word processor as a bonus.
As a games computer it was very expensive although the arcade-style games available were excellent.
Launch was somewhat delayed and by late 1984 the home computer market was in decline.
The Adam never sold particularly well and production was ended in 1984, giving the Adam a very short shelf span.


The Adam was first launched in the UK in March 1984 as an upgrade for owners of the ColecoVision television game, and only later as a standalone computer.

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