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1980s Computers Explanation of terms

The ACT Apricot

Apricot in black


ACT Limited (UK)
(Applied Computer Techniques)



Date Launched

September 1983


£1496 with one floppy disc drive.
Monitor £145 extra.
Second floppy drive £255.

Microprocessor type

Intel 8086 @ 5 MHz
Optional 8087 maths coprocessor

ROM size

32 kilobytes ?

Standard RAM

256 kilobytes

Maximum RAM

768 kilobytes.

Keyboard type

Typewriter style with 96 keys, including 8 predefined function keys and 6 programmable touch-sensitive function keys.

Supplied language

Microsoft and Digital Research BASIC interpreters.
Three operating systems were supplied:

  • MS-DOS 2
  • DR CP/M-86
  • DR Concurrent CP/M-86 (allowed multitasking)

Text resolution

80 columns x 25 lines.
Also a 2 line x 40 character LCD display built into the top right hand corner of the keyboard:
Apricot LCD

Graphics resolution

800 x 400 pixels

Colours available

Monochrome only


Sound was possible from a TI SN76489 programmable sound generator chip and internal speaker.

Cassette load speed

Supplied with one or two, single- or double-sided 3½ inch floppy disc drives.

Dimensions (mm)
Weight (grams)

Main unit 432 x 305 x 127
Keyboard 406 x 178 x 50
Monitor 279 x 254 x 228
Total weight 12000g

Special features

The keyboard contained a real-time clock.
The LCD display could be used as a calculator, or application programs could download labels for the programmable function keys below the display.

Good points

The Apricot was almost entirely compatible with the Sirius microcomputer, a popular American model at the time.
This meant a wide choice of programming languages and applications were immediately available for the Apricot.
A menu-driven utility was provided to configure the machine without delving into the complexities of DOS.

Bad points

Only two internal expansion slots.
The Apricot was not IBM PC compatible.

How successful?

ACT's production plant had a capacity of 75,000 machines per year. As far as I know the Apricot sold steadily but not spectacularly for several years.


Like several other 16-bit machines of that time, the Apricot used the same type of processor and similar hardware to the IBM PC, but its BIOS differed. The result was that programs written for the IBM models, which by late 1983 were selling in large numbers, usually would not run on the Apricot without some modifications.
Although ACT's design was probably better than IBM's 'PC standard', and many popular software packages were converted for the Apricot, the lack of direct compatibility with IBM counted against the Apricot.
Once companies, starting with Compaq, found legal ways to duplicate IBM's BIOS the way was opened for fully IBM-compatible 'clones', as opposed to 'near compatibles'.

There were actually several models all named Apricot, available with the usual beige case or the more stylish black case shown above.
From the start the Apricot was designed to be 'transportable'; the keyboard could be clipped to the main unit and carried by its built-in handle. The monitor could be carried in the other hand.
Later ACT produced the Apricot Portable with a flat LCD screen.

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