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Nascom History

A Californian business called North American Semiconductor Company (NASCO) distributed electronics and computer components and their UK subsidiary was run by John Marshall. He surmised that a computer kit could be a viable product in Britain, as the MITS Altair had been in America, and most of the necessary components would be available from NASCO.

Marshall had a single board computer designed by Shelton Instruments in London and set up a company called NASCOM (NASCO Microcomputers) to market it. The kit was named the NASCOM-1 and was officially launched in November 1977.

Initially the NASCOM-1 was sold through the electronics magazine Wireless World which also published articles on it. The original estimate was that 400 kits would be sold but in the event sales passed 12,000, making it one of the best-selling early computers.

Being supplied as just a kit of parts which required some skill to assemble, and with a power supply and case as extras, meant the NASCOM-1 was aimed squarely at electronics hobbyists rather than the general users who bought the contemporary Apple II or Commodore Pet, but at just under £200 the NASCOM-1 was much cheaper than these rivals.

An improved NASCOM-2 appeared in 1979 with an almost two-times faster microprocessor and improved operating system but sales were slow, partly due to a world shortage of the 1K RAM chips which the design used. NASCOM got into financial difficulties and the receivers were called in. After a period of inactivity the business was eventually sold to Lucas Logic.

In 1981 Lucas Logic released the NASCOM-3 which was essentially a NASCOM-2 but ready-built and housed in a case, ready to use. By this time though the home computer market was moving to ready-to-run machines suited to playing games, with colour graphics and sound, whilst the NASCOM-3 had a text-only monochrome display as standard. The NASCOM range could be expanded to run the CP/M operating system as used in business computers, but this was soon superseded by IBM-PCs and compatibles. The NASCOMs gradually faded away by 1983.

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