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1980s Computers Explanation of terms

The COMX 35



COMX (Hong Kong)
(Distributed in the UK by ALSY Computers)



Date Launched

August 1983


£150, soon reduced to £120

Microprocessor type

RCA 1802A

ROM size

16 kilobytes

Standard RAM

35 kilobytes

Maximum RAM

67 kilobytes

Keyboard type

Moving keys but with a calculator type feel.

Supplied language

A fairly standard BASIC but extremely slow - about four times slower than the Sinclair Spectrum.

Text resolution

40 x 24 characters

Graphics resolution

No high resolution graphics but much of the character set could be redefined, giving a pseudo resolution of 240 x 216 pixels.

Colours available



One channel through internal speaker

Cassette load speed

600 baud

Special features

Had a built in joystick for games.

Good points

Steady television display.
Sound commands for effects such as explosions and missiles, as well as music.

Bad points

A poor manual, lacking technical information or a proper explanation of error codes.
A strange screen editor.
Keyboard was smaller than standard.
An uncommon microprocessor which potential programmers were unfamiliar with, resulting in a lack of software.

How successful?

Virtually unknown in the UK.
In November 1983 the magazine Home Computer Weekly reported that the current UK stock of 600 COMX 35s was being withdrawn from sale because over half had been found to be faulty.


The RCA 1802 microprocessor was an early design, launched in 1973, but included sixteen 16-bit general purpose registers, making it in some ways more advanced than the more common Z80 and 6502 microprocessors, which had mostly 8-bit registers.
The 1802's main feature was that it used CMOS technology which resulted in low power consumption compared to the TTL design of most other microprocessors in 1983. This made it well suited to battery operated portable equipment. It was in fact quite widely used in control systems but apparently not in any other desktop computer.
Around 1980 Sandia National Laboratories produced a radiation-hardened version of the 1802, which was used in the flight computer of some satellites until the late 1990s.
The COMX 35 looks like an attempt to cash in on the home computer boom of the early 1980s, but its limited graphics and a dearth of software meant it could not compete with established machines.

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