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1980s Computers Explanation of terms

The Newbrain

Newbrain AD


Grundy Business Systems (UK)
(Developed by Sinclair Radionics then Newbury Labs)



Date Launched

July 1982


£233 for Model A
£267 for Model AD pictured above

Microprocessor type

Zilog Z80A @ 4 MHz

ROM size

24 kilobytes

Standard RAM

32 kilobytes

Maximum RAM

2 megabytes (external expansion pack)

Keyboard type

Reasonable quality typewriter style but smaller keys than standard

Supplied language

ANSI BASIC (semi-compiled to run faster)

Text resolution

40 or 80 columns x 24 or 30 lines.
The AD model had a built-in 16 character by 1 line green vacuum fluorescent display which acted as a window onto the full text display, so that the machine could just about be used without a TV display.

Graphics resolution

256, 320, 512 or 640 pixels horizontally x 250 pixels vertically.
The graphics capability was quite advanced but awkward to use.

Colours available


Example Screenshot

Newbrain Pacman
Pacman on the Newbrain.
The Newbrain could produce quite detailed displays, though limited to monochrome.



Cassette load speed

1200 baud
Could connect to two tape recorders at once, one for input and one for output.

Special features

Small and easily portable.
A very cheap business computer.

Good points

Very large potential memory capacity.
Advanced operating system.
Could run CP/M.

Bad points

Poor documentation
No colour
Delayed availability
Lack of software
The Newbrain used a large number of discrete components and standard logic chips whereas competitors were using custom gate arrays to do the job of several chips. As a result the Newbrain was expensive to manufacture.

How successful?

Was withdrawn in 1983, never selling in large numbers.


Development on what was to become the Newbrain began in May 1978 while Clive Sinclair was still at Radionics, and the first working prototypes appeared in 1980. When it eventually went on sale in 1982 it was in some ways an old design.
Had it been launched in 1980 it could have been a successful low priced business machine but by 1982 the lack of colour ruled it out of the home market and the business market was starting to move on to 16-bit machines.
The Newbrain was the original favourite to accompany the BBC's Computer Literacy project in 1981, but development delays meant the BBC looked elsewhere and settled on Acorn's Model B instead.

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