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Alphacom Terminal Computer
  by Bill Degnan - 01/30/2013 18:16
The 1969-70 Alphacom was an intelligent terminal used for form processing and possibly some other smart terminal functions. This terminal has a form factor that was ahead of its time, making it look like a SOL-20. On top is a standard television set with an "Alphacom" label. Click image for larger view.


Here's a good project for me. Nothing much is known about the operation of the Alphacom company or its products other than what the previous owner told me, and what I can deduce from the functions printed on the keyboard. I have located no documentation or advertising brochures, as of this writing. Is it just a terminal or did it perform some computing functions too? Probably wishful thinking. What was the storage capacity? Were any production units ever sold?

I was told by the seller that Alphacom was purchased by Dataram in the early 1970's.

I was told by the seller that it was used by his father as a sales/demo unit around 1970-1971. I confirmed this, as the chip dates are mostly from 1969 and a few from 1970. The seller called the Alphacom a "computer", and said it was somewhat recently a functional demo unit. He said that Alphacom would customize the terminal to store forms and transmit them at 110 or 300 baud using a phone coupler. He said that the password is "liam". Good to know, but that is all I have to go on.

From seller's Ebay listing:
"..This is a computer my fathers company ALPHACOM was manufacturing and selling from 1968-1973 until they were bought up by a company called Dataram. This was his personal display /showcase computer it was at the electronics show in Las Vegas in 1971 I feel it is a historical piece as they were the third company on the market it was generally sold to other business and companies.The condition is fantastic it still works!! .."

I have not been able to open the chassis yet, to get a good look inside. Here are some pictures of what I was able to get into so far by opening the back panel.

Wire-wrapped logic board containing an array of chips and electronics. Click image for larger view.


To the right of what I call the "logic boards" is a backplane with 4 controller cards installed, and one add-on board providing a yet undetermined function. Click image for larger view.



Here is a picture of the controller card taken out of the top backplane slot. It has a character generator chip, the TMS 2403 JC dated 11th week of 1970. For more info on this chip see page 95 of the book MOS/LSI from Texas Instruments, dated October 1970, which I happen to have on the bookshelf. Click image for larger view.


I did not want to leave the system on for more than a minute (just a quick test), but the results were promising. An old terminal like this could go up at any time, and will need a thorough electrical check-out before any serious work can be done to it. That said, it's in great shape because it came in a carrying case, you could take this thing on a plane as carry-on luggage.

Screenshot while the terminal was in "TRANS PARENT" mode (a yellow button on the keyboard). Click image for larger view.


Screenshot while the terminal was in "ON LINE" mode (a green button on the keyboard). The artifacts on the screen did not appear later, you can see the blinking underline cursor at the top left of the screen. I have not yet attempted to attach this terminal to anything. Click image for larger view.


More pictures

More to Come!

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