Hello, and welcome back to the 8-Bit Guy. In this episode, I want to show you this bizarre
little computer known as the IQ Unlimited by Advantech. Now, you might be wondering “What is this
company Advantech?” Well, if you turn the computer over you’ll
see it was actually produced by Video Technology Electronics, otherwise known as V-Tech.” Yes, that’s the same V-Tech that has produced
tons of cordless telephones, kids learning computers, baby monitors, and a variety of
other things. They are also the ones that built the Laser
128, which was an Apple II clone, along with the matching Laser XT which was a PC clone. They also produced the laser line of portable
computers, and even a series of proprietary desktop computers that carried the laser brand
name. So, needless to say V-Tech is no stranger
to making computers. But, I think this may be the strangest one
they ever made. The front of the box claims it to be complete,
powerful, simple, and affordable. It also says it is designed to overcome every
worry a home computer buyer might have. That’s quite a claim. It also shows the 12 built-in programs, which
seems to be a big part of their marketing strategy. The back of the box claims the IQ Unlimited
is the computer families will never outgrow. That’s also quite a bold statement. And it does go into more detail about the
12 built in programs. Let’s take a closer look at this thing. Over here is the ON/OFF switch. Around on the back you have a composite video
output, a power input, and down here is an RF output for TVs, along with a channel selector
switch. Then, we have what appears to be a standard
parallel printer port. I have no idea what this port is for. You might think it is for ROM cartridges,
but I’m not convinced of that because if you look over here to the side, you’ll find
what looks much more like a ROM cartridge slot. However, I cannot find any evidence that any
ROM at all ever existed for this thing and being that it has no disk drive connection,
that means the 12 programs that are built into this thing that’s pretty much all it
ever has or every will have. I should also mention there’s no audio output
jack, but it does have an internal speaker right here for sound. On the bottom, you may find it interesting
that it has two battery compartments. The first one here takes four C cell batteries
and this can actually operate the computer. After all, this is supposed to be a quasi-portable
computer. I’ll get into more about that shortly. But down here you’ll see yet another battery
compartment. This one runs on four AA batteries. This essentially keeps your programs and documents
stored in battery backed RAM, and presumably keeps the clock running. So, I think what they were trying to do was
to offer a system similar to this old Laser50 that has a single-line display, which what
a coincidence was also made by V-Tech, but I think they wanted to offer a desktop experience
as well, all in the same package. I did some digging around to see where this
thing was sold. And, I found out it was sold in Many department
stores during the Christmas season of 1991. For example, in this 1991 Christmas catalog
for JCPenny you’ll see this thing advertised alongside other kids computers of the era,
including other V-tech branded computers. Although this is certainly the most expensive
of the bunch coming in at 200 dollars. It does also mention in the ad that it has
64K of memory. I also found it in this 1991 Sears catalog
and it is advertised along side a special IQ dot matrix printer. And the printer costs $200, the exact same
price as the computer itself. So the combination would run you $400. Interestingly enough, I found that in this
same catalog there were some dedicated word processors for around the same price. Although these word processors did have the
advantage that they had floppy drives to store your work. Hey, this Brother model apparently even features
Tetris. That makes me want to get one! Now, in this same catalog they were also advertising
a Packard Bell 386 PC for $1,000 and an XT for $700. So, the V-tech IQ does seem to be price competitive
with those, especially being a monitor is required for those machines and that was an
additional $329. The Vtech could use a TV or its built in display. However, on the next page you can see an Amiga
500, also a costly proposition for $600 plus another $350 for the monitor. However, down below is the good old Commodore
64c. Sure, this was one of the last years it was
on the market, but you’ll notice its regular price was only $150 and you could use it with
a TV as well. So now we’ll have to ask the question of
how does the IQ Unlimited stack up against the Commodore 64? Well, let’s try powering it on. We’ll try using the built-in LCD first. Copyright 1991 Video Technology. Enter Year. Ehh.. I’ll mess with setting the date later. Ok, so next it appears I can scroll through
a list of software, including a word processor, spell review, calculator, mind challenge,
word zappers, basic tutor, BASIC itself, and a 200 year calendar! I’m actually afraid to try any of these
on a 1-line LCD because I know how bad they will probably be! In my experience, I consider 4 lines to be
sort of a minimum requirement for doing anything useful. So, I’ll try the obligatory scrolling BASIC
routine. The trouble is, it will be sorely disappointing
when you only have 1 line. haha. At least it does pause between lines when
listing the program. Let’s exit out of BASIC and try the word
processor. I’ll tell it to create a new file. I guess I can just start typing away. I’ll take this opportunity to mention I
don’t care much for the keyboard, the keys are a bit stiff so I tend to make lots of
mistakes. So yeah, I guess you could write a document
on this, but it would be an exercise in frustration. But, you know, being this was aimed at kids,
you know, I guess it would have been ok for a road trip to Grandma’s house or something
like that back in 1991. I mean, you’ve got to keep in mind that
kids back then couldn’t just pull out their cell phone and play on that or iPad or something
like that. So, you know, this might have been better
than nothing. Well, let’s hook it up to an actual TV and
see what we get. One thing I noticed right away was there was
a lot of color artifacts. I suspected that this computer generates color
much in the same way the Apple II does. OK, so the first thing it wants to know when
I turn it on, and it’s showing this on both screens, is if I want to use the TV or LCD. Which, I’m going to go ahead and pick the
TV. And, yeah, I guess I better go ahead and put
in the date. I guess we’ll find out of it is year-2000
compliant because this is year 2018 and this is the month of February and it is the 6th. So, all right, here’s all of the 12 applications
that we have built in. The first thing I’m kind of curious about
is I’m going to go over here and look at this calendar. I’m just going to go ahead, um, OK. So, here’s the actual calendar and it is
correct. This is a Tuesday, the 6th. Yeah, looks like this calendar is actually
year 2000 compliant. Well, we’ll go ahead and quit out of that. Let’s take a look at the word processor. All right, it’s going to ask if I want 40
or 80 columns. I’m going to pick 40 columns this time. OK, so some of the things I want to draw your
attention to is first of all, if you look up at the top right hand corner it shows there’s
24K available. Which is, to be honest, not that much for
a word processor. If I press escape, I get a menu. And I can go to, you know, several different
things you’d expect that a word processor would have. But this is one of the interesting things
about this computer is that if you’ll notice it has load and save options. So, if I use load, it wants to know what file
I want to load. I can push the help button to get a list. And these are some of the little tests and
stuff that I’ve done. And it won’t actually let me select anything
from this screen, but I can type in the name. So, yeah, this is a test I saved earlier. And I actually have had the computer powered
off and even carried it around some while this was saved. So, it does actually save this to internal
RAM, but if you were to take those little 4 batteries out, that’d be the end of it. So, anyway, let’s exit out of the word processor. Let’s have a look at some of these other
programs. Spell review. No no, let’s try word zappers. So, this is some kind of game, of course. So, it looks like I’ve got to type the letters
in order to destroy them. If I don’t do anything, let’s see what
happens. OK, looks like it they just start destroying,
I guess they’re like, I guess that’s like the city or something and they are destroying
it. Well, let’s go back out of that. Let’s try game level, I don’t know, let’s
up the level to 3. OK. Looks like you actually have to type words. Not too hard. Oops. OK, maybe it’s a little harder than I thought. Mostly because the position I’m in trying
to do this. All right, well we’ve seen word zappers,
I think that’s enough of that. Let’s have a look at mind challenge. OK, so we can do science, geography, trivia,
or history. Well, let’s do science. Number of players, 1. Level, I don’t know. 1, what the heck. Light. A blank is produced through the refraction
and reflection of sunlight by airborne water droplets. I can think of a lot of different things that
might be. Looks like I can press help for multiple choice. OK, I was going to say rainbow, but it didn’t
look like there was enough characters there for that, so there we go. What is a glass used to focus light called. I would say that’s a lens. So, whoops. We can try typing that in without doing the
multiple choice. Hey, I got it right. Optical cables for guiding light are made
from … glass, I think? Hey yeah. So, yeah, this is a little bit challenging
because you can either try typing in the word or you can push the help button and then it
will give you three choices to pick from. So, that’s interesting. All right, well, let’s exit out of here. And, let’s have a look at BASIC. All right, I’m going to pick 40 columns. All right, so now, we’re going to do the
same test we did earlier. All right, there we go. One thing I notice different from other BASIC
is that it tends to put a line in between. But, I will say that I’ve spent some time
playing around with this BASIC. And even though I don’t have the users manual,
actually if you push help, it will give you a list of all of the commands available. And, there’s several different screens here
of commands, and one of the big problems of this BASIC is, it doesn’t have any graphics
commands, and sound commands, and it doesn’t even have any way to position text on the
screen. It does have a clear screen command, so you
know, you could clear the screen and start over again in your program, which is kind
of a pain and would be really slow. So, for example, if I wanted to code something
like Tetris, you know, that would be relatively impossible on here because of the limited
command set of BASIC, plus even commands that we’re used to on other computers like POKE
and PEEK simply do not exist on this computer. So there’s no way to manually talk to the
hardware to like put characters in different places of video RAM or anything like that. So, yeah, unfortunately, the BASIC is pretty
much going to be limited to text. And, you know, I guess you could create a
text adventure on here or something, but unfortunately, that’s going to be about it. So, I’m not real impressed with the BASIC,
I have to say. So, let’s try the 80-column mode. OK, so this turns out to be totally unreadable,
as you can see. However, I wondered what it would look like
with an old monochrome monitor. You can definitely see all of the vertical
striping used to create color. However, when we go to the word processor,
it is supposed to just have a gray background with black text. And here it’s actually pretty darned readable. Although, admittedly I’ve seen better. Next I tried BASIC in 80 columns and it’s
on a black background. This is also very readable. I was able to achieve the same thing on my
video capture card by setting it to PAL mode, so it no longer recognizes the NTSC color
signal. And it’s also pretty clear like this. One thing I was able to do was verify how
it is generating color. Take this screenshot, for example. If I use a paint program to convert this to
grayscale, it looks like this. And this is essentially how something like
a Commodore 64 would look on a grayscale display. However, when I grab a grayscale image from
the computer using this technique, this is what it actually looks like. Again, you can see all of the vertical stripes
used to create artifact colors. Here’s using the spreadsheet in 80 columns
mode. To be honest I found the whole system somewhat
more pleasing to use in grayscale. I think I prefer the sharp text over the blurry
color this thing offers. But that’s probably just me. I’d imagine kids of the early 1990s probably
appreciated the color. I also wanted to show you the little drawing
program. It’s kind of hard to draw without a mouse,
but you can create basic shapes use the keyboard to draw things as well as they have like little
stamps of different little objects and stuff you can put on the screen, and you can type
some text and whatnot. But, I’m not going to show you all of the
12 programs on here because that would take pretty much forever, so let’s move along. Well, let’s take this thing apart. I’m eager to see what sort of architecture
this thing is using. To be honest, since it came out in 1991 I’m
half afraid well just see some epoxy blobs. But we’ll see. OK, here’s the inside. So this board here clearly has something to
do with power since it is connected to the battery compartments. This here is the RF modulator. This is the little LCD screen. And of course, this is the keyboard, it’s
actually two separate parts. And the guts of the computer is under here. So yeah, I need to remove that. I’ll just unscrew this RF shield and hopefully
that will be enough to see whats there. OK, well, rats. There’s just one chip here. And it’s a proprietary V-tech chip. But there appears to be some other DIP style
chips on the other side. So, let’s see if we can move this around
a bit. OK, this gives us a much better view, and
I suspect I can identify many of these chips. I’ll need to remove this sticker. And some alcohol will clean that right up. OK, so after doing a bit of research, here’s
what I came up with. This chip here is a Z-80 clone. So that’s the same 8-bit CPU used in many
early home computers of the 70s and 80s. Definitely nothing cutting edge for 1991. However, this one does run at 6 MHz. Or at least it is rated for 6 Mhz. I’m not really sure what clock speed it
is running at. The other chip on top, I have no idea. This next chip here was easy to identify. It’s a pseudo-static ram. Now what that means is that it’s actually
dynamic RAM, but they have included all of the refresh circuitry inside the chip so that
it behaves essentially like static RAM. It also happens to be 128K in size. Which is weird being that the computer is
only advertised to have 64K. It’s possible maybe they just got a good
deal on these chips but the architecture isn’t designed to use the second half of the RAM. Who knows. These two chips here are sort of interesting
too. This one is just an 8-bit shift register. And all of those traces connecting to it head
over to the parallel printer port. So we can guess they are using this to drive
the printer port. This other chip is what I find more fascinating. It’s actually a 4-bit micro controller. According to the data sheet, it contains 512K
of ROM and 16K of RAM. My guess is they are using this to drive the
composite video display. 16K should be plenty for video RAM. I suppose they could be storing some of the
other programs and stuff on the ROM inside of this, who knows. That’s a lot of ROM. Not sure what speed it is clocked, but it
is rated to run anywhere from 2 to 5 mhz. Again, that’s fast enough to produce a composite
video signal. So, just an overview of the board here. This is a Z80 CPU, 128K of RAM, a shift register,
a micro controller, which I suspect runs the video display. I think this chip here, just by the process
of elimination, is a ROM chip of some kind. Probably why it has the Vtech branding on
it. And then this chip on the other side of the
board. Yeah, not sure. It could be some sort of glue logic or maybe
just a bunch of consolidated parts. Who knows. So, I asked the question earlier in the episode
if the IQ unlimited could compete with the Commodore 64. So, considering that the Commodore 64 was
price competitive with this machine even when you included a disk drive on the Commodore,
the Commodore had thousands of software titles available for it, and this had exactly 12. I suspect most of these wound up in the trash
after a few years, particularly after the kids got tired of playing on the 12 built-in
programs. And although the original price was $200,
I’ve seen some evidence on some forums that these might have been on like the home shopping
network or other discount type stores for much less, possibly even under a hundred dollars
towards the end of it’s lifespan. Needless to say, I think any brand new computing
platform based on an 8-bit processor in 1991 was pretty much doomed to failure. Still, it’s an interesting little piece
of forgotten computer history, so I hope you enjoyed learning about it. And, I guess that about wraps it up for this
episode, so stick around for the next one and thanks for watching!

The Advantech I.Q. Unlimited with BASIC and a Z80 CPU.
Tagged on:                                                                                         

100 thoughts on “The Advantech I.Q. Unlimited with BASIC and a Z80 CPU.

  • December 1, 2018 at 8:08 am
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    I remember telling my parents I wanted a computer after watching Goldeneye back in 95. I wanted to hack and do cool computer stuff like Boris. They bought this from Kmarts going out of business sale for like $40 back in 1995. This was my first computer. Second one was a hand me down 1996 Packard Bell my uncle gave me around 1998.

    Reply
  • December 3, 2018 at 10:04 pm
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    My bday is February 6

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  • December 5, 2018 at 10:49 am
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    @ 3:39 the $494.99 brother computer has the 3.5" disk in the floppy drive backwards. Oops, I should've read the other comments to see there are other people who noticed that too.

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  • December 7, 2018 at 5:17 am
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    1991; Amiga, Atari ST, and 16-bit IBM & compatibles were out. To release an 8 bit computer in this time was quite a bold move on VTech's part. What were they thinking? There were some way better edutainment games on the aforementioned PCs that can cater to what each of the 12 pieces of software on here were trying to match.

    Reply
  • December 8, 2018 at 6:30 am
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    man i just love your intro tune it makes me so happy

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  • December 26, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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    I had a Talking Whiz Kid and Pre Computer 1000 which was in the JC Penney catalogue you showed. I think the port you initially thought as for rom is for Vtech expansion cartidges, because every computer they releases has a specific cartridge per product.

    I hope you can review talking whiz kid some other time. They have this card program system similar to the yamaha cards you show on 8 bit keys.

    Reply
  • December 28, 2018 at 8:02 am
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    i learned my first bits of basic on a vtech learning computer lol

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  • December 28, 2018 at 8:15 am
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    it is a pretty basic basic lol

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  • December 30, 2018 at 10:56 am
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    "its good for a trip to grandma's house" if i had to chose between a gameboy and this i would chose the gameboy.and you could buy a gameboy in 1991

    Reply
  • January 4, 2019 at 1:47 pm
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    vtech, building crap as usual

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  • January 13, 2019 at 2:50 pm
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    Just dawned on me: this is an oddware episode.

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  • January 13, 2019 at 5:39 pm
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    RIP JCPenney Christmas Catalog. You are sorely missed.

    Reply
  • January 16, 2019 at 2:58 am
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    The 74HC244 may not be an 8 bit shift register, but an octal buffer/line driver divided in two 4 bits drivers pointed in opposite way.

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  • January 17, 2019 at 2:37 pm
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    I hope you have "Time" for the science section…no..nobody? Okay. I'll go home now

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  • January 20, 2019 at 6:34 am
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    Did you also notice that the Brother word processor takes it's floppies backwards?

    Reply
  • January 21, 2019 at 6:58 pm
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    Correct me if I am wrong, but was not Z80 architecture already obsolete by the early 90s?

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  • January 28, 2019 at 7:08 pm
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    9:41 This thing's broken. There isn't enough spaces for "Dark Side Of The Moon".

    Reply
  • February 4, 2019 at 10:36 pm
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    I bought my first ever computer in 1994. It was a Spectrum ZX compatible Romanian clone, named HC 91+ (Home Computer that is). And ot was new from the store. Back then, the last generation of HC computers (the HC 2000, that included a built-in floppy drive) were available as well, but of course those were more expensive.

    Reply
  • February 5, 2019 at 5:25 am
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    64k in 91? Outch! I guess for children and less than $200. In 1991 I got a 486 (66mgh) pc clone +screen for $3000. But I dont remember how much RAM it got. Does anyone know what was the standard at the time? Thx!

    Reply
  • February 6, 2019 at 3:12 pm
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    I had a blue one of those with the handle like in the catalog page you showed. It was basically the same trivia questions and everything, just minus the TV connection.

    Reply
  • February 14, 2019 at 10:54 pm
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    Looking at the port on the side of this computer looked like a floppy drive port that has a male end plug cable instead of a female plug cable. You could still probably find them on eBay… Loading from Drive B leads me to believe that it is actually a floppy drive port that you can access by typing in A: at the load screen.

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  • February 17, 2019 at 3:30 am
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    word zapper defeat

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  • February 22, 2019 at 8:37 pm
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    BTW, the 74HC244 is not a shift register. It's an octal buffer.

    Reply
  • February 27, 2019 at 5:25 pm
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    Y didnt u try database or spreadsheet?

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  • March 1, 2019 at 7:19 am
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    My parents bought me a later version of that in like 98. It was fun for a couple days.

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  • March 3, 2019 at 5:17 am
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    hi, can you do an assembler program then store it on tape or other media and load it back to the computer?

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  • March 19, 2019 at 12:38 pm
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    3:41 the floppy disk is the wrong way

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  • March 19, 2019 at 12:47 pm
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    Vtech only sells kids toys here in Germany.

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  • March 22, 2019 at 6:46 pm
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    what a hunk of shit 😮

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  • March 28, 2019 at 2:14 am
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    I seem to recall they also sold these via cheesy late-night infomercials.

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  • March 28, 2019 at 9:24 am
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    I have a random question — is BASIC still built into modern computers?

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  • April 7, 2019 at 11:12 am
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    Advantech are still around and mainly in industrial electronics, including Intel-based industrial computers.

    Reply
  • April 7, 2019 at 3:55 pm
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    Tangentially related but I had a Socrates and it was very depressing in comparison to an NES, and a steaming pile compared to the IQ which actually had productivity software, BASIC, and a real keyboard. I'm sure the Socrates soured many children's opinion of computers.

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  • April 10, 2019 at 5:30 pm
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    Vtech also made cheap ripoff consoles with fake informations on the box.

    Reply
  • April 11, 2019 at 9:13 pm
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    i know i'm kinda late but the reason why it only uses 64k of ram is because the z80 architecture can only support a maximum of 64k, you could get more by doing memory banking but that would require a lot more hardware

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  • April 13, 2019 at 2:03 am
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    4:15 they had software like that for the C64? Looks almost like something for Windows.

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  • April 15, 2019 at 3:27 am
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    Oh man, the tuning on that in-build game music. Ouch.

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  • April 15, 2019 at 4:38 pm
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    I would be pissed if I got that for Christmas especially if it meant not getting another gift

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  • April 23, 2019 at 10:13 pm
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    Omg that’s reminds
    me my childhood

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  • April 25, 2019 at 5:14 am
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    I remember the infomercial for that computer. Tom Bosley was the spokesperson for it. In fact, I managed to record about 3-4 minutes of it onto VHS back in the day. It was soo hokey. The computer was being marketed to people who wanted to learn but didn't know anything about computers, and for the kids to do homework on.

    Reply
  • April 30, 2019 at 12:06 am
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    the 74ls244 is a dual 4 bit tristate driver. its being used as a 8 bit ( one way) driver for the data on the printer port. its not a shift register.

    Reply
  • May 5, 2019 at 6:50 pm
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    The 74HC244 is an 8-bit unidirectional buffer, not a shift register,

    Reply
  • May 8, 2019 at 9:32 am
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    "The computer your family will never outgrow". I'm glad that my parents decided to buy me a computer before this was on sale. I got a Commodore 64. It had more than 12 games.

    Reply
  • May 13, 2019 at 8:04 pm
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    Apparently, one of those slots is for a memory cartridge, which the device will see as "Drive C:"

    Reply
  • May 25, 2019 at 3:32 am
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    Oh my hawking… I think anyone who spent $200 on this machine would be gutted

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  • May 29, 2019 at 2:48 pm
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    That Amiga is playing "Tetris"! 4:07

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  • June 7, 2019 at 1:52 am
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    12 vs. n*1000(where n>=1), yeahhhhhhh I think we know which one won…

    Reply
  • June 12, 2019 at 12:35 am
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    17:00 no….. this one is a lot better…. for children that commodore 64……. the game that teaches children to type faster and faster with the keyboard…. is awesome…… the other one with questions and answers about physics and science…. this is a learning computer for children…

    Reply
  • June 14, 2019 at 7:47 pm
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    When the VTech kicks in

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  • June 18, 2019 at 8:24 pm
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    3:39 RIP dat floppy drive :'c

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  • June 18, 2019 at 8:30 pm
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    8:27 succ

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  • June 25, 2019 at 12:08 am
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    Love that era. Tons of weird stuff. The computer industry was sorting itself out. It was a fun time.

    Reply
  • July 2, 2019 at 12:50 pm
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    That z80 clone microprocessor is the exact same one you can find in some MSX computers like Toshiba HX-20. But this one is 6mhz, the one in the Toshiba msx computer is 4mhz by default

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  • July 5, 2019 at 2:26 pm
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    The Basic is pretty Basic… (I'll see myself out…)

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  • July 5, 2019 at 4:14 pm
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    Minor correction at 15:55. You call the 74HC244 a "shift register" but that's not what the 74*244 series are. They're line buffers, they don't "shift" anything. Basically they're used as buffers for busses. Why would you need something like that? Well, it's partially to deal with "fanout", which is a limit to the number of devices you can hang off a bus. By adding a buffer, you can get around fanout limits. Another use for them is as a gate. Since they have an enable pin, you can isolate part of a circuit from the bus by toggling its enable pin. This is useful when you've got an address decoder for example, and you want the data on the data bus to appear on one side of a circuit timed perfectly with the address being decoded — hook the 74*244's enable pin to the decoder, and voila, data appears precisely when it needs to on the Y side of the 244 buffer.

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  • July 10, 2019 at 11:03 pm
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    If you took it to grandma she probably had a tv, too where you could plug it in 🤔
    I think its pretty cool 😍

    Reply
  • July 18, 2019 at 4:45 pm
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    Love this unearthing of obscure PCs when the market was still figuring things out.
    Imagine coming out with a new computer standard today…

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  • July 24, 2019 at 3:15 pm
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    Made in Hong Kong

    Reply
  • August 1, 2019 at 9:59 pm
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    What was VTech’s motive in creating…anything?

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  • August 3, 2019 at 1:47 am
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    1:43 That looks like a graphics card…that one row connector. I had something like that on a dell

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  • August 4, 2019 at 5:03 am
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    This is very close to ashens territory

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  • August 7, 2019 at 9:49 pm
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    You'll never outgrow 12 built in programs because you can't.

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  • August 8, 2019 at 6:00 pm
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    Man, 1991 I was seven years old playing the shareware of Duke Nukem 1 on a 386 PC.

    Reply
  • August 14, 2019 at 7:33 pm
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    Marketing people…

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  • August 18, 2019 at 3:39 am
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    9:03 Naked. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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  • August 19, 2019 at 4:50 pm
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    What a weird thing to make in -91. It's not just junk from scrap drawers, the chips seem to be planned for that device. Yet it is so unusable with that calculator BASIC and no mass memory. It's not like it would have cost much to put in MS extended BASIC and a floppy drive. But maybe the idea was that it's C64 price and also has built-in software and LCD, screw usability.

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  • August 20, 2019 at 10:22 pm
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    When I was around 10 one of my family's friends had the Vtech pre-computer 1000 that's on those catalog pages and lent it to me for a few weeks. Loved it, especially BASIC and that was basically the first thing I programmed on, loved it. The keyboard was awesome compared to the other kid computers with their crap membranes.

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  • August 21, 2019 at 5:33 pm
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    commodore plus4's forgotten cousin…

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  • August 22, 2019 at 3:21 pm
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    $200 for a Christmas gift… Not so many kids got such expensive gift i think.

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  • August 22, 2019 at 9:51 pm
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    The base of that computes looks like the "Pre Computer 1000" which I used to have – a single-line MS BASIC learning toy, which did have 4 option roms available – I wonder if thats why the slot exists.

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  • August 22, 2019 at 11:38 pm
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    As a laser tech I approve the science questions.

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  • August 23, 2019 at 2:46 am
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    And the VTech that makes all the InnoTab lines of learning tablets

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  • August 23, 2019 at 12:15 pm
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    The weirdest thing about this machine is that it's probably the most advanced thing VTech ever made.

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  • August 23, 2019 at 1:16 pm
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    Here's a thought: Have you tried plugging it into the colour TV and turning the TV's colour strength control all the way down to zero? It might then actually give readable text in 80-column mode (and make it clearer in 40-col). The colour smears are just from the composite decoder deciding the text patterns are high-frequency colour encoding waveforms and decoding them as such after all. Really, the designers should have turned off the colourburst output in the modulator to make that switch automatic, but it's maybe a case that if you cut out the colour "overlay" from the decoder altogether you'll still see the original high-rez luminance data showing through underneath, achieving the same effect. I believe that's what's behind the phenomenon of "dot crawl" etc after all. Though a more modern/sophisticated 3D comb filter type decoder might end up smoothing out the luma at the same time… worth a quick experimental test to see which case is true, either way.

    I wouldn't be entirely surprised to find that this is the recommended method in the machine's original user manual, even, given that it wouldn't be entirely guaranteed that J. Random-User would happen to have a pure black-and-white TV or monitor available. "To see clear text in 80-column mode on a colour screen, adjust your colour saturation control down to its minimum" or similar. ISTR our old Philips CM8833 (same guts as the Commie 1084) having such a control on its front panel too, though not whether it worked with our ST (as that emitted analogue RGB rather than composite) or, if it did, whether that crisped up the (already fairly clear) image any in 640×200 mode…

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  • August 23, 2019 at 4:56 pm
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    My first computer!

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  • August 23, 2019 at 4:56 pm
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    Taught myself BASIC on this

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  • August 23, 2019 at 9:04 pm
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    5:50 Well, the Nintendo Game Boy was realeased in 1989, so that’s not the only option for entertainment OTG.

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  • August 24, 2019 at 6:06 am
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    That is an odd beast of a machine. BTW, the 74HC244 is not a shift register. It is an 8 bit buffer/line driver. It is what you would expect to see driving a parallel port.

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  • August 24, 2019 at 1:39 pm
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    HI The 8-Bit Guy
    ,
    I had one of the one from the catalogue you shows the blue one with the hand hole on the right side, my comment is about my machine, but maybe the same for yours, the hole manual only said about simple commands, also I had trs80 (COCO), extended basic version, so for a bit of fun to seen what it could do, programs, (memory, as you say was a big problem), so trying make a small program fit the memory space. I found it could use a lot more commands not documented in the manual, I think some where print commands Left$ Right$ Mid$, (which where in the COCO Extended basic, as you probably coco a version of Microsoft Basic before Qbasic i thick ). my think it has some version basic for one of the small Casio, Tandy calculators with qwerty boards, in it. any help? 🙂

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  • August 24, 2019 at 5:27 pm
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    While the look of the color fringing effects appear like an Apple ][, the way the color works in Word Zappers indicates that ZX/Vic20/etc style color attributes are used. I don't think color is generated Apple ][ style – although like the Atari 8 bits, Coco, and CGA graphics it could be done anyway (modulo sometimes the color phase will be 180 degrees off).

    In short, it was extremely common in the era for the video chip output to align pixels with chroma cycles. Obviously the Apple ][, but also Atari 8 bits, TRS-80 Coco, CGA composite output graphics, and so on … I would expect the graphics they used was just whatever they used for their cheap PC clone.

    In contrast, the Commodore VIC20/C64/etc took the far more unusual approach of making the pixel clock and chroma clock odd multiples of each other such that each field would by 180 degrees out of phase with each other. There actually is some benefit to this in terms of the clock electronics, which is why the Apple ][ has a CPU clock that's an odd multiple of the chroma clock. Obviously, Steve Wozniak decided to design the video hardware to "compensate" for this by oddly cramming 7 pixels into each fetch cycle instead of the more typical 8. But the VIC20/C64/etc? Plain old 8 pixels per fetch cycle, and choosing an odd number of fetch cycles per field.

    The result? Each field, the chroma clock alignment would flip 180 degrees with respect to the pixel clock. The color fringe effects would pretty much cancel out visually, resulting in a much more pleasant display to look at. I'd almost go so far as to say this was the best killer feature of the C64 – and one which went completely untouted. Barely anyone even knows about it. But in practical terms, it made the C64 a much better word processing system for people on a budget (using a TV, or cheaper composite monitor). OTOH, people on really tight budgets would have had a black&white TV rather than a color TV, making the difference in color fringe effects moot. Nevertheless, the C64 still had a more pleasant word processing font with a nicer taller aspect ratio than the competition.

    Bottom line? The fact that the "look" of this computer's text doesn't mean much. It's actually the Vic/C64 which was the odd one out. A more telling thing would be whether the text characters are 6 or 7 or 8 pixels wide. I'll be honest and say I'm not sure. 6 pixels wide means Coco/Ti99/etc style. 7 pixels wide of course means Apple ][ style. 8 pixels wide means Atari 8 bit style or CGA style or just something generic.

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  • August 25, 2019 at 1:41 am
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    "16k should be plenty for VRAM" – David Murray

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  • August 25, 2019 at 9:45 pm
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    3:40 anyone notice the Brother word processor has the disk forced in backwards

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  • August 27, 2019 at 12:45 am
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    Man, you brought up so many great memories for me when you showed the JcPenny catalogue..

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  • August 27, 2019 at 5:26 am
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    Could the mystery chip at 16:50 possibly be a clone of the Mega II chip? That might also explain why they decided to use color banding for the video.

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  • August 27, 2019 at 7:14 pm
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    One could say this computer's BASIC is pretty BASIC.

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  • August 28, 2019 at 12:10 am
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    That color actually hurts my eyes. I'd rather have the monochrome as well.

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  • August 28, 2019 at 2:37 am
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    my calculator dose more then that pc

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  • August 31, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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    Gee, that LASER Color Computer 200 looks an awful lot like it is a functional clone of my TS 2068, with the block graphics and the BASIC keywords above and below the keys.

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  • September 5, 2019 at 2:33 am
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    244 is not a shift register, it's an octal PARALLEL line driver 🙂 Just like 245 but uni-directional.

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  • September 8, 2019 at 9:14 pm
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    David I hate metal jesus he started it david.

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  • September 8, 2019 at 9:16 pm
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    I'm not offing my mom

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  • September 8, 2019 at 9:17 pm
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    Huh david

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  • September 8, 2019 at 9:18 pm
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    Lul told me to off my mom david.

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  • September 24, 2019 at 5:58 am
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    holy crap, the graphics draw like a videotext terminal 😆

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  • September 26, 2019 at 8:51 pm
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    I think the video chip is the surface mount IC on the bottom.
    I wonder if it's the same part that's in the Laser 128 as the graphics look a lot like Apple II graphics.
    It does seem like a rough and someone what unfinished product on the software side and the lack of mass storage as there's not even a cassette port or they were to offer some kind of disk drive or battery backed ram cart.
    A C64 or a COCO3 would have been a much better deal for the money.

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  • September 27, 2019 at 2:44 pm
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    A kind of scam computer to get the attention of uninformed good-willing parents, I guess.

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  • September 29, 2019 at 1:08 am
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    Is it just me, but didn't the Brother word processor ad have a floppy in backwards?

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  • September 30, 2019 at 1:37 pm
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    0:37 remind you of anything…?

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  • October 2, 2019 at 9:21 pm
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    What's with the neck hair?

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  • October 13, 2019 at 7:26 pm
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    4:13 The monitor never ever shows a C64 program 😀

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