(Note: I also describe this machine in a YouTube video (now in HD!)).
The year was 1978 and the race was on to release the true personal computer. One you could buy fully made-up at an affordable price. One which would let you balance chequebooks, type letters, play games and otherwise just be creative without needing to be an electronics engineer or maths genius. Contenders in the field were the Commodore PET, TRS-80 Model 1, Apple II and the brand new Atari 800. Leaping into this fray came the Sorcerer, from U.S. video game company Exidy.
On specifications, this newcomer stacked up well. A full stroke keyboard, the powerful Z80 processor, built-in serial and parallel port, standard audio cassette interface and a 512x240 resolution for graphics. Expansion capabilities meant with more cash the user could expand the unit to disk-enabled CP/M capability. Then there was the ROM-PAC, allowing users to plug in a cartridge with software and applications for instant access. Finally lowercase was standard, which was uncommon at that time.
Yet despite these impressive specs, in most parts of the world the Sorcerer cast no spell. Whether this was because of poor marketing, high pricing, tough competition with colour machines like the Atari 800 or all of these factors is unknown to me. Although bombing in North America the Sorcerer cut a dash in Europe. Sales were also strong in Australia largely through the aggressive promotion and support of Dick Smith Electronics. In fact, if you were a computer enthusiast in Australia in 1978-79 the Sorcerer was the only computer you could buy over the counter (Ref). I'm not sure of accessibility in New Zealand but it is likely someone was importing them for sale here. With a built-in monitor program, BASIC ROM-PAC as standard and lots of documentation to assist with that Z80 machine language programming, it was a hobbyist's delight!
Loss of interest from Exidy saw no further development of the model past a debug revision (Sorcerer II). Its strong business potential afforded by its built-in ports, CP/M expansion possibilities and full stroke lower-case keyboard seem to remain mostly just that...potential.
Despite its brief market life I consider this a classic computer for Australia and New Zealand. This 32k Sorcerer II arrived in near-perfect condition. It works, came with a small cassette-based software library and all the necessary hardware manuals. The only thing wrong was the BASIC ROM-PAC which I eventually managed to repair.
I admire the clean design, the keyboard is beautiful to use and the 64 column text sharp. A lovely computer for its day and now quite rare.
Want to know more about these micros? Google is your friend.
This page last edited 11th October, 2011