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The Hitachi Peach - another machine wiped out by the PC

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The Hitachi Peach - another machine wiped out by the PC

by plaing » Mon Mar 18, 2013 6:39 pm

If you're anything like me you liked the days before the great-dark cloud (IBM-PC's everywhere) took over. Since some interest has been shown...

The Hitachi Peach (MB-6890) was a pretty nice 6809 based machine. It came with built in Microsoft Level 3 BASIC, and a monitor in ROM in a form factor pretty similar to an OSI Challenger 2P / Apple. Actually more like the Apple, because you could lift the top off and it had slots you could plug boards into. They added enough address lines (bank switched) to be able to add up to 1 MB's worth of Memory... The two I owned had 32K and 48K of memory.

It had just about the best microcomputer keyboard I've ever used. I think the IBM Model-M beats it, but it was a darn good keyboard. It also had great rollover, and a great type-ahead buffer.

The BASIC was pretty good. It supported branching on events (e.g. lightpen input), DCD/DTR changes on the RS-232 port etc. Peripheral wise it was a nice machine at the back - both the machines I saw had RS-232 ports and Centronics ports. They also had a Cassette port, a light pen port, and a 'joystick port - I think... I never saw or used a joystick on one of them'.

Graphics wise they were pretty good for the time - multiple modes, color graphics, max resolution was 640x200. The BASIC fully supported graphics in various modes. The disk drives came in a big rectangular box, with twin drives. The drives were NOISY to use, in that loading the heads made a loud CLACK. Any Peach floppy user will be able to remember the clack clack clack of the drives as the heads were loaded and unloaded - especially when copying a disk between drives...

The machines had sound of the 'tone generator' variety, although tones and 'MUSIC' was supported from BASIC. It was monophonic.

How do I know all this? My Dad worked for AWA (Amalgamated wireless australasia) and I think they were one of the dealers for the Peach. I actually owned two of them, one with floppies...

They were nice machines - but by the time they came out the PC was out and I think as a business machine they just had no chance from the clone onslaught.

Alas those machines were given away years back. I wish I'd hanged on to at least one. They were fine machines - and another example of a machine that has disappeared...

One of the coolest / weirdest things was they had this weird command named 'NEWON'.

NEWON <number> would do a 'reset' of the machine and bring it up in the 'new state'. What does that mean? Well, being 6809 based machines they were like lots of other early micros and had memory mapped displays. They could display up to 640x200 graphics... Actually higher I think but that's another story...

Unlike machines like the Atari 800 which in BASIC you can happily say 'Graphics X' and BASIC dynamically allocates enough memory for the graphics memory the Peach didn't have that... it'd do a 'warm start'...

So if for example you were coding away in BASIC and decided you really wanted high-res graphics. You'd basically do the following:

Save your program
NEWON 5
Load your program

On a 32K machine if you did a 'NEWON 5' (640x200 graphics)... you'd see 13K free for BASIC... Oh and while everything displayed the same scrolling was much much slower, because the screen was in bitmap mode... a little like PC's.

I knew of a couple of other people who had Peaches. I think they died fast because they were expensive, and there wasn't a huge amount of software for them.... some of the stuff I did see was pretty good though for the time - i.e. I wouldn't have been surprised to see them beat an 8088 based PC ... like so many other late model 8 bits....
plaing
 
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Re: The Hitachi Peach - another machine wiped out by the PC

by tezza » Mon Mar 18, 2013 6:57 pm

Thanks for that. It's told me more about the Peach than I ever knew. I didn't realise it had slots for example. I know the guys at Micro-80 magazine must have been impressed because they started supporting it. It soon went the way of the dodo though, as did Micro-80 itself. Things came and went quickly those days.

Anyone on the boards got a Hitachi Peach?
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Re: The Hitachi Peach - another machine wiped out by the PC

by plaing » Mon Mar 18, 2013 9:46 pm

It was a cool machine. One interesting bit is that there were games that did stuff that exceeded what the specs. There was a pacman clone named ghost gobbler that didnt show color artifacting youd expect...

I also found a program that repgrogrammed the video clocks and gave you higher resolution text...

Nowadays I wonder if that 6809E wasnt a 6309 with the extra registers and instructions.
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