A new EACA Colour Genie

Since I already have a perfectly good Colour Genie, you may ask why would I need another one? Well, I couldn't resist this one off Trademe. The main attraction was that came with associated literature and programs. Besides, with a rare machine like this it's good to have a spare when the inevitable happens and a component fails.

Anyway, it arrived and I was not disappointed. The two original EACA Colour Genie manuals were there and one book. Suddenly I had documentation! There were about 20 tapes, a special computer tape recorder and all the cables. The computer was there, and working although it was yellowed somewhat and a little battered.

However the best thing (for the historian in me) turned out to be the 26 or so newsletters from the Auckland Colour Genie club from Feb 1984 through to the end of 1985. Reading these provided a fascinating insight into the way micro user groups of the 1980s worked. The newsletter editor was a feisty female with a writing style that is quite entertaining at times. The activities and initiatives a small band of committed people took to keep their computer interest supported is admirable. Remember this is a machine which lacked much support, and whose manufacturer went bankrupt at the end of 1983 just as the group was getting started. This band of folk imported software from groups and writers all over the world, paid royalties, tried to arrange hardware (like disk drives), photocopied any article they could find, arranged for overseas magazines to be bought in, arranged an upgrade service with new ROMS, posted newsletters, ran meetings...all voluntary and unpaid, for a group of about 100 or so.

Such was the passion of people in regards to microcomputers in the early days.

The newsletters also gave me more information on the Colour Genie, which I can add to my EACA section of the System 80 Website. For instance, I hadn't realised that EACA hadn't made the disk interface before they went under. It seems this came from a third party. Also, the Colour Genie went through a ROM upgrade. That I was aware of but I had assumed this was an upgrade sold by EACA and incorporated into later models. However, the newsletters suggest this was actually a third-party product, most likely from a European source (Germany or Lowe Electronics, UK).

So, I spent today cleaning the machine of grime and dust. I even disassembled the keyboard, and gave that a good clean. The yellow is quite marked and it makes my other Colour Genie look pristine white! You can see the effect here on the keyboard.

A result of sunlight I think.

However, here is an interesting thing. I discovered this Genie has the upgraded ROMS! These new ROMS give the Genie an extra text line, and a few more commands.

I had some Colour Genie software in WAV file format, which wouldn't run on my first Colour Genie. I suspected the reason was that they were written for the new ROMS. Sure enough, when I loaded them into this new one, they worked like a charm!

It's good to get the original Colour Genie docs at last, and some tape software. In coming days, I'll see how many programs I can salvage off these old tapes, convert them to WAV format and save them on my PC hard drive for when I want to feed the Colour Genie(s) with programs.


24th August, 2008

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