Welcoming an Exidy Sorcerer
I regard the Exidy Sorcerer as a classic computer in this part of the world. It was promoted and supported heavily by Dick Smith Electronics in 1979 to 1980, and was a hobbyist machine of note both in Australasia and Europe. Like the Commodore Pet, the Apple II and the TRS-80 Model 1, it was a ready-to-go consumer machine. I wanted one!
I'd seen Sorcerers come up on e-Bay a couple of times. On both occasions the units were in Europe. Even if I'd won the auctions, shipping costs were prohibitive. I'd almost flagged any hope of getting one. It was a surprise then, when I was contacted by a seller right here in my own town! The computer had spent most of the last 25 years boxed up in an attic. It was a one-owner machine, clean, working and complete with all the manuals and software. What could be better! A deal was struck and ownership transferred.
The machine and its paraphernalia came in three separate boxes. The first box was the original one the machine was sold in (figures 1 and 2). Cool!
Figure 1. Original Exidy Sorcerer box
Figure 2. The contents - One Exidy Sorcerer
An inspection revealed a very clean, unmarked and display-quality machine. The model always was a natural cream colour so it's hard to know if the pale yellow (accentuated by the flash) is from UV or not. It seems more yellow than other pictures I've seen on the web so perhaps there is a little. Then again, maybe the particular batch this Sorcerer came from was a creamy yellow? Certainly this is what the seller maintains. The textured plastic certainly looks high-quality and the unit's lived most of its life in a very dark box. Given the doubt I've decided I won't be de-yellowing this one.
From the numbers on the label it seems this is a Sorcerer II. The version upgrade fixed a problem with the RS-232 interface. Ports on the back consisted of a composite video connection, two audio ports for the cassette player, a parallel port, a serial port and an edge expander.
The monitor was a white AWA modified black and white television. The Sorcerer did not come with its own screen so it was normal practice for the vendor (likely Dick Smith in this case) to sell them with some kind of third-party monitor. Wiring this up I was soon ready to switch on. Even thought I'd seen my purchase working at the seller's place, there was still that tinge of anticipation and excitement at booting up a classic machine. Switching on produced the startup screen from the in-built monitor (Figure 3). Crystal clear and steady with 32k on board.
Figure 3. Start up screen showing the in-built monitor program
Loading a program
As with the monitor, the Sorcerer wasn't manufactured with its own tape deck. One was supplied in the purchase though. This was a beast! I'd never seen a machine like it. It seemed to be specifically designed to allow the user to have as much control as possible over input and output. That's exactly what's needed when dealing with usually-less-than-reliable computer cassettes. (figure 4)
Figure 4. A SERIOUS data cassette unit together with software
Inspecting some of the dozen or so tapes, containing both purchased and copied software, showed old standards like Scott Adam's "The Count" and "Adventureland", various arcade games and utilities. I decided on "Martian Invaders" for a first tryout.
It took a bit of manual browsing to figure out the right load commands but I was soon firing missiles at invading craft (Figure 5). The PLAY button on the cassette deck needed quite a thump to make it stick in the down position but stick it eventually did.
Figure 5. Playing spacies on the Exidy Sorcerer
Opps. Screen failure
Part-way loading the tape on the first attempt the screen display suddenly disappeared. Uh oh.. Was it suppose to do this? I switched off and rebooted only to find the screen was still blank. There were two possibilities. The computer or the screen had developed a fault. With my heart in my mouth I hoped it was the latter!
It WAS the latter. Swapping the AWA monitor with my trusty green screen one (seen above) revealed an image again. Not a serious problem then, as I have several mono composite monitors. I've come to expect failures when old electronics are warmed up after years of sleep. I tried the screen again today with the same result. It seems to have a fault which expresses itself when the circuits warm up. Something to check out later and fix if I feel inclined.
Loads of Manuals
One real bonus was the collection of manuals. All the manuals normally sold with the Sorcerer were there including the technical manual and two from Dick Smith. I normally have to chase these separately so it was great to get them all in one hit (Figure 6).
Figure 6. The manuals bundled with the Sorcerer
The only thing preventing this being the perfect purchase was a non-working BASIC ROM-PAC. Although the monitor allowed loading and saving of machine language programs, BASIC ones needed this ROM-PAC, which was sold along with every Sorcerer. You also needed it to program in BASIC of course. I knew it wasn't working when I bought the machine but it's a small fault. I'm assuming one of the ROMS within has failed. A replacement BASIC ROM-PAC is the only part of the Sorcerer I'm going to have to seek to make this collectable complete.
Figure 7. BASIC ROM-PAC plugged in
Apart from a broken BASIC ROM-PAC, this Sorcerer has come with everything needed to put it on display. It's unblemished, works and all the manuals are there. I'm stoked! There is some more information on this machine on the collections page here.
8th June, 2011