History


This page will develop into a history of the Nascom microcomputer kit. I am particularly interested to discover the reasons why the excellent design did not survive longer than it did.

Please add comments below if
  • You have an idea for a topic I should cover
  • You know something of the history and would like to share
I hope to include interviews with those who founded, worked for, or worked closely with, Nascom during the late 70s and early 80s. If you wish to get in touch, please write.

  1. Where did the idea for Nascom come from?
  2. In what ways was Nascom the first real home computer in the UK?
  3. What is the origin of the name Nascom?
  4. How did the founders meet?
  5. What were the founders doing before they started Nascom?
  6. Who were the brains behind the design of the Nascom-1?
  7. What was the relationship to Shelton Instruments Ltd?
  8. What was the relationship to Lynx Electronics Ltd?
  9. What was unique about the design?
  10. Were there any licensing or patent issues to work around?
  11. Why was the Z80 chosen?
  12. How was the bus important?
  13. Would you say that today we might call Nascom an 'open source' hardware company?
  14. How many units in total were sold? How many in the UK?
  15. Were Nascom's used only by hobbyists to teach themselves programming? 
  16. Did any Nascom's end up in business or industrial applications?
  17. What was the extent of the wider Nascom ecosystem?
  18. Where was Nascom's first head office?  
  19. Who manufactured the main board and later the expansion cards?
  20. From what companies were the components sourced?
  21. How many people worked at Nascom in its heyday?
  22. How did Nascom expand to meet the demand?
  23. How many other companies were trying to do something similar at the time?
  24. Who emerged as the main competitors?  
  25. When and how did the company come to be acquired by Lucus Logic?
  26. What were the main problems that beset the company? 
  27. Did Lucas Logic understand the business they were getting into?
  28. How many version 3 Nascoms (packaged in case) were shipped?
  29. What is known about the origins of the SPEX word processor?
  30. What did the key employees do after they left the company?
  31. What was any relationship to 'Gemini'?
  32. Where are the core members of the team today? Do they ever get together?
  33. How many Nascoms are known to still be working in the UK?
  34. Does Nascom deserve a permanent exhibit at a national museum?
  35. Who can supply more information about Nascom?
  36. Does anyone have contact details or lead to Kerr Borland?
  37. Does anyone have contact details or lead to John Marshall?
  38. Does anyone have contact details or lead to Chris Shelton?

15 comments:

  1. There is some history here:
    http://www.oocities.org/peterochocki/computers/1980comp/nascrev.htm

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  2. There is some more history here:
    http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?c=175&st=1

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  3. More history here:
    http://nascom.wordpress.com/history/

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  4. More history here:
    http://nascom.wordpress.com/the-magazines-2/

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  5. Info on Kerr Borland here:
    http://yourcomputeronline.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/interview-micro-market-insider-kerr-borland/

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  6. More history:
    http://www.i-programmer.info/history/machines/107-the-age-of-the-big-board-computers.html?start=1

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  7. The interview with Kerr Borland in issue 1 of Personal Computer World:
    http://nascom.wordpress.com/the-magazines-2/pcw-interview/

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  8. Nascom coverage in a book Digital Retro:
    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=967VdXdc5w4C&pg=PA987-IA4&lpg=PA987-IA4&dq=lynx+electronics+ltd+nascom&source=bl&ots=kRMEpZDSWq&sig=ky2XQYAkkgBpmDM-axyD9_jlF2A&hl=en&sa=X&ei=lni-UOmGB4bA0QWThoDwDg&ved=0CFYQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=lynx%20electronics%20ltd%20nascom&f=false

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  9. This story appears to create a link between Nascom, Gemini (set up by ex-Nascom employees after Nascom was sold to Lucas?) and to Sinclair in respect of one Andre Bitton who was fined by Sinclair for violations of copyright. The domain name geminicomputers.co.uk is now defunct but was registered by Bitton according to Nominet whois search:

    http://www.sincuser.f9.co.uk/043/news.htm

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  10. I was one of the "400" who was at the Wembley Conference Centre back in 1979 at the Nascom-1 launch. I received the N-1 a few weeks later in the first batch I believe. I built the machine and developed software for it. Although I don't have my original machine, I have several other N-1s and N-2s and lots of boards, card cages and power supplies. Some of them even work! I had two N-3s complete with disk drives which in a moment of weakness I sold, but really only the N-1 had any real meaning for me.

    Steve

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    Replies
    1. Steve, that's great to hear about other working machines.

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  11. Hi

    I was very fortunate to have an excellent Physics (Paul Gardiner) teacher in the period 1980 to 1972 that introduced me to the nascom 2 computer , subsequently my Dad got me a Nascom 1 kit direct from Lucas, after some time I upgraded to a Nascom 2 with a 48K ram board then a Map 80 256K an even AVC card! After many years of nostalgia I purchased a Nascom in a yellow fiberglass case which looked like a techy had had due to numerous switches and eproms installed does any one know who's this was?

    Thanks

    Richard Laight

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  12. I built a NASCOM 1 all those years ago. Still have it. As I was working at ITT Footscray at the time I had access to the new 16K dynamic RAM, which had to be refreshed every few milliseconds. I had all the technical manuals to hand and built a 16K memory card, which worked fine. It was wire wrapped. I think my eyes have just about recovered. I also purchased a BASIC interpreter on tape. It all worked fine. In a silly moment I decided I needed the memory parts for other things and dismantled the 16K card, but for a while I had a NASCOM with a pretty huge memory for time.

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  13. I have a Nascom3, which with two others we built it (as a N1) in 1980, it was used to analyze radar plot extractors, about 15 yrs ago it developed a keyboard fault, followed by a -5v supply fault. Recently I have started revive it. The -5v was no problem, but the keyboard is a nightmare, I have two keyboards and both display the same symptoms , it looks as if the keys are magnet operated reed relays, and are failing to operate. Does anyone know how to reactivate them, if possible. Or a source of replacements.

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  14. Hi Alan
    I assume that the N3 is more or less a N2 with some add-ons nicely wrapped up. If the N3-keyboard is somewhat similar to the N2-keyboard, it's not very likely it's "broken". Well - I don't know of course.
    I have two N2's. On one of them, the serial communication didn't work reliably. And suddenly it became unstable in other ways too. It took a while to rule out hardware problems. At the end of the day, it appeared that the Eprom containing the monitor (NAS-SYS 3), more or less was "collapsed". Programming a fresh 2716 Eprom with a new monitor solved the problem. I expect the serial issues will be gone too.
    Your more than 30 year old eproms is worth a closer look :-)
    Btw. I lack of owning my own N3, I would like to see one inside. Any pics???
    Best regards
    Jan

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