Construction: Single unit Microprocessors: Two Zilog Z80s (CPU, I/O) Word size: 8 bits Execution time: 1.0 msec register to register Machine instructions: 158 Interrupt mode: Vectored and reserved Disk drives: Two 5.25" 180KB floppy drives Memory: 32KB + 1K static RAM + 2K ROM Screen: 12" diagonal 24x80 chars Characters: 5x7 character matrix Serial interface: Two RS-232 max speed = 9600bps Character set: ASCII (128 characters) Software: CP/M 2.2, 8080 assembler, debugger, text editor, PIP Weight: 45 pounds Dimensions: 14.6" x 21.4" x 23.1"
Date: 1981. Columbia's first microcomputer, maybe, if you don't count some others that never went anywhere like the IBM 5100. Options (that we didn't have) included memory expansion to 64K, a parallel port, an S100 expansion bus adapter, Microsoft Basic-80, and Microsoft Fortran-80. This is the user end of the first Kermit connection (1981): Superbrains were deployed in public areas, connected to the Computer Center through the Gandalf PACX RS-232 serial switch, allowing users to archive their DEC-20 and IBM mainframe files to floppy disks and upload them again at a later time, using Columbia's Kermit protocol on each end of the connection; the Superbrain Kermit program also served as a VT52 terminal emulator. Reference: Intertec Data Systems Inc, SUPERBRAIN Users Manual, Columbia SC, September 1980.
CLICK HERE for some offsite color photos.
The first image shows it after vacuuming; the rest after a more thorough cleaning inside and out. The fifth picture (rear view) shows the custom-wired serial cable that was required to make it work with our PACX switch boxes. The final picture shows, evidently, that this unit (#4009?) was assembled by "I.P." on 5/27/81. We didn't order the Superbrains until we had already developed and tested a Kermit prototype on the DEC-20, so the Superbrains arrived about 4 weeks later. Bill Catchings did the programming, and that's "Bill's Disk" shown in the 9th picture.
Does it still work? Almost. I plugged it in, flipped the power switch, the Disk A light came on, Disk drive A made some noises, and then nothing. Probably a fuse blew. It seems, against all odds, to be in pretty good shape and might be fixable. And we do have some boot disks, Kermit disks, and other software disks for it, including the original Intertec disks.
In August 2011, the cleaned-up and almost-working Superbrain pictured above was shipped to the Computer History Museum, together with its system and Kermit floppy disks.
|Columbia University Computing History||Frank da Cruz / email@example.com||This page created: August 2011||Last update: 7 April 2021|