Memories at Apricot
Memories of working with Apricot
The original design came about on 'beer mats'. I think at the time, ACT wanted to produce and market their own machine in direct competition with the Sirius, but more 'up market', 'cheaper' and built in the UK. Just how they came to be talking to QED I can't remember, but there was a very 'short' lead time from concept to first unit, something like 6 weeks or probably less. Another outside company (Capa, of London) was brought in to design and prototype up the first PC case, which didn't go through many changes from the prototype one, other than moving a few fixing points.
What you have to remember is that I was assembling Microscribe terminals for loan samples, along with other prototype work and the Apricot PC and PC/Xi and series came to me amidst my other 'assembly' and prototype work.
I can remember being asked if I could wire wrap the first prototype circuit design, the designer only showed me one A0 sheet, which could have been done in about a week, not knowing that there was another A0 sheet to go with it that would have taken about 2 weeks on its own, but it was eventually calculated that it was going to take just as long to wire wrap as it would to design and manufacture the first multy-layer (4 layers) PCB.
I think the first board arrived on the Saturday morning, and was build and being de-bugged the same afternoon, the Hi and Lo boot roms (Eproms) were edited on the Sunday and left on soak until the Monday, odd changes being made to them on the Monday. ACT visited on the Tuesday I think, to see the first prototype machine running.
It was, as I recall, a panic to get the first prototype out as it was behind schedule, the next 5 units and 10 boards took about 6 days to assemble and test and fit into 'boxes'.
With the F series, I can't remember having a different type/design of board, the F1, F1e, F2 and F10 were the same board, just under populated, I can remember the problems getting 2 floppy drives into the same space as the single 720k drive, and designing the bracketry to mount them, you may have the sketches of the brackets and dimensions and the position slots cut-out in my book. The F10 (Fat F1) had the single 720k drive, with the hard drive mounted above the Infrared board and at the side of the floppy, with its driver board in one of the bus sockets, with ribbon forced into places it didn't want to go, the drive mounting brackets design is in my note book, that design was used throughout the F series production run
I'm not sure if I have them, but there were drawings of the 'wooden cases'
the first 6 Apricot PC's went into, I have the remains of a PC case and possibly an F1 caes buried at the back of my attic, which I'll dig out for you. I think there is a PC/Xi keyboard still in its wooden case up there as well. I also have, somewhere, the full chip set for the 'prototype' board.
Something else has just come to mind with the first PC, I had the
absoulutely wonderful job of sampling different manufacturers chips in a board to see
what the 'different' propogation times were for their gates, and to 'pick' the
best ones for the location within the circuit, Motorola 74LS32 would work ok in
one place, but a TI chip was better in another place... I went through at
least 10 on/off switches and many 1488's and 1489's (RS232) that just blew up for
no particular reason.
I can remember the first few PC production boards had sockets fitted for a
few chips on the board that were known to be expected to 'blow-up' for no