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The Communicator is a bit of an anomaly as it is possibly the only genuine 16 bit computer Acorn made. It seems to have been designed as an intelligent terminal for use with Prestel and other early electronic mail/Bulletin board type systems. Details of the Communicator are hard to come by, we have searched both the web and usenet groups with Google and found some contradictory statements.
The Acorn entry in Wikipedia says it was produced in 1982, others state it was designed in 1988 (after the launch of the Archimedes). It is thought that the correct date is 1986.
Again the Acorn entry in Wikipedia says it was never sold commercially, but there is definitive evidence that it was used by Pickfords Travel, including an FCO. We suspect that it was not sold to the general public, and it doesn't appear in the Acorn price lists of the time, but was sold to business customer(s).
There are statements that it was an modified Electron, but the architecture is very different including the use of a 16 bit CPU.
There are statements that the Master Compact reused the case because the Communicator didn't sell. We have checked the case and they clearly are not the same. There are different colour plastic, different ports and a different keyboard layout, in fact, there is little similarity apart from the ridging along the back and the expansion slot on the right hand side.
The Communicator has a GTE G65SC816P-2 CPU which is a 16bit version of the 6502 and has a segmented memory. The 65816 was also used in the Apple IIGS. The Communicator is reported to use the Electron ULA (BTW this must date it to 1985 or later when Ferranti was finally able to ship it in volume) but does not contain a Ferranti ULA, instead there is a Mietec IC with an Acorn part no. 0252,602 - is this also a ULA?
The Communicator has 512K of RAM expandable to 1024K, 32K CMOS RAM and 256K ROM. The applications included in ROM were, View, Viewsheet, Comms and Terminal Emulation.
There is no disc storage internally and no interface for external storage. The only filing system interface is Econet, and that needs a standard Econet module as used on a BBC Master. It has an integral, BABT approved modem. The ports are Display Output, Printer Output, Serial (uses a Telephone type connector) and on-board modem.
Our machine was was very kindly donated by Chris Curry and has a serial number of B01-PPC01-0000004.
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This exhibit has a reference ID of CH33413. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.