Exidy Sorcerer II
The Sorcerer was one of the early home computer systems, released in 1978 by the videogame company, Exidy. It was comparatively advanced when released, given its competition of Commodore PET and TRS-80, but due to a number of problems including a lack of marketing, the machine remained relatively unknown. Exidy eventually pulled it from the market in 1980, and today they are a coveted collector's item.
The Sorcerer was first launched in 1978 at a price of US$895. It was powered by a Zilog Z80 running at 2.106 MHz with 8 kilobytes of RAM. The expansion systems and drives were released at the same time.
It was the first home computer with a ROM cartridge port for instant program access (most home users struggled with slow, error-prone cassette tape storage in the late 1970s). The designers cleverly re-purposed 8-track tape shells to hold the ROM cartridge circuit board and a Microsoft BASIC cartridge was included with every unit.
Exidy initially provided an expansion chassis that would accept up to 6 S-100 bus cards, and a Micropolis dual-disk quad-density 16-sector hard sector floppy disk drive was available.
Sales in Europe were fairly strong, via their distributor, CompuData Systems. The machine had its biggest brush with success in 1979 when the Dutch broadcasting company TELEAC decided to introduce their own home computer. The Belgian company DAI was originally contracted to design their machines, but when they couldn't deliver, CompuData delivered several thousand Sorcerers instead.
By 1980 Exidy had already decided to give up on the machine, but sales in Europe were strong enough that CompuData decided to license the design for local construction in the Netherlands. They built the machine for several years before developing their own 16-bit Intel 8088–based machine called the Tulip, which replaced the Sorcerer in 1983.
One of the largest groups in The Netherlands was the ESGG (Exidy Sorcerer Gebruikers Groep) which published a monthly newsletter in two editions, Dutch and English. They were the largest group for a while in the HCC (Hobby Computer Club) federation. The Dutch company De Broeders Montfort was a major firmware manufacturer.
The Sorcerer also had a strong following in Australia. This is most likely due to Dick Smith Electronics, a leading electronics and hobbyist retailer at the time, pushing the Sorcerer quite heavily. The Sorcerer Computer Users group of Australia (or SCUA) actively supported the Sorcerer long after Exidy discontinued it, with RAM upgrades, speed boosts, the "80 column card", and even a replacement monitor program, SCUAMON.
The Sorcerer was an interesting combination of parts from a standard S-100 bus machine, combined with their custom display circuitry. The machine included the Zilog Z80 and various bus features needed to run the CP/M operating system, but placed them inside a "closed" box with a built-in keyboard similar to machines like the Commodore PET, the Commodore 64, and the Atari 8-bit family. Unlike those machines, the Sorcerer's keyboard was a high quality unit with full "throw". The keyboard included a custom "Graphics" key, which allowed easy entry of the extended character set, without having to overload the Control key, the more common solution on other machines. Somewhat ahead of its peers, the Sorcerer included lower case characters as a standard feature.
There are at least two version of the Sorcerer. The original motherboard (model DP1000-1) had hardware issues with the RS232 serial communications, according to "The computermuseum", and was redesigned and released as the more common Sorcerer II (model DP1000-2). The Sorcerer II also increased the maximum RAM from 32K to 48K.
Our model is the Sorcerer II model No: DP1000-2 with a serial number of 02290-717-11 and was very kindly donated by Eric Everatt who has supplied a large collection of Sorcerer documentation to be shortly archived in PDF format. The Sorcerer is complete with the original box and manual.
We have received two more Exidy Sorcerer computers. One has the serial No. 11579-828; it is in full working order and very good condition, with minor yellowing for its age. The other has the serial No. 6019 and needs a little TLC. These were very kindly donated in the name of Geoffrey John Rose, M.A. (Cantab) on 08 May 2014.
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