Exidy Sorcerer

Made in USA by Exidy in 1978
Generation: 2
Exidy Sorcerer (model DP1000-1). SMRP: US
Exidy Sorcerer II (model DP1000-2)
? (model DP1000-3) ?
Dynasty smart-ALEC (model DP1000-4)

CPU: Zilog Z80 @ 2.106MHz (4MHz official upgrade or overclocking)
RAM: 4kB - 32kB, Sorcerer II 8kB - 48kB (later 48kB came standard)
ROM: 4kB
Video: 64×30 text (512×240 pixels), supported custom character sets (the upper 128 characters of the 256 total resided in RAM & designed to be used as programmable graphics), monochrome (actually, disabled color)
Cartridges: 4 kB to 16 kB in size
Sound: none (but upgradable)
Ports: composite video, Centronics parallel, RS-232, phono plug in/out (cassette), 50 pin ribbon connector (for S-100 bus compatible adapter).

A floppy disk drive was later available. For $2995, you could get a 12" monitor with dual floppy drives built-in.

$895 with 8K RAM
US$1150 with 16K RAM
US$1395 with 32K RAM

Manufactured & supported 1978-1980.

Often cited as the first computer to utilize ROM cartridges to instantly load programs. In fact, the VideoBrain Family computer was the 1st in 1977. The Sorcerer was 2nd.

While some Apple ][ games utilized digital sound samples via a hack to send sound out of the cassette jack (a phono plug), no such hack was conceived for the Sorcerer. Rather, developers created a hack to send sound via 2 pins in the parallel port.

The system initially shipped with a Microsoft BASIC cartridge and an Extended BASIC cartridge was offered (but never released). Microsoft Extended BASIC could be loaded from cassette. Both versions had some command-line features not available in DOS or CP/M. For instance, users could assign commands to keystrokes so a command could be typed with a single keystroke (GRAPHICS+P for PRINT for instance). An 3rd party SRAM cartridge was designed that allowed cassette programmed to be copied to it. Useful to instantly boot your favorite program rather than wait for it to load from cassette every time.

While the Sorcerer was theoretically capable of running CP/M & CP/M-80 software, it's mildly exotic hardware (graphics & bus design) meant compatibility was far from guaranteed. CP/M expected to have 64kB addressable in 16-bit mode even for program requiring only 1kB. Only 32kb from the 48kB was left for programs to easily use. Gaining just a few kB more took some advanced kung foo and sacrificed other functions of the system. CP/M software had to know about the limited memory in order to get by, thus games had to be ported (no shovelware allowed). Cartridge and Disk versions of CP/M were available.

The Sorcerer internally was capable of color. But, every graphics function, every single update or refresh, had to use the CPU, share the system bus, and required up to 16kB of RAM that otherwise was needed to operated all the I/O. Easily doable for 320x200, but 512×240 color graphics would have eaten up too many CPU cycles for anything else to run (it could have display a color static image in 512×240 mode and simultaneously do nothing else, not even load from the cassette). Because of these logistics, the final product was hardwired monochrome, no color, not a chance, not without a hardware hack (apparently never preformed).

The Sorcerer was initially conceived to be a game capable and business friendly system with the user experience of a Vic-20 and surpassing the gaming abilities of an Apple ][. The final product fell short of it's Apple ][ like aspirations, but managed to exceed the Vic-20 many categories (all categories except color if counting upgrades).

tech info

resolution: 64×30 text (512x240 pixels)
memory: 4kB - 48kB RAM, 4k ROM, 4kB - 16 kB ROM cartridges
CPU: Zilog [email protected], [email protected]
sound: none, upgradeable