Coleco Adam

Made in USA by Coleco in 1983
Units sold: 100000
The ADAM is a full computer, with a printer, external and internal drives and lots of memory, The ADAM also differers from the Colecovision in many ways. It has a keyboard, the printer is part of the computer, it has special cartridges that will not run on the Colecovision. Finally most games come on a special cassette or 5¼ disk, and are not compatible with the Colecovision.
There was also and expansion module for the Coleco that turned it into an ADAM computer.

The Digital Data Packs were much like other cassette storage for computers. But higher capacity (256k) and the tape drive was faster.

The ADAM computer had an expansion slot identical to the one on the Colecovision. So, the Atari 2600 adapter and The Driving Controller work on the ADAM.

?What happens when the ADAM expansion module (meant for the ColecoVision) is plugged into an ADAM Computer?

There are 80-column modules.

CP/M is available for the ADAM. 80 column card strongly recommended for full compatibility.

The ADAM can use disk drives that use 160k 5¼ (single sided) and 320k 5¼ disks (double sided). Later hardware and drivers allow for 360k 5¼ disks, 720k 3½ disks, and 1.44mb 3½ disks (double sided, high density).

IDE cards and ports can be added. Hard drives can be installed on the ADAM.

There are 64k, 128k, 256k, and 512K memory modules

Printer Port and RS-232 serial port modules were made.

Additional peripherals:
MegaCOPY module (manufacture thousands of Digital Data Packs to sell)

A Laserdisc module was planned by Coleco at one time but dropped before 1985.

The 10.7MHz TMS9928A can be used for co-processing as long as the results fit into 2-bits of data. Two logic operations as a time (XOR, AND, OR). Suitable for basic arithmetic, simple encryptions, and status indicators. Also, using the results faster than the main CPU is impossible so the operation is at best only performing 2 calculations at once at 3.58MHz.
$600 MSRP
3.58MHz Z80 CPU
1MHz 6801 co-processor 1
1MHz 6801 co-processor 2
1MHz 6801 co-processor 3
TMS9928A 10.7MHz GPU
80k RAM
Digital Data Pack Tape drive
Letter-quality printer ($600+ value)
Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom
Word Processor (Typewriter mode or modern Word Processor )
Basic productivity software.

1983 comparisons
The IBM PCjr, 4.77MHz, 64k, $669 (included no peripherals)
Atari 600XL, 1.79MHz, 16k, $199.00 (+$129.95 drive, $349 printer = $677.95 without software)
The Commodore 64, 1.023MHz, 64k, $200 (+tape drive, +printer, +software, usually over $400 for these extras).
The Apple ][e, 1.023MHz, 64k, $1,395 (included no peripherals)
For most every day tasks, an ADAM actually beats an Apple][e (industry benchmarks). A demo application for the system shows 4 text windows running independent tasks and in another an animated textured 3D polygon rotates and bounces around in one window (albeit in binary color) while text is being scrolled in another. This may not be not impressive now, but doing this with 1983 technology is quite impressive. However, Coleco never widely advertised the ADAM's advantages. They started bad with their surprise Donkey Kong conversion that was probably not a violation of their licensing agreement with Nintendo but they should have discussed it with Nintendo first (this surprise put Nintendo in a bad position in it's already shaky negotiations with Atari, which fell apart eventually). Further self-sabotage resulted from promising and alarming rate of 100,000 units shipped by Christmas when after they had only a partially working prototype in June. Sadly, they delivered on this promise and as many as 5 in 6 ADAMS shipped in a non-functional state. Although Coleco claimed only 1 in 10 had defects and this was acceptable as being "well below industry standards". Customers as well as stockholders were enraged. At such a low cost ($600 including drives, printer, everything at a time when similar quality printers alone cost more than $600), high rate of defective systems, and lack of information, consumers were left to assume the ADAM was an inferior platform to other computers. About this time, the video game market crashed. Computers, and computer games went right on growing, but home consoles were deemed dead by 1984. The crash and ADAM cost Coleco $35 million in 2 years. Other companies had dumped many times that into their new computers and consoles, but enjoyed decent reputations to carry them through to profitability. The press advised consumers that the ADAM launch was rushed and to wait for Coleco to fix the problems. Coleco reduced the price, added a scholarship for each new customer, wrote a new user manual (they blamed the original manual for everything), and hired Ketchum Advertising to repair the Adam's reputation. Many loyal consumers waited for real fixes to come. Ketchum Advertising, with many new staff hired for the task ahead, were all set to start on January 2, 1985 when they read Coleco's announced fix in the New York Times; Coleco would be discontinuing the ADAM and support for it. Many major companies and minor ones saw enough potential in the 100,000 or so ADAMs in the wild that they picked up support for the orphaned PC. The ADAM has seen new quality purchasable hardware and software every year since 1985 (as of 2016). However, ADAM developers and users did not sit quietly in response to Coleco's abandonment. Coleco ended up providing very limited support. Mostly in the form of providing files, code, and technical documents for devs and users to decipher.
When powered on, the ADAM emits a small EMP (electro magnetic pulse). Any magnetic storage nearby (disks and cassettes) can be corrupted or erased (including ones in the ADAM's drives). So, users must physically separate their storage from the ADAM by considerable distance when turning on or reseting.
The printer plugs into the wall and the ADAM plugs into the printer. No printer, no computer. When the printer's power supply failed, no computer.
The faster, higher capacity, tape drive and cassettes were still considerably slower than 5¼ disks.
Coleco's licensing requirements were extremely restrictive and included the right to inspect source code and make changes, prohibited criticism, and required destruction of developers equipment and entire software stock if the license were revoked (which could be done at Coleco's whim).
The motherboard did not lineup with the cases so assembly was "difficult".

The difficulty of assembling an ADAM computer inspired an assembly contest at yearly ADAM conventions.

Fix the whiny printer:
If the print head always moves right and stays (makes an whining noise), turn off the printer.
Remove cover, slide head all the way right.
On the circuit board it says "8Ǝ" near a small metal circle.
Temporarily connect the metal circle and the metal box behind it with a metal object (i.e. screwdriver).
While these are still connected, turn on the printer and wait for the head to move left until to must dodge it.
The printer should begin printing random characters. Switch it off and it will be fixed when turned on again.

Available languages:
Assembly Language / Machine Code
Many flavors of BASIC
C (very late addition)


tech info

resolution: 256x192x16
memory: RAM 80kB (-512k), VRAM 16 kB, ROM 32kB
CPU: Zilog [email protected], 6801 1MHz, 6801 1MHz, 6801 1MH
GFX: [email protected]
sound: SN76489AN

Related systems

Coleco Adam1983