The HP-85 was a famous all-in-one computer which met a great worldwide success thanks to its high reliability and ease of use. It featured a 8 bit processor, 16 KB of RAM, a built-in 5" CRT display, tape drive, thermal printer and four I/O ports.
The HP custom processor had 64 8-bit registers but no accumulators. Even slow, it offered outstanding performances in math calculations.
The display offered a full screen editor and and a ROLL key allowing to scroll the screen window up and down through a 48 line (three full screens) buffer .
The quiet and quite fast printer could print a hard copy of the screen in text or graphic mode as well as direct programs outputs.
The built-in tape cartridge system used a common DC100 data cartridge that could hold 195 KB of program files, binary files or data files. Up to 42 file names could be stored in the directory of the tape. A searching function made a file to be found in less than 1 mn. When the system was switched on, the tape drive automatically searched a program called 'Autost' and ran it if found.
HP also provided a large range of interface modules to be plugged in the expansion slots. The system could then manage several peripherals through GPIB or Serial ports: FDD unit, printers, plotters, etc. A 'ROM Drawer' module allowed up to six ROM chips to be inserted. They expanded the capabilities of the internal BASIC interpreter, provided additional languages (Assembler, Pascal), and I/O routines for external devices.
A quite special "feature" of the HP-85 was that the screen blanked whenever the printer was printing or the cartridge was accessed!
I had a poster of one on my closet door. It featured the HP-85 in the foreground, superimposed on an outer space background. A comet-tail animation came from the rear of the machine, as if it was coming right at you. There was also an image of the Capricornus zodiac symbol, for whatever reason. The poster was given to me by a friend of the family, who happened to be a chemist for the Nabisco company, circa 1981. Even though I owned a C-64 from 1982-1986, my childhood perception was that the HP-85 must have been more of a ''real'' computer.
Saturday 12th March 2011
Jules Pitsker (USA)
First computer I ever used. My high school got four of them when HP put a small plant in our town. 20 students, 4 machines, 50 minutes, not a lot of time for debugging our BASIC snowmen and other simple programs since most all of us where hunt-and-peck keyboarders. Good little machines though. Simple, only one cord and no need for printer ink. And as small as it was, that little amber screen wasn''t difficult to read (then again I was using my younger eyes).
Friday 18th June 2010
Pdubu (Camano Island, WA)
When I went to the Byte Shop in Seattle, WA in 1980 to buy a Compucolor 2 they were closing out on (Thank God I bought an Atari 800!). They had some HP-85's. I was really impressed by their capabilities and I drooled over buying one, I couldn't afford them at $5000 (Atari's went for $1200). While I was there a well dressed gentleman came in and inquired about computers for his business. He was shown the HP-85 and said he would take two of them. He pulled out his AE card and the salesman looked very pleased with his sale.
Friday 25th July 2003
RENALDO (Seattle, WA)
END OF PRODUCTION
BUILT IN LANGUAGE
HP Basic interpreter
Full stroke 93 keys with numeric keypad and user definable keys
'Capricorn' custom HP 8-bit CPU
Custom HP I/O circuits
16 KB (14.5 KB for the user, expandable to 32 KB)
32 chars x 16 lines
256 x 192 dots
Four I/O Ports
BUILT IN MEDIA
Built-in DC 100 cardridge drive
Built-in BASIC language. Optional CP/M O.S. with external FD/HD unit