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V > VISUAL TECHNOLOGY > Visual 1083 / Commuter   

Visual 1083 / Commuter

Visual was the 5th largest manufacturer of office graphics terminals. They once thought they could design a nice IBM PC clone (which they did) and sell it with their terminals (which they didn't). It turned out that Visual's salesmen weren't equipped to sell computers and Visual had put too much money into these computers (the built-in color graphics, a terminal mode, 2 disk drives, etc.) to sell them at stripped down prices. So Visual sold them all to DAK (a popular US electronic reseller) and took an enormous loss.

The Visual 1083, also known as the "Commuter" is an interesting machine. It is an early MS-DOS system, thus considered as IBM PC compatible. It could even be the first "IBM PC" portable computer equiped with a LCD display !

Indeed the particularity of the Commuter is to be able to a use detachable (and optional) LCD display (80x16 characters, monochrome) or a more classic RGB monitor (80x25 characters).

The LCD display can flip up and down to make the system portable. Thanks to its big sturdy handle, the "Commuter" can thus be easily carried away. The case being completely closed, the computer turns into a practical suitcase (see "more pictures" page).

Built-in the system are two 5.25" disk drives offering 360 KB each. The 83 key keyboard is identical to IBM's PC, except for the addition of lights on the "Caps Lock" and "Num Lock" keys.

The computer could be expanded by adding custom cards. There is an expansion port that can be directly connected to an IBM expansion chassis.

When turned on, the computer shows the following menu :


Funny to see that the choices make : BEST ...


Harland LaVigne reports:
I was executive VP of Custom Computer Systems located in Marlboro MA. The Commuter was actually designed by our team of engineers...led by Prevez Zaki. We got the product to the prototype stage and realized we didn't have the capital necessary to mass produce the product. Therefore we sold our company to Visual Technologies in a $10M stock transaction.

We need more info about this computer ! If you designed, used, or have more info about this system, please send us pictures or anything you might find useful.
Please consider donating your old computer / videogame system to or one of our partners from anywhere in the world (Europe, America, Asia, etc.).


I used to work for Visual Technology from 1980-1987, and from 1983-1987 as a repair technician. These were nice units to work on with everything on the single board.

I have one that is still operational. Complete with the user guide and the troubleshooting guide with the schematics.

These were really great systems in their day, and were quite capable of running all kinds of software including CAD programs. This was back when whole programs would fit on a 360K floppy.

With the built-in terminal mode and the fully-functional serial ports, they have been used in the past as controllers for the diagnostic boards in AM International (Varityper Epics 20/20) typesetting system. In 1988 my family purchased a Varityper Epics 20/20 system for their graphics studio. When the Varityper technicians came in to setup the system, they brought their Visual Commuters.

Tuesday 15th February 2011
John Citron (USA)

It was great to see this machine listed here! Brings back lots of memories. I bought one new from DAK back in 83 or 84. It came bundled with a 12 inch amber monochrome monitor and a Silver Reed daisy wheel printer. I see that you list it as having an 8088 processor but I had the cover off mine to set it for color and it was an 8086 processor. I had the max ram of 512 and eventually put a 13 inch color monitor on it. Didn't get the LCD however. I wish I knew where it was or had some pictures of it to share.

Thanks for bringing back fond memories

Tuesday 27th May 2008
Richard L. Groves Jr. (USA)

I had one of these! I've been trying to remember the make and model for it, for years. This was my first IBM compat after owning an Apple II+ for several years.

I remember being WOWed by having a whole 128K of memory. The swing-up LCD display was pretty useless. Bad contrast and no graphics.

At the end of it's reign, in my house, I unhoused the motherboard from the case and re-installed it into a tower unit, allowing otherwise impossible upgrades. I remember trying to use Windows 1.0 on this machine. Even simple uses and applications required many diskette swaps. After a lot of screwing around, I managed to mate the motherboard with a 10M Seagate HD and "install" Windows 1.0 onto it. Sort of a pointless exercise. I didn't bother with Windows again, until 3.11, and continued to use DOS along with various task switchers and TSR add-ons.

Thanks for the flashback!

Thursday 29th November 2007
Kelly Lute (USA)


NAME  Visual 1083 / Commuter
MANUFACTURER  Visual Technology
TYPE  Transportable
YEAR  1983
KEYBOARD  Complete full-stroke keyboard with numeric keypad and function keys
CPU  Intel 8088
SPEED  4.77 MHz
RAM  128 KB (up to 512 KB max.)
TEXT MODES  80 chars. x 25 lines
80 chars. x 16 lines with LCD display
GRAPHIC MODES  Text mode only
SOUND  Beeper (?)
SIZE / WEIGHT  50.8 (W) x 44.4 (D) x 18.4 (H) cm / 16 lbs (7.25 kg.)
I/O PORTS  Expansion port, Async port (DB25 male), Parallel port, Monochrome video output (DB9), composite video output (DIN5)
BUILT IN MEDIA  Two 360 KB 5.25'' FDD.
OS  MS DOS 2.11
POWER SUPPLY  Built-in power supply
PERIPHERALS  RAM expansion, LCD display, printers...
PRICE  $1895 (1985, USA)

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