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Q > Q1 CORPORATION > Q1 System


This mini forum is intended to provide a simple means of discussion about the Q1 Corporation Q1 System computer. If you want to share your own experience or memories, or add relevant information about this system: post a message!

  Click Here to add a message in the forum


Monday 14th November 2022
Dan (UK)

I had one of these interesting systems, which I believe came from the National Enterprise Board (NEB) in the UK. Mine was a Q1 Microlite (manufactured between 1978 and 1980), with an 80 character x 8 character high quality, sharp orange gas plasma display. The Q1 range had excellent keyboards and distinctive orange gas plasma screens, housed in futuristic black and orange boxes. The branding extended to the file servers and printers. They were examples of pioneering industrial design, and quality workmanship. One strange quirk was that the workstation was very polite, displaying the message "Welcome to the Q1 microlite", and "Q1/Microlite at your service". Some thought and care had gone into the design and presentation of this quality computer. I was very fortunate to have a high specification file server, with a 10 Mb (7.29 mb formatted) four platter 8" hard drive, and a matching 2 Mb (1.2 mb formatted) 8 inch floppy drive. I was amused to find that the file server was fronted by two large red and green neon lights, like something from a 1960''s science fiction series. It took approximately 20-30 seconds to boot, and when the hard disc had reached the operating speed of 3,600 RPM, the green light illuminated, indicating it was online, and ready to boot the Q1 workstation. I taught myself to reset the workstation or start a cold boot after the file server had fully booted up from cold, after a few false starts. My model came with a rebranded NEC spinwriter printer, which is similar to a daisywheel but with an unusual thimble printing mechanism. Print quality was outstanding. Being a high end business computer, build quality was breathtaking compared to the 8 bit machines I used in the 1980s. I am not surprised that NASA used these computers and they were exported across the UK, Europe and the Middle East. When booting off the hard drive and communicating over the high speed (300 kb) 10-Base 2 coax network, it was a respectably fast machine. The Q1 had a distinctive boot sequence : it would boot from the floppy (if present), then off the hard drive, so it was advisable to remove the floppy disc before booting the file server. The 32K memory seemed to be the main limitation when editing large files in the EDIT editor. The Q1 appeared to page text in and out of memory, which was fine on the hard drive but less satisfactory on the 8 inch drive. I was impressed by the PL/1 compiler, a port from IBM System/360 mainframes. There was also a COBOL compiler. It must have been a huge challenge to fit these complex language compilers into a Z80 machine with a mere 32K of RAM. Finally, the quality of documentation was excellent, and they were quite speedy when connected to a dedicated Q1 file server (10 mb hard drive and 8 inch 1.2 mb floppy). I had to fashion up my own coaxial cable and solder in a T-piece terminator, but to my surprise it worked and booted up.

Thursday 29th September 2022
RangerCV4 (Canada)

I found a benchmark of the Q1 in an old Association of Computer Users magazine that was archived on the Wayback machine. The reference starts on page 126 of the following URL. The URL is

Thursday 29th September 2022
RangerCV4 (Canada)

I found an old report from NASA about a program they developed for the Q1 Lite. It lists sample commands and discusses how the Q1 processes the output of the program. Here is the URL

Thursday 22nd September 2022
Roland (Germany)$q1

Dear Bernardo, we are in the process of restoring a Q1-System - I sent you an email !

Tuesday 20th September 2022
Bernardo Kastrup (Netherlands)

Dear all, I am a computer designer and restorer who often works with the Dutch Home Computer Museum. We''ve just acquired a Q1 Lite built in 1978. My intent is to eventually reverse engineer and document the machine. If that is successful, I hope to design a modern clone of the Q1 (the Z80 is still manufactured by Zilog) using an LCD panel instead of the plasma display, and an SD-card port instead of the hard disk drives. For this to make sense, however, we need some of the original software. We can, of course, write brand new software for the clone, but that wouldn''t be a true reproduction. Can any of you provide me with digital copies of Q1 Lite software? Technical documentation would be a significant bonus! Here are the sites where we plan to collect what we learn and do: Hoping to hear from you! (You can contact me at bernardo_kastrup at hotmail dot com)

Sunday 24th July 2022
Gunnar Lilienberg (Sverige)

@Roland (Germany): 40 years ago, I developed programs for the Q1/Lite. In order to do anything with your Q1/Lite, you need a diskette (or an attached hard disk drive) with the program(s) you need to run. You simply start the execution of a program by typing the name of the program and press the Return button. The Q1 then starts searching for the program on the drives 1, 2, 3 and 4 (8 inch floppy disk drives), followed by the drives 5 and 6 (5 1/4 inch floppy disk drives) and finally the disk drives 7 and 8 (hard disk drives). The configuration of your Q1/Lite may consist of only a few disk stations of this maximum possible disk configuration. If you do not have any program disks, there is not much you can do with the computer, I''m afraid. Without documentation, you are also pretty lost. I do not have any documentation left, I''m afraid.

Friday 3rd June 2022
Roland (Germany)

HI, I''ve got a Q1/Lite, dated 1979, together with a printer. The system starts up saying "Q1/Lite at Your Service" - that''s all. No response to the keyboard. Unfortunately I don''t have manuals/schematics - who can help and provide me with more information ? Roland

Thursday 5th August 2021
Bob Frazier (New York)

My first job in technology. Worked there from early 80s to nearly the end in 1989. Started in the Test department, did Field Service, and in the end did a little bit of everything. We went from around 500 employees to me, the receptionist, and the president (Glen Malm). Moved from Hauppauge, to Coram, to Medford, and after I left I think it moved to Glen''s garage.

Wednesday 26th May 2021
Victor Robert Steiner (Australia)

Togther with "Danny" Alroy and one other, I established Q1 Far East Pty Ltd in Hong Kong in the very early 1970''s - long before many of the entries below. I provided space in my office in the Tak Yan Commercial Bldg on the 6th floor at 30-32 D''Aguilar Street, Central Hong Kong. Our plan was to start with selling and installing the Q1 LMC in HK and then sell into China.There were three Directors of the company - Danny, myself and an extremely intelligent HK Chinese who was a US graduate in Computer Science. He was a key input into the use of PL/1 on the system (I truly regret and apologise that I can''t remember his name).

Tuesday 25th May 2021
Victor Robert Steiner (Australia)

Daphne. I am sorry to hear of "Danny" Alroy''s passing early this year. I met him in Hong Kong late in the 1960''s. I had just resigned from the Australian Army and set up a trading company. We formed Q1 Far East Ltd to market the Q1 Micro System in the region - hoping to eventually break into China (I am a Chinese linguist - courtesy Australian Govt). I was a Director of that company, along with a young Chinese man educated in the US in Electronics (struggling to remember his name). I have scanned my Q1 business card of those days and will email copies to you. Regards Victor

Sunday 28th February 2021
Daphne Alroy (Thiberge)  (United States)

For those who aren''t aware, Daniel Alroy, who founded Q1 corporation, passed away in Manhattan on January 31, 2021. I am his daughter. We are compiling his archives, so it would be so wonderful if you could send me anything at all related to his life and work. My email address is: He is survived by me, his ex-wife Eva Alroy, and three handsome grandsons, as well as a small cluster of family members. Blessings, Daphne Alroy

Wednesday 4th December 2019
gregory blake (ronkonkoma)

I worked at Q1 when it started out in farmingdale in the mid 70''s- early 80''s
worked as a bench tech then field service. worked there about 5 yrs
worked with Glen Malm and a bunch of other great guys, Those were the days. we were exhibiting in MGM grand during COMDEX when the MGM had the Fire that took 82 lives. while i was with Q1 we went from the 8080 to the z80. 8 inch floppys to 5 1/4 inch floppys
also offered Ball Multi platter drives, had a console with a daisy wheel printer and Liquid plasma display.
even had a commercial on tv during the very first space shuttle launch.

Sunday 25th August 2019
Mark Bellon (San Jose CA USA)

WOW! I still have some of the manuals! They include the pseudo ops for the PL/1 interpreter (removed from later manuals as this gave away things).

Let''s see I remember Hope, Sandy, Coleen/Doreen (twins, forget which one worked there), and John... amongst others. A sales person Charles (Castelli?).

I came up with a paired set of Q1 Lite by replacing some of the ROMs and using a sync. modem. This allowed remote access.

DTERM, the terminal program was mine too. Karl provided some of the base code, written is assembler.

I did a simple Real Time Executive (RTE) that allowed two program to run "at the same time"... provided memory was allocated just so (no memory protection).

Many of the utilities were written in the PL/1 dialect although once we have C, we wrote some in that too.

For many decades my computer desk was an old Q1 desk, from an LMC. The frame has room for up to 4 8" floppies. It''s long gone now...

I remember after Rick had left he was called back in as a consultant to fix a complex issue with ENTER, the word processor.

Another memory, playing with the bubble memory machine. As I recall multiple 92 KiB modules.

John was in the MGM Grand fire but survived without a scratch. As I recall all Q1 personnel made it out OK.

Sunday 25th August 2019
Mark Bellon (San Jose CA USA)

Hey Donald, Karl, Bob! Hey Rick!

I worked @ Q1 too, 1978 and on. I did lots of work on the utilities (e.g. sort, serial communication), worked with the early C compiler (Donald, as I recall you did a lot on it), math libraries and other items.

I left while the 68000 machine was being finalized.

Sunday 17th March 2019
Donald P. Sellari (St Augustine Florida USA)

I worked at Q1 from 1979 to 1982 as a systems programmer. Most of the utilities were written in PL1. The compiler and linker by Rick Smetts were brilliant. I implemented fomatting/conversion of 8" IBM diskettes, 5 1/4" diskettes, and CP/M on the Z80 Q1 Lite.

Wednesday 30th August 2017
Cathy (chander az)

My father passed away and I found some old Q1 Corp stock certificates. I assume they''re worthless but thought I''d ask.

Sunday 23rd July 2017
James Bell (Austin, TX)

I worked for Balcones Computer Corp. in the late 70''s and early 80''s working with the dynamic duo: Robert Burns and Jay Bell. Together they consulted for numerous companies on CP/M and BIOS micro code and utilities software. We had upgraded a Q1 from the standard 48K to 64K of memory and configured a CP/M setup for the Q1. It''s possible the BIOS code was updated as well. I did not work personally on the system but it was in the same lab I worked in (called "The Shack"). I vaguely recall the customer was from Portugal.

Sunday 28th May 2017
Jim Bennett (Southampton)

The company developed a mass storage device which allowed a number of Q1 computers to network together

I can remember the amusement of the French when we exhibited in Paris apparently Q1 has a different meaning in french

Tuesday 11th October 2016
Rick Smets (Beverly Hills CA)
Exceptional Guy

Some problems with the first attempt at posting so I''ll try again.
I wrote the operating system, the PL1 compiler, the word processing application and designed the floppy disk controller. Later, I designed a server for networking many Q1 computers while working for an affiliate in England. Read about it on homepage URL. I included the sex scandals.

Tuesday 11th October 2016
Rick Smets (Beverly Hills CA)
Exception Guy

I wrote the operating system, the PL1 compiler, the word processing application and the floppy disk controller. Later I designed a server for networking many Q1 computers while working for an affiliate in England. Read about it on homepage URL. I included the sex scandals.

Tuesday 24th March 2015
TomTrottier (Ottawa, Canada)

Ooops, the MCM 70/700 weighed about 20 lbs. Still quite portable in my backpack. See the Wikipedia article.

Monday 23rd March 2015
TomTrottier (Ottawa, Canada)

The writeup is incorrect to say "The Q1 System remained the world''s only self-contained, general purpose microcomputer system until Intel introduced the 8080 second generation microprocessor. " Since the MCM 70/700 was introduced in 1974 using the 8008, with a plasma display and dual cassette tape drives. The MCM was far more portable, weighing only 4lbs. I may have been the first person to hitchhike with a microcomputer, in the summer of 1974....

Monday 16th September 2013
Minny Driessen

In 1978/79? I worked for Daisy Systems Holland in Wijchen, Netherlands. At that time they were installing a Q1 computer system for the British Gorvernment in England if I remember correctly. Our in home office computer had 4 expansion slots for floppy disks, thinking back they must have been very advanced$ but I didnt realize it at that time.

Friday 26th July 2013
David Kavanaugh (Lake Ronkonkoma)

I had worked for them as well. It was my first job in microprocessor programming. I remember fixing a defect in their text editor that caused a $ of records for high volume disk packs. I also developed a code debugger where none existed before so I could fix the issue. Used it later for other areas.

Friday 9th March 2012
Joe Prevete (Searingtown, NY)

Also an employee from first job out of college as a tech writer...I do miss those 8-inch floppy days...jprev.

Sunday 4th December 2011
Karl Wacker (USA)

I worked for 6+ years at Q1.

The 8008 system had an intigrated keyboard/ single line 80 charater plasma display and daisy wheel printer as a console, and 2 hard sectored floppy drives.

I came on board just as the 8080 system was introduced $Q1/LMC$ it had in the console a keyboard, a 6 line 37 char plasma display and daisy wheel printer, and up to 4 floppy drives $8" single density, variable sector length from 8 - 511 bytes/sector$, 6K ROM, 8K - 48K RAM, custom operating system, and used a version oif PL/1, which could complile oand execute on a base system $8K RAM, single floppy$.

The next generation was the Q1/LITE, Z80 based, 8K ROM, 16 - 48K RAM, 8 line plasma display,up to 4 double density 8" floppies, could share floppies or up to 2 27Meg Hard Drives over a 4-64 user network running at 307Kbaud, up to 1000'' between the server and a station. Varations included dual mini floppies with 8" dot matrix printer $MICRO-LITE$, diskless work stations for the network $keyboard and display only$, Mag tape, 300LPM line printer, Bubble memory $the bubble memory unit and the netowrked Hard Drive system was instaled in many NASA sites. The last versions included both 24x80 Plasma and CRT displays.
$I designed the hardware and software for the network, hard drive, mag tape, line printer, 24x80 CRT $ Plasma displays, dot matrix printer and other interfaces including a custom interface for a visualy impared NASA data entry operator, that allowed him to ''read'' the display and act as a voice ouput device instead of a printer$

They produced a 68000 based system as I was leaving them.

Tuesday 4th October 2011
Bob Norman (USA)

These guys were probably the first! I almost went to work for them. They had another version of this in a desk similar to the DEC310 (PDP8 Mini) i had used for Federal Credit Unions. BUT they used a microprocessor. Considering the PDP8 was only just getting traction in business that was revolutionary. They were selling them all over the world and the team came from IBM World Computer Division previously.
I also believe they were caught in the MGM Grand Fire Tragedy at Comdex Vegas. Some may have been injured or died in that horrible event. Company barely a footnote today. What a shame. Good guys.
Certainly on the "Cutting Edge" back then.

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