The Thomson TO 7 is the first micro computer conceived by Thomson and the first French micro-computer. This computer, also called Thomson 9000 was mainly used in french schools and had somehow a great success in France. "TO" stands for "Tele Ordinateur" (ordinateur meaning computer in French).
One of the most interesting feature of the TO-7 is its light pen. Indeed, there is one stored in a small trap above the keyboard. A wide range of software used this device. Even on later Thomson systems (MO and TO series), the light pen is still available as an option. It was the distinctive sign of the Thomson micro-computers.
On the other hand, its flat membrane keyboard (like the ZX 81's one) is awful! It is impossible to type something quickly. Each stroke is signaled by a small beep. There is a key labeled RAZ (Remise A Zero) which clears the screen, like the classic CLS command... There is a also a ACC key (Accent) which enables accentuated letters.
When you switch on the computer, there is no language, just a small configuration tool to test the light pen. The Basic 1.0 (Microsoft Basic 5) is delivered on a cartridge. It inserts into the cartridge trap door on the left side of the keyboard. The cartridges are called "Memo 7". Sadly, the trap door locking system is not very secure, and all TO 7 owners experienced the lost of their programs when the trap door opened itself without prompting... When the trap door opens, the cartridge is ejected, and the system hangs. You've lost everything :(
The Basic is quite complete with useful statements. To do graphics you've got LINE (to draw a line), PSET (to draw points), BOX (to draw a box) and BOXF (to draw a filled box). You can also handle the lightpen with INPEN, INPUTPEN, PEN and ONPEN. The joystick states are read with STICK and STRIG. To do music, you have the PLAY statement, which has been Frenchised. To play the standard note sequence, you would type: PLAY "DOREMIFASOLASI"...
At the back of the computer, one can find 4 expansion slots protected by plastic caps. Three are identical and are used for common expansions like joystick, disk-drives, etc. The fourth one is used by the optional memory expansion. Another item you can't miss at the back of the TO 7 is the BIG heatsink! This thing is huge and was known to cut a lot :( So be careful when you handle a TO 7! It also gets hot fairly quickly, so don't get burn either (man, the TO 7 is dangerous!).
The first programs (mainly developped by Vifi-Nathan) where really bad, often written in Basic. They were essentialy boring educative games. Despite this bad point, the TO-7 did well thanks to the French National Education who bought a lot of systems to the nationalised Thomson company... And in 1984, the TO-7 was replaced with the TO-7/70 (in fact the TO-7 continued to be sold too for a short time) which corrected the main weaknesses of its little brother.
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First computer was a TO7-70, while 11yo.
Fond memories from programming with the basic language from Microsoft.
The machine was limited especially in color rendering: you could only have 2 colors per horizontal line of 8 pixels: one front and one back color. If you wanted to display a kind of 3D model with colors... you could not without horrible aliasing effects.
The optical pen was also a "shocker". You''d regularly receive electrostatic shocks because the TV screen was electrostatically charged, and the pen had a metallic body. Sweaty fingers beware.
The K7 recorder was... temperamental. The reading heads could move (heat) and make recordings not readable (infamous I/O error).
You''d have to fiddle with a small srewdriver to adjust the reading head.
The short summers of Dunkirk can be hot at times, and this machine was heating the bedroom pretty badly.
Discovered lots of maths, years before school: Coordinates, binary and hex system, trigonometry, and the then unfathomable maths of an Earth to Moon trip trajectory simulation, all from a few example programs from a book.
This undoubtedly contributed to me becoming an IT professional.
Wednesday 26th January 2022
Fred (Dunkerque) (France)
My first computer too, I had the K7 player to save and run softwares, it was so easy to copy games with that ... To7 is really great memories for me ...
Tuesday 20th December 2011
Denis (Boulogne France)
There was also somes ohter languages availiables on Memo 7 cadriges such as : asm6809 (a 6809 compiler with a small editor), forth and more...
Thursday 24th November 2011
END OF PRODUCTION
BUILT IN LANGUAGE
None. Basic 1.0 (Microsoft Basic 5.0) available on cartridge