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I > ICL  > OPD - One Per Desk   

OPD - One Per Desk

This strange mixture between telephone and computer is actually a Sinclair QL (slightly modified, of course). It is based on the QL motherboard, but with some improvements, namely, ruggedized (in other words, more reliable) Microdrives.

ICL also added some software in ROM: diary, address and phone book, communication software and a terminal emulator. It has a built-in modem and a speech synthesizer.

According to ICL, each executive should have this computer on his desktop !

Two rebadged versions were sold in UK (Merlin Tonto) and Australia (Telecom Computerphone).


More information from 'Ex Cathedra'
This was a classic design disaster - great ideas, poor execution. The microdrives didn't buffer as the Sinclair ones did, leading to a 7-sec seek time ever time a block was missed. The phone handset was 3/4 size and uncomfortable to use. Overheating was a big problem too, with frequent crashes. The speech synth could answer the phone with a Texas Dalek voice, but couldn't take a message. A fave in-house game at ICL was getting the thing to swear using the limited vocab range...

The main software was Psion xChange - WP, spreadsheet, DB and business graphics. This was in ROM, with the BASIC interpreter on Microdrive - Sinclair QLs were the other way round. xChange was a good package for its day, and actually looks very similar to the built-in packages on the Psion PDAs (3a, 5). The terminal emulation was a VT-type and a PRESTEL (the UK info service operated by the post office).

The system, as did the QL, had basic task-switching - not real multitasking (background tasks didn't run) but at least you were not constantly unloading and reloading programs as on the IBM PCs of the day. A big boon given the problem with the microdrives...

Add-on ROMS were available (your pic actually shows one top right) which made the machine into an ICL7561 terminal emulator. This was a popular configuration as ICL discounted them heavily and they ended up cheaper than the original terminals.

Please consider donating your old computer / videogame system to or one of our partners from anywhere in the world (Europe, America, Asia, etc.).


So this listing has a slight bug. It says "The system, as did the QL, had basic task-switching - not real multitasking (background tasks didn''t run)..." I didn''t own an OPD but the QL had a true preemptive multitasking OS (i.e. QDOS) and indeed you could exec(ute) a program and it would keep running in the background while you worked in the foreground and you could have many programs running in the background (it was a cool demo to give).

Contrast that with the Mac which started with basic task switching and up until OS X moved the Mac to BSD Unix had a kernel that did cooperative multitasking (i.e. the difference is in preemptive the kernel keeps control and slices up time for each program but in cooperative the kernel gives up control to each program and hopes it gets it back).

Sunday 10th November 2019
Mike (USA)

I was part of a team evaluating the OPD for ICL before release and we recommended that it not be released until the software worked properly and several ergonomic issues be resolved. The board released it anyway. My personal one burst into flames one day in1988

Thursday 7th July 2016
sarah (USA)

I have compiled some useful information on the OPD / Tonto, which can be found on the QUANTA web site.

QUANTA supports QL and related systems, and I am responsible for maintaining the societies web site. If anyone would like to donate their OPD / Tonto to QUANTA, or would like to support, documentation or advice, please get in touch.

We can offer a small sum for surplus OPD / Tonto hardware and accessories, which we donate to the Red Cross. We are trying to establish an OPD / Tonto support network, so that enthusiasts can swap software, trade hardware and keep this machine alive.

We are in the process of scanning in manuals and documentation for the OPD, establishing an OPD software library and list of frequently asked questions (FAQs). FAQs will include : where to obtain OPD software, tips for repairing damaged monitors, suggestions for troubleshooting hardware faults and advice on exchanging files with a PC or Sinclair QL

Wednesday 10th October 2007
QUANTA web master (UK)
OPD / Tonto section of the QUANTA web site


NAME  OPD - One Per Desk
TYPE  Professional Computer
ORIGIN  United Kingdom
YEAR  1984
KEYBOARD  Full stroke 73-key with numeric keypad
CPU  Motorola MC 68008
SPEED  7.5 MHz
CO-PROCESSOR  Sinclair ULA gate array chip
RAM  128 KB (extensible to 640 KB)
ROM  From 128 KB to 352 KB
TEXT MODES  42 / 64 / 84 chars. x 24 lines
GRAPHIC MODES  256 x 256 (8 colors) / 512 x 256 (4 colors)
SOUND  TI TMP5220C speech synthesiser / built-in loudspeaker
SIZE / WEIGHT  44 (W) x 26.5 (D) x 6.8 (H) cm
I/O PORTS  RS232 (2), QL Network (2), Joystick (2), ROM extension, RAM extension
BUILT IN MEDIA  Two microdrives
POWER SUPPLY  Power is supplied by the monitor
PERIPHERALS  Dual 3.5'' Floppy disc drive unit, Terminal adapter, various software in ROM cartridges
PRICE  Unknown

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