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A > APF > Imagination Machine

Imagination Machine

The game unit used a MC-6800 microprocessor, 1 KB of RAM and video & logical circuitry. The computer console added 14 KB of ROM and 8 KB of RAM.

The APF Imagination Machine was the first (and only?) home computer that could save data on the same cassette tape as where the program was stored. For example, you could load your "personal account" software and then save your account data on the same side of the tape! The cassette deck also allowed programs to be read on one track, and voice, such as a program explanation or music, to be heard simultaneously on the second one. There was even a microphone connector on the computer console for this purpose! All of this was possible because the Imagination Machine used the two stereo tracks independently. Atari did pretty much the same with their XL computers...

Here is a second feature that APF was proud of: across the top of the keyboard, 24 different programming commands were printed. Using the shift key + letter, users could directly enter these statements into the program listing. This was supposed to speed up things and prevent typing errors. To program in Basic you needed the APF Basic cartridge

The third "unique" feature of the system that APF promoted, allowed the computer to automatically adjust the skill level of some software (Math Tutor & Typing Tutor) to the user's capability. APF called this learning feature "Personal Performance Response" and used it to offer more challenging problems as the user's skills developed. Acoordingly, if the user was too slow, the computer compensated with easier problems. This "learning response" was implemented in all the tutorial programs (wow!). This "unique" and "incredible" feature seems so common by today's standards...

APF provided easy-to-read instructions and a series of simple steps to check out each system feature and to learn how to load program tapes. APF made sure that young children could read and follow these instructions.

The Imagination Machine could be expanded into a fully-fledged personal computer system with some optional peripherals. There was an 8 KB RAM cartridge, which increased the available RAM from 9 KB to 17 KB. The "Building Block", an expansion interface, offered four ports into which you could insert peripheral drive cartridges for a printer, telephone modem, a mini-floppy disk drive or the RAM cartridge. APF sold its own 40-column thermal printer that could print two lines a second ($400). There was also a mini-floppy disk drive ($350), each disk holding 72 KB of data, but you needed the drive controller cartridge ($200).

Despite its innovative concept, the Imagination Machine did not sell well as it wasn't really a game system nor was it a true computer. APF went bankrupt shortly after the Imagination Machine was launched. Only about 20 programs were ever marketed for the Imagination Machine: educational software, personal management and games, on both tapes and cartridges.

Larry Greenfield recalls:
To help conserve memory while programming in BASIC, tokens were used for just about every BASIC command. In other words, if I typed out "PRINT", that would take 5 spaces in memory, but if I entered "PRINT" as a token (by pressing -- I think it was "CONTROL" plus another key), it would be entered as a "token", and take up only one or two spaces in memory.


Thanks to:
Larry Greenfield and his APF Imagination Machine page
Sylvain De Chantal and his APF Imagination Machine FAQ

Martin Scott Goldberg and his classicgaming site

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