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Processor Technology - History

Processor Technology Logo

Processor Technology was founded by Gary Ingram and Bob Marsh, mutual friends in Berkley CA who had been attending the early Bay Area  Homebrew Computer Club meetings in the mid 70's. At the meetings they heard many complaints from members about the early Altair 4K Dynamic RAM kits and their unreliability.  They decided to build and market a 4K static RAM kit for the Altair themselves.
They became swamped with orders even before they actually made boards. The instant success of this board launched the company "Processor Technology". They setup operations in Emeryville, CA.  Their board soon was been used in other S-100 systems as well.  It got a good reputation for reliability.
Next they went on to produce an 18-slot S-100 motherboard -- to replace the wire to wire Altair primitive 4 slot one.  This was followed by a 2K EPROM board followed by an I/O board the 3P+S that was very popular. 
However what really put the company on the map was their VDM-1 board. This video display board came out when people were still using teletypes to communicate with the computer. This "glass teletype" was a marvel to many hobbyist.  Don Lancaster in a pivotal Radio Electronics Magazine (and subsequent book) had published an article describing how to make such a terminal in 1973. The VDM-1 was the first implementation of the concept on an S-100 board.  A user could connect a keyboard to the computer through the 3P+S Board, plug-in the VDM-1, connect it to a video monitor, and the computer became its own video terminal. The VDM-1 also ran one of the first action video games. Steve Dompier's, "Target". It shot arrows at targets moving across the screen.

SOL Computer

At this point Processor Technology was on a roll. Bob Marsh and Lee Felsenstein, decided to build their own complete S-100 bus based system.  Unlike other S-100 systems at the time, theirs would contain in one box not only the motherboard, boards etc but a keyboard and video display card.  To add class the sides of the unit were done in walnut wood.  Unusual too, to reduce height the S-100 boards were placed horizontally. Five S-100 boards could be placed in the unit.  It was called the SOL computer (after Les Solomon, the tech editor of Popular Electronics) -- who got them going by describing it in the magazine.
The SOL was met with great success initially. In fact in 1977 it was the number one S-100 computer sold in stores.  Processor Technology established a nationwide dealer network and developed a very loyal user group network.
Then things started to go wrong.  The company outgrew its Emeryville headquarters and move out to the East Bay to a plush location in Pleasanton CA., away from the core of the industry.
They had developed a very popular cassette storage system for the SOL and started to address disk storage.  Initially they had worked with a company called Diablo (of Diablo printers fame) and spent time and effort putting together a disk operating system for this new hardware. Unfortunately Diablo got acquired by Xerox who dropped the disk drive effort and Processor Technology was back to square one.
They then retooled to utilize Persci 270 drives. Like a few others, this too was a bad choice. While fast with their voice coil head positioning the drives constantly went out of alignment. Their "Helios" system as it was called began to developed a bad reputation.----Compounding the above problems, the company seemed to loose touch with its roots. The world had moved away from the 8080 to faster Z80 systems and more cost and space effective mini-disk systems. First NorthStar, Vector Graphics, Cromemco and later Radio Shack invaded their business domain. The company just faded away. The company close its door in May 1979. Nevertheless there were/are 1000's of SOL's out there.

Processor Technology in the early days also called themselves "Software Technology", devising 5K and 8K BASIC interpreters that were quite good, albeit a bit different from most other implementations. The 8K BASIC was later sold as "Nevada BASIC" and "Utah BASIC" for CP/M and MS-DOS. They also produced the popular CUTS Monitor program to work with their CUTS board.


Processor Technology S-100 Boards
4K RAM   8K RAM   48K RAM    16K Dynamic RAM    1702 EPROM     3P+S    CUTS    GPM   VDM-1   Helios-II FDC


This page was last modified on 10/25/2013