Sharp was among the hordes of companies that tried to make a fortune by designing and selling their own home computers in the early 1980's. Sharp was also one of the companies that did not make it to the top, mostly because of the massive popularity of the legendary Commodore 64. Sharp home computer line consists of series like the MZ-700 and MZ-800. A series has a number of models equipped with different built-in devices like a tape unit, a plotter and a floppy drive. The MZ-1500 series is identical with MZ-800 except that the case is black and they were only sold in Japan.

The Sharp MZ-821 was brought to market in December 1984 and it was the most versatile of the Sharp computers of that time. The OS is proprietary but floppy drive owners can also run CP/M (the P-CP/M version) and programs written for it like Wordstar, dBase II and Multiplan. MZ-800 series is partially compatible with the 700- and the old MZ-80K series so you could run some of your old programs after upgrading to the new fabulous model. The CPU is a Z80A running at 3.5 MHz and the computer has 64 kilobytes of RAM (expandable to 128 kB) and 16 kB of ROM. The M60719 graphics chip is able to produce resolutions 40x25 characters (16 colors) and 80x25 (4 from 16 colors) in text mode and 320x200 pixels (4 colors) and 640x200 (2 colors) in graphics mode. The computer has interfaces for printer, TV, RGB output, cassette recorder (1200 baud), 2 joysticks and an expansion port. Sound chip SN76489 has three separate channels and a loudspeaker is built into the computer's case. The keyboard is a proper typewriter-style one with separate cursor and function keys. Additional components like 2.8" Quick Disk drive or 5.25" floppy drives and b/w or color plotters are also available.

As the ROM contains only the boot code and system calls, all programming languages, even the BASIC interpreter, has to be loaded from a tape or disk. Logo and Pascal are available on disk only. A special feature of the OS is that the 64 kB of RAM can be used as a virtual disk.

Like most of the golden oldie computers, Sharp MZ series can also be emulated. See http://sourceforge.net/projects/mz800em/.

Sources of information: Homecomputerliste (http://gaby.de/homecomp.htm), Computing Museum: (http://www.computingmuseum.com/), ITviikko Magazine October 12, 2000

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