Other EACA Computers - The Colour Genie
The Colour Genie was released in 1982. It was an attractive machine, with a solid full-stroke keyboard and 16K BASIC in ROM. When I first saw it in the shop, it was alongside a Vic 20 and the Tandy Colour Computer. It seemed better value for money than both those offerings. As well as the 63-key typewriter keyboard and powerful BASIC, it featured the trusty Z-80, running at 2.2 MHz, 16k-32k of RAM, 3 channels of sound, 8 colours (4 for text), 40 columns x 24 rows for text (initially) and 160 x 102 pixels for graphics. It seemed to be bristling with ports which included RS-232, Joysticks (2), light pen, RGB and audio. What's more the power supply was built-in meaning less ugly cables.
However, good looks do not always maketh the consumer machine. As computer companies were fast learning, it was mostly about support, software and marketing. These were in short supply for the Colour Genie. Besides that, the graphics were only mediocre, and good graphics were essential to succeed in the home computer market. Although it may not have been the original reason for purchase, in 1982 most home computers were used for games!
I don't think it was ever sold in North America. In Europe, it had some visibility especially in Germany but any market share in the UK was completely demolished by the likes of the home-grown Sinclair Spectrum. In my part of the world (New Zealand and Australia) the Colour Genie never took off either, with the Vic 20 and then the C-64 grabbing most of the home-arcade machine limelight.
Click to see an advertisement (sourced from www.binarydinosaurs.co.uk). Also included here are two reviews, one written for the U.K. Magazine, "Computing Today" by Simon N. Goodwin, the other written by Bill Benett for "Your Computer", October 1982.
Interestingly, the colour palette differed between regions of the world. It seems this variation was due to the fact that televisions in some countries (like New Zealand) only supported VHF rather than UHF which in turn meant differences in the built-in RF modulator. This required some parameters of the palette to be different. For example, COLOUR 16 showed white in the Northern Hemisphere while in New Zealand at least, this showed black.
Also, later versions of the Colour Genie had 25 rather than 24 rows of text due to upgraded ROMS. These ROMS also included minor changes to BASIC. Even within these upgraded ROMS there was some variation, with my New Zealand one showing a serial number on start-up.
Unfortunately, the palette differences and new ROMs introduced an element of software incompatibility into the Colour Genie, depending on region and upgrade status.
A few emulators exist for this machine. Genieous 1.0 is a Windows compatible emulator written by Attila Grosz, which I had fun with beta-testing. It's a near-100% emulation of a cassette-based unit which also allows a selection of different ROMS and colour palettes. The software can be download from Attila's website.
A couple of older Colour Genie emulators for MS-DOS also exist namely, Colour EMU 3.0 and CGENIE. The support pages for the former no longer seems to exist.
A collection of software, mostly of German origin, can be downloaded here. This is a subset of a larger collection originally sourced from this site. These programs can also be used in a real Colour Genie if converted to WAV files with the transfer utilities below. The software bundle includes Colour Monitor v3, a useful machine language monitor program. Its manual is available for download (Thanks to Norm Bowden, New Zealand for scanning the text).
Another source of programs (many appear to be the same programs) is at the EACA Rom archive at theoldcomputer.com.
Finally there is this package of games sent to me by Dave Edwards in 2015. Dave is also developing this comprehensive games site.
To my knowledge, EACA never produced an expansion interface for the Colour Genie but at least one (and probably more) other companies did. A disk interface incorporating a parallel printer port was made by General Northern Microcomputers (GNOMIC). Called the "Wizard" it appears to be a variant of the DP1000, made for the Video Genie/System 80 and TRS-80 Model 1. The company also provided an operating system (QDOS) with the hardware.
Attila Grosz has also written a couple of transfer utilities which will assist people wishing to archive their old Colour Genie tapes, use their existing programs in CG emulators or use Internet-sourced software in their REAL Colour Genies.
Documentation was never a strong point with EACA. There was a small User Manual which seemed to originate from EACA itself. However, Trommeschlager Computer GmbH of Germany, a strong supported of EACA products, wrote a Technical Manual. This was translated to English by Lowe Electronics U.K. and is available in PDF format here (42MB). (Thanks to Alistair Clark, New Zealand for providing this.).
Matt Houben has provided commented ROM listings for the machine (Thanks Matt). These can be found in this zip file. The file contains
- The BASIC ROM
- The System RAM (contains all the system variables for both BASIC and DOS)
- CGDOS ROM Version 2 (not processed competely. There are some gaps in the comments)
Finally, anyone wanting to see how users supported each other and their Colour Genies after EACA was no more, might like to check out these scanned newsletters from the Auckland (New Zealand) Colour Genie Users Group.