Martin has been a software developer for many years. This is mixed with a passion for retro machines and game,
The little known SORD M5 was a computer launched way back in 1982 by a Japanese company called SORD.
The Sord Computer Corporation was founded in 1970 by entrepeneur Takayohi Shiina and began to work with Toshiba in 1985.
By 1999 they had became known as Toshiba Personal Computer System Corporation, or if you have heard of TOPS then you know where it all started.
The SORD M5 had little success outside of Japan and was lost amid the huge glut of 8-bit machines that were swamping the market at that time.
Let's take a look at a little known and extremely rare machine that is thirty five years old at the time of writing...
What does a SORD M5 Computer look like?
The SORD M5 Machine
This is a computer that achieved very little success outside of Japan.
The name 'SORD' came about by combining the words Software and Hardware; the company chose this name for their machine because they were known for the creation of technology in both areas. They wrote software for mini-computers in the 1970's and also produced a range of micro-computers, such as 1977's M200.
The machine itself was quite small and was of quite an original design when compared to pretty much every other 8-bit machine of the era. One thing it did have that was similar to the ever popular ZX Spectrum was a rubber keyboard.
To be fair though the M5 keyboard was better than Sinclair's effort, but by 1982 what else wasn't?
It also had built in BASIC keywords which were accessed by using the shift button with certain keys, again similar to the original ZX Spectrum in terms of keyboard input.
This way of typing your BASIC programs could be annoying to the uninitiated but once you got the hang of it you could churn out your world class code pretty quickly!
Another interesting thing to note is the lack of a full size space-bar; the similarities with the good old Speccy are becoming more apparent!
Retro Computer Items At Amazon
Some SORD M5 Technical Information
The machine came installed with a pretty paltry (even for the time) 4 Kilobytes of RAM. It was possible to expand the memory though if you had some spare cash to splash. To be precise, the machine did have an actual 20 Kilobytes of RAM on-board as standard, the stumbling block is that 16 Kilobytes were allocated to screen memory!
There were also a couple of DIN joystick ports, and a port to connect a printer meaning you could have a pretty decent setup if you had extra cash to burn.
To display to the screen it used a Texas Instruments video chip, which provided capability of up to thirty two sprites. Not bad. Sixteen colours were available which again, measured well against opposition hardware.
Texas Instruments also provided the sound hardware, which was capable of three channel sound courtesy of the SN76489 chip. This was the same piece of hardware used by Acorn's BBC Micro, and sat alongside the popular AY sound chip nicely.
For 1982 this sound hardware was pretty impressive. As usual for the time, the sound was 'channelled' through the TV speaker, so the better television you used for your computer, then the better the sound you would be treated to.
It should also be noted that there were versions of the machine that incorporated a cartridge slot meaning you could load games, applications and programming languages directly from compatible carts.
This would be very similar to the almost instant load up of ROM carts that were available for the ZX Spectrum via the Sinclair Interface 2 add on.
The SORD M5 In Action
SORD M5 With Cartridge
UK Release of the SORD M5 or CGL M5
This machine was released in the UK at a price of £195.00 where it was named the CGL M5. I think I am correct in thinking that a version of BASIC was also included in the price; other versions of the language could be purchased for around £35.00.
It should also be noted that the machine was powered by a ZILOG Z80 Central processor running at 3.56 megahertz, which was comparable to most of the established 8-Bit machines..
This price was a little too steep when you considered the price of a ZX Spectrum, Acorn Atom, Commodore 64 or even the 'friendly VIC 20 computer', also from Commodore.
It did have a cartridge slot which could load games, applications or programming languages in an instant; a hardware feature which set it apart from the 1982 crowd.
Unfortunately, the lack of ample built-in RAM led to poorer software support.
The low amount of memory also lead to fewer games being developed for it back in the day. By around 1983 a decent catalogue of games was a huge helper when it came to selling a machine, and this is where the SORD fell down badly against the competition.
When customers looked at the amount of ZX Spectrum Games available, there really was no choice in the matter. This machine was never, ever going to compete on that front.
If it had been released at a more competitive price and been blessed with a decent amount of memory, the machine may well have carved out a niche for itself. As it stands it remained a popular choice in Japan, and also sold well in Czechoslovakia, as it was one of the first machines available there to the everyday buyer.
SORD did have a small 'business' presence in the UK so the few that were purchased were mainly put to business use; to be fair this was an area that the machine was competent in.
Tank Battalion on the SORD M5
Super Cobra on the SORD M5
Steve Benway plays Real Tennis on the SORD M5
Gaming on the SORD M5
Despite the overall lack of success of this machine, there are still a small number of games available the SORD.
Some examples that are worth playing include:
- Guttang Gottong
- Photon (developed in 2009)
- Real Tennis
- Step Up
- Super Cobra
- Tank Battalion
- Wonder Hole
- Word Maze
Modern Classic Photon on the SORD M5
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