The Color Computer (affectionately known as a Coco and formerly sold by Tandy) has got to be the most underrated computer ever made. It was based on the Motorola MC6809E. The circuit used for the original Coco 1 was, almost part for part, shown in the Motorola spec sheet for the SN74LS783 - MC6883, a synchronous address multiplexer (called by Cocoists a SAM.) The third major chip in the Coco was the MC6847 Color Video Display Generator.
The Coco 1 was an 8/16 bit computer running at 0.89/1.78 MHz. The text screen was 32 letters by 16 lines in uppercase. Graphics resolution was 256x192x2 although owners quickly found that color artifacting produced by the composite video output could increase the color count by one or two orders of magnitude. Memory was limited to 32K ROM plus 64K RAM. With the Coco 3, the final version made by Tandy, the support chips were enhanced to produce a base unit with 128K RAM, 80x25 character text, 640x192x4 or 320x192x16 graphics, and RGB video output. The Coco1 did have one graphics capability that the Coco3 lacks, Semigraphics.
The above description hardly does the Coco justice. With its simple single circuit board hardware and ease of programming at the assembly language level, it became the prime hobbyist computer. Many of these hobbyists started selling their hardware and software efforts and perhaps as many as ten magazines were either dedicated to the computer or strongly supported it. The most influential magazine was "the Rainbow" , 1982-1993, published by Lawrence C. Falk (Falsoft Inc.) Lonnie even started an annual convention (CocoFest) where owners and third party supporters could gather to hear lectures, buy hardware and software, and generally have a great time over a weekend.
Even though the
has been out of production for many years, interest in the unit is
can be seen by the many web pages dedicated to this computer. Originally there were
many discussions at email@example.com,
a newsgroup which echoed to the list bit.listserv.coco. Princeton no longer
carries the newsgroup
and malicious spam forced a move from the listserver to
Coco@maltedmedia.com. Information on this newgroup
can be found at http://five.pairlist.net/mailman/listinfo/coco
and by e-mail to Cocofirstname.lastname@example.org.
private service echos on gmane . Many
of the web pages can be found via the Coco webring, http://m.webring.com/hub?ring=coco.
method is to search Google for Coco or Coco3. Such a search
will find many fine Coco sites, exemplified by the large site http://coco3.com/community .
Many of the
above could be said about other computers of the day, but the Coco was
unique in that Tandy collaborated with Microware to bring to the Coco
OS-9 operating system. OS-9 is a realtime multitasking operating system
with many similarities to Unix. Two versions, Level I and Level II were
available. Level II supported the full hardware capabilities of the
up to 2 MB RAM, 16 windows running simultaneously, multiple drives
SCSI hard drives. A GUI point and click desk top (MultiVue), an
Basic (Basic09), and versions of C and PASCAL ran under OS-9. Real Time Services, Inc.
Continued support for OS-9 in now in the form of a Sourceforge project NitrOS-9.
under OS-9, the Coco could compete with any other home computer until
of the Internet with its intensive use of graphics. The Coco did not
the memory, speed, or video power to handle 256 color or higher level
in real time.