coleco adam

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Introduced June 1983
Discontinued January 1985
Release Price $750.00



       How would I describe the Coleco Adam?

       I guess I would describe it as the computer that could have been. What does this mean? Well, when the Adam was introduced I was impressed. At the time I owned a Commodore 64 and read the reviews and my reaction was, WOW! Here was a computer with a faster processor, more RAM, a built in word processor, a printer, and a built in data storage device. All for about $750! The more I read the more I liked it. It had it all, but something went wrong.

       Because within a very short period of time it was gone. A victim of the computer wars of the mid 80's. The Adam was not without its flaws, some of the most glaring were quirky data tape storage device which had a bad habit of erasing the data tapes left in the drive at start-up or shut-down and a sloo-o-w printer (10 characters per second). But these were really just growing pains that any new computer line experiences mostly caused by rushing the computer to market.

      A number of reasons can be attributed to the demise of the Adam. First Coleco was first and foremost a game company and a relatively newcomer to that arena to boot. The 8 bit home computer market in 1983-84 was a very volatile market, with even long established computer manufacturers struggling to survive.

      I think Coleco wanted to try to capitalize on the installed base of ColecoVision game consoles popularity to grab a niche in the home computer market. What they did not count on was the bottom dropping out of the video game market in 1983. This was primarily brought on by the saturation of the videogame market and the blurring of the lines between dedicated game consoles and low cost computers marketed by Radio Shack, Atari, and Commodore

      In 1983 it seemed everyone was manufacturing software cartridges for the videogame console industry. Some were very good but most were very cheap unimaginative games. Soon the market was flooded with  repetitive and boring games . With the prices of the home computers now dropping to the levels of the game consoles, the decision became clear which system would get the consumer's dollars. Besides for the kids, it suddenly became 'cool' to own a computer and the old game consoles were relegated to the closets and attics. 

      It was as if the videogame  industry just vanished overnight, almost taking companies like Coleco, Mattel, and Atari with it. It would be  3 years before another dedicated videogame console would again surface to capture the interest of the American consumer. The manufacturer was Nintendo and the game console was the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) released in the USA in 1986.

     Without the financial stability supplied by the ColecoVision game console the Adam was not going to get the time it needed to establish enough of an installed base of support to survive in the cut-throat market that the home computer business had become.

      The Adam had flaws, but so did every other computer system initially. The Adam just didn't have time to fix them. Coleco was in financial difficulty and could ill afford to spend a lot of time and money to fix its new computer. Nor could they afford to bring to market all of the promised peripherals. So without the financial support it needed the Adam ( a computer that could have been a great one! ) faded into oblivion in just two and one half years after its introduction. In January of 1985 Coleco threw in the towel and got out of the computer business.

     The Adam was a great machine. It contained a Zilog Z80A processor running at 3.58 MHz. and had 80 kilobytes of RAM built in, although 16 kilobytes were dedicated to video and could not be accessed by the processor directly. The computer came as a bundled system. The first of 3 main parts included in the system are the console, which houses the motherboard, main processor and memory, a digital data pack drive, and the expansion interfaces. The second is the daisy wheel printer that also serves as the power supply for the entire computer. Third is the keyboard with 75 full travel keys.

    The Adams peripherals are connected to the main unit by means of a network called Adamnet. The peripherals connected to the Adam are called smart peripherals because each has its own 6801 microprocessor. This allows the peripherals to act independently of the main Z80A processor and not use resources or tie up the processor during cassette loads and printing operations.

     The Adam comes with a copy of  SmartBASIC on a digital data tape. Coleco claimed that SmartBASIC is compatible with the ApplesoftBASIC which was written by Microsoft.

     The printer included with the Adam is a letter quality daisy wheel type. It is slow printing only 10 cps (characters per second). It uses a standard 96 character plastic wheel, and the ribbon is a standard Diablo Hytype I or Xerox 800.

     The keyboard is attached to the console with a coiled wire with standard modular phone connectors on either end. It has 75 full-travel keys arranged in a standard qwerty  configuration. It included six special function keys to be used with the built in word processor.

     What's that? Yes I said built in word processor. The Adam has a complete full featured word processor burned into it's ROM. In fact, that’s what it defaults to when you boot the computer before you load the BASIC or any other program.

     This was one of the main selling points of the Adam. It was a complete system in a time when computer manufacturers were selling their base computers, sometimes below cost, to snag consumers and selling high priced peripherals to make the systems usable. A usable system from Coleco was all included in one box for one price.


System Architecture Ports Data Storage
Processor: Zilog Z80A
PMMU: n/a
FPU: n/a
Data Buss: 8 bits
Address Buss: 8 bits
L1 Cache: n/a
L2 Cache: n/a
2nd Processor: n/a
No. of Expansion Slots: 3
Clock Speed: 3.58 MHz
Buss Type: n/a
USB: n/a
ADB: n/a
Video: 1 RCA
Floppy: n/a
SCSI: n/a
Geoports: n/a
Ethernet: n/a
FireWire: n/a
Mic Type: n/a
AirPort Ready: n/a
Other Ports:  Int Game
Tape Drive: Standard
Disk Drive: Optional
Floppy Size: 5 1/4 inch
No. of FD's:: up to 2
Int Hard Drive: none
Int HD Size: n/a
Int HD Interface: n/a
Int CD Support: n/a
Orig CD Speed: n/a
No. of Internl Bays: 2
Memory Video and Graphics
Logic Board: 80k (16k used for video)
RAM Slots or Sockets:  
Min - Max RAM: 144k (16k used for video)
Min RAM Speed:  
RAM Sizes:  
Install in Groups of:  
Graphics Processor TI 9928A
Screen size - columns & rows 36 x 24
Video on board yes
Video RAM Shares Logic Board RAM
Max colors 16
RGB output no
Composit Video Output yes
Screen Resolution 256 x 192
Sprites or Missles 32 (yes 32 !)
Physical Specs. Software Power
Introduced: June 1983
Discontinued: January 1985
Form Factor:  
Gestalt ID: n/a
Weight (lbs):  
Dimensions (in):  4.125 H x 18.75 W x 10.25 D
Addressing Modes: 8 bit
Orig SSW: SmartBASIC
Orig Enabler: n/a
ROM ID: n/a
ROM Ver: n/a
ROM Size: 8K
Max Watts:  
BTU per Hr:  
Voltage: 120
Freq Range: 60 Hz
Battery Type: n/a
Soft Power: n/a
Pass Through: no
Sound Keyboard Specs.  
Sound Interface Device: TI SN76489AN
Sound Generation: 3 tone channels, 1 noise
ADSR Capable: no
Sound Output: to monitor or TV
Sound Input: no
Number of keys: 75 full stroke
Built In: no
Detached: yes
Upper / Lower case yes / yes