Thursday, May 14, 2009

Aster CT-80

I want to introduct something about .

The very first "kit" version of the Aster CT-80 running Newdos/80. Note that the 64x16 TRS-80 mode screen uses only a small part of the monitor screen, because the letters are the same size as the 80x25 CP/M screen, this was one of the things that was soon after fixed with the redesign to a commercial product

The Aster CT-80, an early home/personal computer developed by the small Dutch company MCP (later renamed to Aster Computers), was sold in its first incarnation as a kit for hobbyists. Later it was sold ready to use. It consisted of several Eurocard PCB's and a backplane. It was the first commercially available Dutch personal/home computer. . The Aster computer could use the software written for the popular Tandy TRS-80 computer while fixing many of the problems of that computer, but it could also run CP/M software, with a big amount of free memory and a full 80x25 display, and it could be used as a Videotext terminal.


1 Models

2 Working modes

3 Sales

4 The company

5 Unreleased add ons

6 External links

7 Notes



Three models were sold. The first model looked like the later IBM PC (which came on the market years later), a rectangular base unit with two floppy drives on the front, and a monitor on top with a separate detachable keyboard. The second incarnation was a much smaller unit the width of two 5 1/4" floppy drives stacked on top of each other, and the third incarnation looked like a flattened Apple ][ with a built-in keyboard.

All units ran much faster than the original TRS-80, at 4 MHz, (with a software selectable throttle to the original speed for compatibility purposes) and the display supported upper and lower case, hardware snow suppression (video ram bus arbitration logic), and an improved character font set. The floppy disk interface supported dual density, and disk capacities up to 800 KB, more than four times the capacity of the original TRS-80. A special version of NewDos/80, (an improved TRS-DOS compatible Disk operating system) was used to support these disk capacities when using the TRS-80 compatibility mode.

For the educational market a version of the first model was produced with a new plastic enclosure (the First Asters had an all-metal enclosure) that also had an opening on the top in which a cassette recorder could be placed. This model was used in a cluster with one Aster (with disk drives) for the teacher, and eight disk less versions for the pupils. The pupils could download software from the teachers computer through a network based on a fast serial connection, as well as sending back their work to the teachers computer. There was also hardware in place through which the teacher could see the display of each pupils screen on his own monitor.

Working modes

The Aster used 64KB of RAM memory and had the unique feature of supporting two fundamentally different internal architectures: when turned on without a boot floppy or with a TRS-DOS floppy, the Aster would be fully TRS-80 compatible, with 48KB or RAM. When the boot loader detected a CP/M floppy, the Aster would reconfigure its internal memory architecture on the fly to optimally support CP/M with 60 KB free RAM for programs and an 80 x 25 display. This dual-architecture capability only existed on one other TRS-80 clone, the LOBO Max-80.

With a special configuration tool, the CT-80 could reconfigure its floppy drivers to read and write the floppies of about 80 other CP/M systems.

A third mode was entered with a special boot floppy which turned the Aster into a Videotex terminal with a 40x25 display and a Videotex character set, The software used the built in RS232 interface of the Aster to control a modem through which it could contact a Prestel service provider.


Most Aster CT-80's (about 10 thousand of them) were sold to schools for computer education, in a project first known as the "honderd scholen project" (one hundred schools project), but which later involved many more than just one hundred schools. MCP received this order from the Dutch government because their computer met all the technical and other demands, including the demand that the computers should be of Dutch origin and should be built in the Netherlands. Another important demand was that the computers could be used in a network (Aster developed special software and hardware for that). Later however the Government turned around and gave 50% of the order to Philips and their P2000 homecomputer even though the P2000 did not meet all the technical demands, was made in Austria and did not have network hard nor software.

The company

Aster computers was based in the small town of Arkel near the town of Gorinchem. Initially Aster computer b.v. was called MCP (Music print Computer Product), because it was specialized in producing computer assisted printing of sheet music. The director...(and so on)
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