Many people are familiar with the ColecoVision game system that knocked the Atari 2600 on its rear and never let the 5200 even stand up. Many of these people have also heard that Coleco released a computer called the Adam. It was a popular machine for a short time, because of its small price tag and compatibility with ColecoVision games.
The Adam was released in two versions. One was the complete Adam system, which came with a letter-quality printer (very slow print speed!), a keyboard, a cassette deck, a game, two joysticks, SmartBASIC and the manuals. The cost was an amazingly low $600. The computer was also released as Expansion Module #3 for the ColecoVision game system. It came with all the same pieces, but the tape drive plugged into the game system. The cost was even lower: just $400!
The most exciting part of the Adam system is the cassette drive. It is extremely fast. I may be imagining this, but it seems to be as fast as the Commodore 64 disk drive! It saves and loads programs from modified audio cassettes at 19.2 baud, which is faster than any other tape drive, ever! (The exception might be the tape back-up on IBMs. This can back up a hard drive quite quickly, although I have no experience with it myself.)
The Adam runs remarkably fast for the Z-80 chip it uses. Coleco has claimed that the computer has 80K of RAM, but they must be including the ROM, because the Adam really only has 64K of RAM. The screen holds 36 columns by 24 lines, which indicates quite a large typeface. The maximum screen resolution is 256x192.
There is a built-in word processor called Smart Writer. It is a good program, which takes advantage of special function keys on the Adam keyboard. The 32-column display is easy to read, but it is more difficult to use than the 40-column screens of the Atari 8-bits and Commodore 64.
The game that comes with the Adam is called Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom. It is a cassette-based game, but since the Adam's tape drive works so well, it really doesn't affect the experience much. I played this game when the Adam was first introduced, and I wasn't very impressed then. Sure, the ship's shadow was neat, and the graphics were pretty darn good, but the game got boring too quickly. I preferred to play my friend's Dragon's Lair cassette (which he played for about two days nonstop when he first got it. He must have beat that game in record time!).
The manuals that come with the computer are adequate, but no more than that. The BASIC manual especially lacks content. It is laid out quite poorly, I think. The target audience was made up of beginner computer users. It may be a beginner's BASIC, the manual doesn't have a beginner's feel. It takes itself too seriously. Now, I'm not saying that the BASIC manual is actually bad, but someone with no prior experience needs more examples than the ones that are given.
Like most of the classic systems, the Adam has a small group of people who are devoted to it.
Fred Horvat runs the Adam Bulletin Board on GEnie. It can be found under the TI Round Table, which is on page 575. Fred also keeps a public-domain library of Adam software. There is quite a number of commercial games that have been released into the public domain. He has them, and they can be purchased on cassette or disk. If you would like to contact Fred, write him at FMH, P.O. BOX 493, CHESTERLAND, OH, 44026. To place an order, call (216) 729-0761. He also carries used games on cartridge for the Adam and quite a few other systems.
N.I.A.D. is an Adam multi-function user group. I have no experience with it myself, but I understand that it's quite a good user group. It publishes a bi-monthly Adam newsletter, has a public-domain library, and offers a discount buying service for software and hardware. You can reach N.I.A.D. at 9389 BAY COLONY, #3, DES PLAINES, IL, 60016. Give them a call at (708) 296-0675.
There will be an Adam computer convention on October 6-9 in Sarasota, Florida. It is call AdamCon 6. It will have some interesting things to see, including an Adam hooked up to a MIDI-Mite, an 80-column terminal, a system with two 40MB hard drives, and other really interesting stuff. For more information, contact ADAMCON 6 HEADQUARTERS, 361 EDEN DR., ENGLEWOOD, FL., 34223, or call (813) 475-4219.
There is also an Adam News Network. It has a newsletter that is available on cassette, as well as 160K and 720K disks. I think it is monthly, but don't quote me. I am not sure if it is available in any other format. It has articles on CP/M, as well as the best of articles from many different Adam newsletters from the US, Canada and the UK. The cost is a $25 donation, payable to Robert Buir at 6552-N 400 E, KENDALLVILLE, IN, 46755.
There are many features of the Adam system that I find quite good. The feel of the keyboard is great; I like it more than any other keyboard I have ever used. The cassette storage is so fast that unless you need more storage, it will suit your needs just fine. (Try using a cassette as the only form of storage on another computer; you would go insane!) I would like to have more on the Adam in future issues. If you would be interested in writing some kind of article, get in touch.