The HP2645 Intelligent Terminal
AICS Research's Text
The System 2000 Word Processing Terminal
AICS Research was officially born in February, 1976 when the projects at New Mexico State University came to an end. Almost everyone associated with the university projects became part of the new AICS Research.
The first product that AICS designed and manufactured was a speech synthesizer designed specifically for the then-new Altair 8800 computers. These first personal computers were manufactured by MITS (Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems), a model airplane radio control company working out of a series of storage garage offices in Albuquerque.
In 1975 and 1976, I spoke often to the three kids that were the programming staff at MITS, Paul Allen, Bill Gates, and Monte Davidoff. I was quite enthusiastic about the BASIC that they had created (even if it was more or less a direct copy of DEC's BASIC). I was just beginning to teach at the time, thus I considered education to be especially important, perhaps giving it more weight than I should. When Bill and Paul told me that they were going to drop out of school and just program full-time, I told my wife often how worried I was about kids. If things didn't work out, they could wind up in a lot of trouble. But things did seem to work out all right for Bill and Paul, although I have no idea how well Monte is doing nowadays.
The speech synthesizer, which was put together initially out of simple curiosity in 1975, won first prize at the World's First Computer Fair in Albuquerque. The speech synthesizer went on to become a surprisingly successful product.
In that same year, 1976, HP approached us and asked if we would like to convert their new HP2649 OEM-modifiable intelligent terminal into a PC. We declined on the basis that that the machine seemed far too expensive for the super-hobbyist market that predominated at the time. However, based on the suggestion of Jay Cunningham, an associate of the time, we did agree to convert it into a standalone word processor for professional office use. And the HP2649 proved to be ideal for that use.
Pictured above is the System 2000 standalone Word Processing Terminal that we manufactured from 1977 to 1982. The System 2000 was built by fundamentally reorganizing the Intel 8080 code that drove the HP2645A Intelligent Terminal. The internal architecture of the HP2645 and the Altair was virtually identical, thus modified Altairs were used as initial testbeds for the System 2000's code.
The System 2000 proved to be among the finest standalone word processors of its time, beating out the IBM and Xerox entries in heads-up competition every time. The System 2000 featured right-justified, proportionally spaced text, printed at high speed on Diablo and Qume daisy-wheel printers, with full math and Greek printing. And the System 2000 retained all of its HP2645 Terminal capabilities.
Perhaps most astonishing is the fact that the entire word processing software was hand-coded into only 24K bytes -- just about the same amount of code as its picture above now consumes.
In 1979, we bought our first HP3000, a Series 33, to support System 2000 sales.
Back to Beginning