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definition - Cromemco

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FateSold (European division Cromemco AG still in business)
IndustryComputer hardware

Cromemco was a Mountain View, California microcomputer company known for its high-end Z80-based S-100 bus computers in the early days of the home computer revolution. The Cromemco Dazzler was the first color graphics card available for personal computers.

The company began as a partnership in 1974 between Harry Garland and Roger Melen, two Stanford PhD students. The company was named for their residence at Stanford University, Cro(thers) Mem(orial), a Stanford dormitory reserved for engineering graduate students. Cromemco was incorporated in 1976.

The first computer released by Cromemco was the Z-1 in August 1976.[1] The Z-1 came with 8K of static RAM and used the same chassis as the IMSAI 8080 but featured the Z80 microprocessor rather than the IMSAI computer's Intel 8080 chip.[2] The Z-1 was succeeded by the Z-2 in June 1977, which featured 64K of RAM and the ability to run CDOS, a variant of the CP/M operating system.[3] The Z-2 also added a parallel interface in addition to an RS-232C serial port and no longer included the large panel of switches that had been part of the Z-1 model.

Cromemco re-packaged their systems to produce the System One, followed by the larger System Two and System Three. The System Three, announced in 1978[4] was capable of running both FORTRAN IV and Z80 BASIC programming languages. The System Three was designed for multiuser professional use and included an optional hard disk, CRT terminal, printer and the main computer unit.[5] In 1979, Cromemco released CROMIX, the first Unix-like operating system for microcomputers. CROMIX initially ran on the System Three and would later run on Cromemco systems using the Motorola 68K family of microprocessors.

Historical Cromemco logo, as used on many of their computers.
Another re-packaging of the basic hardware resulted in the C-10, which looked more like a contemporary terminal than a microcomputer. The computer consisted of a keyboard attached to a monitor via a flexible cable, with an optional external floppy disk drive. Introduced in 1982 for $1785, this was the company's only attempt to break into the small office business.[6]

In 1982, Cromemco introduced their 100-series of Unix machines, based on the Motorola 68000 family instead of the Intel 8080/Z80. The original CS100 was packaged in a relatively small case, while the CS200 was based on the larger Z-family case using MC68010, and the 400 was in a PC-style tower case with either the 68010 or 68020.[7]

At its peak in 1983, Cromemco employed over 500 people and had annual revenues of US$55 million. The company was wholly owned by Garland and Melen until it was sold to Dynatech in 1987 as a supplier to their ColorGraphics Weather Systems subsidiary. The European division of Cromemco reorganized as Cromemco AG and is still in business.

The Software Update Service was a fee based subscription offering. Subscribers obtained software updates, usually on 5.25 or 8 inch diskette, together with a comprehensive update reference.[8]


Eminent Cromemco Personnel

  • Dr Harry Garland - President of Cromemco
  • Dr Egon Zakrajsek - author of Cromix Plus
  • Ed Lupin - XXU Card Designer
  • Herb Lewis - Senior Engineer at Cromemco
  • Leigh Thomas - writer of Cromix a Users Guide
  • Professor Roger Melen - Cromemco cofounder
  • Richard Moore - Chief Executive officer Cromemco
  • Roger Sippl and Laura King - who built ISAM and Report Writer as Cromemco employees, and left to Informix
  • Roy Harrington - writer of Z80 Cromix


See also


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