|Introductory price||GB£1,965 (equivalent to £6,204 in 2018)|
|Operating system||MS-DOS 2.11, Concurrent CP/M Version 3, CP/M 86|
|CPU||Intel 8086 CPU @ 4.77 MHz|
|Memory||256 KiB RAM, expandable to 768 kB|
|Storage||3.5" floppy drive|
|Connectivity||Infrared Wireless keyboard / Optional wireless mouse|
|Dimensions||45 cm x 20 cm x 17.2 cm|
The Apricot Portable was a computing device manufactured by Apricot Computers, and was released to the public in November 1984. It was Apricot Computers' first attempt at manufacturing a portable computer, which were gaining popularity at the time. Compared to other portable computers of its time like the Compaq Portable and the Commodore SX-64, the Apricot Portable was the first computer to have an 80-column and 25-line LCD screen and an input/output speech recognition system.
The Apricot Portable was designed to be transportable, but powered by mains electricity only. It consisted of a cased system unit with a motherboard, 640 × 256 pixel (80 × 25 character) monochrome display, a single floppy disk drive, and memory, and a separate wireless (infrared) keyboard. Software was bundled with it.
The Apricot Portable was contained inside a hard charcoal gray carrying case and consisted of two main parts: the central unit (monitor) and the keyboard. An optional mouse-like track board was also available. It was used by either pointing the track board at the computer and moving the trackball around with one's thumb or rolling the trackball on a flat surface. A basic Microsoft mouse could have also been used in place of the track board via the RS-232 serial port located in the back within the computer. The mouse and the keyboard are both battery-powered. However, the central unit itself must be plugged into a three-wire wall outlet.
The Portable's overall design was thought to be very unusual because the model's central unit and keyboard were not connected at all physically with any sort of wire. Instead, the connection between the keyboard and the central unit was made by infrared signals passing between the two parts. If an object blocked the space in between the two, the communication between them would become disconnected. Apricot Computers chose to use an infrared signal communication system because it was cheaper than using a cable connection.
The Portable was known for being the first to harness a full 25-line liquid-crystal display (LCD) screen on a portable computer. The LCD screen was originally made by Hitachi in Japan however, Apricot Computers was not satisfied with parts of its design. Specifically, the speed of its controller chip, which is responsible for adjusting certain parts of the screen like the contrast, was too slow. This prompted the company to design its own controller chip for the screen that operated very fast.
The Apricot Portable contained a variety of features including a built-in disk drive, an input/output voice speech recognition system, and a software bundle.
The Apricot Portable was the first portable computer to utilize an input/output voice speech recognition system. A microphone was clipped to the front of the unit that was used specifically for this system. It could have been used while clipped to the unit or it could be unclipped and used in hand. The voice recognition system had the ability to hold a vocabulary file up to 4096 words, of which only 64 could be held in RAM at a time.
The speech recognition system could be trained to associate a command with a recorded word (not necessarily English). Words were recorded in a file (with .voc extension) and associated with commands. The system was then trained by the user repeating the words into a microphone to cater for normal slight variations in speech. The more times a word was repeated, the better the result.
The Apricot Portable was bundled with both the MS-DOS and CP/M-86 operating systems, software including a word processor called SuperWriter, SuperPlanner, a personal diary called ACT Diary, the SuperCalc spreadsheet and ACT Sketch. An interactive tutorial disk was provided.
The Portable could run most software for MS-DOS. although software directly accessing PC hardware, for increased speed, was becoming available for IBM PC clones. Like other Apricot computers, it could be started up from a CP/M-86 or Concurrent CP/M boot disc, and would then run CP/M-86 software in single- or multi-user mode.
A basic model of the Apricot Portable with 256kB of RAM (expandable to 768kB) was sold for £1695 (approximately US$2460). An additional colour display with 128k RAM and a mouse added an extra £300 ($435) to its price. The price of the original model was lowered in 1985 when a new version was released with 512k of RAM.
Media related to Apricot Portable at Wikimedia Commons