Yet another computer museum - The Epson QX-10


QX-10 QX-10 with US ASCII keyboard

The Epson QX-10 is described both as ultimate CP/M machine and ultimate office suite flop. Both have a core of truth as they describe different aspects of the machine.

As a CP/M machine, the QX-10 is very complete, has a very nice, office friendly enclosure, and is expandable.

As a office suite flop, the Valdocs environment came with its own CP/M compatible operating system, TPM II and was written in Forth. The software was appearantly slow and not bug-free, giving the set a bad name. This in contrast with the ambitious advertisement campain at its introduction. As Valdocs was only launced in the USA, the positive image of the QX-10 was more apparant in Europe.

Multi Font Multi Font Card
Fonts

One of the gadgets in the QX-10 is the MultiFont functionality. In hardware it is a microcontroller based expansion card which can supply font information for both screen and printer. The screen data transfer could even use DMA (direct memory access). For printing an Epson (compatible) printer is very useful.
The support for various devices like several printers with Multi-Font CP/M explains why Epson reserved four tracks (8 kByte) for the system on the diskette. The BIOS consists of five parts, four of which reside on the System Bank in the memory. Below are the parts and their location in memory.

MF-CP/M BIOS1 Main Bank F600H - FF00H
MF-CP/M BIOS2 System Bank 0000H - 0D46H Device Input and Device Interrupts
MF-CP/M BIOS3 System Bank 0E00H - 2C6EH Console Output
MF-CP/M BIOS4 System Bank 3000H - 3B7BH Peripherial Device Control
MF-CP/M BIOS5 System Bank 4000H - 54CCH Printer Control

User Bank 1 is for MFBasic or RAM Disk, the optional User Bank 2 (256k machine) is also RAM Disk

Floppy Disk Drives Slim-line floppy drives

Part of the sleek appearance came from the floppy drives, which are only a third of the height of standard 5 1/4" drives. Head positioning is done with a voice coil, similar to what later became standard in harddisk drives. Standard 5 1/4" floppy drives use stepper motors.
Here a short movie showing the voice coil in action.

The standard steprate made the drive quite slow, but a special program SETDRIVE made this compareble with standard 5 1/4" drives

CP/M versions CP/M startup logo

Several versions of CP/M were available for the QX-10. See Details for more info. Most European versions of the QX-10 (all I have seen) are CP/M based and have the Multi-Fonts expansion card. Most American QX-10s are Valdocs oriented and have the HASCI keyboard. Both have regular CP/M versions, some using 64 kByte, some 256 kByte. No information is available on Japanese QC-10 operating systems.

Keyboard US ASCII keyboard
US ASCII keyboard HASCI keyboard
HASCII keyboard

The HASCI keyboard had a different layout than the standard keyboard. If your : key gives a ' and the CONTROL key doesn't work, you have a ASCII keyboard and a CP/M configured for HASCI. The SETASCII program solves this problem. Don't know if there is a SETHASCI program.
The HASCI keyboard was part of the HASCI design pioneered by Rising Star Industries. The goal was to simplify common administrative tasks by creating smart, intuitive interfaces. The Valdocs suite was the result of this design. An introduction to the HASCI interface can be found in the first chapter of the Programming Guide to Valdocs (the complete guide will be available at the Virtual Library (link below).

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Latest update: 2013-05-09

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