More of a picture show again, I haven't been able to get this fully working. I've got some beeps out of the BIOS but as I do not have a display, I'm unsure about the performance of this unit.
(Edit: It does work. Check this blog post for more info.)
I would not have guessed that I'd see PCs as being very nostalgic as yet. But it's true, some of the more "family-friendly" brands of PCs have been around for more than 25 years. EuroPC's appearance owes to Amiga and Atari ST, with everything inside the same unit. Compared to these multimedia machines, it's a rather laughable set: 8088 processor, Hercules/CGA display adapter, beeper sound.
I think it has 512 k of memory instead of 640, no hard drive as standard. As an entry-level PC, it would have been nice, I guess. It would run word processors and things like that quite well. Learning how to use a PC and MS-DOS might have been important to many at those times, and why not take this route? I'm still glad I had an Atari ST instead, though.
|It's yellowed somewhat...|
Looking inside, the layout's not much different to Amstrad CPC or Sinclair 128 machines. It's also tempting to draw some comparisons between the general layout of EuroPC and Sinclair QL (Board at the middle, expansion space to the left, storage to the right.) Of course, here one of the more attractive aspect of PCs is lost: It's not very expandable. There's only one (8-bit) ISA port, no room for hard drive etc.
|Squeezing somewhat, the heart of the computer could fit in 50% less width.|
Doing some net searches, I've learned that pretty much the same hardware was also packaged as Sinclair PC200 and Amstrad PC20. There seemed to be some kind of minor rush to get these "desktop" PCs into the market, that vaguely looked like Amiga or Atari, to try to ride on their success. This I think was largely a failure, but Schneider EuroPC, I've understood was still a pretty popular and well regarded computer. I don't have the numbers but I'm a afraid it might have been a bit too expensive compared to Amiga 500 and the likes, on face of the lack of features. I do remember this being advertised back in the day and that was at least my impression back then.
|At the bottom of the picture, the external hard drive connector. |
It has the most pins ever I've seen in an external connector.
For me, the display issue is the biggest turn-off here. There's a 9-pin connector for a display at the back of the computer, and as I've learned a VGA monitor does not easily connect to this computer.
Three options seem to present itself:
1. Connect to some monitor from that time: CM-8833-II, or Commodore 1084, with 9-pin TTL inputs.
2. Buy a 8-bit VGA adapter card.
3. Get a video-adapter box that transforms legacy outputs into VGA.
Options 2 and 3 would somehow miss the point, as lot of the "feel" of using this computer would be lost. But I would also be disappointed to get one of those old, large displays which are not guaranteed to work anyway. So, it looks like I won't be using this computer anytime soon.
Edit: It's possible to make a CGA-Scart RGB conversion box and connect to an RGB display. It's somewhat more complex than a simple RGB cable, though, but probably the best option now.
This does not preclude from thinking about interesting casemods. What impresses me with the EuroPC is that the case and the chassis that keeps the keyboard together are very well designed for dis-assembling and putting the computer together. Nothing like the Amigas and Ataris which were really painful to tear apart. Also, the keyboard unit lies on a sturdy metal frame, which is simply laid over the plastic bottom.
|Please tell me it was designed by Germans, I'll believe it. |
The computer almost looks prettier without the plastic top.
Opening the plastic case requires finding the correct points at the backside of the seam, but after knowing this the process is simplicity itself. These are pushed in and the lid lifts from the backside and then sort of hinges upward from the front. Some force needs to be used, but also some care, as the plastic clips may break. After the backside has been loosened the case top has to be yanked out with some force and it will come loose.
|Opening the case with a flat-head screwdriver. |
Starting from the corner, the clip positions are pushed in and out one by one.
Then there's one cable that connects to the metal frame, but this is not screwed in. After taking it loose the metal frame can be pulled out and turned upside down, hinged on the ribbon cable that connects it to the motherboard. If there are screws that keep the case together, I don't think they are required. The screws that keep the floppy drive in position need not be removed.
|Attention to detail.|
However, the keyboard is not something one can easily make work with these solutions. So there would have to be either a complete rewiring of the keys (again!) or a modern keyboard, which would be a bit difficult to fit.
The keyboard membrane
I had to have a peep into the keyboard unit, and no, I don't think there will be any "rewiring" of these keys.
|Click to zoom in. It's awesome.|