Fujitsu Micro 16s. (evaluation) David H. Ahl.
Fujitsu Micro 16s
When we first published information about the Fujitsu Micro 16s in our NCC Roundup (August 1983), we had everything right except the price. We mentioned that the Micro 16s has two user-accessible microprocessors (an 8-bit Z80A and a 16-bit 8086), 128K of RAM, two double density, double sided 5 1/4 floppy disk drives, detachable keyboard, and CP/M-86. We mentioned a price of $2495 and Fujitsu's phone rang for weeks. Sorry folks, the price is $3995, but it still looks like a bargain. Read on.
According to Fujitsu, the Micro 16s was designed for the U.S. market--more specifically, for the business user. Key features are the two microprocessors and CP/M-86, under which the Z80 can run software designed for CP/M 2.2. Running the optional Concurrent CP/M-86 allows the Micro 16s to perform up to four computing jobs simultaneously.
The Micro 16s contains 128K of parity checking memory (expandable to one megabyte). An additional 48K is built in for high-resolution color video support.
The bundled system comes with CP/M-86, WordStar, and SuperCalc. Concurrent CP/M-86 and MS-DOS are optional. Other software is available from dealers, but not from Fujitsu. Interestingly, Fujitsu makes no high level programming language available for the Micro 16s--no Basic, no Pascal, no Cobol, no Ada. According to the specifications, the system "supports all standard language processors,' but whether they take advantage of the high-resolution graphics or other extended capabilities of the machine we can't say. The lack of a high level language, of course, is consistent with the marketing philosophy of aiming the Micro 16s at a business customer looking for a turnkey system.
For the fanatic programmer, the 8086 mpu is accessible and the second section of the CP/M-86 manual provides documentation for assembly language programming. The first line of this manual put us off a bit, "The reader should also be familiar with the 8086 assembly language instruction set, which is defined in Intel's 8086 Family User's Manual.' Gag.
Okay, so we'll skip the programming in this evaluation and look at the Micro 16s as turnkey business system.
The Operations Guide with the Micro 16s provides extensive illustrated instructions on unpacking, setting up, and getting started. With the assistance of this guide, it took us about one-half hour to unpack and get our first disk loaded.
As we set up, the quality of the components was very evident. The system unit is in a heavy metal cabinet. Measuring 19.5 X 15 X 6 , it is just a tad smaller than the IBM PC. A rocker power switch is recessed on the right side toward the back, and a reset button is recessed toward the front.
On the rear of the system unit are connectors for the keyboard, light pen, A/D, monochrome and RGB monitors, parallel printer (DB-25 connector), RS-232 serial device, AC in, and AC out (for the monitor).
Accessible through an open slot in the bottom of the front panel are 16 DIP switches. These are not described in the manual except in one illustration showing how they should be positioned for correct operation of the monitor.
On the back of the system unit are four rectangular covers. One or more of these covers can be removed when boards are plugged into one or more of the five 130-pin expansion slots. Hmmmm, 130 pins? That's not like anything of which we have ever heard. Nor is any information provided in the documentation. Guess we will have to wait until Fujitsu announces some addons or peripherals to see what plugs into these slots.
The system unit contains two double density, double sided 5 1/4 floppy disk drives with a formatted capability of 320K each. An LED on each drive shows when a disk is being accessed. After a disk access, the drive keeps spinning for several minutes, thus speeding up subsequent accesses.
The system unit contains both a 16-bit 806 mpu and an 8-bit Z80A, 128K of parity checking RAM (expandable to one megabyte), 48K of video memory, four-channel analog-to-digital converter, and interface circuitry.
The detachable keyboard is attached to the system unit with a cable, part of which is coiled and part of which is straight. In all, it stretches to almost six feet.
The keyboard has 98 sculpted keys including a truly standard alphanumeric Keyboard, numeric keypad with arithmetic operations, ten function keys, ten special keys, and four cursor movement keys (arranged in a reasonably logical pattern). A nice touch is the LED next to the CAPS LOCK key (which indicates whether it is on), and similar indicator by the INSERT key. The RETURN key is a hefty four times the size of the standard keys.
Backspace is a destructive backspace and is where it belongs--over the RETURN key. Unlike some computers, backspace and left cursor movement are different keys, a nice touch.
A GRAPH key is used to obtain graphics characters from the keyboard; this is not a toggle key but must be held down with the desired regular key. ALT has a similar function and causes an "alternate' character set to be entered. In total, the keyboard is capable of generating 96 standard letters, numbers, and symbols; 32 graphics characters; 39 Greek letters; 10 reduced size numberals; and 26 math, music, and scientific symbols.
The keyboard has some interesting fixed function keys including insert, delete, erase line, clear screen, home cursor, and duplicate (functions differently in different software packages).
A keyclick sound can be tggled on and off with the KCLICK command in CP/M. This produces a quiet click which (functions differently in different repeated entries. All keys repeat when held down for about one second.
The standard alphabetic, numeric, and symbol keys are white with a black label, and all the other keys are medium gray. The area immediately surrounding the keys is tan, while the keyboard assembly is light cream. This color scheme is also used on the system unit and manual binders. In an informal office poll, we felt the system was reminiscent of a 1950's car--two-tone and fins--but the appearance was not indicative of the quality of the system.
High Resolution Display
Two monitors are available from Fujitsu for the Micro 16s, a 12 monochrome (green screen) unit and an 11 RGB color unit. Our system was equipped with the color unit.
Text resolution is either 40 or 80 characters by 25 lines. Although the SCREEN command (in CP/M) permits setting all kinds of variables, we never did figure out how to display a 40-character line. On the other hand, SCREEN lets you specify the number of lines on the screen, the number of scrolled lines, display colors, and whether or not to display the realtime clock.
Graphics resolution is 640 X 200 pixels. With the color minotor, eight colors are available. The video memory for graphics and characters is separate, so they can be displayed independently. Different software packages make use of the color capabilities in various ways. SuperCalc, for example, uses white for user entry, blue for spreadsheet labels, and light blue for function key labels--unobtrusive and effective.
An optional swivel pedestal is available for the monitor. This unit raises the monitor from the table or system unit about 2 1/2 and tilts from about 5 degrees forward to 20 degrees back, and turns 45 degrees to either side. We found it a nice accessory that helped compensate for various room lighting conditions.
CP/M-86 and CP/M 2.2
When the system is first started (with no disk in the drive), the following message appears on the screen:
DISK ERROR 0A (R, H, D, S, O, X or G) The manual tells us, "This is normal . . . Since there isn't a disk in drive 0, the Micro 16s displayed the error message.' What do the letters mean? Who knows? Apparently, this is in keeping with the Fujitsu philosophy of not confusing the customer with extraneous information. The manual simply directs you to put a disk in drive 0, and press reset. Okay, that's what we did, but we would still like to know the meaning of R, H, D, and so on.
CP/M-86 is an operating system designed by Digital Research for the 8086 mpu. It is compatible with standard CP/M for 8080 and Z80 mpus. This means that if the disk formats are the same, as in the single density format, CP/M-86 can read the same data files as CP/M. This means that applications programs can be relatively easily converted to run under CP/M-86.
CP/M-86 can support up to one megabyte of internal RAM, 16 logical disk drives of up to eight megabytes each, and several other devices.
Since the Micro 16s has two microprocessors, CP/M 2.2 programs do not have to be converted, but will run directly as loaded. Actually, the CP/M 2.2 disk will not boot up itself; instead, CP/M-86 is loaded, and then the desired CP/M 2.2 applications program may be loaded and run. The only restriction is that programs must be "pure' CP/M 2.2; this means that all calls to hardware must be through normal CP/M calls. We tried running CP/M 2.2 versions of Perfect Calc, Perfect Writer, and some other programs with mixed results. Some loaded and ran, but all too often we got a meaningless error message such as "disk not ready:' or "I/O error.' We are not sure why--perhaps these programs used a direct hardware call (doubtful) or a non-standard CP/M call (possible).
CP/M-86 has a rich library of commands and associated utility programs. Figure 1 shows the startup dialog and list of utility programs on the CP/M-86 disk.
The manual is thorough and seemingly written especially for the Fujitsu Micro 16s. Indeed, except for failing to describe the error line resulting from a no-disk start, the manual is one of the most comprehensive on CP/M that we have seen, running 152 pages in the user section and another 180 pages in the assembly language programming section.
WordStar. What can we say? It is perhaps the most widely used word processor for microcomputers today. It is an exceptionally comprehensive package and has many custom features and enhancements on the Fujitsu Micro 16s.
Perhaps the biggest improvement in WordStar over the years has been in the documentation. Today, the manual still runs a whopping 224 pages in the main section, 31 in the appendices, 60 in the training guide, 50 in the installation section, and 17 in custom features. Nevertheless, the manual is much more readable and approachable than earlier versions.
Using the Short Course (40 pages), you can get up to speed on WordStar in about two hours. However, to take advantage of its many extended features will require study, practice, and experimentation over a span of weeks or months.
Some of the custom features on the Micro 16s allow WordStar to take advantage of the print enhancement features of the Epson MX-80 printer, ring a bell (actually a beep) on error, and use different colors for displaying text, prompts, status lines, and help.
SuperCalc 2 is Sorcim's spreadsheet package which has been nicely customized for the micro 16s. SuperCalc 2 is a second generation spreadsheet and has all the commands we have come to expect in a spreadsheet with the addition of automatic sorting of rows or columns, formatting of text as well as numeric entries, protection of cells or ranges of cells, logical functions, calendar functions, net present value function, and several other goodies.
On the Micro 16s, SuperCalc is customized to take advantage of ten built-in and two programmable function keys, and use color in the screen display.
The manual is directly from Sorcim and reflects their years of experience marketing the package. As with WordStar, an eight-panel reference card is furnished with the package.
Options And Questions
The specifications on the Micro 16s mentioned several things which we did not have the opportunity to try. Obviously, external disk drives are available, both 8 floppy disk drives and 5 1/4 Winchester drives with 10 or 20 megabytes of storage.
As mentioned earlier, interfaces are provided on the system unit for a light pen and four-channel A/D converter. We have no further information on these accessories.
We are told the Micro 16s can be linked to the Omninet communications network system developed by Corvus. This allows the Micro 16s to serve as an intelligent node in a larger network, sharing resources and programs with other machines. We have a Corvus System on the next table awaiting its turn for evaluation, but none of the documentation with either system gives a hint on how to make them communicate with one another.
And, as we mentioned earlier, we are curious to see what goes into those 130-pin expansion slots.
For Business Use Only
As it is bundled (CP/M-86, SuperCalc, and WordStar), the Fujitsu Micro 16s is aimed squarely at the "typical' business and professional user who wants word processing, an electronic spreadsheet, and little else. Although the system is capable of running a much larger library of software, the customer today will have to rely upon his dealer to get these packages and install them on the Micro 16s. The choice of packages is wide as a result of the Micro 16s being able to run 8-bit CP/M 2.2 applications as well as ones written for the 16-pit systems, CP/M-86, MS-DOS, and Concurrent CP/M-86.
We are disappointed that Fujitsu has chosen not to license Microsoft Basic directly and offer it to their customers. The hardware is exceptionally capable, and it seems that the manufacturer ought to make it as easy as possible for the user to take advantage of its many features.
In summary, the Fujitsu Micro 16s is a no-nonsense desktop computer. It is not portable; nor does Fujitsu pretend that it is. It is rugged and stylish (in a 1950's sort of way), and has a truly standard, userfriendly keyboard. At $3995, the Fujitsu Micro 16s is a full-featured, capable system, and, backed by Japan's Japan's largest computer manufacturer.
Table: Figure 1.
Photo: Keyboard has standard alphanumeric portion. Function keys, special keys, and numeric keypad are all separate.
Photo: Cursor keys are arranged in a reasonably logical way.
Products: Fujitsu Micro 16s (computer)