The NEC PC-8201A and NEC PC-8300 series computers are some of the most extraordinary computers of all time. Twenty years after their first introduction, they're still used for an amazing variety of purposes all around the world. What follows is some brief background information, a list of real world applications, and a list of parts and accessories that are still available for purchase.
The NEC PC-8201A personal computer was introduced in March 1983 as one of the world's first-ever lightweight, battery-powered notebook computers. Four years later (1987), it was replaced by an upgraded model, the NEC PC-8300. The PC-8300 sported a number of enhancements, but NEC decided not to market it through retail outlets. Instead, the PC-8300 was only available through special Value Added Resellers (VARs).
The NEC PC-8300 was discontinued in July 1990. In the years since then, NEC has introduced numerous notebook computers. However, none have proved as enduring and as extraordinary as the NEC PC-8201A and NEC PC-8300 computers still in use today by a surprising number of people.
Note: The NEC PC-8201A and PC-8300 computers share much in common with the Radio Shack Model 100 / Model 102, the Kyocera KC-85, and the Olivetti M-10.
The NEC PC-8201A and NEC PC-8300 computers measure approx. 8.5" x 11" x 1". They feature an excellent LCD screen (with 40 characters by 8 lines in standard mode), weigh less than 3.5 pounds, and run for 18-20 hours on four AA batteries. Built-in firmware includes a BASIC language programmer, an ASCII text editor, and telecom software for use with a serial port and/or modem. (BASIC stands for Basic All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange.) They also feature a standard RS-232 serial port and a standard parallel printer port, plus a proprietary system bus and a few additional proprietary interface ports.
The primary differences between the NEC PC-8201A and the NEC PC-8300 (besides their external color tones) is that the upgraded PC-8300 includes four times as much standard RAM and a number of advanced features in the built-in text and telecom applications. The PC-8300 was also designed to accommodate an optional internal modem.
Real World Applications
Hundreds of software applications have been written for the NEC PC-8201A and PC-8300 in either BASIC or 8085 assembly language. As a result, these computers were (and, in some cases, still are) used to display animation, compose music, play games, assist business professionals, monitor storage tanks, monitor weather changes in Oregon forests, control the baking of ceramics in electric kilns, open and close window drapes, and otherwise usher in the first wave of portable computing - beginning way back in the early 1980's.
Since 1987, we have provided solutions based on the NEC PC-8201A and NEC PC-8300 for a phenomenal variety of applications in more than a dozen countries around the world and nearly every state in the USA.
We have been widely recognized as the leading Value Added Reseller of NEC's original line of notebook computers. Thanks to the work of some legendary software engineers, we introduced to market an original technique for programming EPROM (Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory) chips for the option ROM socket in these computers, plus more than two dozen original software programs, a custom carry case, and a small, plug-in memory device. From 1990 to 1999, we also hosted a computer bulletin board system (BBS) featuring public discussion areas and free software downloads.
Please see our current inventory list of products related to the NEC PC-8201A and NEC PC-8300, as well as the NEC PC-8401A (aka "Starlet"), NEC PC-8500 and NEC MultiSpeed series computers.
The NEC PC-8201A and PC-8300 use a proprietary operating system. The NEC PC-8401A and PC-8500 run a modified version of CP/M. The NEC MultiSpeed was NEC's first portable MS-DOS computer.
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