back to article Sinclair's FORGOTTEN Australia-only micro revealed!

In early 1980s Australia if you wanted a home computer, chances are you were a Commodore user, a TRS-80 user or … a Commodore user. Famous British micros from the likes of Sinclair and Oric never really got a foothold down under, leaving the field to the Vic 20, C64 and the occasional local contender like Microbee. British micro …

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Anonymous Coward

This is the same as the ICL One Per Desk which isn't forgotten about.

When I mention a QL to someone some mention the ICL machine.

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Facepalm

So close to buying a QL.... Wait, is that an 8-bit databus on a 32-bit CPU?

Anyone else see the $25k for a home computer in the text and think, "yep, sounds like standard Australian retail practice?"

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I looked at the image, before reading the text and went "ICL OPL"...

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Anonymous Coward

Don't think a different badge on the case really counts...

"This is the same as the ICL One Per Desk which isn't forgotten about."

That's what I thought- it appears to be a simple rebadge of the One Per Desk, and isn't even the only case of that happening. What *is* interesting is the fact that it apparently enjoyed moderate success in that country. (I was only in primary school at the time, so I don't know how well it did in the UK, but I haven't heard much about its use in business here).

That said... it's still not the great lost Aussie-only Sinclair that the title implies.

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Anyone else see the $25k for a home computer in the text and think, "yep, sounds like standard Australian retail practice?"

No. But I did see mention of a being able to by a HOME for $25k and a home COMPUTER $2.5K

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Thumb Up

"So close to buying a QL.... Wait, is that an 8-bit databus on a 32-bit CPU?"

Yeah, I had a QL and was always amazed at the stupidity of Sinclair for putting an 8 bit bottle neck in it. That man needs a good manager!

As an aside, more than foolishly I bought the QL 'Trump card solution'; with two 720k floppies, and 'Task master' from Sector Software I felt like a king. When the floppies (which were under guarantee and I changed in time) failed, I ran everything from RAM. I can't remember how I hacked it, but when I first booted it up under this arrangement Taskmaster asked 'Are you sure'? It saw me through my B.Sc., and earned me a few bob too.

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Unhappy

Looks like a One Per Desk to me

Some will say that in an age of smartphones that's not a problem.

Until you lose your phone, or want to transfer that data of course.

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Re: Looks like a One Per Desk to me

I seem to recall seeing something like that displayed in the window of the old STC building in the Strand in London and thinking uh oh it's got those crazy microdrives, so that won't work.

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Re: Looks like a One Per Desk to me

Ah microdrives; it's possible to fill them up too much so that the whole thing falls over. One of the pains of writing a final year dissertation.

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Ah the Tonto

I acquired one of these about 20 years ago. Never got it to work but it's lying around somewhere.

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Telecom New Zealand had them too...

The ICL OPD/One Per Desk. I had one as part of the beta test programme, as we had an ICL mainframe at work. Long lost to the landfill now. Telecom never actually released them to the NZ market, but I heard they had a shipping container full of 300 or more. Mine was the colour screen version - very spec!

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when I was a young local government IT assist ...

somehow we ended up with a OPD, as we used to be an ICL-3900 'shop'.

I don't think we ever got it to do anything useful, then we were all IBM-PC & DOS.

(However, ICL-DRS300 was always my favourite ICL personal computer, rather than the IBM 'compatibles', very modular approach)

.

On our training visits to ICL Beumont House, Old Windsor, I recall that the receptionsists were using OPD in the mid- to late-80's.

A great idea, mind!

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Re: when I was a young local government IT assist ...

Likewise. My weeks spent "training" at Beaumont House are remembered fondly. Regular breaks when concord flew overhead, croquet on the lawn outside, wandering down to the neighbor's house for a bit of celebrity spotting. To be honest, as a training centre I've never come across a better environment.

And I remember those machine the receptionists used - they had a box of those mini tapes and let me have a couple for my QL.

Looks like Beaumont House is a hotel now.

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Even the wikipedia page on the "One per Desk" mentions that it was marketed in the UK by BT as the "TONTO".

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Stop

Stupid Idea - always was.

Why didn't they merge a QL with a Swan Teasmade? Now that would have been much better!

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Happy

Re: Stupid Idea - always was.

"Why didn't they merge a QL with a Swan Teasmade? Now that would have been much better!"

A TEASMAID???!!!!?!?!?? %Deiety no! A computer merged with a pizza oven, on the other hand....That's proper geek!

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Happy

Re: Stupid Idea - always was.

"Why didn't they merge a QL with a Swan Teasmade? Now that would have been much better!"

Ah now, it would have been much better to have merged it with the Goblin Teasmaid. That way one per desk would have made so much more sense!

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80's computer ad!

Boring beige box: check.

Leafy pot plant: check.

Bar chart of exponentially increasing sales: check.

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Anonymous Coward

I worked for BT when was developed. At that time, the company was a confederation of warring tribes, and the tribe with the Tonto was reckoned to be putting strong substances in their peace pipes, because all their product ideas were crackers.

It was obvious to everyone else that the IBM PC (released 2 or 3 years prior to the Tonto/OPD) was the way the industry was going.

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Facepalm

I was an apprentice in Telecom @ the time

Couldn't give these things away.

Turned up on the desk of the senior technical officers in my Subs depot, they didn't know what to do with them too.

the little data cassette thingy looked like a metal ribbon, the whole thing looked pretty space age at the time and it's unannounced appearance had everyone baffled. Further still no-one could make it work............

I heard essentially no-one bought them and they were junked.

totally baffling episode

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Bronze badge

I had one (merlin Tonto)

Well.. my dad worked at British Telecom (yeh.. it wisnae BT at that time).

He brought it home for me to play with for a few months (which I suppose shows how much use he was putting it to).

Frankly though, as a 14yo I thought it was pretty cool. He'd brought back an IBM PC before and that was dire - even my spectrum seemed more exciting than that.

But this had colour, and microdrives, and ... a phone and modem FFS.

In the UK that was pretty unheard of... actually later that summer I won a microtel (?) modem in a competition for my spectrum and was 'surfing' prestel and micromonkey800 (summit like that).. downloading software and all sorts which seemed pretty awesome at the time.

but I digress, I liked the Merlin - it felt like a proper computer.

I soon got bored, the spectrum got swapped for a 6128, and it I wouldn't be 'online' again at home till I'd left home and started work and got 'the internet' in 93.

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Is this similar to the French Minitel?

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I've got an OPD tucked away upstairs

can't bring myself to throw it out but can't think of a use for it either

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One for the 'Archive'.

Well, that sent things back to dee base.

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The ICL One Per Desk / Merlin Tonto / Computerphone were all great little machines - loved how they had a menu which stored the address book - find the person you were looking for and hit dial the phone would connect (or connect direct to their computer).

They are a cousin of the Sinclair QL Home computer, and share some of the same technology, although the microdrives on these were improved over the QL (so much so, that some QLers retro-fitted the ICL microdrives onto the QL).

You can still get a hold of Merlin Tontos - http://www.sellmyretro.com/search/naturalSearch?keyword=merlin+tonto

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I worked for ICL around 90-91 and remember a few antiquated OPDs knocking around the office.

I don't recall anyone actually using them, though! Now, the DRS6000 - that was a cool machine.

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it spoke!

I remember seeing an OPD at a computer club I went to every other week in Bangor (Co. Down), one of the guys worked for ICL, I think, and brought the OPD along. I remember being very impressed with it having a speech synthesiser.

I guess it was the closest thing we had to a smart-phone in the mid eighties!

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