Thorn EMI Liberator

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The Thorn EMI Liberator was a laptop word processor, produced in the United Kingdom by Thorn EMI Datatech, then in Feltham Middlesex, primarily intended for use by UK Government civil servants. Released in 1985, it is considered to be the first mass-produced British laptop. Thorn EMI Datatech simultaneously held the contracts for the repair of the Sinclair ZX80 and ZX81.

Laptop personal computer for mobile use

A laptop computer is a small, portable personal computer (PC) with a "clamshell" form factor, typically having a thin LCD or LED computer screen mounted on the inside of the upper lid of the clamshell and an alphanumeric keyboard on the inside of the lower lid. The clamshell is opened up to use the computer. Laptops are folded shut for transportation, and thus are suitable for mobile use. Its name comes from lap, as it was deemed to be placed on a person's lap when being used. Although originally there was a distinction between laptops and notebooks, as of 2014, there is often no longer any difference. Laptops are commonly used in a variety of settings, such as at work, in education, for playing games, Internet surfing, for personal multimedia, and general home computer use.

Word processor computer program used for writing and editing documents

A word processor (WP) is a computer program or device that provides for input, editing, formatting and output of text, often plus other features.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but more commonly known as the UK or Britain, is a sovereign country lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state‍—‌the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Contents

History

The design of the Liberator was instigated in 1983 by the UK Government's Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA). It was envisaged as a portable device to allow civil servants to write and print their own reports, rather than using the services of typists. The CCTA initially contacted Dragon Data to develop the product, but the company went into administration shortly afterwards, and the engineering team were taken on by Thorn EMI to continue the project in 1984.

The Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) was a UK government agency providing computer and telecoms support to government departments.

A copy typist is someone who specialises in typing text from a source which they read.

Dragon Data Welsh company

Dragon Data was a Welsh producer of home computers during the early 1980s. These computers, the Dragon 32 and Dragon 64, strongly resembled the Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer ("CoCo")—both followed a standard Motorola datasheet configuration for the three key components. The machines came in both 32KB and (later) 64KB versions.

The Liberator entered limited production in early 1985 and was officially launched in September of that year, with PR from Aspect Public Relations. The journalist launch was the first promotional event held in the Cabinet War Rooms.

Despite plans for improved Liberator Mk1A and Mk2 variants, production of the Liberator ended in September 1986.

Description

The Liberator was based on a Zilog Z80A microprocessor and a Gate array implementing the screen controller, keyboard interface and other I/O logic. The LCD display had a resolution of 480 x 128 pixels, or 80 columns by 16 lines of text. Interfaces comprised two S5/8 serial ports and two expansion buses, one specifically for extra RAM. Two battery packs were available, a NiCad rechargeable pack giving 12 hours operation, or one holding four AA cells giving 16 hours. The Liberator had 40 kB of internal RAM as standard, plus an optional 24 kB which could be write-protected by means of an external switch and had its own button cell battery to provide non-volatile storage. Another 24 kB of non-volatile RAM could be plugged into the external RAM expansion bus.

Zilog Z80 8-bit microprocessor

The Z80 CPU is an 8-bit based microprocessor. It was introduced by Zilog in 1976 as the startup company's first product. The Z80 was conceived by Federico Faggin in late 1974 and developed by him and his then-11 employees at Zilog from early 1975 until March 1976, when the first fully working samples were delivered. With the revenue from the Z80, the company built its own chip factories and grew to over a thousand employees over the following two years.

Microprocessor computer processor contained on an integrated-circuit chip

A microprocessor is a computer processor that incorporates the functions of a central processing unit on a single integrated circuit (IC), or at most a few integrated circuits. The microprocessor is a multipurpose, clock driven, register based, digital integrated circuit that accepts binary data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and provides results as output. Microprocessors contain both combinational logic and sequential digital logic. Microprocessors operate on numbers and symbols represented in the binary number system.

Gate array

A gate array is an approach to the design and manufacture of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) using a prefabricated chip with components that are later interconnected into logic devices according to a custom order by adding metal interconnect layers in the factory.

The Liberator's custom wordprocessing software ran under the CP/M operating system.

CP/M operating system

CP/M, originally standing for Control Program/Monitor and later Control Program for Microcomputers, is a mass-market operating system created in 1974 for Intel 8080/85-based microcomputers by Gary Kildall of Digital Research, Inc. Initially confined to single-tasking on 8-bit processors and no more than 64 kilobytes of memory, later versions of CP/M added multi-user variations and were migrated to 16-bit processors.

Operating system collection of software that manages computer hardware resources

An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware and software resources and provides common services for computer programs.

The external dimensions of the Liberator were 295 x 252 x 35mm.

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References

<i>The Register</i> British technology news and opinion website

The Register is a British technology news and opinion website co-founded in 1994 by Mike Magee, John Lettice and Ross Alderson. Situation Publishing Ltd is listed as the site's publisher. Drew Cullen is an owner, Linus Birtles the managing director and Andrew Orlowski is the Executive Editor.