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Micro Innovations was the best third party hardware developer for the ADAM


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#1 HDTV1080P OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 26, 2017 3:07 AM

Back in 1983 when the Coleco ADAM was first released, consumers only had Digital Data Drives with 256K of storage on the center directory and right directory Digital Data Packs. Digital Data packs were a step above the much more slower manual cassette tapes that were used for other brands of computer systems. The Coleco Digital Data Pack was a high-speed automated tape that operated similar to a floppy disk in some ways. However, there was reliability problems with Digital Data Packs. Turning the ADAM computer power on and off would most of the time damage the data on the Digital Data Pack if it was left in the drive, and if it was a software program, many times it would no longer load. Also some people would eject and reinsert the Digital Data Packs while the drive is still running, which resulted in the tape being completely destroyed and wrapped around a hub inside the cassette shell.

 

In 1984 Coleco came out with an external ADAMNet 160K ADAM Disk Drive that uses 5.25 inch floppy disks for $199.95. The only advantage of the Digital Data Packs was the 256K storage space. However many ADAM owners decided to purchase a 160K floppy disk drive since it was more reliable and much faster when compared to Digital Data Packs. In 1984 Coleco started coming out with games and programs on floppy disks. Coleco also started re-releasing famous games and programs on floppy disks since there were too many complaints about the Digital Data Packs. However after the original 1983 SmartWriter rom bug issue that made the original ADAM’s built in word processor unusable when one first turned on the computer, and after reliability issues with Digital Data Packs with some consumers that did not know how to use the drives properly, the launch of a Disk drive in 1984 was too late. The ADAM had too much bad reputation that Coleco had to cease production on computers in January of 1985.

 

After 1985 it was hard for some ADAM owners to find a Coleco 160K disk drive. In the 1986-1990 years Coleco ADAM disk drives sometimes sold for $100 higher than their original list price. There was not enough ADAM Disk Drives in existence for the existing ADAM owners that wanted one. Once and awhile refurbished or used ones turned up. The Coleco ADAM disk drives were not perfect, sometimes new ones were broken and sometimes they only lasted a few years before needing repaired. Some third party companies for around $200, $300, or $400 were offering to remove the 160K Coleco disk drive from the original Coleco case and to convert the disk drive to 320K 5.25 inch double sided or 720K 3.5 inch disk drive option and to make modifications to the Coleco Adamnet controller board so the new larger sizes could be seen.

 

At some point a high-end third party company out of Reston Virginia became interested in making hardware products for the ADAM. It might have been around the year 1988. However, by the year 1991 Micro innovations had become the best third party hardware developer for the ADAM in terms of reliability, customer service, and easy to use quality products. Also their products were available in large QTY’s of several hundred’s of pieces for large mail order companies like ADAM House. However somewhere around 1994 Micro Innovations stopped making products for the ADAM and had a big close out clearance sale of all remaining inventory.  

 

Micro innovations developed internal Memory cards for the ADAM as large as 2MB with a suggested list price of $249.95 (64K memory cards were as low as $29.95). In addition, Micro innovations had an internal Multi-purpose board that had two RS-232 serial ports and one parallel printer port (Plus it had a Boot PROM socket for items like Walter’s Software ADAM Desktop that uses the EOS 9 operating system). That MIB3 card had a list price of $74.95 and a sale price of $49.95. All excellent products. Micro Innovations also had 40MB hard disk drives for the ADAM and floppy drives up to 1.44MB 3.5 inch. The Micro Innovations disk drives were made using state of the art components and most of their disk drives still work fine today. These Micro Innovations hard drives and disk drives controller boards, power supplies, and cases are engineered from scratch and do not use any Coleco parts. With the Coleco disk drives one could only have a maximum of two disk drives connected at once with the ADAM computer. With Micro Innovations disk drives up to 4 disk drives could be connected to the ADAM. Micro Innovation disk drives would ship with the standard disk 1 and disk 2 prom, however one could special order a disk 3 and disk 4 prom that worked with special third party ADAM programs like File Manager. The 5.25 inch Micro innovations disk drives had an original list price of $199.95 and a sale clearance price of $124.95. These disk drives were double sided and could be ordered with a 160k, 320k, or 360K prom. Most people got the 320k prom since it was 100% compatible with existing Coleco ADAM software on 160K disk and one could use the full 320K of space for blank floppy disks if they wanted. The 160K and 360K proms were to read special IBM format 5.25 disks. The 720K 3.5 disk drives had a list price of $249.95. The top of the line 1.44MB 3.5 inch Micro Innovations disk drives became very popular in the 90’s and they had a list price of $299.95 and a clearance price of $199.95. However, they now sale on EBAY for around $500 when one does see them offered. The 1.44MB 3.5 inch drive can also read 720K 3.5 inch disks. Micro innovations over the years made changes to the floppy disk drive power supplies only once as far as I am aware. That is why some floppy disk drives have a DB9 power connector on the back since they use a different style of power supply.

 

Third party ADAM software companies started releasing programs on 3.5 inch media in 720K and 1.44MB format. If the program was only 720K or lower in size most companies released the 3.5 inch disk in the 720K E&T software format so that the disk could work on both 720K and 1.44MB floppy drives. Some companies took special orders for programs on 1.44MB 3.5 inch disks since native 1.44MB disks would load a little faster when compared to 720K disks.     

 

Terry Fowlers famous Invoicer V3 was released on 3.5 inch media. Walter Software had a lot of programs available on 3.5 inch disks and they came factory sealed in shrink wrap plastic style bag. In addition, Walter Software and at least one other company released their 3.5 inch ADAM programs with a special copy protection scheme that looks for a bad sector on the disk in a certain spot and various other copy protection methods. Some ADAM owners were known for making unauthorized copies of software and passing the program around to other people, so third party companies like Walters Software protected their hard work by making it impossible for an ADAM 3.5 inch disk drive to copy the software (I am glad 3.5 inch disks are very reliable since many original third party releases cannot be copied). ADAM Formatter 3 on 3.5 inch media contained a special version of the program that would format up to 1.44MB 3.5 inch disks. Formatter 3 was the best EOS 9 based formatting program for ADAM floppy disks. It used nice fancy Smartkey’s, etc. File Manager 3.01 was also released on 3.5 inch floppies, however the picture below is of the 5.25 inch floppy disk version (File Manager 3.01 is also one of my favorite programs for the ADAM for backing up and editing programs. File Manager 3.01 also lets one use up to 4 floppy disk drives at the same time).  Walters Software came out with a special 247K version of SpellingAID that literally took up 247K on the 3.5 inch disk (Once it was unpacked it required a 512K or larger memory expander). This 1988 SpellingAID program loaded all at once into the ADAM memory expander and for the first time Smartwriter owners had their first spell checking program for the ADAM computer. You need a minimum of a 512K memory expander to use this special version. RAMboot was also popular program on 3.5 inch media.

 

Around the mid 1990’s all the factory new Micro Innovations disk drives dried up. For another 20 years people looked for used disk drives on EBAY for as much as $500+. Even then, floppy disk drives for the ADAM computer were rare. In 2016 Microfox Technologies released the Coleco ADAM microSD floppy Emulator. This device is suppose to be better quality and faster than the Micro innovations 1.44MB floppy drive (However I cannot verify that claim since I have not taken the time to setup my ADAM computer and test the product out). If it works like it is suppose to then there is no need to even own a floppy disk drive anymore and for that matter no need to own a hard disk drive either. Sometime in the future I might try out the 2 microSD floppy Emulator’s I purchased back in 2016.

 

Attached are some pictures and a copy of Micro innovations documents that have been converted to PDF format.

Attached Thumbnails

  • ADAM 320KB 5.25 INCH DISK DRIVE.JPG
  • ADAM 320KB 5.25 INCH DISK DRIVE PIC 2.JPG
  • ADAM 320KB 5.25 INCH DISK DRIVE PIC 3.JPG
  • ADAM 1.44MB 3.5 INCH DISK DRIVE.JPG
  • ADAM 1.44MB 3.5 INCH DISK DRIVE PIC2.JPG
  • ADAM 1.44MB 3.5 INCH DISK DRIVE PIC 3.JPG
  • MICRO INNOVATIONS DISK DRIVE POWER SUPPLY.JPG
  • DIFFERENT STYLE OF MICRO INNOVATIONS DISK DRIVE POWER CONNECTOR.JPG
  • Micro Innovations different style of disk drive power supply (DB9 connector).JPG
  • FileManager 3.01 was released on both 3.5 inch and 5.25 inch media.JPG
  • Offical 3rd party ADAM 1.44MB media and 720K media.JPG
  • ADAM RamBOOT 3.5 inch media.JPG
  • ADAM RamBOOT 3.5 inch media PIC 2.JPG
  • ADAM Formatter 3.5 inch media that formats up to 1.44MB disks.JPG
  • Rare ADAM 247K SpellingAID on 3.5 inch media.JPG
  • Rare ADAM 247K SpellingAID on 3.5 inch media PIC 2.JPG
  • MicroSD floppy emulator.JPG

Attached Files


Edited by HDTV1080P, Sat Aug 26, 2017 3:44 AM.


#2 adamcon OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 26, 2017 7:53 AM

GREAT description of the ADAM system and it's progression thru it's lifespan.  You are "right on" about the impact that Micro Innovations had on the ADAM community; although others also had huge impact also.  Eve Electronics pioneered sound cards, 80 column units, and speech synthesizers; Orphanware with disk drive conversions, printer cards, memory expanders, and Minnie Winnie hard drives; E&T Software with disk drive conversions and memory expanders.  Micro Innovations implemented all those ideas and produced them and much more with Mark's expertise.  Some of MicroFox Technologies hardware design is partially built on some of Micro Innovations designs (with Mark's permission) and partly on ideas from users - in particular, the idea to use compact flash cards, sparq and zip drives instead of a physical spinning hard drive.



#3 HDTV1080P OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 26, 2017 1:54 PM

Thanks for the post you are correct. In another thread I briefly mentioned EVE Electronics speech card, 80 column unit, etc. E and T had the first 720K disk drive conversion (Or at least the most popular conversion that became the standard prom format for the ADAM community for years). There was a lot of third party support for the ADAM thanks to peoples hard work. Unique to Micro innovations was that they were not converting a Coleco 160K disk drive to 320K or 720K. Mark was engineering disk drives from the ground up and was the first ADAM company to make a ADAMNet 1.44MB disk drive and ADAMNet hard drive. Also many people liked his 2MB memory expander that interfaced with the MIB3 card.

 

I have been away from the ADAM for awhile and perhaps other companies besides Microfox technology is still developing hardware for the ADAM like the Coleco ADAM microSD floppy Emulator product. Or perhaps MicroFox technologies is the last remaining hardware manufactory for the ADAM. I know ATARIMAX makes a SD cartridge and OPCODE games makes Supergame modules, and both of those products are very nice ColecoVision/ADAM products. I am talking about dedicated hardware products that only run on the ADAM and not ColecoVision.   


Edited by HDTV1080P, Sat Aug 26, 2017 1:59 PM.


#4 ValkerieSilk OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 26, 2017 3:58 PM

I just recently saw a Micro Innovations drive for the Adam on ebay in non-working order.  Thank you for the post, very informative.



#5 HDTV1080P OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Aug 29, 2017 9:43 PM

 Tonight I just located the Micro Innovations official ADAMNet Floppy Disk Drive Product Description that was published on October 1st 1992. I believe Micro Innovations began research and development for the ADAM computer around 1988 or 1989 time frame (I would have to do research for the exact date). Anyways Micro innovations began releasing floppy disk drives for the ADAM computer back in February of 1991. Attached is just a more detailed information on their floppy disks that work on 120 or 240 volts.    

 

Of course as mentioned before sometime around 1994 Micro innovations stopped production on all ADAM hardware and software products.

Attached Files


Edited by HDTV1080P, Tue Aug 29, 2017 9:49 PM.

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#6 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Aug 30, 2017 7:58 AM

 Tonight I just located the Micro Innovations official ADAMNet Floppy Disk Drive Product Description that was published on October 1st 1992. I believe Micro Innovations began research and development for the ADAM computer around 1988 or 1989 time frame (I would have to do research for the exact date). Anyways Micro innovations began releasing floppy disk drives for the ADAM computer back in February of 1991. Attached is just a more detailed information on their floppy disks that work on 120 or 240 volts.    

 

Of course as mentioned before sometime around 1994 Micro innovations stopped production on all ADAM hardware and software products.

 

It's amazing that they were releasing stuff in the early 90s. I would have thought that by the end of the 80s the viable market would have dried up. I can't imagine them selling more than a few hundred drives at best, although maybe that was enough for a few years of survival.



#7 MiniRPG OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Aug 30, 2017 4:52 PM

Micro Innovations was my father's company. The last project he worked on was the AdamNet hard drive, which he could never get working quite right. I remember when he was thinking of designing interface cards for computers that did not yet have hard drive support. I begged him to do one for the Coleco ADAM, and I guess you could say, the rest is history.



#8 HDTV1080P OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Aug 30, 2017 5:37 PM

 

It's amazing that they were releasing stuff in the early 90s. I would have thought that by the end of the 80s the viable market would have dried up. I can't imagine them selling more than a few hundred drives at best, although maybe that was enough for a few years of survival.

One of the very last products that Micro Innovations made for the ADAM was a ADAMNet hard drive that worked with EOS Coleco programs not just CP/M 2.2 or the TDOS operating system for the ADAM. However the internal expansion cards are much faster then ADAMNet, so even though the ADAMNet hard drive worked with EOS and many ADAM programs, the only negative is it was much slower when compared to a ADAM hard drive that used an internal slot (However it’s my understanding that the ADAMNet hard drive was faster when compared to floppy disks).

 

I do not remember the exact sales numbers that Mark Gordon told me, however if my memory is correct I thought they sold under 1,000 floppy ADAMNet disk drives. I doubt it was several thousand but under 1,000 for floppy disks is most likely correct. It might have been only 300-500 Micro Innovations hard disk drives sold. All these numbers are estimates, and Mark Gordon knows the true numbers that were sold.  

 

Now if these Micro Innovations disk drives would have existed back in 1985 instead of 1991, they could have easily have sold over 10,000+. From 1984 to 1991 it was extremely hard to find a Coleco floppy disk drive since they were made in low QTY’s. When the Micro innovations 3.5 inch 1.44MB floppy disk drive came out it was so much better quality then Coleco’s 5.25 inch 160K disk drive, that no one really cared to own a Coleco 160K disk drive anymore (Even the Micro Innovations 5.25 inch 320K disk drives which was 100% compatible with Coleco disks was much better quality then the original Coleco disk drives). 


Edited by HDTV1080P, Wed Aug 30, 2017 5:43 PM.


#9 HDTV1080P OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Aug 30, 2017 5:40 PM

Micro Innovations was my father's company. The last project he worked on was the AdamNet hard drive, which he could never get working quite right. I remember when he was thinking of designing interface cards for computers that did not yet have hard drive support. I begged him to do one for the Coleco ADAM, and I guess you could say, the rest is history.

We went to the same ADAM users group back in the 80's. I remember once and awhile picking up Micro Innovations products from your father. He had a neat workshop, and there was almost always a new product he was working on. In those days it was like a 15 or 20 minute drive to get to the Micro Innovations location.


Edited by HDTV1080P, Wed Aug 30, 2017 5:41 PM.





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