Pertec Computer

Pertec Computer Corporation (PCC), formerly Peripheral Equipment Corporation (PEC), was a computer company based in Chatsworth, California which originally designed and manufactured peripherals; floppy drives, tape drives, instrumentation control, and other hardware for computers.

Pertec's most successful products were hard disk drives and tape drives, which were sold as OEM to the top computer manufacturers including IBM, Siemens and Digital Computer Corporation, DEC. Pertec manufactured multiple models of seven and nine track half-inch tape drives with densities 800CPI (NRZI) and 1600CPI (PE), and phase encoding formatters which were used by a myriad of original equipment manufacturers as I/O devices for their product lines.

In the 1970s Pertec entered the computer industry through several acquisitions of computer producers, and started manufacturing and marketing mostly minicomputers for data (pre)processing.

Pertec and MITS

In 1976 Pertec bought MITS the manufacturers of the Altair computer, for $6.5m USD. This purchase was motivated mainly by the ownership of the Microsoft Basic sources and general license that Pertec thought to be included in the deal, but later it turned out to be false.

As a result of the acquisition, Pertec became involved in the manufacture of microprocessor based computers. Their first models were expanded versions of the Altair models, typically coupled to the existing disk drive range. These sold reasonably well but as the decade closed, it became apparent to the company that the Altair's day had passed.

In 1978 the company launched the first of its own designs, the PCC-2000. This was based on two Intel 8085 series microprocessors: one of which was given over to I/O control. The PCC-2000 was a high end machine, beautifully made and intended to be the core of what would now be described as a workgroup. The machine was intended to support four 'dumb' terminals, connected via RS-232 serial lines, in addition to its internal console. The basic machine had twin 8" floppy drives, each capable of storing 1.2 MB and could link to two Pertec twin 14" disk drives, giving a total of 22.4 MB of storage, which was a very large amount for the time. The system was generally supplied with a multi-user operating system called MTX, which included a BASIC interpreter that was similar to Business BASIC. In the UK, several systems were run under BOS. Unfortunately, the PCC-2000 was too expensive for the market and was never a great success.

Pertec Business Systems

Pertec PCC-2100

Pertec's main line of computer products was aimed at key-to-disk minicomputer systems used as front-end data processors for the IBM 360/370 systems and like. This line was opened in the first half of 1970s by the Pertec PCC-2100 data entry system (do not confuse with the above PCC-2000, since Pertec PCC-2100 was a mainframe-like thing). The system was able to serve up to 16 coax terminals, two D3000 disk drives, and one T1640 tape drive.

Pertec XL-40

Pertec XL-40, introduced in about 1978, was a more successful successor of Pertec PCC-2100. The XL-40 machine used custom 16-bit processors built from the TI3000 or AMD2900 slices, up to 512 MB operating memory, and dedicated master-capable DMA controllers for tape units, floppy and rigid disk units, printers, card reader and terminals. The maximum configuration featured four T1600 / T1800 tape units (manufactured by Pertec), two floppy disk units (manufactured by IBM or Pertec), four D1400 / D3400 rigid disk units (4.4, 8.8, 17.6 MB formatted capacity, manufactured by Pertec or Kennedy) or 2 large capacity disk units (up to 70 MB formatted capacity, manufactured by Kennedy or NEC), 1 line printer connected through long-line interface (DataProducts LP600, LP1200, B300, Printronix P300, P600), 4 station printers connected through coax (Centronics), 1 card reader (Pertec), 4 SDLC communication channels, and 30 proprietary coax terminals (Model 4141 with 40x12 characters or Model 4143 with 80x25 characters).

The system was mainly used for key-to-disk operations to replace the previously popular IBM card punches and more advanced key-to-tape systems manufactured for example by Mohawk Data Systems (MDS) or Singer. In addition to the basic key-to-disk function the proprietary operating system, called XLOS, supported indexed file operations for on-line transaction processing, even with data journalling. The system was programmed in two different ways: the data entry was described in several tables that specified the format of the input record with optional automatic data validation procedures; the indexed file operations were programmed in a special COBOL dialect with IDX and SEQ file support.

System maintenance operations were performed in a protected supervisor mode; the system supported batched operations in the supervisor mode through the use of batch files that specified operator selections. The operating system interacted with the user through a series of prompts with automatic on-screen explanations and default selections, probably the ultimate user-friendliness achievable in text-only human-computer interaction. The XL-40 was also marketed by Triumph-Adler in Europe as TA1540 or Alphatronic P40, the beginning of a relationship that would eventually see a merger of the two companies.

Pertec 3000

Pertec's final in-house computer design was a complete departure, the MC68000 based Series 3000. This was intended as a CP/M based multi-user system and, once again, was sold in the UK with the BOS operating system. As with the XL40, Triumph-Adler marketed the system in Europe under their own brand with the model name MSX 3200 (There were four models, eventually, in the Triumph-Adler series: 3200, 3220, 3230 and 3240). The 3000 was extremely advanced for the time, being intended to support up to 16 users, all using intelligent terminals that supported local CP/M execution attached to the 3000's RS-232 ports. It was the first Pertec product to support the emerging 'Winchester' standard for miniature hard disks.

Eventual fate

Soon after the introduction of the 3000, Pertec Computer Corporation was purchased by Triumph-Adler. This was in 1980, just months after Philips did a last hour decision to not purchase Pertec. Philips instead sold North American Philips Computing (Philips Business Systems Inc.) to Pertec. Due to many problems with a dual headed floppy disk drive and problems supporting the Philips bank ledger systems Pertec went bankrupt a few years later.

Pertec's PPC magtape interface standard of the early 1970s rapidly became an industry-wide standard, and is still in use by tape drive manufacturers today. Similarly, its PERTEC disk interface was an industry standard for pre-winchester disk drives of 1970s.

External links

* [http://bitsavers.org/pdf/pertec Pertec documentation] at bitsavers.org
* [http://www.computerwoche.de/heftarchiv/1981/45/1187867/] Pertec XL-40 (Computerwoche 1981)
* [http://www.computerwoche.de/heftarchiv/1979/13/1192205/] Pertec XL-40 sold by Triumph-Adler as TA 1540
* [http://www.computerwoche.de/heftarchiv/1986/43/1166485/] Pertec 3000 (Computerwoche 1986)
* [http://www.computerwoche.de/heftarchiv/1979/18/1192634/index.html] Triumph-Adler marketing XL-20/XL-40 as TA1520/TA1540 (Computerwoche 1979)
* [http://www.computerwoche.de/heftarchiv/1979/13/1192205/index.html] Another TA1520/TA1540 (Computerwoche 1979)
* [http://www.computerwoche.de/heftarchiv/1978/26/1196211/index.html] Yet another TA1520/TA1540 (Computerwoche 1978)
* [http://www.cbronline.com/article_cg_print.asp?guid=245B7ED9-84B5-442D-B523-2CFC72482500] Scan-Optics (a subsidiary of Philips USA) wins Pertec (Computer Business Review 1987)
* [http://www.cbronline.com/article_cg.asp?guid=104BEF12-0DCA-4BFB-BCDE-EE32FD497468] Scan-Optics and Pertec 3000
* [http://www.denvercomputerinc.com/hd/pertec.htm] Some pictures of Pertec 3000
* [http://groups.google.com/group/net.jobs/tree/browse_frm/month/1984-06?_done=%2Fgroup%2Fnet.jobs%2Fbrowse_frm%2Fmonth%2F1984-06%3F&] UNIX position at Pertec Computer Corp. (an ad from 1984)
* [http://www.computerwoche.de/heftarchiv/1977/3/1197958/] Pertec buys CMC
* [http://www.computerwoche.de/heftarchiv/1976/1/1200482/] Pertec exports to the Eastern block
* [http://www.nhongola.com/page2.html] A CV that shows CMC became a division of Pertec Computer Corp.
* [http://www.virtualaltair.com/virtualaltair.com/vac_pertec.asp] Pertec at VirtualAltair
* [http://www.virtualaltair.com/virtualaltair.com/vac_introduction.asp] A piece of Pertec history at VirtualAltair
* [http://www.startupgallery.org/gallery/story.php?ii=59] MITS vs. Microsoft
* [http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/comphist/gates.htm] An interview with Bill Gates (Smithsonian Institute)
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=uU-sX8Inw3wC] The Accidental Zillionaire: Demystifying Paul Allen
* [http://www.virtualaltair.com/virtualaltair.com/mits0011.asp] Ed Roberts Interview
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=LUwu-DTwa5cC] Bill Gates Speaks: Insight from the World's Greatest Entrepreneur
* [http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/web/20061125-bill-gates-microsoft-paul-allen-computer-basic-software.shtml] Even Microsoft Started from Nothing
* [http://edge-op.org/cloweth/MC.html] The Microsoft Collection


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