This article is about my memories, from the early nineties, of using an ACT Apricot PC. The computer had been released in 1983, so by the time I got my hands on one, this computer model was obsolete. Nevertheless, I was grateful to receive it as a loan machine just for word processing tasks. For this purpose, it was perfect.
All the online articles and instruction books I have read about the ACT Apricot Computer are from a technical point of view. This article is very much from the users’ point of view, with me trying to get to grips with the DOS operating system and the SuperWriter word processing software that came with the computer.
The photograph above of an ACT Apricot PC shows the floppy disk drives protective cover pulled down, thus obscuring the two drives. The trackball device to the right of the keyboard was not in my setup. I was unaware of this option, and its absence did not impede my work.
ACT (Applied Computer Techniques), founded in 1965, was a British manufacturer of business computers.
As a first computer, the ACT Apricot PC was an exciting step for me. To get it setup, I first had to understand that certain crucial items were missing from my “loan bundle”.
Setup of the ACT Apricot PC
The first problem I encountered was that while the computer powered up nicely, I couldn’t do anything with it, and the small selection of floppy disks didn’t help*. As this was not the Internet age, my first resource was the telephone directory, where I located a company specialising in Apricot computers. I gave them a ring and explained the problem.
They informed me that none of the disks in my possession contained the operating system! “No problem”, said the guy on the other end of the phone. I’ll supply you with the correct operating system on a floppy disk, which will cost you £30″. That was a large amount of money on my budget, but, to move forward, I had to purchase the item.
* Disks received with the ACT Apricot PC
The disks I received in my loan bundle included SuperWriter and SuperCalc by Sorcim Corporation.
You can find an in-depth review of SuperWriter on page 370 of Inside The IBM PC November 1983 Vol 8, No. 11 edition.
Next steps with the ACT Apricot PC
My next port of call was the local library to get an instruction book on DOS. Sure enough, I found a book about MS-DOS. The only problem was that the ACT Apricot PC worked on PC DOS and this had a slightly different syntax to MS-DOS. That was not a problem as my workplace had a book detailing PC DOS and the company very kindly and generously photocopied the entire book for me.
With this new and exciting information, I could progress to booting up the computer, creating SuperWriter documents and saving them to disk.
The Tandy DMP 300 dot matrix printer
Another essential piece of kit missing from my “loan bundle” was a printer. Tandy, an electronics chain of shops (no longer operating in the UK), was where I purchased a Tandy DMP 300 dot matrix printer.
This printer was an expensive piece of kit but a solid workhorse, and it paired with the Apricot PC just fine.
The Tandy DMP 300 printer was based on one of Okidata’s models, much like the later example in the associated photograph. Unfortunately, there appears to be no creative commons photograph of the DMP-300.
Attribution: Surv1v4l1st, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
See Page 37 of the Tandy DMP 300 Service Manual for an image of this printer. PDF file.
Once I had mastered the DOS operating system and SuperWriter word processor, creating documents was painless.
ACT Apricot PC Monitor
The associated monitor was included in my loan bundle. By today’s standard and compared to many other monitors available at the time, this monitor was small. The text resolution, however, was superb, with green text displayed on a black background.
The computer keyboard had good tactile resistance and was a pleasure to use.
I was amazed by what I could achieve with this obsolete computer technology.
Time to return the computer
Mindful that this computer was on loan, I pleaded with the owner to sell it to me, but to no avail. Sadly, I had to return it. I had a gap of quite a few years without a computer, but the urge to own one was strong, and in 1997 I purchased a Gateway desktop with Windows 95. WOW! While the graphical user interface was, after DOS, a revelation, the reliability of the Gateway from the very beginning was poor due to many crashes. My Tandy DMP 300 printer paired perfectly with the Gateway also.
The Home Computer Advanced Course magazine – Issue 13, from 1984, had an in-depth review of the ACT Apricot PC. Go to page 249 of the associated Internet Archive file to read the review, which includes photographs of the ACT.
Apricot ACT Computer advertisement on YouTube
The above video tells us that this computer cost £1,495.00 in 1983. Because the Apricot was a business machine, I presume this price was +VAT. According to the Bank of England inflation calculator, that comes to £4,706.08 in today’s money, without the VAT!
The ACT Apricot PC, in the six months I had use of it, never crashed once. I think it would still be going strong today!
I would love to hear your memories of the ACT Apricot PC. Leave a comment below.
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