The Sharp PC-5000 software

For now just the first hand account of a software-developer for the Sharp PC5000:

I think it was 1983 when I went to work for Sorcim, makers of SuperCalc, SuperWriter, and the like. They were impressed with me enough to set me up as project leader for the "PAR" project, a suite of special software for machines like the Sharp PC-5000 and the Gavilan SC. We had a calendar tool and cut-down versions of SuperCalc and SuperWriter and a dump terminal program for the modem.

Development versions ran from diskette. Later it came out on bubble memory and I believe there was a version burned into ROM that plugged into the Sharp.

The design specs of the project were that there were these MS-DOS compatable machines that had only eight line LCD screens. Our project was geared toward these target computers.

We worked closely with the Sharp people at this time. One apocriphay story was that while Sharp was developing the PC-5000, another division of Sharp was making 8 line LCD displays and selling them, to Sharp and to Gavilan and to anyone else who wanted to develop a computer based on this technology. But the Sharp LCD division absolutely refused to tell the Sharp computer division who was buying the LCD displays.

One day I had to show something to a guy from Sharp. Since they were outsiders, they were not allowed into our engineering area. So I had to drag a Compaq computer out to a conference room. No problem - remember that our software ran on any MS-DOS compatable machine, even IBM's. I had the computer, I had the software diskette, but I forgot an operating system boot diskette. So I ran back to my cubicle, and hunted around, and grabbed the first boot diskette I could find. It just happened to be the IBM PC-DOS original master diskette, with the original blue label on it, write-protection and all. I came back to the conference room where the Sharp guy was waiting, shoved IBM's diskette into drive A:, turned on the machine, and booted.

The Sharp guy nearly fell on the floor. Here they had their own operating system, their own version of MS-DOS, which would run some, but not all, of software written for the IBM PC. The Sharp BIOS was not a PC emulation. He had never imagined that one computer could be so PC-compatable that it could actually boot the IBM PC operating system. I had, inadvertently, just demonstrated that the Sharp was not world-class equipment.

The Sharp PC-5000 was one of the first notebook computers. These things had LCD screens, but they could only handle eight lines of text. Also, it was black on white text; no color.

One day somebody brought a new computer in to Sorcim. I forget what company made it. It was not on the market yet, just a prototype for us to look at. He opened the lid, and it was like modern notebook computers, in that the machine divided in half and the top half was all screen, the bottom half all keyboard. He turned it on, and the display showed 25 lines of 80 characters each, just like an IBM PC. It was at that instant that the Sharp PC-5000 died. Everybody there knew that this Sharp-killer would be on the market in a few months and nobody would ever buy an 8-line-LCD computer again.

Latest update: 2007-12-21