The Enterprise was an 8-bit computer which was released in 1985. It was offered with a choice of 64 or 128 KB of RAM as standard. I never got to own or use an Enterprise, but I clearly remember reading about it in the electronics magazines back then. My first impression at the time was that it seemed like quite an advanced 8-bit machine.
Its Z80 CPU was clocked at 4 MHz — like most of the later machines which used that chip. More importantly, the Enterprise also had some interesting sound and graphics capabilities. The RAM could be expanded to 4 MB, using bank switching.
The Enterprise’s sound chip was more sophisticated than the types commonly found in machines like the BBC Micro and Oric. It was called Dave, after its designer, and had an envelope generator along with filters and effects. That made it more like a synthesizer than a simple tone generator. Other than the Commodore 64 (with its SID chip), I’d never heard of any other 8-bit home computer with features like that.
Named in a similar fashion to the sound chip, the Nick chip gave the Enterprise fairly impressive graphics facilities too. There were a number of modes and resolutions, ranging from 2–256 colours at up to 640 x 256 pixels (or 640 x 512 interlaced). Multiple on-screen pages allowed mixed graphics modes, which meant more colours could appear at the same time.
The Enterprise had a number of interfaces, including RGB monitor, serial, parallel and joysticks. A rather unusual feature was its built-in joystick, instead of the more usual cursor keys.
Removable Language ROM
The BASIC was on a removable ROM, to allow other languages to be used instead. It was quite an advanced BASIC compared to most, with good support for graphics and sound. A somewhat unusual feature was the ability to hold multiple programs in memory at the same time.
By the mid-80s, the market for 8-bit machines was already quite mature. That meant it was hard to tempt users of existing computers to abandon their old machines, along with all the software they’d acquired. The Enterprise’s relatively poor keyboard may also have put people off, by giving it a cheap feel.
In the end, the Enterprise was a commercial failure. I think that it arrived too late. Although it was interesting and quite well-specified, it didn’t really offer enough to win many customers.
With machines like the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga on the horizon, it wasn’t long before people were switching to 16-bit systems, which of course were much more powerful. I chose to keep my Commodore 64, until I could afford an Amiga.
Do you have memories of using the Enterprise 64 or 128?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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