Vector Graphic Computers
This page provides useful information and links related to computers and accessories from Vector Graphic.
Vector Graphic MZ
Pictured at the top right is a Vector Graphic MZ computer. The heavy duty chassis and large power supply of the MZ was utilized in a number of systems sold by Vector Graphic. It was often referred to in Vector Graphic manuals as "the mainframe."
The MZ was the first Vector Graphic computer I purchased and restored. This computer was received with a fairly typical configuration:
- ZCB CPU board (Z80 at 4 mhz, monitor PROM, scratchpad RAM in high memory)
- 64K Dynamic RAM board (only 56K enabled)
- Flashwriter II (video generation and keyboard interface)
- Bitstreamer II (multiple serial ports and parallel ports)
- Micropolis floppy disk controller (5.25" hard sectored controller)
- Two Micropolis SSQD 315K floppy drives (77 tracks, 16 sectors/track, 256 bytes/sector)
Vector 3 VIP-T
The lower picture to the right shows the Vector 3 "almost" all-in-one computer. The floppy drives are external in individual cabinets and obtain power from the main computer. Unlike most other all-in-one computers, the Vector 3 is completely S-100 based – the S-100 support is not just an expansion bus.
The external "Unistor" floppy drive cabinets each house a Tandon DSQD 100-4M drive. The floppy controller is a hard sector controller using the drives with 256 byte sectors, 16 sectors per track, and 77 sectors per side for 630K of storage each. The Tandon drives could read and write the hard sector disks from the Micropolis drives, but provided twice the storage space of the Micropolis and a ten-fold improvement in step rate.
The keyboard in the Vector 3 (and the detached keyboard shown with the MZ) is a capacitive keyboard made by Keytronix. These keyboards have a great feel, but unfortunately, the foam pad present in each key deteriorates over time and virtually all keyboards of this type and vintage do not work properly (if at all).
A good source for replacement pads is a Sun "Type 4" keyboard. Even though the Sun keyboards are just ten or so years newer than the Vector keyboard, they used a different type of foam that doesn't break down so quickly. Search the internet for "Sun keyboard" followed by "320-1018". This is a French Canadian version of the keyboard and is the most readily available and least expensive version. In addition to replacing the foam pads, I gently sanded the key "capacitors" on the bare PCB with a very fine grit sandpaper (600) and then wiped the board clean. Based on past experience, this step reduces the likelihood that some of the key positions may still not work.
Click here for more pictures of the Vector 3.
One of the drives most commonly used with Vector Graphic computers was the 5.25" Micropolis 1015-II drive. This drive was one of the first to double track density from the common 48tpi to 100tpi (and later 96tpi). With double density data and double density track spacing, the Micropolis hard-sectored floppy controller and drive provided two to four times the capacity of other 5.25" floppy drives at the time.
On the downside, Micropolis tried to get away from an aluminum casting for the drive chassis and instead used thick sheet metal for the 1015 series. The drives ended up being mechanically complex and alignment easily drifted. The 1115 series that followed the 1015 used a cast aluminum chassis instead. Secondly, the worm gear and stepper motor used with the 1015 (and even with the 1115), was very slow with a 30ms step rate.
Vector later updgraded to the 5.25" Tandon 100-4M floppy drive in their systems. Like the Micropolis drive, the Tandon was also 100 tpi, but the Tandon drive was double-sided providing twice the capacity of the Micropolis drive. The Tandon also had a much faster step rate of just 3ms. The controller used with the Tandon drives was also a hard sector controller and duplicated the disk layout of the Micropolis controller. This allowed the Tandon drives to read and write single sided disks for exchange with Micropolis drives.
In addition to the 5.25" drives, Vector Graphic also sold a soft-sectored 8" controller with dual Qume 842 "DataTrak" floppy drives. Each DSDD drive provided 1mb of storage and a fast step rate of 3ms. However, Vector Graphic sold very few systems with the 8" drive, focusing instead on the 5.25" configurations.
I restored each of the Vector Graphic computers and drive sub-systems without having bootable media. For each floppy controller/drive combination (Micropolis, Tandon, and Qume), I wrote a utility, PC2FLOP, that runs on the target machine and writes a floppy from a disk image received through a serial port using the XMODEM protocol. Numerous Micropolis and Tandon disk images were available online when I did the restorations.
For the Qume (8 inch) configuration, I could not find any disk images online. A hobbyist had one original Vector Graphic CP/M 2.2 disk for the 8 inch controller, but did not have a system on which it could be run or duplicated. To make sure my computer, disk controller, and Qume drives were all working properly before putting the original disk at risk, I wrote a custom CP/M 2.2 BIOS to support the 8 inch controller. Once the hardware was proven to be working fine, I wrote a FLOP2PC utility to archive the Vector Graphic disk to a PC.
Disk images, disk transfer utilities, software and more are available via the links below.
- Vector Graphic Hardware Manuals
- Micropolis, Tandon, and Qume Drive Manuals
- Vector Graphic Software Manuals
- Software, ROMS, Disk Images, Utilities, more