When it was announced in 1984 it knocked the socks off
everything else that was around at the time - C64, Speccy, Memotech etc. Using
2 custom chips ("Nick" for graphics and "Dave" for sound
named after designers Nick Toop and Dave Woodfield)
and the ubiquitous Z80 processor the machine produced 256 colours, had 3 channel
stereo sound and up to 672x512 pixels on screen - amazing stuff. There was even
the built-in word processor, and because BASIC was in a cartridge you could use different languages by simply swapping the cart.
However, they had a slight problem in that every name
they came up with had been taken - first Samurai (Hitachi took that one), then
Elan (sued by Elan Software), then Flan (easy to just scribble out the bottom
line of the 'E' on all the documentation) and finally Enterprise, which was
the name of the company! When it arrived 2 years late it had been hopelessly
overshadowed by the much cheaper (and poorer) Amstrad
CPC464 and never really took off....a great shame. The thinking is that
Alan Sugar may have seen the design of the EP64 and copied its 'primary colourness'
for the CPC464, so kudos to him if he did - a great bit of marketing.
Once Enterprise had been wound up in this country over
20,000 units were shipped to Eastern Europe, principally Hungary, and sold as
starter packs in a chain of stores. Surprisingly, they quickly sold out and
all of a sudden there were 20,000 people with EP128s and nothing to do with them,
so they did it all themselves! There's still an Enterprise scene going over
there, apparently, with many hardware add-ons like IDE interfaces for hard drives.
In 1992 it was possible to do things on an EP128 that maybe even the designers
hadn't thought of. Things dropped off with the arrival of the Atari ST and the
Amiga though. On a sad note it seems that all the remaining extras (mainly the
Spectrum emulator cart) were burnt once the stock of machines ran out :o(
It's always great to be contacted by someone who has links
to a factory that produced machines like this, now from Czechoslovakia comes
what I can only class as Enterprise collector gold dust; 2 brand new machines,
the EP64 and EP128. Bits of me think that they were only made a few years ago,
but I'm not sure if any more were made after the initial run of 80,000. I know
some were made for the German market, but these ones have UK docs, and according
to Stephan Slabihoud over at the 8-bit
Museum (who also has a couple of these machines) they're original UK machines.
Some of the extras must be after-market productions though, 'cos I'm sure that
things like joystick converters and SCART cables weren't available at launch. (*update* - they were!)
Perhaps they were produced for the machines in eastern europe?
*Update 12/5/03*. I finally get my 2nd batch of items
from the Enterprise factory as well as a couple of extra software titles!
*Update 15/01/04*. I'm chuffed to bits - after spotting
a familiar name bidding on an Enterprise auction on ebay I contacted the bidder
initially to ask him about his time with the Enterprise - it was none other
than Nick Toop. Recent circumstances meant I had to drive to
Swindon so I arranged a meeting and spent an excellent couple of hours with
Nick at his office in Cambridge while he sorted out my Atom
- what better engineer to work on a machine than the man who created it?
I didn't know that as well as designing chess robots he'd
done supporting work on the Science of Cambridge MK14 (designed by Chris Turner
and essentially a re-working of the SCAMP - the demo board from the manufacturers
of the SC/MP microprocessor) such as design the cassette interface (lower left
of this pic) and even a
metal case. Because
Nick had left Enterprise shortly after the launch of the machine
he never managed to get his hands on one, so it was a pleasure for me to give
him the EP64 that started Binary Dinosaurs off in the first place. David Levy
and Dave Woodfield still work together in London so it'll be great to track
them down too. Thanks for the time Nick!
*Update the sequel*. Trawling my mailbox has revealed
that I'd completely forgotten about some scans of Your Computer
that was published around the time of the launch of the EP64 - Thanks to Mark
Anderson for providing 'em. See the 'related links' section at the bottom of
this page. Somewhere I've got an email from the designer of the mouse interface
featured below but I can't find the bloody thing......yet....
An update from Zoltán Németh in Hungary, who will be featuring quite heavily in these pages:
" I found big bug at your page :)
You writed, the hungarians have EP64s. This is false, only the 128K
version sold in Hungary, in two version: english, german. More details
of the hungarian Enterprise history will comig soon.
Another informations: from articles, we know about 4000 pieces of EP64
sold in Egypt, and 3000 unknow version in the Soviet Union (most of in
Zoltán also sent me some detailed messages about Videoton themselves as well as what happened to the Enterprise and its successor, the TVC. I've created a page specially for this, thanks Zoltán!
Enterprise 64 closeup R@RE! 2 brand new machines! WOW! 3 Enterprises! (Spectrum era!!!!)
The tale of how they became to be known as 'Flan' is here,
courtesy of Personal Computer News
The final name change story is here, again from PCN