History of the MZ-800
written by Maurice Hawes / SUC/UK
Source: SUC-magazine November 1999, Volume 19 Number 3, p. 15
The MZ-800 was launched in the U.K. in Jan. 1985, and reviewed in the PCW Magazine in Feb. 1985. By then the IBM-PC was getting firmly established, and the opening section of the review stresses that the MZ-800 is ‘not only compatible with the IBM PC, it‘s also the first machine to offer the user-friendly delights of Personal CP/M‘. lt then goes on to make a few criticisms about such minor points as the shape of the case, the lack of a CAPS LOCK key, the proximity of the RESET button to the volume control, and the fact that ‘getting inside the MZ-800 requires a determined effort‘.
Having got these off his chest, the reviewer turns to System Software i.e. MZ-800 Basic and PCP/M. This section is mainly descriptive, though by implication it seems to be approving. The ‘conclusion‘ starts by explaining that Sharp intend the MZ-800 as a business machine, gets in a few digs at the footprint of the machine when fitted with peripherals, and then concludes:
“The MZ-800, however, is the answer to Sharp‘s critics. Not only is it data-compatible with the IBM-PC, it features PCP/M. This is the ace in the hole and will guarantee the machine some success on the businessman‘s desk…. Having said that, Sharp Owners won‘t allow Sharp‘s marketing policy to dissuade them from thinking that this is Sharp‘s best home machine to date…. Its best hope is as an upgraded home machine ( where ) it is not only cheaper ( than its competitors ) but offers a new exciting operating system in PCP/M.“
The above review did not quote any firm prices, but an official Sharp price list around that time shows:
|MZ-800 with 64kB RAM||£249|
|Dual 5.25″ FDs with I/F and cable||£598|
|Quickdisk Drive with I/F||£198|
|MZ-1D04 Mono Monitor||£129|
|MZ-1D05 Colour Monitor ( 8 colours )||£285|
|MZ-1D19 Colour Monitor ( 16 colours )||£359|
|Disk Basic||£ 89|
All these are EX VAT; in the same Magazine there are many new MSX machines from Japan e.g. SONY, SANYO, TOSHIBA, all in the price range £280 – £300.
Unfortunately, Sharp U.K.‘s policy of concentrating on the business market meant that the MZ-800 was not sold in the U.K. as a home computer; as a result there are few MZ-800‘s in the U.K. today. The situation is quite different on the European mainland, where Sharp G.m.b.H. made the MZ-800 a popular home computer.
As far as the SUC is concerned, the specification of the MZ-800 is so good that neither the hardware nor the software requires any ‘tweaking‘. But if you have an MZ-800, we offer a cheap 16K VRAM upgrade and all the known software, and we can advise on fitting disk drives if the machine does not already have them.
As a collector‘s item the MZ-800 is an attractive proposition, with its 40 / 80-column display, 2 built-in I/O slots, 16-colour hi-res, 3-channel sound, standard joystick ports, a Centronics printer I/F, and a switch to emulate the MZ-700. And DISKDEF.COM in PCP/M can redefine disk drives for other Sharp CP/M formats and two early IBM-PC CP/M-86 formats ( N.B. NOT for MS-DOS formats ! ). So the MZ-800 has to be near the top of anyone‘s shopping list – but you may well have to cross the Channel to find one!