MZ-700 – History

History of the MZ-700

Written by Maurice Hawes / SUC/UK 
Source: SUC-magazine November 1999, Volume 19 Number 3, p. 13

 

The MZ-700 was launched in Japan in October 1982, but did not appear in the U.K. until October 1983. lt was the first Sharp home Computer with colour, but it came without a built-in display unit; instead, sockets were provided for a colour TV or an RGB Monitor; or a B/W TV set or a Mono Monitor. lt also had a built-in printer I/F with a switch which allowed you to run the MZ-1P01 4-pen plotter-printer or a more standard MZ-80P5( K ) dot-matrix printer.

Thus, with its clock speed of 3.5MHz, the MZ-700 seemed to meet many of the criticisms levelled at the MZ-80A when it was launched in June 1982. But it was still only a halfway-house – the printer I/F only suited Sharp printers, the screen was only 40 columns, and to run disk drives you needed an extra interface of some kind.

The MZ-700 was reviewed in the PCW Magazine in February 1984. By then most of the competing machines had high-res graphics, and the reviewer was hard on the MZ-700 over that. But he was impressed by the alternative languages available, and concluded that the MZ-700 was ‘worthy of serious consideration‘. The prices below come from this review; significantly, there is no mention of disk drives:

MZ-700 £250
Colour Plotter / Printer £135
Data Recorder £50
P5 Printer £350

All these are INC VAT; in the same Magazine: BBC Model B £350, Commodore 64 £240

I bought my first MZ-700 from Sharpsoft, new, with tape recorder and plotter / printer, in June 1986, for £99.95; this appeared to be an amazing offer, but actually Sharp were selling off 4-year-old stock before it was too Iate ! As a result thousands of MZ-700‘s were sold in the U.K., in spite of the fact that Sharp did not offer any useful upgrades. lndeed, few people in the U.K. then knew that the MZ-700 Expansion Box existed, and many of us fitted 5.25″ drives by cannibalising the Expansion Box from the MZ-80A.

Later, the S.U.C. did its best to rectify this situation. We found a U.K. source of MZ-700 Expansion Boxes; designed a 3-way Monitor Eprom to allow the use of Sharp‘s ‘Quickdisk‘ system and a kit to give a 40 / 80-column screen; and ‘reverse-engineered‘ the MZ-800 PCP/M System to run on the MZ-700. Thus, members of the S.U.C. can run an MZ-700 with ‘Quickdisks‘; or with an 80-column screen, ‘normal‘ disks, and CP/M or PCP/M – but it is a difficult way of achieving what should have been easy in the first place.

Some commercial organisations took a different approach. They modified the MZ-700 by adding a memory board which fires up at switch-on and is programmed for a specific application such as printing pharmaceutical labels or insurance quotations. Many such MZ-700‘s have appeared on the second-user market, and we have learned how to re-program the board to make it generally useful; but this is no help if you want to run disk drives or CP/M.

As a collector‘s item, the MZ-700 is a doubtful proposition, because its successor, the MZ-800, is a very similar machine but comes with many better features. However, an ORIGINAL MZ-700 with a Plotter / Printer and a QD drive built-in might deserve a place in any collection that aimed to be comprehensive, if only as an exarnple of how ingenuity can get a quart into a pint pot.