Feeds

The Grundy NewBrain is 30

The revolutionary product that came too late

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

NewBrain released

Two models were offered: the £233 Model A and the £267 Model AD. The A had 32KB of Ram, a Zilog Z80A processor clocked at 4MHz, and proprietary printer, communications and twin tape ports, plus monitor and TV feeds. An expansion port on the back could take 64KB, 128KB, 256KB or 512KB Ram packs. The packs had pass-through connectors, allowing up to 2MB of memory to be added, way more than rivals machines could provide.

The AD also sported the well-remembered vacuum fluorescent 16-character, 14-segment display. It could also take the (optional) long-promised battery pack.

Newbury Labs/Grundy NewBrain

The Model AD came with a built-in 16-character displsy

Novelly, the NewBrain shipped with a Basic compiler to convert software into machine code in one go, rather than simply interpret programs line by line, as most other micros did back then.

Your Computer said of the machine at the time: "It could not be recommended to a beginner but could prove attractive to an experienced user who is prepared to explore some of the possibilities only hinted at in the manual.

"As a business machine, the NewBrain should do well: its highly adaptable operating system and large potential memory makes it suitable for applications which were hitherto only within the scope of machines several times as expensive."

Missing the market

So much promise and yet… it's the same old story. For instance, Grundy said the NewBrain would run CP/M - a version of the OS would be out by January 1983. It didn't appear for many more months. Users had problems with the cassette port. Promoted peripherals, such as floppy and hard drive controllers, expansion modules and a special multi-module housing, launched much later than announced, if they arrived at all.

Grundy NewBrain advert

Promoting the NewBrain

Yet the potential pulled in punters. Sales were slow initially, but picked up in the Christmas period, more so than Grundy was at first able to satisfy. As a result, the decision was made early in 1983 to ramp up production tenfold. But demand slumped, in part on the back of delays getting the promised peripherals out.

Basil Smith and Mike Wakefield, who had been working on the NewBrain since the very beginning, quit around this time. So closely were they associated with the machine - and so deep their knowledge of it - it would have been hard for their remaining colleagues to continue the project.

They wouldn't need to: Grundy pulled the plug later that year. Grundy Business Systems was closed down. It is thought some 50,000 NewBrains had been sold by that point. The remaining NewBrain stocks were sold to Dutch firm Tradecom, which installed them in schools in Holland. ®

The author would like to thank all those fellow enthusiasts for scanning and uploading so many adverts and manuals from the 1980s, without which this article would have been much less detailed.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Will.i.am gets CUFFED as he announces his new wristjob, the PULS
It's got four KILOWATTS of something, apparently
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
Jaguar Sportbrake: The chicken tikka masala of van-sized posh cars
Indian-owned Jag's latest offering curries favour with us
iPhone 6 shunned by fanbois in Apple's GREAT FAIL of CHINA
Just 100 Beijing fanbois queue to pick up new mobe
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Here's your chance to buy an ancient, working APPLE ONE
Warning: Likely to cost a lot even for a Mac
Is living with Dolby Atmos worth the faff?
Subtle, naturalistic ambiance – perfect for Transformers 4
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.