Feeds

The Jupiter Ace is 30

Two Spectrum stars go Forth

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Ramping up for 1983

Micro Marketing would become one of the few sellers of add-ons for the Ace. The promised Ram pack failed to materialise, likewise the games and applications software that, Jupiter suggested, would hit the market in early 1983. Micro Marketing put out a 16KB memory extender in March of that year, and third-party software house were beginning to release apps around the same time.

Vickers and Altwasser, meanwhile, focused on developing the Ace range, initially revising the original model and then developing a new version, the Ace 4000.

The 4000 would sport a better-quality, injection-moulded case of the kind favoured by its competitors. Despite a new motherboard, the 4000 matched the spec of the original, ensuring "full software compatibility", but added a "Rom-deselect feature, enabling the internal Rom to be switched out and external Rom modules to be plugged in". It also gained sound output through the connected TV monitor. 16KB and 48KB Ram packs would be offered too to augment the 3KB built in.

Selling the Jupiter Ace

By Spring 1983, third-party add-ons were appearing

But Brits wouldn't get to see them - the 4000 was intended solely to support Jupiter's entry into the US market, company documents reveal. The 4000 was made in the UK, with Stateside sales and logistics being handled by Oxford, Pennsylvania-based Computer Distribution Associates, "not to be associated with Jupiter Systems of Berkeley, California", the 4000's box warned in big letters.

"There was a definite period when our long-term forecasts were of selling lots of machines in the States," says Vickers. "We had lots of transatlantic phone calls where they were telling us how many zillions of Aces they were going to sell, but unfortunately there were always delays - among then genuine delays around getting kit into America and getting approval for the electronics - but basically the US market just never happened."

No more than 800 units are thought to have been shipped over the Pond. In the UK, fans were offered the Ace 16+, a regular Ace bundled with a 16KB Ram pack. It was announced in June 1983 as a replacement for the original machine. The priced remained £89.95.

But it wasn't enough to encourage further sales. Both Altwasser and Vickers recall big orders coming in from a dealer only to find the reseller couldn't then be persuaded to take the units they'd agreed to take.

By the end of October 1983, Jupiter Cantab had formally ceased trading. The writing had been on the wall since the summer. In July, Altwasser decided he not longer wanted to be involved in the venture and quit - "in order to spend more time with his family", press reports put it at the time.

Selling off the Jupiter Ace

Selling off the Ace: Boldfield was offering cut-price machines through the mid-1980s

Looking back, Altwasser says he was simply less convinced about the company's ongoing fortunes than the more optimistic Vickers. "I think it's fair to say Steve had very bullish views and estimates for where the company and the product could go, and I though it was best not to hold Steve back with my more conservative, less optimistic views," he says.

For his part, Vickers clearly understands the pressure Altwasser, as the head of a new, very young family, was under to seek a more stable form of employment than "seeing out a failing company".

Jupiter desperately needed a more powerful follow-up machine to replace the first Ace, which was behind the hardware curve when it was launched let alone a year on. But without the company's hardware guru, Richard Altwasser, out of the picture, where would the 'Ace 2' come from?

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Next page: Collapse

More from The Register

next story
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
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
Here's your chance to buy an ancient, working APPLE ONE
Warning: Likely to cost a lot even for a Mac
Xiaomi boss snaps back at Jony Ive's iPhone rival 'theft' swipe
I'll have a handset delivered. Judge us after you try us...
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.
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.
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.
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?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.