NABU Personal Computer

Dublin Core

Title

NABU Personal Computer

Subject

hardware: personal computer

Description

Historical Context

  The whole crew is instilled with the fervent enthusiasm of
  Those Who Have Seen The Light. On everyone's lips is
  the sacred name of the ancient Babylonian god of writing.
  NABU. Bringer of wisdom and understanding.
  NABU. Bringer of great pots of money.
[P. Kinsman, NABU, NABU! One More Time From the Top, Enterprise, July 1981]

The growing popularity of home and personal computing in the late 1970s and early 1980s created a  vibrant software industry supplying microcomputer users with a vast range of software products. During that period, the main form of the commercial microcomputer software distribution was packaged software sold in computer stores and outlets in the form of ROM cartridges, tape cassettes, and floppy diskettes. Even though the prices of personal and home computers were falling sharply in the early 1980s, the cost of good quality software remained the same reflecting, in part, high distribution costs.

Electronic distribution of software directly into homes of computer owners originated in the second half of the 1970s. It was a novel, fast, and cost-effective alternative to packaged software's expensive, long, and multi-stage delivery process. A computer or a video game console owner could subscribe to an electronic distribution of software service (EDS service) that and gain an electronic access to software and data for a low monthly fee (of, approximately, the cost of a single commercial packaged software). By the early 1980s, several North American and European companies were already distributing software using common communication links (such radio waves, cable television (CATV), or telephone networks).

While Europe was experimenting with EDS via teletext and videotex television services, several North American companies were looking into using CATV's superior high-speed digital information delivery capability for the purpose of mass-market distribution of home and recreational software. By the early 1980s, a large percentage of urban households in North America had a direct link to cable TV. Furthermore, a strong growth of the home computer and video game console markets was projected until at  least mid-1980s. Such forecasts supported the prospects of vast new sources of revenues for cable providers derived from bundling EDS with other CATV-based nonprogramming services.

The NABU Network was possibly the most advanced and foremost among the early CATV-based EDS services. It was a brainchild of a Canadian entrepreneur John Kelly. The NABU Manufacturing Corp., which would spawn the NABU Network Corp., was incorporated in June 1981. It was initially created through the amalgamation of three companies: Bruce Instruments Ltd. (manufacturer of cable TV converters based in Almonte), MFC Microsystems International Inc. (a distributor of computer hardware and software for small business systems), and Computer Innovations Ltd. (which operated computer retail stores across Canada). Soon after, NABU Manufacturing acquired Andicom Technical Products Ltd. (a manufacturer of small business computers based in Toronto), Consolidated Computer Inc. (a manufacturer and distributor of key-edit systems), Mobius Software Ltd. (an Ottawa-based software consulting company), and Volker-Craig (a Kitchener-based manufacturer of video-display terminals).

NABU's business plan was to capture a sizable share of the microcomputer market by offering the world's first cable-ready computers and by implementing a new delivery method for software and information -- the NABU Network. The company announced its network during the 1982 National Cable & Telecommunications Association conference in Las Vegas. In May 1983, the company transmitted its programming via satellite from Ottawa to terminals installed at the 26th Annual Convention of the Canadian Cable Television Association in Calgary. The transmission used the ANIK-D1 satellite, and it was a live feed from Ottawa. The NABU Network was officially launched on 15 October 1983 on Ottawa Cablevision, an 85,000-subscriber company where much of NABU's testing was performed. Soon thereafter, the network made its US debut in Alexandria, Virginia, on Tribune Cable, a 5,000 subscriber service. The launch marked the creation of the first commercial computer network to provide high-speed access to information, software, and digital entertainment directly to homes of personal computer users.

The network was based on the concept of computers linked to cable television networks which could supply a constant stream of computer programs and information to almost unlimited number of users at high speed. NABU considered cable television a uniquely ideal technology to deliver software and data to home computers because of its high bandwidth and networking capabilities.

To access NABU Network, customers had to purchase or rent a NABU Personal Computer (NABU PC) and a network adaptor that provided an interface between the NABU PC and the CATV's dedicated channel. The network provided its subscribers with a multi tier service that offered software and information in a range of categories, including entertainment, education, family information, home management, and a network guide. The November-December 1984 issue of The NABU Network magazine lists over 140 titles available on Ottawa Cablevision's NABU Network. In Ottawa, NABU program listings were available online (on NABU's Network Guide) as well as in local newspapers and dedicated NABU magazines. The NABU PC could be operated as a stand-alone desktop computer. For this purpose, NABU supplied its customers with Digital Research CP/M 3 operating system and floppy disk drives.

Because of the company's financial difficulties, unfavourable market conditions, and regulatory constraints, the NABU Network went off the air on 31 August 1986 in both Ottawa and Alexandria. Rights to exploit commercial applications of NABU Network technology--that is, to selling the technology to corporations that could provide their own content--were vested in International Datacasting Corp. created in 1984.

References:
  • Stachniak, Z. Early Commercial Electronic Distribution of Software, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, January-March (2014), pp. 39-51.

The NABU PC technical specifications:
  • CPU - ZILOG Z80A, 8-bit, 3.58MHz clock speed,
  • RAM - 64Kb, NPC's main memory under the CPU's control,
  • RAM - 16Kb, video display memory under the video processor's control,
  • ROM - 4K or 8K (hosting software for bootstrap, self-test, and initialization),
  • video processor - Texas Instruments TMS 9918A,
  • sound generator - General Instrument AY-3-8910 programmable sound generator,
  • external storage - floppy diskette drives; a floppy drive controller was required to be installed in one of the expansion,
  • expansion ports - four 30-pin,
  • keyboard - 66 key QWERTY-style (including 8 cursor and control as well as "YES" and "NO" keys), detachable, microprocessor-controlled, features two game controller connectors,
  • game controllers - up to two controllers connected to the keyboard via DB-9 connectors; 8 position and fire button control,
  • display - 24 lines of 40 characters, 16 colors (including transparent); requires a dedicated computer monitor or a television set connected via RF modulator,
  • ports/connectors - serial EIA RS422 Adaptor interface, 8-bit parallel printer port (15-pin), EIA RS422 keyboard connector (6-PIN DIN), video connector (RCA phono jack), audio connector (RCA phono jack), cable IN ad OUT connectors (type F),
  • data transmission rate - 6.312 Mbits.
The NABU PC systems software:
  • NABU BDOS - NABU Basic Downloadable Operating System, NABU Network Corp., 1982-1986
  • XIOS1 - Extended Internal Operating Software, module 1, NABU Network Corp., 1982-1986
  • XIOS2 - Extended Internal Operating Software, module 2, NABU Network Corp., 1982-1986
  • Disk Utilities for NABU floppy disk drive, Digital Research, 1983 and NABU Network Corp., 1983
  • RAM test utility program, NABU Network Corp., 198?

NABU Network applications and information programs in the museum's collection

title category creator
ALPHABLAST II game NABU Network Corp., 1982
ALPHA LAB LOGO educational program unknown
ANGLE TANGLE LOGO educational program unknown
ANTARCTIC VENTURE game Konami, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
ANTONYM ANTICS educational game NABU Network Corp., 1984
AQUATTACK game Interphase Technologies Inc., 1984
ATMOSPHERE educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
ATOMS educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
BACKGAMMON game NABU Network Corp., 1982
BIORHYTHMS game NABU Network Corp., 1982
BEEVADERS LOGO game unknown
B.C. MATCH UP game NABU Network Corp., 1982
B.C. TRIVIA game NABU Network Corp., 1982
CAPACITORS educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
CFONT office program SoftCraft, 1982
CHECKERS game NABU Network Corp., 1984
CHINESE HOROSCOPES game NABU Network Corp., 1982
CIRCUS CHARLIE game NABU Network Corp., 1984
CIRCUIT educational program NABU Network Corp., 1982
COMPUTER GLOSSARY information program NABU Network Corp., 1983
CORRECT-IT educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
CYCLONS game Syntax Software Inc., 1983
DARTS AND BALLOONS LOGO educational game unknown
DECIMALS educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
DEFINITION educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
DEPOT game NABU Network Corp., 1983
EFONT Edit office program SoftCraft, 1982
EMBASSY CAPER game NABU Network Corp., 1984
FANCY FONT TUTOR information program NABU Network Corp., 1984
FLIP AND FLOP game First Star Software, 1983; NABU Network Corp., 1984
FRACTIONS educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
FRENCH VERBS I eduactional program Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
FROGGEE game Commercial Data Systems Ltd., 1982
GRAMMAR educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
HEAVYWAIGHT BOXING game Takara/Hal, 1983
HERBS & SPICE 1 information program 605477 Ontario Inc., 1985
HERBS & SPICE 2 information program 605477 Ontario Inc., 1985
HYPER SPORTS game Konami, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
INTERVALS educational program Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
KEYBOARD educational program Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
KIDDY PARK game NABU Network Corp., 1984
KNOW-IT-ALL information program NABU Network Corp., 1984
LASER ATTACK game NABU Network Corp., 1983
LEARNING LETTERS educational program Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
LEARNING NUMBERS educational program Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
LOGO ACTIVITY HELP information program NABU Network Corp., 1983
LOGO PREVIEW information program NABU Network Corp., 1984
LOGO REFERENCE information program NABU Network Corp., 1984
MACBETH game NABU Network Corp., 1983
MAKE UP educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
MANIA game NABU Network Corp, 1983
MATH ATTACK LOGO educational game unknown
MATH PUZZLE game NABU Network Corp., 1984
MATH QUIZ educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
MAZE CRAZE LOGO game unknown
METRIC CONVERTER educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
METRO BLITZ game Cymbal Software Inc, 1983
MINERAL HUNT LOGO educational game unknown
MINER 2049ER game NABU Network Corp., 1984
MIX-IT educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
MOONSWEEPER game NABU Network Corp., 1984
MORTGAGE CALC home management NABU Manufacturing Corp., 1982
MOTION AND FORCE educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984)
MOTORCYCLE educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
MR. CHIN game Hal, 1984
MUMMY'S TOMB game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
MURDER MANSION game NABU Network Corp., 1984
NABU BASIC V2.0 programming language unknown
NABU BASIC TUTOR information program NABU Network Corp., 1984; code follows directory
NABU CALC spreadsheet NABU Network Corp., 1984
NABU CALC TUTOR information program NABU Network Corp., 1984
NABU FILER database program NABU Network Corp., 1984
NABU FILER TUTOR information program NABU Network Corp., 1984
NABU LOGO, rev. 01 programming language LOGO Computer Systems Inc., 1983
NABU SPELLER office program NABU Network Corp., 1984
NABU SPELLER TUTOR information program NABU 1984
NABU WRITER office program NABU Network Corp., 198
NABU WRITER TUTOR information program NABU Network Corp., 198
NEOCLYPS game Cymbal Software Inc, 1983
NIMBLE LOGO game unknown
NOTES AND STAFF educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
NOUNS educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
O CANADA LOGO educational game unknown
PAINTPOT educational program unknown
PARLOR POWER game NABU Network Corp., 1984
PERCENTAGES educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
PINBALL game John Allen, 1981
PING game NABU Manufacturing Corp., 1983
PLANETS educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
PRINTER TUTORIAL information program NABU Network Corp., 1984
PROVINCES LOGO educational game unknown
QA DIG DUG game Namco Ltd., NABU Network Corp., 1984
QA GALAXIAN game Namco Ltd., NABU Network Corp., 1983
QA PAC-MAN game NABU Network Corp., 1983, 1984
QUEST FOR TIRES game Sierra On-Line Inc., Sydney Development Corp., 1983
Q*BERT game NABU Network Corp., 1984
RENEGADE educational game NABU Network Corp., 1983
RESISTORS educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
ROULETTE game NABU Network Corp., 1983
RUNES game NABU Network Corp., 1984
SARGON II CHESS game Dan and Kathleen, Hayden Book Comp. Inc., 1981
SCHMOZZLE game NABU Network Corp., 1984
SHAPES educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
SHAKESPEARE educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
SKETCH art program unknown
SKI SARAJEVO game NABU Network Corp., 1984
SKI WHISTLER game
SLEUTH game NABU Network Corp., 1984
SPORTS STUMPER game NABU Network Corp., 1984
STEP UP game NABU Network Corp., 1984
SUPER BILLIARDS game Bubble Bus Software, NABU Network Corp., 1984
SUPER BLOOPER educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
THE INFORMER information program NABU Network Corp., 1986
TIME PILOT game NABU Network Corp., 1984
TONES & SEMITONES educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
TOURNAMENT POKER game NABU Network Corp., 1984
TRACK & FIELD 1 game NABU Network Corp., 1984
TRACK & FIELD 2 game NABU Network Corp., 1984
TV IQ game NABU Network Corp., 1984
UFO'S game NABU Manufacturing Corp., 1982
WHIZ MIND LOGO game unknown
WINE WATCH information program Wine Consultants of Canada, 1984
WING WAR game NABU Network Corp., 1984
WIZTYPE educational game NABU Network Corp., 1982
WIZTYPE TUTOR office program NABU Network Corp., 1982
WORD MASTERMIND educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
WORD ROTATE educational game Cymbal Software Inc, 1984, NABU Network Corp., 1984
ZIPPER game NABU Network Corp., 1983
ZORK I game NABU Network Corp., 1984
ZOT! game NABU Network Corp., 1984

The museum has several NABU PC and Adaptor units including the NABU PC 4K and 8K ROM models.

Creator

NABU Network Manufacturing Corp., NABU Network Corp.

Date

1982--1986

Coverage

1983-1986, Ottawa (Canada), Alexandria (US), and Sowa (Japan)

Contribution Form

Online Submission

No

Files

NPC_small.png
NABU_CATV.jpg
Nabu_Mag_11_12_84.png
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Citation

NABU Network Manufacturing Corp., NABU Network Corp., “NABU Personal Computer,” York University Computer Museum Canada, accessed June 15, 2024, https://museum.eecs.yorku.ca/items/show/49.

Output Formats