[Triumph Adler Alphatronic P2] - What it is, where to find it and how to arrange its first power on in years

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[Triumph Adler Alphatronic P2] - What it is, where to find it and how to arrange its first power on in years

Message par WhatIsAMan » 16 nov. 2020 17:43


Five or six years ago I found an extremely rare computer from Triumph-Adler, the first model to wear the distinctive brand "Alphatronic", which was model P2. Most of this time I was alone as in my zone I was the only person to have one and my unit was the only one with Spanish ROMs and keyboard. Over time, I bought a second unit which came from Italy and this is the unit I play with the most. Also, and due to my postings people were able to recognize it and so the second unit came a year and a half ago approximately. The third and last Spanish unit to be found appeared only two weeks ago and is currently being repaired.

In Germany, this computer is not a rarity, they are usually sold at 150€ if complete and working but prices may be as low as 10€ if they are in non-working condition. In Italy, this computer was also popular and remain in high numbers. Outside of those two countries, situation is a bit more bleak. Being a bit "special", this piece of hardware was misunderstood for long time, as it does not boot into an interpreter like BASIC but the more simplistic MOS (Micro Operating System) which contains monitor software. This caused a massive dump in places like the UK.

With the Spanish region a bit more stable, next step is to check my northern neighbours. As far as I know, there is no reported unit in the French region but it does not mean they were completely banished. I have hope as at least a user of this forums seems to have heard or seen one of them:
Almonius a écrit :
09 janv. 2005 13:46
Il existe plusieurs modèle de TA Alphatronic, l'un des premiers utilisait ce processeur : CPU Intel 8085A, 6 MHz . C'est celui que tu as ????
http://www.silicium.org/forum/viewtopic ... +p2#p96539

A bit of history

There was a German company called Sks, which made leather covers for portable radios. Over time, they started building their own radios and in the early 70s got caught in the trend of designing and manufacturing computers. They made some calculators and 4 bit computers using only gates and memories. When the first CPUs appeared, they eagerly introduced them in their designs. It was the introduction of the Intel 8080 they made their biggest hit: they proposed an standard to which many companies of the country adhered, including Hell (now part of siemens), Triumph-Adler and ITT. Its final version was an update made for the Intel 8085 and, by then they released their most famous computer: the SKS KISS.

The KISS was a small success for the company, but its real gain was in its licenses to the foresaid companies. As such, not many KISSes were sold but their TA, Hell and ITT counterparts were successful. By 1979, the firsts TA P2 units rolled out in an all-white case reminiscent in shape of that of the orange KISS but later batches added a brown front panel and some even some stylish badges. This system was to be found in many variants or submodels:
  • A cut-down version with 32k and a single floppy drive (P1)
  • The standard, 48k version with two floppy drives (P2)
  • The upgraded, 64k version (P2U)
  • The single-board version (P2E)
General Specs

As a late 70s system, we shouldn't expect anything extremely powerful. I would compare it as something in-between the Commodore PET and the IBM PC.
  • Base: 46,5 x 54cm
  • Height: 20cm
  • CPU: 8085A@3MHz (the oscillator is 6MHz, but the CPU halves the input frequency so the system runs at 3MHz)
  • ROM: 6k (MOS) + 2k (CHR ROM, CPU has no access to it)
  • RAM: 32k (P1), 48k (P2), 64k (P2U); additionally 1k as MOS RAM
  • VRAM: 2k (not included in the previous count)
  • Text Modes (chars): 80x24 (default), 64x16
  • Character size: 8x12 px
  • Characters: 128 + inverse
  • Color: Monochrome
  • Mass storage: 160k Floppy drives x1 (P1), x2 (P2, P2E)
  • Ports: RS232 (DB25), Printer, RCA (video), DIN-5 x 2 (cassette, TV; both unused: connectors not soldered)
Except for the P2E, every single model of the alphatronic Px is backplane based. In the case of the P2 it consists in two power connectors and nine logic connectors. The backplane connectors are DIN-41612, the ones intended for the logic boards are 96ABC while those intended to connect the power supply are 32AC.

I may add some more technical data in the future if I found to have forgotten anything.

Where to find it

This system wasn't a home computer but an office/industrial one. So the usual places one should expect to have chances on finding one may be the following:
  • Barns (like my Spanish unit)
  • Basements
  • Attics
  • Abandoned offices/factories
  • Chicken coops?
Additionally, flea markets may be one of the places they could appear.

Next post: how to identify it, with pictures of the beast!

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Re: [Triumph Adler Alphatronic P2] - What it is, where to find it and how to arrange its first power on in years

Message par gege » 16 nov. 2020 21:33

Extremely interesting !
Please keep sending details.
The P2 seems quite un-exciting on pictures but probably has fascinating innards.
Thank you.

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Re: [Triumph Adler Alphatronic P2] - What it is, where to find it and how to arrange its first power on in years

Message par WhatIsAMan » 17 nov. 2020 01:01

Hello Gege,

I'll post a bit every day. This will keep focus and at the same time it will give me time to revise for in case I made mistakes.

In my case this system has a special, personal value, and that's why I am excited when talking about it. On the other hand it may not be appealing to many people due to its very primitive design and construction. Even within its limitations it has some strong points such as its upgradeability by design. It is also a perfect system to develop machine code with the MOS commands but if one is bored it can be used to play Zork. :D

It has a small but dedicated comunity with most of its users in Germany but also spawning other countries, like Austria, Italy, Spain, Andorra and I think also Denmark (but I'm not sure of this last). They have even adapted a Gotek! 8)


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Re: [Triumph Adler Alphatronic P2] - What it is, where to find it and how to arrange its first power on in years

Message par WhatIsAMan » 18 nov. 2020 01:48

How the system looks like

When I first saw it, it seemed some kind of PETish system. It was really huge in comparison with every single system I owned back then. Its only competitor in size, the CBM 8032 I had in my room. Even if they are very different beasts I may compare them because the CBM line is well known and serves as a reference for both the size, purpose and era.

Its overall appearance looks like this:
20201117_180533.jpg (102.03 Kio) Consulté 4902 fois
The first important difference is that the monitor is not attached like the PETs. And that's in line with most computers then and now. The monitor is a green phosphore SANYO Model DM5912CXA, made in Japan. As the filter sometimes gets lost, I made the pictures without it so its appearance could be appreciated with more detail.
20201116_171521.jpg (74.38 Kio) Consulté 4902 fois
20201116_171534.jpg (56.03 Kio) Consulté 4902 fois
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The next computers of the line (P3, P4, P30, P40) also use the same monitor, but with different colors (instead of black and white, café au lait and beige). For now, I think that's enough for the monitor and can move to the computer itself.

A thing that surprised me was that the case was entirely made of plastic. This makes it awfully fragile and for this reason it should be treated gently because it deintegrates itself.

20201117_175926.jpg (92.12 Kio) Consulté 4902 fois
The front, with its brown plate. The drives and the QZERTY keyboard are visible. Note the plate is broken near the floppy drives and next to the keyboard (right from F6 key).

20201117_180008.jpg (77.66 Kio) Consulté 4902 fois
Left lateral, with the power switch. The right side is exactly the same but without the switch so it didn't deserve a picture. Note the cavity just under the main body of the computer, it was made to help people to grab and carry it.

20201117_180048.jpg (87.82 Kio) Consulté 4902 fois
Back side. Contains power cord, fuse, cooling grill and fan and every single connector from the computer to the outside world.

20201117_180256.jpg (60.17 Kio) Consulté 4902 fois
Finally, the bottom side. This is shown to help to locate the screws. The preferred way to manipulae the bottom is by placing the computer over its right side, remove the screws and then gently thacing it upright again. Finally, remove the top of the case by pulling it up carefully. Errors may cause damages at the brown plate!

And here ends its outer appearance. Tomorrow: power supply and backplane!


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