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By 1986 the SORD M23, while still working perfectly well, was getting a little old. It was an 8 bit computer where business was moving to 16 bit, and the IBM PC was really starting to come into dominance. Dad had looked at a few options, but decided to upgrade to it's sucessor, the SORD M68.

The M68 was a hybrid 8/16 bit machine, with both Z80 and 68000 processors. The main processor was selected at boot time - start up with SORD FDOS and you were all Z80, but you could boot up on CP/M-68K and you'd be 16 bit, with the Z80 relegated to I/O functions.

In reality the 68k mode never got much use. The 16 bit version of BASIC-II, BASIC-68K, didn't have a compiler, so dad ended up using the M68 to maintain the 8 bit, FDOS and BASIC-II based Survey Package. Other software - PIPS-III and the WP2 word processor - was also still run in 8 bit mode.

One thing that the M68 did do was cause dad to look at re-writing the Survey Package in C. CP/M-68K came with a DR C compiler, although it didn't support floating point, but it was a good training ground in C. I wrote a few programs in BASIC-68K (mainly playing with graphics - it had the equivalent of the graphics board as standard) and started playing with C.

SORD did release a version of its PIPS software for 16 bit, 4G-PIPS, but by that time we were moving away from SORD. Dad did buy 4G-PIPS, but bought the MSDOS version and ran it on an Ultra 286.

Like the M23 before it, there were different versions - the mk 41 with dual 5.25 inch DSHD drives and the mk X with a Winchester hard drive. There was also the M68MX, which appears to be a 68000-only version.

The only models I've seen in the flesh are the mk III and mk 41. Dad had the mk III variant, but newer models had mk 41 drives - to copy his Survey Package to that format he would borrow the drive unit and controller from the other user and use a special patched version of SORD FDOS which supported both formats with enhanced copy and format commands.

Strictly speaking these computers are ring-ins to the collection; they are not actually here, but in the family still!

M68 #1

History: This is dad's original M68, purchased in 1986. It was our main home computer until dad bought an Ultra 286 (10 MHz, 1 MB RAM, 20 MB ST125 drive, EGA - a beast!).

Restoration: This machine in still in working order, and until about two years ago was being used periodically by my brother to transfer old data to his Windows machine - a bit of a jump from PIPS-III to Access 2007!

SORD M68 invoice
Original tax invoice for the M68

M68 #2

History: A wee while after dad upgraded to an M68, the opportunity came up for the Council to trial a SORD CAD-BRAIN CAD system. This consisted of an M68 with colour monitor, Winchester hard disk drive, specialised graphics terminal and X-Y plotter. They ended up keeping the M68 and plotter, with the rest of the equipment (unfortunately) returned to SORD NZ. When it came to disposal dad purchased it from the council.

Restoration: This unit was working until a few years ago. It's currently displaying garbage on boot - it's trying to say "SET DISKETTE AND STRIKE ANY KEY" but, well, not. I have been in touch with Mr Shiina (founder of SORD) and Toshiba, who are surprised I have working SORDs but no longer have any information on the design. It's in my 'to do' pile.

SORD M68 invoice
Original packing slip for the CAD-BRAIN system
SORD M68 invoice
Original tax invoice for the CAD-BRAIN


Both of the M68's are standard mk41 machines with 1 MB memory board, dual DSHD drives and colour display.

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