1980s Vintage Computers

NEC PC-8001

The  PC-8001 series was launched by NEC of Japan in 1979. It was developed from their earlier TK-80 hobbyist system, and was followed by the PC-8801, PC-8001 Mk II and led to the PC-6001 series.

I have a PC-8001BE, this is an English-language version for Europe (similar to the PC-8001A for north America).

The specifications for the main computer are:

  • Z80 compatible (NEC µPD 780) processor
  • 32K RAM (around 25K free)
  • 24K ROM with full Microsoft BASIC (N-BASIC)
  • space for additional 8K ROM (eg extensions to BASIC)
  • full sized keyboard with numeric pad
  • monochrome and colour video out
  • cassette interface
  • printer interface
  • I/O expansion

This machine was a big seller in Japan, and NEC made versions of it for the world-wide market including the UK. However it didn't sell well here against the main market leaders, such as Tandy, Commodore, Apple and Sinclair.

I also have a PC-8012BE I/O Unit and PC-8031BE & PC-8032BE floppy drives, and am working on building the right cables to connect them up.

The PC-8012BE I/O Unit connects to the back of the PC-8001 via a ribbon cable carrying the microprocessor bus. Inside the PC-8012 is a motherboard with seven slots, into which memory or interface cards can be plugged. My unit came with only a 32K RAM card, this has jumpers for the start address.. The PC-8012 also provides an interface to NEC's floppy disk units, transfering commands and data over a parallel port interface. It has its own built in power supply, as do the floppy drives below.

The PC-8031BE floppy disk drive is an intelligent unit, that is it contains its own uP780 processor with 2KB of ROM and 16KB of RAM and an NEC 765 floppy disk controller. It contains two single-sided floppy drives (Teac FD-50A).

The PC-8032BE is a dumb unit, in that it contains two floppy drives (also Teac FD-50A), with a ribbon cable to connect them to the controller in the PC-8031. I think my example has been used on a BBC computer, as it came with a lead that fits the Beeb's floppy disk connector, but I haven't tried this out.

NEC PC-8001 links


This page was last revised on: 23/02/13