TERAK MUSEUM - UCSD PASCAL MUSEUM - USUS LIBRARY
ANCIENT ALPHABETIC ART - LIBRARY - ALTAIR AND IMSAI EMULATORS
REVIVING CASSETTE DATA - DISK UTILITIES - COMPUTER RESCUE
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE
What is a Terak?
It is an early personal computer made by the Terak Corporation of Scottsdale, Arizona. It was sold from about 1979 until 1985.
One of the first models was the Terak 8510/a shown above. It was based on the popular PDP-11/03 processor, a 16-bit CPU. The Terak 8510 could have as much as 128K of RAM with the PDP-11/23 option. For storage, it has big eight-inch floppy drives that go klunk-klunk, in IBM 3740 format, holding roughly 256K, 512K or 1 meg each. Hard disks of five to forty megs were available. The Terak featured both RS-232 and 20 milliamp current loop serial connections, so you could connect to the printers and teletypes of the time. The keyboard included a numeric keypad and arrow keys arranged in a vertical column.
The Terak was advertised as a "Graphic Computer System." It featured a monochrome 320 x 240 square-dot display and relatively advanced video features such as a purely bitmapped display, allowing a customizable character set, the mixing text and graphics on the same screen, and raster operations like continuous smooth panning and scrolling. The system included a twelve-inch composite video monitor. It even had programmable sound and a two-inch speaker. The main system box was robust metal, weighing about forty pounds.
Available operating systems included the UCSD P-System and RT-11/85 version 4.0. Languages included Pascal, FORTRAN IV, APL and BASIC. Someone even ported an early version of Unix to the Terak.
In November 1981, an 8510/a with 56K of RAM and one floppy drive was $8,935. And extra floppy drive was $2,570. You could even upgrade to color graphics at 640 x 480 by eight colors for $10,550. A ten meg hard drive was $7,985.
The Terak was popular for teaching Pascal to college kids. As such, all the oldsters who were in college then and used this computer have a great affection for it, meaning they can no longer remember how slow they were. Its flexibility in character sets led to its use as a text editor for Russian and Hebrew.
What will be on this Web page the next time you visit?
More images and text
I have several Terak 8510/a and hundreds of floppies. I bought the first one in 1990 for about $25 at a University of Wisconsin--Madison Surplus equipment sale. At one time, the UW had about a dozen Teraks in the computer science and math departments, including about eight that were available to students in entry-level programming classes.
I have old Terak sales literature, and several years of issues of TUGBOAT, the Terak user group newsletter. Many of these disks and all of the ephemera were donated by gracious former Terak users and owners. TUGBOAT had a collection of public domain software. Sadly, I only have a few of these disks.
Two of the founders of Terak have visited this page. The first was Bill Mayberry, still living in Scottsdale. I hope to speak with him to learn more about the history of the company. Dennis Kodimer followed. The third founding member of Terak is Brian Benzar.
The Museum grows
If you know of someone who still has a Terak hardware or software, please have them contact me. I will give their material a good home, and will gladly pay the shipping charges, which can be considerable given the weight of the Terak
Teraks are becoming more and more rare for obvious reasons: most people have no use for computers with the horsepower of the original IBM AT, especially one that isn't an IBM AT.
In July 1997, I got a second Terak from the UW Surplus. I'm not sure it works. The main floppy is single-density, not double.
I also received a donation of a Terak 10 megabyte hard disk drive. I've found another nearby person who might be willing to sell his Terak. Someone else donated a case-less Terak, covered in cat hair, but perhaps good for spare parts.
In June 1998, UW Surplus comes through with another Terak 8510/a for $1, and another visitor donates an 8510/a in exchange for my effort in recovering approximately 100 floppies of vital data.
The source code to UCSD P-System and UCSD Pascal
See the UCSD P-System Exhibit, a companion page to this one.
Terak disk archive tools
See the Disk Utilities Exhibit for my techniques and tools for converting UCSD P-System disk images to files on contemporary computers. I'd like to extend the tools to recover other file formats used for Terak image files, animated movies and character sets.
A Terak Emulator
I very much look forward to recreating the entire Terak experience, especially the speed and sound of the disk drives, and the sound of the fan and speaker. I'd like to make an emulator of the Terak, or at first, an implementation of the old UCSD P-System. With an emulator, we could all run those nifty Terak programs to better remember the old days. I think the Terak emulator could be accomplished with a robust P-System emulator combined with an emulation of the Terak-specific functions. It would be fun to port it to Java after the C version is working. For more info, see the UCSD P-System Exhibit.
Please, it's not that I think that the P-System was and is the best. This is a hobby, and I have a life and a career in contemporary computer software. I have other archaic computers in my collection, such as a Zilog Z-80 development system, several Commodore PETs, C-64s and Amigas, and a DEC 350. I used Teraks among other types of computers when I was in college, so I have fond memories of using them.
A good Web page topic is something obscure.
Other Terak links and tidbits
Teraks in museums
There's a Terak system manual in the Computer Product Manuals Collection at the Charles Babbage Institute's Center for History of Information Processing.
There's another Terak in the Machine Room in the UK.
Mark Riordan has a Terak page. He's got Mini-Unix version 6 for the Terak.
My Terak at SIGGRAPH 98
One of my functional Terak was invited to take part in the 1970s History exhibit at SIGGRAPH 98 in Orlando, Florida, July 19-24, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ACM SIGGRAPH conference, the annual gathering of the computer graphics industry.
First bitmap display?
In his "An Unofficial History of Graphical User Interfaces", Stanford University Professor Anthony E. Siegman mentions the Terak in his "Histories of Individual Graphic User Interface Elements," saying the UCSD P-System used one of the first keyboard-based menus (where you selected functions by pressing the key corresponding to the first letter of the function, such as "F" for Filer and "L" for "directory." :-) and under "Bitmapped displays", where Xerox PARC, PERQ and the Terak are mentioned as circa 1978 contenders. See http://www-ee.stanford.edu/~siegman/GUI_history.html
While compiling your UCSD Pascal program, the Terak adjusted the video display so that as the compile and link progressed, you could watch the compiler's memory usage bit-for-bit, watching the stack move toward the heap.
With its true bitmap graphics, Terak fans began to create their own custom bitmap character sets. These could be easily loaded into place, and used within all the screens of the P-System. Applications such as text editors and games could remap the character set, so the Terak saw early use as a word processor for Russian, Hebrew and Chinese.
Terak among the "Top 5 Futurist Computers"
At http://www.shmooze.net/~tiff/futurist.html [link now broken and lost], in ".tiff" magazine, the Terak is mentioned as one of the "Top 5 Futurist Machines Of All Time", among the Sinclair ZX-80, the Macintosh, the Nintendo GameBoy and the SGI Indy.
In termcaps everywhere
The Terak lives on as an entry in 'termcap' files on Unix systems everywhere, because in its time its horsepower and serial port made it a good "smart terminal" that could access time-sharing computer systems of the time, uploading and downloading files to its local storage. It had its own custom terminal programs. The Terak port of Kermit, written mostly in UCSD Pascal, was influential in the development and dissemination of that popular terminal program and protocol, becoming the basis of several other Pascal-based Kermits.
Teraks at UC-Irvine
There's a lot of information about the UCSD P-System at the University of California at Irvine, among their archives of computer systems formerly in use there. They used Teraks, too.
The Terak and MacPaint
What does the Terak have to do with the Macintosh and MacPaint?
The Macintosh's operating system was bootstrapped on an Apple Lisa computer. The Lisa's OS was written on the Lisa using a port of the UCSD Pascal compiler and P-System. The Lisa's port of the P-System was prepared on an Apple II, which had its own version of the P-System that was developed by Bill Atkinson, the Apple programmer who later wrote MacPaint. Atkinson ported the P-System to the Apple II while visiting UCSD, who helped Apple with the port using a Terak.
Some people think he got the idea for MacPaint from the paint programs he saw in use on the graphics-intensive, square-pixel Terak. Thanks in part to Gary Capell (firstname.lastname@example.org) for parts of this story.
The Terak and Virtual Reality
While a student at the New Mexico State University, virtual reality promoter Jaron Lanier worked for an NSF-funded project that developed computer-assisted-learning courses in Pascal programming and trigonometry. He'd often spend his spare time hacking on a color Terak.
The Terak and IDEs
That's "integrated development environment," not the hard disk interface. A forerunner of the language-sensitive programmers's editor was the Cornell Program Synthesizer, originally developed on the Terak by Professor Tim Teitelbaum.
Where is Terak now?
Whatever happened to Terak Corporation? In November 1983, Terak Corporation went public on the NASDAQ at symbol "TCGS". In late 1985, it was purchased by CalComp, then a Sanders company, but now a part of Lockheed-Martin. Apparently the corporate assets were transferred to New Hampshire. One of the founders of Terak also still has many Terak-related items.
What is the history of Terak?
Almost twenty years have passed, so you might have heard a similar story of the ups and downs of other computer companies. The story of Terak Corporation involves engineers in mountain cabins, furiously composing circuit boards, defense contractors, Chinese computer enthusiasts attracted to the customizable graphics, venture capitalists, and a sad tale of crash-and-burn. I hope to compose the details into a readable story in the months ahead.
Here are the pages that list all the Terak, DEC and miscellaneous stuff I have:
Praise for the Terak Museum
This page was awarded the "Geek Site Of The Day" Award on October 16, 1996, putting us right down there in the depths of obscurity with the "Slide Rule Trading Post" and up in the heights of nerdliness with the "Encyclopedia Xenobiologica: A Guide to Babylon 5 Aliens."
Links to the Terak Museum
Infoseek Computers/Computing History / Computer Museums
Yahoo Computers and Internet / History
The Trailing Edge of Technology from The Computer Journal
thesite.com Fanatical Computer Collectors
Eric Smith's Retrocomputing page
Classic Computers List Web Page
PHOAKS Top Posters for comp.os.cpm
Oxford Brookes Student Union Computer Society
Hackerbarbie's Computer and Internet History
Computer History Association of California History
Or click here to go to AltaVista and see if they found any new links.
What isn't a Terak?
If you're looking for info about Deep Space Nine, Cardassia, a Vulcan leader, the King of the Ewoks, Indonesian varieties of cement, sailboat parts, a variety of sandpiper, or a river in Russia, you've come to the wrong spot. Yes, Deep Space Nine was once ruled by Cardassians who called it Terak Nor.
Terak vanity search engine bait
The following are names related to my research on the Terak, the PDP-11 and other topics. They are here to lure these people into reading these pages when they run a Web search of their own name:
Roger T. Sumner
Steven S. Thomson
David V Jensen
J. Greg Davidson
K. Brook Richan
James S. Rosenvall
William de Malignon
Paul C. Lustgarten
William P. Franks
Steve "Harley" Davidson
Keith Allan Shillington
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