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History of the MZ-80B 
written by Maurice Hawes / SUC/UK 
Source: SUC-magazine November 1999, Volume 19 Number 3, p. 9  
A Brief History of the MZ-80B

The earliest MZ-80B brochure in my collection, dated Feb. ‘81, shows 32K RAM expandable to 64K; but an added sticky label implies that the U.K. model had 64K RAM as standard, and a later brochure dated Nov. ‘81 shows just 64K RAM. The launch review of the MZ-80B in the December 1981 issue of PCW included the following comrnent:

“( the MZ-80B ) is a refined example... a Volvo amongst micros.. lt could be equally happy as a high-class home computer, a useful small business system, or a laboratory instrument..... Sharp has done most things right with this product and I wish it well.“

The same review quotes the following prices:

MZ-80B with 64K RAM £1095
Expansion Port £ 50
Twin FD Drives with CP/M   £ 778
P5 printer £415

All these prices are EX VAT; in the same Magazine a 64K 2FD SUPERBRAIN, without a printer, costs £1875 ( EX VAT ).

In other words, an MZ-80B with twin disk drives, CP/M, and a printer cost about £2300 + VAT; this was a lot of money in 1981, but you got a very reliable machine that could run all the standard business programs of that era e.g. WORDSTAR, SUPERCALC, DBASE II.

I bought my first MZ-80B second-hand, in August 1986, for the princely stirn of £230 plus VAT. For this I got an MZ-80B with twin disk drives, CP/M, and a fall set of Manuals ( Owner‘s Manual fall of detailed technical information; Tape Basic Manual; Disk Basic Manual; SB-1510 Monitor Manual with listing; IPL ROM listing ).

This MZ-80B is still working in 1999, but it has suffered two minor hardware faults which, I now realise, happen sooner or later on most MZ-80B‘s. The first fault is that the calculator-style cursor keys above the main keyboard stop working and have to be replaced. This Operation is more difficult than it should be on account of the way in which the keyboard is fixed into the case.

The second common fault is that the rubber ‘sleeves‘ on the tape deck brake arms perish into a ‘goo‘ which gets into the clutch mechanisms and causes tape tangles; the remedy is to remove the tape recorder, clean up the mess, and fit new brake ‘sleeves‘ made from bicycle valve rubber. The catch is that, when refitting the recorder into the case, you MUST ensure that the tape counter belt stays on its pulleys because it forms part of a feedback loop!!

Both these repair operations require considerable patience, and this is my only criticism of the MZ-80B - its construction leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to maintenance. Even the simple job of replacing a fuse in the main power supply unit is extremely awkward, and can cause the air round the computer to turn blue!

These difficulties apart, the MZ-80B is a very collectable item, and its Manuals are about the best that Sharp ever produced. With the latest SUC software and 3.5"disk drives the MZ-80B is a good ‘work‘ machine even by today‘s standards. And for developing and maintaining MZ-software the MZ-80B is best of all because it has 64K RAM and ALL its programs, including the SB-1510 Monitor, are in RAM and can be customised at will. Indeed, if I was about to start collecting Sharp computers, the MZ-80B would top my list!

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last updated September 17, 2002
SUC / UK: Maurice Hawes