MBC Alcyane

All material on this page is contributed by Mr. Emmanuel Roche, France.
Georges Cottin Georges Cottin

In the history of computers, and the companies that make them, it are rarely the existing, succesful companies that start something new, like building a small cheap computer, even if all the components are available. It are the startups that create and explore the new market.

The Alcyane history started in the early 1970s. George Cottin: "I started to be interested in microprocessors in 1972 when the Intel 8008 was first presented in France. I immediately imagined using it to conceive a computer".

Alcyane alcyane

Two years later, Alain Isambert, a young engineer in training period at HP, and Jean-Pierre Bouhot, chief editor of "L'informatique Nouvelle" magazine, rejoin Georges Cottin. The trio starts to work and design a prototype in 1975 (probably based on the 8080). In 1976, they created their own company, MBC, with less than 30,000 FF. Their first computer was called the Alcyane. "We made the circuits by hand and we received our first 20 customers in my dining room", recalls Georges Cottin.

In 1980, MBC makes a turnover of 14.5 millions Francs. In 1981, it had sold a thousand systems, but a shareholder retires. The MATRA group then buys back MBC in February 1981, and in June Georges Cottin retires too.

Technical information Alcyane internals

The Alcyane is an Intel 8080 based computer, build in a enclosure similar to 19". The basic model had data and address toggle switches, similar to larger computers in those days and the Altair. Later models had a regular keyboard, video and cassette tape or floppy drives for data storage.

Development system Alcyane development system setup One of the features of the Alcyane was a programming language based on the French language. Below are a BASIC program and its equivalent in "Le language d'Alcyane":
100 FOR A = 1 TO INT(3500/3) + 1
110 DATA LOAD FH # X, A$()
120 FOR B = 1 to 3
130 B$ = A$ (B):T-CVT(B$(71,77))
140 IF T < 1200 THEN 160
150 PRINT B$(1,18), B$(19,70)
160 NEXT B
170 NEXT A
180 END

100 POUR CLIENT = 1 A 3500
110 LIRE # "FICHIER ENVOI" (CLIENT), NOM!, ADRESSE!,TOTALACHATS
120 SI TOTALACHATS < 1200 ALORS 140
130 IMPRIMER NOM!, ADRESSE!
140 PROCHAIN CLIENT
150 FIN

Three problems were solved:

  • Allowing long variable names, so they are easier to understand,
  • Hiding the complexity of reading data from disk,
  • Translate commands into French. This limits the language to the French speaking nations, but helps 'novices de programmation' to grasp the concepts of programming languages.
Multi user system multi user architecture Typical that however small the system resources, it was forseen to be used by several users; A0, A1, A2 are each an Alcyane, with RAM and ROM indicated. Each K/TVn is a keyboard/screen combination. Four users and an operating system in 40 kByte RAM...
Alcyana A6E Alcyana A6E In 1983 MBC (then part of MATRA) introduced the A6E, a computer for office use. The specs:
Hardware:
CPU 8085
RAM 128 kByte + 4 kByte system RAM
Video RAM 
4kByte 80x24 or 128x24 in text mode
256x256 in graphics mode (optional)
keyboard with 25 function keys (numeric keypad)
5 1/4" floppy drives 410 kByte
8" floppy drive 1.2 MByte

Software:
Alcytext - word processor
Basic
Alcybaz
Fortran
Pascal
A.P.L.

Operating systems:
CP/M
Alcybaz

Links:


Last updated: 2013-05-09

Email: fjkraan@xs4all.nl