This page is a modest memorial to the good old days of my first professional (i.e. paid) programming. That was for a Spectrum (Z80-based) clone, a Soviet computer Hobbit.
If you have any materials or personal impressions regarding the Hobbit computer, please e-mail me! I'll be happy to publish these here, and/or link to your pages, dependant on your wish. I am looking for Hobbit software sources and documentation to publish here.
Photos of the hardware and of the InterCompex people are especially welcome!
Hobbit was invented by Dmitry Mikhilov and Mikhail Osetinskii in St. Petersburg, Russia in the late 1980s. Its first circuitry layout was designed on an earlier home-made computer (built using ASMP of 3 Soviet clones of the Intel8080 chip), by Dmitry Mikhilov as well. The computer was manufactured by the joint venture InterCompex.
Hobbit was marketed in the former Soviet Union as a low-cost personal computer solution for basic educational and office business needs, in additional to its obvious use as a home computer. Schools would buy it as a classroom, interconnecting several machines in a 56Kbaud network. It was possible to use either another Hobbit or a single IBM PC compatible computer as a master host on the network; a special Hobbit network adapter card by InterCompex was needed for the IBM PC in the latter case. Hobbit was also briefly marketed in the U.K., targeted mainly at the existing ZX Spectrum fans willing to lay their hands on a better computer compatible with the familiar architecture. The rarely available at the domestic market export models featured the internal 3.5" drive, just like an Atari ST or an Amiga. Such models always had both the EGA and the TV output connectors operational, as well as the AY8910 sound chip. Domestic models often had the TV output convertor missing, as well as the internal speaker. The AY8910 for the domestic models was sold separately as an external extension module, hanging off the same extension bus as the optional external disk drive. The export to the U.K. didn't last long. Official version distributed within InterCompex was that the electrical cable failed some U.K. safety test, but it could also be that the Sinclair intellectual property issues were the real reasons behind the scenes.
Another interesting extension available was the SME board (Screen and Memory Extension). This featured 32Kb cache memory, some of which could be dedicated to video text buffer in CGA mode (this was supported by drivers available only in the FORTH or the CP/M environments; no known programs using the Sinclair-based BASIC mode used this feature).
(Incomplete. Only friends and close affiliates listed.)
The following two articles were published about Hobbit in the Your Sinclair magazine back in the early 1990s:
Hobbit was also briefly mentioned in this article from the ISSUE 98 APRIL 1992 of CRASH.
Then, later in 1992, Sinclair User featured the latest Hobbit-tech, elaborating also on FORTH and CP/M that the computer had. These articles probably give the best press coverage of Hobbit ever:
This page uses a freeware ZX-Spectrum font by WhoAmI Design, taken from the ZX Font Pack. If your browser doesn't support dynamic fonts, you can install the font manually to boost up the nostalgic feelings. FORTH and CP/M 4x8 fonts yet to come :)
Embedding fonts into a webpage and making it work on every system/browser combination is not easy at all. Read this article to learn about the difficulties I faced while trying to do it.
Read and contribute to the article on Hobbit in the Wikipedia.
The Home Computer Museum in its Soviet home computer section contains the Hobbit reference card, which is also the source of the Hobbit computer photo! The photo is © copyrighted by the Home Computer Museum.
Another elaborate description (although to date still no news on more recent developments, like LOGO and FORTH/FFS), along with more photos, is featured by the Sinclair nostalgia products site.
Dmitrii Sibarov built ZX-Spectrum nostalgia pages, with a Hobbit section. It contains the scanned manuals (in Russian) for the computer architecture and its operation in the 100% ZX compatible and extended (TR-DOS, network, shadow routine, Russian extensions etc.) BASIC modes. Even if you don't read in Russian, you might appreciate the logo (for those frustrated of you who came to this page searching for the Tolkien character talks).
For the really brave souls, here are some snippets of my older Forth code written for Hobbit. They were rotting in my backups for quite some time, waiting for the time that a Hobbit emulator becomes available to run it. If a lot of people ask, I might even neatly organize/comment it/transcode Russian from the Hobbit encoding therein some day.
Several non-Hobbit-related ZX Spectrum nostalgia links are available off my jump page.
There is also a Java(tm) Spectrum emulator "Hob". Although "Hob" means "Hobbit", the author originally meant the Spectrum game with that name. That emulator does not provide any of the special Hobbit computer features.
See also the Mozilla Open Directory Sinclair ZX-Spectrum category.