Friday, 22 June 2018

Thomson 8-bit computers, a history

In March 1986, my dad was in the market for a Thomson TO7/70. I have the circled classified ads in “Téo” issue 1 to prove that :)

TO7/70 with its chiclet keyboard and optical pen, courtesy of

The “Plan Informatique pour Tous” was in full swing, and Thomson were supplying schools with micro-computers. My dad, as a primary school teacher, needed to know how to operate those computers, and eventually teach them to kids.

The first thing he showed us when he got the computer, on the living room TV, was a game called “Panic” or “Panique” where you controlled a missile, protecting a town from flying saucers that flew across the screen from either side, faster and faster as the game went on. I still haven't been able to locate this game again.

A couple of years later, the TO7/70 was replaced by a TO9, with a floppy disk, and my dad used that computer to write an educational software about top-down additions, as part of a training program run by the teachers schools (“Écoles Normales” renamed to “IUFM“ in 1990).

After months of nagging, and some spring cleaning, he found the listings of his educational software, which I've liberated, with his permission. I'm currently still working out how to generate floppy disks that are usable directly in emulators. But here's an early screenshot.

Later on, my dad got an IBM PC compatible, an Olivetti PC/1, on which I'd play a clone of Asteroids for hours, but that's another story. The TO9 got passed down to me, and after spending a full summer doing planning for my hot-dog and chips van business (I was 10 or 11, and I had weird hobbies already), and entering every game from the “102 Programmes pour...” series of books, the TO9 got put to the side at Christmas, replaced by a Sega Master System, using that same handy SCART connector on the Thomson monitor.

But how does this concern you. Well, I've worked with RetroManCave on a Minitel episode not too long ago, and he agreed to do a history of the Thomson micro-computers. I did a fair bit of the research and fact-checking, as well as some needed repairs to the (prototype!) hardware I managed to find for the occasion. The result is this first look at the history of Thomson.

Finally, if you fancy diving into the Thomson computers, there will be an episode coming shortly about the MO5E hardware, and some games worth running on it, on the same YouTube channel.

I'm currently working on bringing the “TeoTO8D emulator to Flathub, for Linux users. When that's ready, grab some games from the DCMOTO archival site, and have some fun!

I'll also be posting some nitty gritty details about Thomson repairs on my Micro Repairs Twitter feed for the more technically enclined among you.


bestouff said...

My first computer ! I *loved* it when I was a kid. As I didn't have the tape recorder to save my programs I had to type my games from the same book over and over again, and that's how I started to modify them and become a geek.
Those were the days...

Hell Pé said...

That was my first computer too! Although I was way too young to use it in any meaningful way, I still fondly remember the beep of the stylus touching the TV screen. Unfortunately, that T07 quickly (this was circa 1993, mind you) broke down and my father eventually disposed of it. By then, I've had a NES for Christmas and almost forgot about this stuff, until I started to dwell into emulators several years later. A very interesting piece of computer (and France's) history!

Mlf Conv said...

Its Sinclair.