Here's a bit of Timex history:
Timex in USA
In the early 1980s, as now, the world's biggest computer market was in the United States. It was an essential market for a computer manufacturer. Although Sinclair did sell the ZX81 and Spectrum through mail order in the USA for a time, the Sinclair machines' biggest American success came about through the company's collaboration with Timex.
The American giant was already Sinclair's prime contractor for building ZX81s and Spectrums at its plant in Dundee, Scotland. Sinclair was doing well in the States - by June 1981 it was selling 18,000-20,000 ZX81s a month, more than the combined unit sales of Tandy, Apple and Commodore - but quality problems were dire, with only one in three of the machines actually working. A tie-up with Timex was the obvious answer, and resulted in four officially-licensed clones, produced between 1981-84.
This clones were the TS1000 (ZX81 clone with 2K RAM), TS1500 (ZX81 clone with 16K RAM), TS2048 (a upgraded ZX Spectrum 16K) and TS2068 (a upgraded ZX Spectrum 48K).
Just before Timex Computer Corporation released their 2068 model in the United States, a newsletter called Ramblings (published by Timex) had an article concerning the TS2016, TS2048, TS2068 and the TS2072. The TS2016 was dropped due to the release of the TS1500. The TS2048 of course had the bank switching daughter card installed and the replacement of the VHF modulator and some other minor changes to create the TS2068. The TS2072 was the original name for the TS2068 since Timex advertised a total of 72K of memory...24K ROM plus 48K RAM.
Back in 1982, the Vice President of Timex came out to a North Bay Timex Users' Group meeting in San Francisco. With him he brought questionnaires concerning what we would like to see in the next phase of the Timex line. He also brought with him a proto-type of the Timex Sinclair 2000. Yes, a prototype did exist. It basically was a redressed ZX Spectrum in a silver case. Keep in mind where all the TS1500 cases came from, they were originally designed to be used as the TS2000 cases. The next year, the Vice President (who later became President of Psion) returned and told of a visit to Sinclair Research, LTD where the plans for the QL were found out and came back to the US on a rush schedule to re-dress the 2000 series as close to the QL as possible, using the Z80A platform. Timex's engineering team was split with their decision on which direction to support (continue to pursue the advancement of the 2000 series or jump to the 3000 series). This is another reason why Timex had such a long delay on releasing the 2068 to the market as well as its peripherals. >>ALSO<< There was the Timex 9-pin dot matrix printer, a redressed Mannisman-Tally Spirit 80 and the Timex cartridge drives (just like the Spectrum models only silver) and the TS2065 Expansion Bay (four prototypes created). Sunset Point Electronics (if they are still around) had marketing photos of these (I have a copy of one) and the photos, plus an article were published in Time Designs Magazine.
The BEU, as it was called, was the state of the art technological marvel created by Timex engineers that really scared Big Blue IBM! The 2068 contains three memory banks, internally, each owning 64K availability: the home bank, exrom bank, and the aros bank (known as the command cartridge dock). The bank switching scheme designed by Timex allows each 64K bank to be broken down into 8K units called 'chunks'. These chunks can be swapped between each of the banks to allow the computer to posses more than its original memory both in RAM and ROM. Chunk 3 is reserved to the system for tracking purposes, thus the limitation of 56K in the cartridge dock. Now the neat stuff....on the motherboard, the SDLC chip has a few lines running to the bank switching daughter card (the upside down circuit board in the rear side of the computer next to the expansion slot) and then to the expansion slot that allows the link up of an additional 253 64K banks. That gives the 2068 256 64K banks. In other words, the 2068 has the potential of addressing a total of 16 megabytes of memory through its bank switching scheme!! Most impressive for a little watch company back in 1983. The BEU was the 'port replicator' that would handle the additional 253 banks of memory as well as replicate the rear ports and serve as a shelf unit for the 2040 printer, 2020 tape recorder, floppy drives, or microdrives (but not all at the same time). Gee, this was just the 2000 series. Just imagine what the 3000 series would actually have brought fourth provided Timex hadn't abruptly left the US market (blame IBM) in 1984.
EVER HEAR OF THE T/S 3068?
(AND OTHER MATTERS)
At a recent meeting of the LIST (Long Island Sinclair Timex) users group, the former head of the Research and Development department of Timex Computer Corporation, Bill Skyrme, attended and gave a talk. Mr. Skyrme is currently president of Psion, Inc., the manufacturer of the Organizer pocket computer.
While Mr. Skyrme admitted he was still under contractual agreement with Timex, and that certain information couldn't be discussed, he did mention some items that turned many members of LIST green.
The TS2068, related Skyrme, was to either have been a "cleaned-up" 48k spectrum or a totally re-engineered design. While a clean Spectrum was submitted for FCC approval, the latter model was selected for manufacture.
Another computer was in the works called the T/S3068. It would have featured 1 megabyte RAM, virtual memory, 256 colours and hi-res graphics. 'The only machine that would be in its class today is the Amiga,' stated Skyrme. The T/S 3068 would have retailed for only $199.95.
Another interesting fact was that the 'BEU' (Bus Expansion Unit) for the ts2068, as seen in the photo published by TIME DESIGNS (see July/August 1986, page 23) was, according to Skyrme, completely engineered and ready for production. With an internal floppy disk interface built in, Timex would have sold external 3.5" drives (in little silver boxes) for as little as $49.95. This plan was far enough along that Timex had a supplier lined up for the drives.
Most of the information on proposed products for the TS2068 (and TS3068) will never be made public due to a myriad of legal reasons and the engineers involved in the project have all gone their separate ways.
(The following excerpt is
from an email to Jack Boatwright from Fred Stern of L.I.S.T.)
A few years ago, LIST had as a guest speaker Mr Bob Skyrme, who at the time was the Vice President of Psion Computer. Before coming to Psion, Mr Skyrme was an engineer with Timex Computer Division. Mr Skyrme gave us a demonstration of the new Psion Hand held computer. He was also gracious enough to answer questions and tell us what was going on at Timex before it closed down the computer division. The Timex engineering unit, during the production of theTS1500 and TS2068, were planning for the next stage of home computing. Their goal was to go head to head against the Amiga, C-128, IBM PC-Jr. and other advanced computers which were coming out at that time. The computer they designed was designated TS3000, production units to be TS3068. It was a 16-bit machine which used an advanced Motorola CPU. Its operating system allowed it to use existing Timex TS2068 programs, Sinclair Spectrum programs, and a new series of programs designed for 16-Bit operation. It could be programmed with TS2068 tapes or cartridges, but it also had a built in 5 1/4 floppy disk drive. Programs could be saved to, or loaded from, disk. It had ports for color TV, composite monitor, and the new RGB monitors which were starting to make the scene. It had ports for RS-232, Kempston Joy sticks, and parallel printer ports. The operating system allowed use of Centronics and the new Epson type printers. The keyboard was an improved version of the TS2068, a membrane with a tactile rubber overlay. The overlay was specially designed to give the feel of a mechanical keyboard, with less weight, and have much better durability. The guts had a Mil-Grade motherboard. It had 256K of internal Ram, part of which had battery back-up using Ni-Cad cells for an early version of non-volatile memory. It had a front dock port similar to the TS2068 with a major exception. The front port on the 2068 could only be used for program cartridges and utility peripherals, i.e., OS-64, Spectrum emulator. The front port of the 3068 could accomodate the 2068 add-ons and a specialty cartridge developed by Timex. This cartridge contained an EPROM which could be programmed by the computer, then used later as a program cartridge. You could take a program from tape, load it into the computer and program an Eprom cartridge with the program for unlimited future use. The EPROM cartridges had a small window which allowed the EPROM to be erased using a UV light or commercial eraser. This EPROM programming feature, was later used by Psion for non-volital program storage in their hand held computer. 3 prototypes of the new computer were built for engineering purposes. The bugs were corrected and further improvements in design were incorporated. Turbo, password protection, and an improved timing system for faster and better operation were added. The unit operated at 20Mhz which was fast for that time. Before production, Timex made a corporate decision to drop the computer line. They never made an attempt to sell it or allow the inside people to take it over.
Even though the division was a money maker, Timex decided to remain true to its watches. Timex computers engineering division in the USA was disbanded. Timex computer manufacturing division in Portugal stopped all lines except for the TS1000. Timex was under long term contract to manufacture TS1000 uncased boards for a European commercial refrigeration manufacturer who used them as dedicated controllers. TS1000s were in production for at least 3 years after Timex closed the computer division. And so it goes....
(The following excerpt is from an
email to me of Andrew Hradesky)
Yes, the TS2016 was a 16K machine. The first 2068 models were really 2048 models without the bank switching daughter board, a VHF modulator added, and a slightly different motherboard with more huge capacitors. The front side of the motherboard (its depth) was about a 1/2 inch shorter if memory serves correctly. The speaker actually slipped a little over the edge in its mount. Remember, if you remove the VHF modulator on a 2068, you will find that the casing is just a shield and all circuitry is soldered to the motherboard, not like the ZX Spectrum's where it is contained in a small silver box. The 2048's modulator is like a typical Spectrum. Basically, the TC2068 (from Portugal) is really the last designed series of the 2048 motherboards. A hand full of the earlier 2048 motherboard found their way to the San Francisco User's Group back in 1983. The TS2048 was the first step in releasing the TS2068. It design was to use 48K RAM just like its successor.
Yes, the original mass storage medium for the T/S 2048/68/72 was stringy floppies based on the Sinclair microdrives using the Sinclair microwafers. After the launch of the 2068, Timex reasoned not to use that technology (especially after Texas Instruments invested over a million dollars trying to perfect it while floppy technology dropped drastically in the US) and designed four separate silver boxes (modules) which matched the design of the TS2068's case. Blueprints were drawn and production was ready. The drives were never manufactured in the US with the exception of a few demo units due to the withdrawal of Timex in early 1984 (and that is another story). Timex, instead, tooled up in Portugal and manufactured the drives there. Each unit was sold with three modules and the four as optional. The controller box contained a Z80A computer in it with 16K of RAM. The next module was a 3 inch floppy from Hitachi, and the third module was the power supply with a very heavy and hot linear unit. It would develop so much heat that in some instances it would warp the top of the case. All three modules could stack one on top of the other or sit side by side behind the 2068. It was most impressive. The fourth module would act as a second floppy. Another optional accessory was to install a 64K RAM chip by removing the 16K chip. This was accompanied by a 3 inch floppy that would install a terminal type program and viola, you now have a true CP/M machine running version 2.2. All lines were active to the two rear RS-232 9 pin ports (marked Ch_A and Ch_B). Zebra Systems in New York city worked with Timex of Portugal and imported these units into the US as 'Zebra disk drive system'. Many of the US retailers for Timex products including Sunset Electronics in California had been working together as a co-op to import these drives and Zebra....well left a bad taste in the other dealers mouths. As far as the QL is concerned. It is definitely a different breed of computer with a true learning curve away from Sinclaireze. However, in my personal opinion, the QL starts where the 2068 stops! Timex did a good job on the four video modes to accommodate what the QL does. I really tip my hat to the engineers of Timex back then, they really believed in their product and established a great PC using only a Z80A processor.
OK, the BEU as it was called was the state of the art technological marvel created by Timex engineers that really scared Big Blue IBM! The 2068 contains three banks internally each owning 64K availability (the home bank, exrom bank, and the aros bank, known as the command cartridge dock). The bank switching scheme designed by Timex allows each 64K bank to be broken down into 8K units called 'chunks'. These chunks can be swapped between each of the banks to allow the computer to posses more than its original memory both in RAM and ROM. Chunk 3 is reserved to the system for tracking purposes, thus the limitation of 56K in the cartridge dock. Now the neat stuff....on the motherboard, the SDLC chip has a few lines running to the bank switching daughter card (the upside down circuit board in the rear side of the computer next to the expansion slot) and then to the expansion slot that allows the link up of an additional 253 64K banks. That gives the 2068 256 64K banks. In other words, the 2068 has the potential of addressing a total of 16 megabytes of memory through its bank switching scheme!! Most impressive for a little watch company back in 1983. The BEU was the 'port replicator' that would handle the additional 253 banks of memory as well as replicate the rear ports and serve as a shelf unit for the 2040 printer, 2050 tape recorder, floppy drives, or microdrives (but not all at the same time). Gee, this was just the 2000 series. Just imagine what the 3000 series would actually have brought fourth provided Timex didn't abruptly leave the US market (blame IBM) in 1984.
Timex in Portugal
TMX Portugal in 1985, after Timex Computer Corp. folded in the USA, decided to market the Timex computers in Portugal (Portugal wasn't in the Sinclair market. Due to the Sinclair agreement, the biggest part of the european market was closed to Timex.). They took the TS2068 and made some modifications, like a new version of the SLCD chip for PAL TVs, replaced the buffers between the SLCD and Z80 bus with resistors and modified the expansion connector to be Spectrum compatible, creating the TC2068. TMX Portugal knew the problems that the TS2068 had with running most of the ZX Spectrum programs and decided to make a new machine, the TC2048. This new machine had the SLCD of the TC2068 and a modified ZX Spectrum ROM. TMX Portugal also developed a floppy disk interface, and Timex Operating System (TOS), to work with Timex computers, the Timex FDD. After the launch of the FDD system, Timex upgraded it to work with CP/M, the FDD-3000). TMX Portugal also planned a new machine, the TC3256.
TMX Portugal was working in several areas of computer science. It had the TC project in process and jointly worked for Minolta and IBM in the area of networks for computers of greater productivity. The technology was from the Portuguese engineers who were working to enhance networking capabilities in use in the great companies, which were very slow by today's standards.
TMX Portugal had very intelligent people working for them at this time. Because of that salaries were high and the technology moved as fast as the wind. TMX found ways to do things to make savings. The people working for TMX were very intelligent and knowledge didn't lack. The engineers of TMX Portugal frequently went abroad to take computer science courses and they usually ended up giving the course that they attended because their knowledge was superior to the course teachers. The TMX engineers loved their work to the point that they "gave their shirts" for the company.
In Dundee, Scotland there was also a Timex factory. This division was in financial trouble for varied reasons, among them bad manufacturing of plates for their customers. It is said that only one in three worked correctly (noticable in the manufacture of the Sinclair and Timex Sinclair computers). This led to the company's losing of its customer base. Compared to the production in Portugal, where the flaws were 1 in 1000, the Scottish operation was in dire trouble.
With massive unemployment on the horizon Margaret Thatcher negotiated with Portugal, through Cavaco Silva, and arranged the tranfer of everything of TMX of Portugal to Scotland: know how, projects, customers and materials, but without any of the Portuguese people. The TMX employees went to unemployment lines instead of the Scottish employees.
My contact, one of the last engineers in TMX, handed over to the Scotsmen the whole know how of TMX Portugal. Because of what happened later, when the Timex plant in Scotland finally closed for good, he cannot stand to hear or speak of Cavaco Silva and of the responsible minister who moved the business. It is not known what Portugal received in exchange for giving the technology of TMX Portugal to the UK. If this had not happened, TMX would possibly be a a big player today in the area of computer science (affirmed my contact).
During this process, American Timex, had enormously jealous of TMX Portugal (the most credible is the independence that TMX Portugal had from the Timex group. TMX Portugal produced, designed and repaired all the equipment. Even CP/M was adapted in Portugal), It is belived that Timex America looked with favor on the closing of Timex of Portugal. It seems obvious, as the practice that the governments of the two countries had arranged, was in its thought line.
With relationship to Timex of Scotland, the knowledge and the creative capacity of the Portuguese engineers was no longer involved and Scotland Timex could not give continuing continuity to the projects and works in process and it didn't last very much longer. And then Timex Dundee plant closed.
Many more details could be said concerning this shameful business, but already an idea of everything that happened has been presented. There were people that destroyed the life of a great company and of all its employees and families as if they were nothing.
See what happens with EC and the Portuguese agriculture....
But a light has been spotted, in the dark tunnel of
the search of Portuguese Timex technology. A Portuguese electronics area company has
bought what remains of Timex of Portugal. All the remains are in a warehouse somewhere in
Alverca near Gdog G in Portugal. Now I'm trying to speak with the owner of
this company to let me see and search in the remains for anything that I can save from the
If our understanding is correct, the TC2048 is the only computer ever built in Portugal.
Just to give an idea, TMX Portugal Computer sold only to Poland 200.000 FDD3000 units and about 700.000 Timex Computers. Like Unipolbrit made to the FDD/FDD3000, they done the same with TC2068, Unipolbrit modified the TC2068 and made the Unipolbrit Komputer 2086.
Johnny Red, Portugal
2068 is returning to U.S.
When Bob Dyl of the English Micro Connection contacted Timex of Portugal to see if he could obtain supplys of their new floppy disk system and 2068 "silver avenger" computer (as so nick-named by the British computer press), both of witch had been sold in England for several month, he learned of some very suprising news. António Gomez, the Managing Director of Timex of Portugal told Bob that they were in the process of bringing the 2068 and the disk system to the United States themselves. In fact samples of each were currently in the hands of the FCC for approval. At this writing to Gomez, is in Waterbury, Conn. at the Timex Corp. headquarters (which Timex Portugal is using for their temporary base) to finish up last minute paperwork, including signning the FCC certification release papers.
This certainly is a strange situation. A tImex paradox of sorts. Just a little over a year ago the Timex Corp. killed the 2068 in spite of strong support by both consumers and the computer press. And now, here is their Portugal counterpart bringing back almost the same computer to the American market. It isn't quite known exactly what Timex (U.S.) role in Portugal is and what are the controlling interests. It is known however, that both Portugal and the U.S. owned Sinclair technology rights, and when Timex U.S. dropped out, Portugal continued to use and produce that technology.
Antonio Gomez told Bob Dyl that if everything goes as planned, they should start shipping units by the end of May. As far as what marketing strategies are going to be used, and who will sell the computers and drives... the details are sketchy. Most os the Sinclair vendors that still exist here, have expressed interest.
The old Timex/Sinclair 2068 that we are familiar with has maintained its silver case and keyboard, but has been retitled simply the "Timex 2068".
It's main circuit board has been a complete redesign, but has maintained the two ROM system, the sound chip and the joystick ports. It now operates on nine volts instead of fifteen in the original model. In the cartridge port is a plug-in type Spectrum emulator board, and the rear connector has been reconfigurated to be the same as that of a Spectrum. So basically, what you have is a Spectrum in 2068 clothes, with some of the subtle advantages of the 2068 remaining intact.
A nice addition to the Timex 2068 is it's accompanying disk drive system called the "Timex FDD". It is a four piece package with a power supply, interface, controller board and a 3" Hitachi drive. The disk operating system is called TOS. A CP/M board may be released a little later. Portugal is also planning to market the disk drive system for the U.S. TS2068 also, with a suitable interface for that computer.
Retail pricing for the 2068 and FDD has not been set as of yet, and Gomez told Bob Dyl that they were going to increase the prices from which they first estimated.
Reaction has been mixed to this major announcement by Timex. Criticism ans skepticsm has been voiced by those who still bear the scars from when Timex left the computer market a short while ago. Some disappointment has been expressed as to the incompatibility with existing hardware that has been developed over the past year for the old 2068. But the excitement is spreading for the most part, as Sinclair users in general here in the U.S. can expect to see much on it's way as far as support for the 2068/Spectrum is concerned.
Quite a bit of software and hardware will no doubt be heading this way from major English companies.
Timex Designs Magazine would like to express thanks ans appreciation to Bob Dl of the English Micro Connection, for releasing this information to the American Timex and sinclair users.
Extracted from Time Designs
Magazine Vol. 1, No. 4 (May/June 1985), page 6.
Supplyed by Jack Boatwright. Thanks again Jack.
Timex Portugal Coming to American
New "Timex 2068" and Disc Drive to Lead the Way
In an exclusive interview with the managinig Director of Timex Portugal, Bob Dyl of English Micro Connection has ascertained that the Portuguese division of Timex, which is independent of the American division, plans to enter the American market with a modified version of the 2068 along with a disc drive.
Antonio Gomez told Dyl in a recent transatlantic phone conversation of 1 1/2 hours that the new version of the 2068 combines features of both the older 2068 and the Sinclair Spectrum. Retained from the 2068 is the keyboard, ROM, joystick ports, sound, and cartridge port. Changes include a Spectrum rear connector, a Spectrum cartridge ROM plug-in unit, & a 9 volt power supply instead of 15 volts as on the older 2068. The new name will be the "Timex 2068" instead of the older "Timex Sinclair 2068".
In addiction to the computer, a 3" Hitachi disk drive system with interface is also ready with two different interfaces available. One interface plugs into Spectrum and the new Timex 2068 and provides 400 kilobytes of storage. The other interface shows that Portugal has not ignored those of us that already have the TS2068 - it will plug into the American Version. It is not clear whether the American version will need a Spectrum ROM or emulator in order to work. Units of both the computer and disk drive are at the FCC now.
Our thanks to Bob Dyl of English Micro Connection for sharing this information
Extracted from SUM - the Sinclair/Timex Users Magazine, Volume III Number 4, April 1985.
Timex in Poland
When 8-bit computers were the most popular machines, the most popular in Poland were the Atari 800XL, Atari 65XE, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. The Spectrum was small, but not as expensive as the others. The first Spectrum machines were imported to Poland by individual people. At the time it was impossible to buy a "normal" computer in the shops - communism made it possible to buy only polish computers like the Elwro 800 Junior, Meritum, Meritum II and a few others. Prior to 1989 Polish shops imported many Timex Computer 2048 machines. There were many TC2048s, Spectrums and Polish interfaces for these computers. The same shops (named Skladnica Harcerska) imported many FDD-3000 floppy drives from TMX Portugal. This was the most popular disk drive for the Spectrum computer in Poland. At first there was only one model, the FDD-3000 - the Timex-made disk system with 1 or 2 drives. There were two versions - with small and with wide circuits (mainboard). The wide circuit model had a built-in parallel port with a 25 pin sub-D plug. Later, the Polish firm Polbrit produced a clone called the FDD3 with only 1 drive, smaller RAM (only enough for the system) and without much of the equipment (like the built-in parallel port that was present in the original Timex FDD-3000).
A very good Polish magazine, Bajtek, had many
articles about the FDD-3000 such as:
- using CP/M
- using RS232 ports and transmission of data between two FDD's
- building a parallel port in the FDD-3000 and how to use it under CP/M
- reading/writing disks
- using the FDD's 64k RAM
Thanks to Bajtek articles, many FDD-3000 users mounted 5.25" and 3.5" drives in their systems.
The TC2068 wasn't unknown in Poland at all, it was offered by PZ Polbrit International as "Unipolbrit Komputer 2086". This computer was a little diferent of TC2068, they replaced one of the joysticks port by a centronics printer output port. So they mounted a 8255 inside and repleaced right hand joystick slot with DB15 male slot connected to 8255.
Summary - in Poland the following was popular:
- original Spectrum 16/48/+
- original Timex TC2048 computer (and any other TC models)
- FDD-3000 (Timex)
- FDD3 (Polbrit) Timex compatible
In Poland CP/M wan't very popular.
Timex in Argentina
The first 2068 computer in Argentina was the TS
with NTSC system, but some years later the TC 2068 comes with PAL system (here the
official TV Standard is PAL) and the ZX Spectrum Emulator Cartdrige (both, the TC and the
Cart was made in Portugal... I remember the label in the bottom of the unit...)
More about Timex in Argentina in a sec.
If you know some thing about Timex Computer Corp
that is badly explain in here or isn't in here, please send me an email.
If you don't want to see it publish, I garantee you that I will not publish it.
Johnny Red, Portugal
Timex Computer World
This page was updated at 04-07-2001