Thursday 21 June 2018

Science of Cambridge MK14 (1978)

Science of Cambridge MK14
Launched June 1978

Before the Sinclair ZX80 – and before Sinclair even was Sinclair – came the Science of Cambridge MK14. A low-cost kit computer, the MK14 was similar to the successful MOS KIM-1 and a number of other kits launched in the late 1970s.

Instead of going with the 6502 or Z80, Clive Sinclair’s firm instead decided to go with the esoteric National Semiconductor SC/MP INS8060 CPU. This 8-bit CPU never really became popular, except for finding a niche in embedded systems of the era. The MK14 had just 256 bytes of RAM, expandable to 2170 bytes. Input was a 20 key keypad, and output was via a calculator-style display although it was possible to output basic text and graphics to a VDU. The architecture of the MK14 also allowed easy modification and the addition of peripherals such as a cassette interface.

Even for four decades ago, the MK14 was very basic. But at just £30 (equivalent to around £240 today) it was also very cheap – much cheaper than anything similar on the market. Science of Cambridge went on to sell tens of thousands of these, providing enough money for Clive Sinclair to launch the ZX80 a couple of years later. But it also provided a launch pad for the career of Chris Curry, who went on to become one of the founders of Acorn Computers  who eventually went on to change the world.

Despite selling in the thousands, MK14s are rare today and one in working condition might set you back £800 or so. Alternatively you can play with a MK14 emulator for free.

Image credit: Alessandro Grussu via Flickr

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