Canon USA (Lake Success, N.Y.)

Although no longer a force as a computer manufacturer, Canon was a significant player in the early and mid-1980s in both Asia and North America. One of the earliest systems sold overseas was the CX-1 desktop with an all-in-one design. It did not sell well, perhaps because it used the proprietary MCX operating system.

The BX-3, introduced at about the same time, also used MCX. It had an all-in-one design as well, but with small LED display and built-in printer. A controller card for an external monitor was available as an option.

Reader Rich adds this on the CX-1 and BX series:

“March 28, 2010 at 3:37 pm: I worked for a Canon reseller in the 1980’s. I actually owned a CX-1 up until a fire in 2008 that destroyed the documentation and media for it. Water got the machine itself.

Some of the neat things the CX-1/BX-3 had going for it were locking floppies. If you opened a file on the disk a solenoid would engage a lock so you could not open the door and remove the disk. We resold a few systems with an accounting program and this locking method worked well to prevent accidental swaps before the data was ready.

The CX-1 and AS-100 computers needed pre-formatted floppies from Canon. They were about twice the price of blanks. They had an extra sector on each track, nine sectors instead of eight as on the PC, but I hacked the PC format program to write that extra sector and those floppies worked just fine. They worked fine in spite of the preformatted Canon floppies having staggered sector numbers within a track wheras the PC sectors were numbered sequentially. The lock was a software-enabled latch on the floppy door.

If I remember correctly these were 640K drives. The disks had a proprietary format that you had to buy from Canon. The machine would format the disk, but it needed to see something specific on it before it started. In later years I used some PC diskcopy software to make the base disks that the machine could format.

Canon had earlier series of machines that were a combination of calculator/computer. Their SX-300 series had integrated a keyboard, thermal printer and mass storage unit. The ones I worked with had mag cards, I think the other model had a small tape. These were earlier and larger than the HP-85 mentioned in the article.

They had older units going back to the early seventies that were desktop calculators with memory, and the earliest had physical wire wrap programming. Those were sold as specialty function machines.

Before the CX-1/BX-3 they had an AX-1/BX-1. These were again all in one units that had a 20 (I think maybe 24) character fluorescent dot matrix display, and 80 column thermal printer, a 64K floppy drive and a keyboard. The AX-1 used calculator commands similar to the SX series and the BX was BASIC. Other than firmware they were identical.

The units were 6800 1 MHz and were programmed using keywords defined on the keyboard. These keywords were stored as tokens rather than ASCII. I learned 6800 hand assembly on an AX-1. I wrote a tokenized assembler for it that I used for a college project.

Back to the CX. MCX (Media for Canon X series) was very similar at the command prompt to CPM. But being 6809 based was not compatible so the software library was not available. The Canon BASIC that came with was very powerful and was ported to the MS-DOS machines. It did not do graphics. The CX-1 supposedly was upgradeable to graphics, but that was never released in the US. A light pen interface was there but I never saw one.

Near the end the released a video editor called VED and the had a text formatting program called CROFF. Wordstar in CPM was becoming a bigger player and it was too late for this series to start any kind of new trend.

The AS-100 was neat and had a separate keyboard, high res graphics for the day. You could run CPM/86 which supported the Canon Basic or you could run MS-DOS which support GWBasic. This was the first machine I used with a hard drive, a whopping 10 MB. The first units I had were dual 8″ 1.2 MB drives.

The Athena (A200) was the first PC compatible and the last Canon I worked with. It had an issue with the ISA slot in that one of the signals having to do with DMA wasn’t available. 3Com network cards didn’t work. We figured out a simple jumper fixed it.”


Faring better was the AS-100. Glance quickly at it and you might mistake the AS-100 for a microwave oven. Canon later upgraded the base memory for the AS-100 to 128K and bundled a suite of popular application software. Although the AS-100 ran MS-DOS, its PC compatibility was limited. Canon’s AS-200 was more of a true PC Compatible. Canon introduced the A-200EX, a PC AT-compatible, in late 1986. Its value is similar to original AS-200. An AC-power-only A-200TP portable had an odd design where the LCD screen folded back on the top of the unit.

The TX-50 appeared between the introductions of the AS-100 and AS-200. It had an all-in-one design–unusual for a PC compatible–reminiscent of the Hewlett-Packard HP 85 and HP 86. Its 3-inch floppy limits what PC software can be used with the system. A TX-25 model was also available. Advertised as a “portable desktop,” the TX-25 was part calculator and part microcomputer. Its display was a 20-character LED, but it had a typewriter-style keyboard, a proprietary 4-inch disk cartridge, and telecommunications capability.

Canon produced a number of MSX systems, which apparently were not sold in North America. They range from the tiny V-8 introduced around 1983 to the V-25 MSX-2 computer. In between were the V-10/V-20, which came with either black or white cases.

The system that Canon is best known for among collectors is the Cat. Jef Raskin designed the Canon Cat, and that’s significant because he also led the original development team for the Apple Macintosh. He left before the Mac was completed to found his own company, Information Appliance, where he built a prototype of what was to be the Cat. Canon liked it and built the Cat under license. Unlike the Mac, the Cat is text-based and lacks a mouse. However, its approach to data storage and retrieval was innovative. The data appears in one long stream of text with page breaks between individual documents. A Leap function lets you search for particular items. This scheme wasn’t for everyone, but the Cat had a dedicated group of devotees. Canon built an estimated 20,000 Cats.

The company’s X-07 notebook was similar in configuration but smaller than the Tandy Model 100. It was expandable through credit-card-size plug-in cards.

Reader Rich adds this


Canon CX-1 (1981, desktop)
Original Retail Price: $4,995
Base Configuration: 6809 CPU, MCX, 32K RAM (128K max), two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives, integral 12-inch monochrome CRT and keyboard/keypad, RS-232C and parallel ports, CX-1 BASIC
Video: 24-line x 80-column text
Size/Weight: 20.9 x 25.2 x 13 inches, 55 lbs.
Important Options: external dual 8-inch floppy disk drives, dot-matrix or thermal printer

Canon BX-3 (1981, desktop)
Base Configuration: 6809 CPU; MCX; 32K RAM (96K max); two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives; integral 28-character LED display and keyboard/keypad; RS-232C, parallel, and GP-IB ports; BX-3 BASIC; integral printer
Size/Weight: 20.9 x 25.2 x 9 inches, 55 lbs.
Important Options: external dual 5.25- or 8-inch floppy disk drives, CRT control board

Canon AS-100 (1982, desktop PC)
Base Configuration: 4MHz 8088 CPU, MS-DOS or CP/M-86, 64K RAM (512K max), integral 12-inch monochrome CRT, keyboard/keypad, RS-232 and parallel ports, Canon BASIC, GW-BASIC, utilities disk
Video: 640 x 400 graphics
Size/Weight: 15.75 x 13.5 x 16.87 inches, 43 lbs.
Important Options: dual 8- or 5.25-inch floppy disk drives, 8MB hard disk drive, integral 12-inch color CRT, A-1201 or A-1200 printer

Canon A-200 Series (1985, desktop PC)
Original Retail Price: $2,195 to $2,695
Base Configuration: 7.16MHz 8086 CPU, MS-DOS 2.11, five ISA slots, 256K RAM (640K max), 16K ROM, two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives, monochrome monitor, keyboard/keypad, RS-232C and parallel ports, GW-BASIC
Video: 25-line x 80-column text, 640 x 200 graphics
Size/Weight: 17.37 x 15.62 x 5.5 inches, 25 lbs.
Important Options: 10- or 20MB hard disk drive, color monitor

Canon A-200TP (1985, transportable PC)
Base Configuration: 4.77MHz 80C88 CPU, MS-DOS 2.0, external expansion slot, 256K RAM (640K max), 8K ROM, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, composite video port, monochrome LCD, integral keyboard/keypad, RS-232C and parallel ports, GW-BASIC, modem
Video: 640 x 200 graphics
Size/Weight: 17.75 x 5.37 x 15.5 inches, 19.8 lbs.
Important Options: expansion box, 10MB hard disk drive, carrying case

Canon TX-50 (1984, desktop PC)
Base Configuration: MS-DOS, 128K RAM (256K max), 3-inch floppy disk drive, integral 7-inch monochrome CRT, integral keyboard/keypad, integral printer
Important Options: RS-232C and parallel interfaces

Canon V-8 (MSX home computer)
Base Configuration: Z80A CPU, 16K RAM, integral keyboard, Microsoft Extended BASIC, three-voice sound
Video: 24-line x 40-column text, 256 x 192 graphics, 16 colors

Canon V-10/V-20 (1984, MSX home computer)
Original Retail Price: $225 (V-10)/$270 (V-20)
Base Configuration: Z80 CPU, two ROM cartridge slots, 16K RAM (V-10)/64K RAM (V-20), composite video port, integral keyboard, parallel port, eight-octave sound
Video: 24-line x 40-column text, 256 x 192 graphics

Canon Cat (1987, desktop)
Original Retail Price: $1,495
Base Configuration: 5MHz 68000 CPU, 256K RAM, 3.5-inch floppy disk drive, integral 9-inch monochrome CRT, integral keyboard, RS-232C and parallel ports, word processor in ROM, FORTH, internal modem
Size/Weight: 10.75 x 13.2 x 17.75 inches, 17 lbs.
Important Options: printer

Canon X-07 (1983, notebook)
Base Configuration: NSC-800 CPU; expansion and cartridge slots; 8K RAM; 20K ROM; monochrome LCD; integral Chiclet-style keyboard; serial, parallel, and cassette ports
Video: 4-line x 20-column text, 120 x 32 graphics
Size/Weight: 7.8 x 5.1 x 1 inches, 2 lbs.


  1. […] From : […]

  2. jose gonzalez velazquez · · Reply

    tengo un as-100 completo con impresora y discos fuente

  3. jose gonzalez velazquez · · Reply

    tengo un as-100 completo con impresora y discos fuente funcionando perfectamente

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