Exidy Sorcerer: The 8-Track Computer
By James Grahame
The Zilog Z-80 powered Sorcerer was built by arcade game maker Exidy. The machine was unremarkable, except for one thing -- it was the first home computer with a ROM cartridge port for instant program access (most home users struggled with slow, error-prone cassette tape storage in the late 1970s).
The designers cleverly re-purposed 8-track tape shells to hold the ROM cartridge circuit board and a Microsoft BASIC cartridge was included with every unit.
The January, 1979 issue of Creative Computing reported, "The real grabber was what appeared to be an 8-track tape cartridge plugged into the side of the machine. As the salesman was quick to point out, the cartridge didn't contain tape - it held the BASIC language in read-only memory (ROM). And, in the future, other languages and utility programs would become available in the same format, so that they could be instantly swapped with the BASIC, simply by unplugging one cartridge and plugging in a new language. This feature, combined with a really extensive keyboard providing instant access to graphics as well as alphanumeric characters, led me to fall instantly in love with the Sorcerer Computer."
The base Sorcerer retailed for $895 with 8K RAM (expandable to 32K) and an expansion chassis was available to allow the use of S-100 expansion boards. The machine ran the CP/M operating system, which was extremely popular with hardcore hobbyists and business users. It generated a 64 x 30 character monochrome display with a fairly impressive 512×240 graphic mode.
Exidy walked away from the home computer market in 1980, unable to compete with machines like the Apple II, which offered color graphics and built-in expansion (including a remarkably affordable floppy drive controller designed by Steve Wozniak).
The Sorcerer and other classics are featured in Maximum PC's Dawn of the Personal Computer: From Altair to the IBM PC