Memories of an Imagination Machine Owner
In August 1999, I received an email from Ron Stalma, a visitor who
happened across my web page. In his email, Ron recounted his own
experiences with owning an APF Imagination Machine. It was an interesting
read, so I asked if I could place it up here on the web page. Enjoy!

"Reflections Of My Imagination (Machine)" by Ron Stalma
   Back when Atari was King, in the pre-dawn days of the C-64,
my imagination soared, as did the imagination of many other
want-to-be hackers.  I originally bought my M-1000 game console
in the fall of 1981, because it was cheaper than the Atari 2600.
If I remember correctly, the Atari 2600 was selling for around
$130.00 - $150.00.  I paid close to $90.00 for my M-1000 game
unit from the JC Penny Catalog, and chose it over the Atari
because it was cheaper, and it could later be expanded into a
full-fledged computer.  To this day, my wife would probably
still enjoy a game of Catena -- it was her favorite.
   One day back in 1982, I got bored (of course) with the basic
M-1000 game unit, and I called APF to see if I could purchase
the computer console that would turn it into a real computer.
They quoted me a price of around $300.00, and I decided that
I was going to save my pennies and turn into a real hacker.
   Well as it turned out, I called APF again about four months later,
and hit the jackpot!  APF was going bankrupt, and the whole warehouse
was up for sale really cheap.  I bought the computer console for
$50.00, and also bought 12 game cartridges, a few cassette programs,
the "building block", a serial printer interface (which plugged into
the building block), and yes, even a technical manual, complete with
schematic diagrams.  I also wanted a disk drive, but back then, I
didn't realize what one even was, or the benefits of having one, so
I didn't buy one.  Altogether, I think I spent around $150.00.
   The tech manual was well-written, and I soon figured out the APF's
innards.  I wondered why they originally charged so much for the
computer-console portion, as the M-1000 game unit was really the heart
everything -- it contained the CPU, ROM, 1K RAM, and Video.  The computer
console contained the extra 8K RAM, keyboard, cassette, and associated
hardware.  When you plugged in the slot connector to both the game unit
and computer console, you were actually connecting the CPU BUS in the
game unit to the BUS in the console.  My guess is that originally,
that 8K of RAM in the console was expensive, and it kept the price of
the console high.
   APF also gave me the address for a nationwide users group that
published a newsletter and exchanged ideas and programs with each
other.  I learned to program in BASIC and machine language on my
Imagination Machine, and soon, I was creating my own (lame) games,
using machine-language routines for speed, called up from within a
BASIC program.  I remember that it was easy to program in either
BASIC or machine language.  When I made the jump to a C-64, the ML
programming was harder, but then the C-64 was a more sophisticated
piece of equipment than the APF was.
   My thirst for more memory was quenched when someone submitted an
article to the newsletter about adding more RAM.  The APF's designers
had looked ahead to future upgrades when they designed the computer,
and they incorporated bank-switching into the original hardware.  If
the extra RAM was present, the computer could use it with an added
logic circuit to switch in the extra memory (8 expensive 16K RAM chips).
Soon, I had my MP-1000 running with 24k RAM!!  I also bought a
Gorilla Banana dot-matrix printer from Protecto, and had it running
from the serial port.  I used a word processor that was written by one
of the newsletter group's members.
   Well anyway, along came the Commodore 64 (I still have the C-64),
and in 1984, the M-1000 went into the closet after I fired up my new
C-64 with Super Zaxxon.  I do remember reading an article in an old
computer magazine (Byte) that the C-64 and the Imagination Machine
were in competition with each other.  The C-64 put the death blow to
the Imagination Machine with its superior graphics and sound.  I do
wish that I would have kept my Imagination Machine though... it would
have been a nice piece of computer history.  Instead, I gave it to a
friend, whose son was going to use it for word processing.  Well, they
really didn't appreciate the old computer, and when I got it back some
years later, it was broken, the cassettes were used to record music,
the case was cracked, the joysticks were broken, and nothing would
load.  So it went to the trash.  Too bad!  I had a lot of fun with
it.  Though the game unit itself could not compare to the Atari,
the keyboard console more than made up for it!
   All in all, the Imagination Machine was a novel idea.  It just came
to market too late to compete in the computer arena.  I often thought
about collecting old computers, but really don't have the room... so I
guess I'll just stick with my old transistor radio collection!
Ron Stalma
(whose transistor radio collection can be seen at):

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