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Franklin CX luggable

agentb

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
180
Location
Philly (USA)
Thought I'd share some pics of this Franklin CX I picked up today. This was a luggable that Franklin was working on as they entered bankruptcy and was never released. I bought it from a guy that used to be a tech at Franklin. I believe it was in the attic the past 35 years. He said ACE stood for "Apple Copy Exactly" hah.

There are 3 cards:
  • serial/parallel card that connects to ports on the back of the computer (2 RS232, 1 parallel)
  • 80-column card (output runs to the internal monitor)
  • ACE 80 (Z80) card for CP/M
Overall looks in pretty good shape. I tried firing it up, got a beep, floppy looks to be spinning, display has some garbled text that is scrolling horizontally. So monitor probably needs some work. There's an RCA video jack on the back which would be good to try but I don't have a composite monitor or old TV. Pretty interesting machine that I hope to be able to get working.

I bet BobApplegate knows a thing or two about this machine! Came with no software unfortunately. Looks like there was a "CX Master Diskette" (c) 1984 that I could use a copy of:
https://warker.com/2008/04/23/franklin-cx-computer/
 

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vwestlife

Veteran Member
Joined
May 2, 2008
Messages
5,122
Location
central NJ
The monitor should have an internal horizontal hold control that you can adjust to get the image back into sync.
 

agentb

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
180
Location
Philly (USA)
Well, tried again tonight and monitor felt like working, received a "FCC MON V5.7" greeting. Drive 1 is spinning away. Hopefully if I had a floppy to test, it might actually try to load something. That or there's some funky test EPROMs in this machine that might prevent it from working correctly.
 

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agentb

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
180
Location
Philly (USA)
I'm guessing FCC MON is Franklin Computer Corporation Monitor ROM. I was initially thinking the other FCC ... as in getting this thing certified by the FCC for release, hah
 

agentb

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
180
Location
Philly (USA)
I really should have picked up his Franklin ACE 100 too, it was a low serial number with an interesting silver edged motherboard I haven't seen before. But didn't have enough cash and already felt like I'd spent enough on the CX. He also had 4 cool marketing photos from Franklin manufacturing mounted on posterboard - one was a photo of the Franklin ACE 100, one was power supply assembly line, another was workers on the test or assembly line, pretty neat stuff.
 

agentb

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
180
Location
Philly (USA)
FYI, the ACE 100 hadn’t sold so he dropped the price to $200.

The FCC MON greeting on the CX I believe is the soft-boot feature where it’s looking to load the ROM image from the floppy drive and then boot BASIC from RAM. I saw a RL MON prompt in this Red Lightning prototype:
https://youtu.be/73getkydPpI
 

BobApplegate

Experienced Member
Joined
Feb 23, 2004
Messages
116
Location
Medford, NJ
Any Apple ][ or Franklin boot disk will probably work. I do not remember the CXes using the soft boot mechanism but could be wrong about that. I was working the Red Lightning project at the time and had little involvement with the CX machine.

BTW the CX was meant to have an option for two additional boards, one replacing the default disk controller, and another with an 8086 (maybe 8088, I do not remember which) and a "lot" of RAM (for that era). The alternate disk controller could read/write IBM PC format disks so the machine could boot and run Franklin DOS, CP/M or some 8088 DOS; can't remember if it was MS-DOS or CP/M-86. I think there was one set of those boards made, which I had in my collection, but gave to a prolific collector of Franklin equipment. They were just sitting in anti-static bags in my basement for almost 40 years. This board was called "The Eggebrecht Board" after Lewis Eggebrecht who was the architect of the IBM PC and was working at Franklin around 1983-1984.

The FCC Monitor might have the smarts to select between Apple and standard PC format disks at boot-up but it was definitely written in 6502 assembly language.

Bob
 

agentb

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
180
Location
Philly (USA)
Any Apple ][ or Franklin boot disk will probably work. I do not remember the CXes using the soft boot mechanism but could be wrong about that.

I tried a standard Apple II disk the other night but nothing happened. The drive light comes on as soon as the computer powers up and the drive keeps spinning. It never sounded like it was attempting to read anything off the drive, so could be an issue with the drive. Or potentially it's not trying to read / boot off the drive as it's just sitting at the FCC MON waiting for some sort of input. Not sure what else to try at this point.
 

agentb

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
180
Location
Philly (USA)
I blew in the drive, and figured I’d try again - sure enough booted right up! Keyboard doesn’t work but I’ll take it. The rightmost keys are somewhat depressed - I think the plastic case may be impeding them. And the RESET key doesn’t budge at all. Can’t push it down any further as it’s already seemingly fully depressed. This may be related to the keys having been compressed by the coiled cable while the keyboard was locked into the face of the machine for 35 years. I want to take the keyboard apart but it looks to be press fit and I’m concerned about breaking the plastic trying to separate the keyboard halves. The connector is a DIN-5. Not sure what the wiring is on it… Any suggestions welcome!
 

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eswan

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Joined
Aug 17, 2015
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Kansas City area, US
I blew in the drive, and figured I’d try again - sure enough booted right up! Keyboard doesn’t work but I’ll take it. The rightmost keys are somewhat depressed - I think the plastic case may be impeding them. And the RESET key doesn’t budge at all. Can’t push it down any further as it’s already seemingly fully depressed. This may be related to the keys having been compressed by the coiled cable while the keyboard was locked into the face of the machine for 35 years. I want to take the keyboard apart but it looks to be press fit and I’m concerned about breaking the plastic trying to separate the keyboard halves. The connector is a DIN-5. Not sure what the wiring is on it… Any suggestions welcome!

My IIe had a similar keyboard issue, it had somehow shifted to the side and the keys were hitting the housing, even the same stuck reset key. Easy to loosen and recenter on the IIe. Maybe a short drop on the left side of the keyboard?
 

agentb

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
180
Location
Philly (USA)
If it has a foam-and-foil keyboard then the foam pads under the keys will need to be replaced.

I was wondering about that -- seems like a good thing to investigate -- thanks for the suggestion. Now if I can just separate the keyboard halves safely...
 

agentb

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
180
Location
Philly (USA)
Maybe a short drop on the left side of the keyboard?
I tried some banging on it today but unable to shift the keyboard over. The two keyboard halves don’t quite fit properly into each other - sizing seems to be slightly off.

Any recommendations for separating the plastic halves? I need something like a plastic flat screwdriver. I can see where the 4 spots are where the plastic tabs likely are that keep the board together.
 
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