|Hersteller||Data Cash Systems / Staid Inc.|
|Prozessor||F8 (Fairchild 3850)|
|ROM||4 KB ?|
|Programmierer||David B Goodrich & Associates|
|Verwandt||Novag Chess Champion Mk I, JS&A Computer Chess|
|Zugeingabe||16 key Keypad|
|Display||4 x 7-segment LEDs|
|Stromversorgung||12V DC 0.1A integral power supply|
|Maße||19.0 x 12.0 x 4.3 / no chessboard or pieces|
The Loser: In the race to be the first chess computer on sale, and in the law courts.
In 1976 CompuChess was in the development stage at the same time as Fidelity's Chess Challenger. There was a chance that CompuChess would be the first dedicated chess computer to go on sale. However it took much longer to develop the program and then to manufacture the chess computer. So Chess Challenger appeared in the shops in Spring 1977, and CompuChess not until the Autumn. Insult was then added to injury when another manufacture copied the Compuchess program without permission and and used it in their own chess computer. United States copyright law proved to be of no assistance and the CompuChess manufacturers lost that battle too.
In August 1976 the first ROM cartridge-based video game console was released for public sale. The new ROM chips (EPROMS) had opened up the possibility for many new consumer products. As people used to say at the time "applications using this new technology are limited only by the imagination". Some people's imagination turned to developing a marketable chess computer.
First in line was Sid Samole. How he came to develop the Chess Challenger is well described in an article by Lev Alburt and Al Lawrence called "How About A Nice Game Of Chess? - Any Time" which you can find at [ChessCafe.com]. Sid Samole was first to the market with a chess computer and his Fidelity company were very successful throughout the 1980s.
The Chess Computer
Data Cash Systems Incorporated also started to develop a chess computer in mid 1976. They hired independant consultants, D. B. Goodrich & Associates of Largo, Florida, for the design and development of the chess program.
It is not known who the actual chess programmer was. Possibly David Goodrich himself? Suggestions that it was Peter Jennings are unlikely. In interviews Peter Jennings has never mentioned any involvement with CompuChess, prior to programming the Commordore Chessmate. His Microchess program was written for a 6502 based microcomputer and ported to a 8080 based microcomputer in 1977. The CompuChess has a Fairchild 3850 processor with a different architecture. The other early chess computer based on a Fairchild 3850 is Boris, which is now known to have been programmed by David Lindsey. Mike Johnson is another chess programmer known for his Fairchild chip programs. Anyway the CompuChess program was named the "Chess One-Move Calculation" program and should go down as the work of Goodrich, at least for now.
Development of the chess program took from September 1976 to April 1977. Whilst manufactured by Data Cash Systems Inc. the CompuChess was marketed by a company called Staid Inc., also of Largo, Florida. Available from November 1977 it sold over 2,500 units to the end of the year. It's success resulted in the development of a Second Edition Compuchess.
The Court Case
In June 1978 the manufacturers of the CompuChess ROM informed Data Cash Systems that they were producing a ROM for a company in Hong Kong which testing had shown to be identical to the CompuChess ROM. The new chess computer was being manufactured by Novag Industries, and their distributors in the USA were JS&A. Data Cash Systems were unsuccessful in stopping the manufacture and maketing of the JS&A Computer Chess, which was released for sale in late 1978. Shortly after a law suit was filed alleging copyright infringement and unfair competition.
Unfortunately for Data Cash Systems their belief that the ROM could not be copied led to their copyright not being adequately protected. So they lost their court case , and then their appeal. The case has some importance in the history of computer program copyright law in the USA and is therefore documented on the internet. [(Case notes)] [(Appeal notes)]
However the court case established beyond doubt that the program in the CompuChess is exactly the same as the programs in the JS&A Computer Chess and Novag Chess Champion MkI. As the computer processors are also the same the MkI and JS&A are clones of CompuChess. In tests the Compuchess played enough identical moves in similar time (always 5% slower) to show that the chess program in the CompuChess and JS&A are the same. The program is designed to chose randomly between moves of approximately equal value. The JS&A and Novag Chess Champion MkI lookalike, the Videomaster Chess Champion, marketed by Waddingtons in the UK is not a clone of CompuChess. It moves roughly twice as quickly and frequently selects different moves.
The Compuchess Components
These are the main components in the CompuChess shown in the pictures above:- Fairchild 3850PK - F8 CPU chip - date stamped 7744 Fairchild 3853PK - Static Memory Interface chip - date stamped 7804 NEC D2101AL-4 (x2) - Static RAM chips - 2 x (256 x 4 bits) CMCSI/Staid 32014-4950 - Program ROM (possibly 4 KB) - date stamped 7749