MSI/88 detective work [long, with links at bottom]
- I've been doing some detective work, and I've found a bit more
information on the MSI/88 and related devices. It seems they were part
of MSI's "Omega" series of data collectors. They were all designed to
read MSI, UPC, and EAN barcodes. The most exciting thing I've found is
at least some MSI gear was programmed in Forth. The third link below
has a very intriguing mention of "high level" programming in Forth.
Could be we've got a Forth engine in them thar ROMs, folks!
I've found references in COMPUTERWOCHE.de ("Computer Week" in German)
from 1975 to 1981 for an MSI/2100, MSI/66, MSI/77, MSI/88, and a
slave(?) station MSI/3040, apparently with an acoustically coupled
modem of some sort (300/1200 Baud). The MSI/2100 came first, followed
by MSI/77 and MSI/88, and the MSI/66 (with a maximum of 8K memory) came
The 88 seems to have come in 24-, 32-, 40- and 48-K memory models. Its
memory could be divided into up to nine segments of differing sizes,
with an "accumulator" assigned each segment. The memory segments were
individually addressable and callable. My rusty German, with lots of
help from Google's manglish translations, leads me to speculate these
segments were either for separate users sharing the same scanner, or,
just maybe, for different application programs the user could switch
I've also found MSI produced an MSI/85 portable data collector sometime
around 1984. The MSI/85 had a liquid crystal display, weighed 0.5 kg,
measured 15 x 9 x 4 cm, and had a 55-key alphanumeric keyboard. It was
fully programmable using MSI's "AUTOGEN" software, which was available
on a plug-in ROM. This software was used to create customized prompts
for data entry and time and date stamping. The software also performed
some data checking, such as range and field length.
The first three links below give a summary of the specs of the various
products. The fourth link is a market-wonkish analysis of the portable
data collection device market, but it has some interesting and useful
history. MSI Data Corporation of Cost Mesa, CA began in 1967 as
Marketing Systems, Inc. Its first "portable" data collection product
was the MSI/100, a wheeled cart that carried an electromechanical
adding machine and a cassette tape for data memory. A car battery
powered this baby -- the MSI/100 weighed over 130 pounds.
Apparently on the strength of their success with the MSI/100, MSI went
on to discover the wonders of CMOS, and in 1975 they introduced the
MSI/2100, which was a battery-powered electronic version of the 100,
again with cassette tape data storage. Though the year doesn't
preclude it being an 1802 design, it may have been a discrete logic
design (it is also possible they could also have used the two-chip
1801, predecessor of the 1802). The google translation merely says it
uses a "control unit on-a-chip" and a ROM.
In 1977 they introduced the MSI/77. Again, it's not clear to me
whether the 77 used an 1802 or discrete logic. Some kind of new
barcode system, perhaps an early version of the MSI/88 came in 1978.
The article makes a big fuss about the years 1978-79 and the MSI/88
being the first to have a "fixed" program and user programmability.
That's what leads me to question whether the 2100 and 77 would have
used the 1802. A little more digging is in order here.
The MSI/66 came in 1980. The stated battery life for the Omega series
was three to five months in normal use.
These are the links (paste 'em back together if any of the URLs break
on the lines:
Here's one of MSI's patents with logic diagrams and drawings for I
would guess is the MSI/3040. Figure 3 shows an MSI/77 plugged into the
larger unit; it is clearly related to thh MSI/88:
Here's an article on using the MSI/85 and a Radio Shack Model 100 for
I also found some info on the barcodes that these readers handled here:
That's all for now. I haven't even started on the resumes of folks who
worked at MSI in the '80s...
- Bobby Nansel and Shoshana Kaminsky wrote:
> I've been doing some detective work, and I've found a bit moreWow! Cool stuff!
> information on the MSI/88 and related devices.
If the MSI/88 is programmed in Forth, that won't necessarily help use it
for other applications. Forth is (sort of) a compiled language. The
programmer would have started with the complete Forth system, added the
new words needed for his application, and then *deleted* the words his
application didn't use (to save memory). The result is "target compiled"
into a compact form to fit in the product's memory. There would be
nothing left of the normal Forth editor, assembler, compiler, vocabulary
management, and operating system.
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has!" -- Margaret Mead
Lee A. Hart 814 8th Ave N Sartell MN 56377 leeahart_at_earthlink.net