News • Science & Tech
1950s Sci-Fi Style Computers, Powered by a Z80, Built in Holland
Remembering the (very) funky Holborn computers of the early 1980s
May 02, 2024
post photo preview

Between 1980 and 1983, a little company in The Netherlands built the “Holborn” series of computers… which can best be described as “1950s sci-fi… powered by a Z80”.

Note: The “Holborn” name is to signify that these computers were “Born in Holland”.  Hol.  Born.

While the company only lasted for a few years — and they only produced a handful of models — their distinctive designs (for both their cases and their hardware & software choices) are worthy of being remembered.

Just to give you a good example… this is the Holborn 9100 (and connected terminals):

I mean. Wow! Just look at that monitor! That distinctive neck just screams “1950s futurism”… and I absolutely love it.

Ok. Let’s back up a moment.

The company was founded in Hengelo (a town in The Netherlands, near the German border). This is their first office space:

Pictured below are the founders of the company — Dick Gerdzen (left) and Hans Polak (right) — surrounded by a bunch of Holborn computers and terminals.

Now. The computers. Let’s tackle them in chronological order.

The Holborn 9100

The first computer from Holborn was the 9100 (and the accompanying 9120 terminal). Pictured on the left in the picture below.

Photo Courtesy: Hack42 Museum

Note that the 9100 computer portion (where the CPU, drives, etc. were contained) is the size of a mini-fridge or a low profile filing cabinet (with the 9120 terminal sitting on top).

Yeah. The big filing cabinet thing on the floor? That’s the primary computer unit.

The specs of this system were as follows:

  • Zilog Z80 CPU @ 3.5 MHz

  • 72 KB of RAM (expandable to 220 KB)

  • 8 inch floppy drives

Which brings us to the Operating System… it was 100% custom and in-house developed. The Holborn OS was a multi-user system, booted entirely from ROM, which allowed multiple Holborn 9120 terminals to connect to a single Holborn 9100 computer (“Server”).

One extra (and optional) feature of the 9100… it had a photosensitive light pen which could be used as a pointing device. Not a mouse, but a light pen.

What did the Holborn Operating System look like in practice? How did it work? How, exactly, did the light pen work with the included software?

Those are questions I’ve had for many years… yet, despite hunting high and low, have never found so much as a single picture showcasing the Holborn OS in any readable way. Due to the Holborn OS only being available in ROM on the 9100 itself… no known digital archival copy exists.

In the end, only roughly 200 Holborn 9100 units were sold. (Though that number is debated… more on that in a moment.)

The Holborn 7100

This was a simplified (and cheaper) version of the 9100. Instead of supporting a whole office worth of connected terminals (as with the 9100), the 7100 only supported two connected terminals (users) at once.

It looked like the 9100. Acted like the 9100. Just with… less.

It is unknown how well this model sold. It is assumed that it did not sell well.

The Holborn 6100

In 1982, the Holborn Computer company had to make some tough decisions.

Their Holborn OS (booted from ROM), was not proving popular. And the CP/M operating system (from Gary Kildall’s Digital Research in Pacific Grove, California) was rapidly gaining in popularity.

Luckily the architecture already in use by Holborn computers (the Z80) had a native version of CP/M.

Thus the lower priced, and smaller footprint, Holborn 6100 line was born. Same Z80 CPU, and now with a maximum 192 KB of RAM (slightly less than the 9100)… but, this time, booting the CP/M operating system off disk.

No more booting from ROM. No more in-house developed operating system.

This is the Holborn 6140 with the connected 6110 terminal. See? Much smaller than that gigantic 9100 mini-fridge. But still retained that fantastically interesting terminal design.

Here is a shot of the Holborn 6100’s screen, running CP/M.

Image courtesy Technisch museum

How many of these machines shipped? Reports put it somewhere in the ballpark of around 100.  Total.

Though the lack of information makes this fact difficult to confirm. Regardless, it was not exactly selling like hotcakes.

The Holborn 6500

The final computer designed by Holborn was the ill-fated 6500.

In the 6500, Holborn removed the keyboard from the terminal body (making it a detached keyboard), and filled the base of the terminal with the computer guts (thus eliminating the need for the separate computer housing used in earlier models). As shown in this advertisement for the “not yet released” 6500:

And here is a shot of the inside of the Holborn 6500, with the top of the case lifted up to show the internals.

Image courtesy: Inexhibit

Unfortunately Holborn Computers declared bankruptcy in April of 1983… before shipping the 6500.

The End of Holborn

And here is where things become increasingly sad for the company.

When Holborn went bankrupt, investigators determined that only 50 units were sold of the 9100 and 7100 combined. And that the company had over 3.5 million guilders in debt. (Guilders were the currency in use in The Netherlands prior to changing to the Euro. Some quick math tells us that 3.5 Million guilders would be roughly equal to $7 Million USD.)

Would the 6500 model have been enough to save the company? Who knows. Considering the poor sales up till then, and the relatively massive debt (when compared to sales), it seems unlikely.

But one thing is for certain… those are some seriously funky (and awesome) looking machines. So I’m sure glad they tried.

If you ever run across a Holborn, count yourself lucky.  These are some of the hardest computers to find nowadays. Considering that only a few hundred were ever sold, you aren’t likely to stumble across them at a flea market or eBay.

With that, I leave you with some pictures of Holborn computers in action.  Because they're just so darned cool looking.

community logo
Join the Lunduke Community
To read more articles like this, sign up and join my community today
What else you may like…
Mozilla Caves to Criticism, Unblocks Firefox Extensions in Russia

Two days after blocking anti-Censorship, pro-Privacy Firefox Extensions in Russia, Mozilla has reversed course.

The full article:

Open Source A.I. Definition to include Closed, Secret Data

The Open Source Initiative -- backed by Microsoft, Amazon, Meta -- is pushing for a "Closed" definition of "Open Source Artificial Intelligence."

Mozilla's War on the Open Internet

The Mega Corp behind Firefox takes another step to stomp out free speech and an "Open Web".

Mozilla Firefox blocks anti-Censorship and pro-Privacy extensions in Russia:

November 22, 2023
The futility of Ad-Blockers

Ads are filling the entirety of the Web -- websites, podcasts, YouTube videos, etc. -- at an increasing rate. Prices for those ad placements are plummeting. Consumers are desperate to use ad-blockers to make the web palatable. Google (and others) are desperate to break and block ad-blockers. All of which results in... more ads and lower pay for creators.

It's a fascinatingly annoying cycle. And there's only one viable way out of it.

Looking for the Podcast RSS feed or other links? Check here:

Give the gift of The Lunduke Journal:

The futility of Ad-Blockers
November 21, 2023
openSUSE says "No Lunduke allowed!"

Those in power with openSUSE make it clear they will not allow me anywhere near anything related to the openSUSE project. Ever. For any reason.

Well, that settles that, then! Guess I won't be contributing to openSUSE! 🤣

Looking for the Podcast RSS feed or other links?

Give the gift of The Lunduke Journal:

openSUSE says "No Lunduke allowed!"
September 13, 2023
"Andreas Kling creator of Serenity OS & Ladybird Web Browser" - Lunduke’s Big Tech Show - September 13th, 2023 - Ep 044

This episode is free for all to enjoy and share.

Be sure to subscribe here at to get all shows & articles (including interviews with other amazing nerds).

"Andreas Kling creator of Serenity OS & Ladybird Web Browser" - Lunduke’s Big Tech Show - September 13th, 2023 - Ep 044
Off to a fantastic start!

A huge high-five is in order for everyone who pitched in and grabbed a subscription (or otherwise donated) today!

I do believe we've put enough funds in the "This is For The Linux Distro" account to cover all of the obvious expenses (servers, hardware, domains, etc.) for at least the next half year or so. Most outstanding!

I'll be honest... I wasn't expecting this level of response!

I'll leave the sale running until midnight tonight if anyone else wants to jump in, but this is truly amazing. All of you rule.

Next up: Getting servers, domain, source repository, and forum set up.

8 hours ago

#Commodore #Wikipedia

Here's a demo of an in-development Wikipedia-specific online browser running on C64 OS, which is a commercial OS now available for Commodore 64s. Data speeds are hobbled a bit by a 2400 baud modem, but seems very functional with neat features like multiple-language support and flexible screen usage under user control. This offers a much richer experience compared to Minitel or early online services like GEnie back in the day.

6 hours ago

Several countries have seen the addictive nature of social media and are taking action.


post photo preview
Last week at The Lunduke Journal (June 9 - June 15, 2024)
Firefox! Russia! WWDC! Open Source A.I.!

My-oh-my.  Another wild week at The Lunduke Journal!  It all kicked off with a live video commentary of Apple's WWDC keynote (which was banned by YouTube, but still available at the links below), then quickly moves to Mozilla and Open Source AI.

The Videos

The Articles

Previous Few Weeks

Reminder: Check out The Lunduke Journal Link Central page for all the handy URLS.  Podcast RSS feeds, contact info, direct links to some of the big shows and articles and a bunch of other goodies.  And be sure to subscribe to The Lunduke Journal to help support the work... and make sure you don't miss out on anything.

Read full Article
post photo preview
The CIA, NSA, and Pokémon Go

Back in July of 2016, I wrote a short article for Network World entitled “The CIA, NSA, and Pokémon Go."

While the title was certainly viewed as a bit “over the top” and “conspiracy theorist-y”, it was really just a collection of (in my opinion, rather bizarre) facts that – even without any sinister connection – were worth documenting. I am republishing it here, with some additional (increasingly odd) details added at the end (including radio and TV appearances related to this article).

Some of the details relating to the exact permissions and capabilities of the Pokémon application have changed over the last few years… but everything else remains correct, factual, and up to date.



The CIA, NSA, and Pokémon Go

With Pokémon Go currently enjoying, what I would call, a wee-bit-o-success, now seems like a good time to talk about a few things people may not know about the world's favorite new smartphone game.

This is not an opinion piece. I am not going to tell you Pokémon Go is bad or that it invades your privacy. I’m merely presenting verifiable facts about the biggest, most talked about game out there.

Let’s start with a little history

Way back in 2001, Keyhole, Inc. was founded by John Hanke (who previously worked in a “foreign affairs” position within the U.S. government). The company was named after the old “eye-in-the-sky” military satellites. One of the key, early backers of Keyhole was a firm called In-Q-Tel.

In-Q-Tel is the venture capital firm of the CIA. Yes, the Central Intelligence Agency. Much of the funding purportedly came from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The NGA handles combat support for the U.S. Department of Defense and provides intelligence to the NSA and CIA, among others.

Keyhole’s noteworthy public product was “Earth.” Renamed to “Google Earth” after Google acquired Keyhole in 2004.

In 2010, Niantic Labs was founded (inside Google) by Keyhole’s founder, John Hanke.

Over the next few years, Niantic created two location-based apps/games. The first was Field Trip, a smartphone application where users walk around and find things. The second was Ingress, a sci-fi-themed game where players walk around and between locations in the real world.

In 2015, Niantic was spun off from Google and became its own company. Then Pokémon Go was developed and launched by Niantic. It’s a game where you walk around in the real world (between locations suggested by the service) while holding your smartphone.

Data the game can access

Let’s move on to what information Pokémon Go has access to, bearing the history of the company in mind as we do.

When you install Pokémon Go on an Android phone, you grant it the following access (not including the ability to make in-app purchases):


  • Find accounts on the device


  • Find accounts on the device


  • Precise location (GPS and network-based)

  • Approximate location (network-based)


  • Modify or delete the contents of your USB storage

  • Read the contents of your USB storage


  • Modify or delete the contents of your USB storage

  • Read the contents of your USB storage


  • Take pictures and videos


  • Receive data from the internet

  • Control vibration

  • Pair with Bluetooth devices

  • Access Bluetooth settings

  • Full network access

  • Use accounts on the device

  • View network connections

  • Prevent the device from sleeping

Based on the access to your device (and your information), coupled with the design of Pokémon Go, the game should have no problem discerning and storing the following information (just for a start):

  • Where you are

  • Where you were

  • What route you took between those locations

  • When you were at each location

  • How long it took you to get between them

  • What you are looking at right now

  • What you were looking at in the past

  • What you look like

  • What files you have on your device and the entire contents of those files

I’m not going to tell people what they should think of all this.

I’m merely presenting the information. I recommend looking over the list of what data the game has access to, then going back to the beginning of this article and re-reading the history of the company.

Update: April 14th, 2020

In March of 2017, a little less than a year after this article was originally published, WikiLeaks released what they called “Vault 7." A series of documents that was purported to be a large leak of CIA related documents focused heavily on hacking and electronic surveillance.

Among those documents was a list of code names, descriptions, and various details around Android specific exploits.

Of the code names listed… almost a third of them were Pokémon names. Between that and the CIA investment (via In-Q-Tel) in Niantic (the company behind Pokémon Go)… I mean, that's just a heck of a lot more Pokémon than one would expect from the CIA.

One other little tidbit:

The original CEO of In-Q-Tel was a man named Gilman Louie. Louie received multiple awards for his work with In-Q-Tel - including CIA Agency Seal Medallions, Director's Award by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Director of National Intelligence Medallion – which included investing in Keyhole.

Louie now sits on the board of directors of Niantic.

In 2019 alone, Pokémon Go earned $1.4 Billion (USD). As of February 2019, the game had been downloaded over One Billion times.

Update: June 15th, 2024

After this article was originally published, back in 2016, I made a few radio guest appearances to talk about it -- my favorites being for Coast to Coast AM and Fade to Black.  Both of which remain available online.

This was followed by an episode of a TV show, for The History Channel, called "Breaking Mysterious".  That show only received a limited run in the USA, but it remains available via streaming in many other countries in case you want to look it up.

Here's a few snapshots from that episode (Season 1, Episode 1 - "The Watchers") just for good measure.

The show was originally titled "The Unexplained".  But the name was changed to "Breaking Mysterious"... and, later, "The Unexplained" title was used for an entirely different show, hosted by William Shatner.


Yup.  The video editors for the History Channel spelled my name wrong.  (It's with a Y!  A Y, I say!)


Sitting in a park.  Dropping truth bombs about surveillance on the show host, Jimmy Church.


Giving the show's host "The Look".
Read full Article
post photo preview
Funny Programming Pictures Part XLIV
Father's Day Weekend Edition

I hit Ctrl-C 187,000 times while creating this article.


... or simply don't know what we did, but it works.  It's "the algorithm".


Remember when Windows Vista was the "Best Advertisement for Linux"?  Good times.


We're all doomed.


This is the correct answer for every topic for an experienced dev: I hate everything, for different reasons.




This is a tough conversation for any dad to have.


The other 1% is giving up and just using a Center tag inside of a Table.


The more times you hit Ctrl-C, the better it copies.




"Backend Developer"




Don't look behind you.  Copilot is catching up.
Read full Article
See More
Available on mobile and TV devices
google store google store app store app store
google store google store app tv store app tv store amazon store amazon store roku store roku store
Powered by Locals