The Synertek SYM-1 was a 6502-based single board computer produced by Synertek in 1978; it was a derivative of MOS Technology’s KIM-1. Synertek the company began life back in 1973 as a semiconductor manufacturer based in the United States. Their early products consisted of many different custom designed devices, such as static RAMs, ROMs and both dynamic and static shift registers. Customers of their products included both Atari and Apple who used these devices in their respective console and home based computer lines. Synertek managed to acquire the chip manufacturing company Microcomputer Associates which led to a slight name change called Synertek Systems Inc.
As with any popular system, no matter the time era if a product is found to be popular and selling well then competitors will always jump onboard to either mimic the same success by offering an improved version or will look to undercut it by providing a similar system for less money. In this case Synertek opted for the former route to building a successful system out of the SYM-1 and didn’t look to compete with other microcomputer manufacturers on price, but rather by building a system that would be superior to all and on all fronts from the base unit.
The Synertek SYM-1 was a versatile and sophisticated single board computer, allowing for development of further more powerful microcomputer based systems. At the time it was a direct competitor of the more popular and established KIM-1 system. Although the SYM-1 had an advantage as it contained a number of enhancements such as an improved monitor ROM, three configurable ROM sockets, expandable on board RAM up to 4 kilobytes, an RS232 serial port, a high speed cassette storage device interface and the functionality to run on a single 5 volt power supply. The serial port was a significant improvement over the KIM-1’s allowing for a data transfer rate of 185 bytes per second compared to the lower specification KIM-1’s 8 bytes per second.
Even though the SYM-1 was much more advanced than the KIM-1, the SYM-1 was well designed and as such was able to take advantage of the established KIM-1’s peripheral cards and data storage functions. The system can even be accessed without the need for an external monitor, using the 28-key keypad and the 6-digit LED display. The system had four ROM sockets to allow for permanent program storage. The operating system ‘Supermon monitor’ program was based in one ROM and BASIC or other applications installed in the other ROMs that load on boot up.
Synertek would sell ROMs that when installed allowed for the addition of the BASIC programming language or others such as the Resident Assembler Editor. Another language that could be installed onto a ROM was the Macro Assembler Editor. It was created by a company called Eastern House Software who had also sold the same Macro Assembler to other companies who produced 6502-based computers such as Commodore, Atari, Kim and Apple. As an evaluation board the SYM-1 could be hooked up to an Oscilloscope providing a 32 character display under software use.