The Burroughs ICON computer
I was overjoyed to learn of a Burroughs ICON that a friend had that was not in working condition but was offered to me… and I jumped on it! It’s one of those Canadian computers (Ontario to be specific) that I had never experienced but had heard about. The two main issues were memory issues and an issue with the monitor. I have since repaired the memory issue (one bad 4164 memory chip) but I have not been successful with fixing the monitor yet. Thankfully the monitor is a standard CGA graphics monitor and I use a Magnavox RBG Monitor 80 in it’s place.
The Burroughs ICON goes by many names. My particular unit has a CEMCORP emblem and a MICROTEL bottom sticker (picture below). Back in the early 80s, the Ontario Government created a Crown corporation called the “Canadian Education Microprocessor CORPoration”. CEMCORP is the acronym for that. Some units had Burroughs ICON branding on it and when Burroughs and Sperry merged into the new Unisys corporation, it was rebranded as the Unisys ICON.
Burroughs/Unisys was the distributor of the ICON with hardware built by Microtel and the operating system software (QNX) written by Quantum Software Systems. While the ICON is the “iconic” computer, it was a workstation that relied on a Burroughs LexICON server to serve files and handle shared peripherals. They were networked through an Arcnet based ICOnet network.
Sadly, without the LexICON server, this ICON workstation does nothing but look for the server and then remain silent. Jason Eckert has two detailed web posts on his site for the Burroughs ICON and the LexICON server that have been a great resource. I’ve been able to figure out that the ICON motherboard is actually used in the LexICON server with additional parts. It looks like it requires additional logic ICs and appropriate jumper changes along with the 1 megabyte memory expansion board that my ICON already has plus it requires a Western Digital WD1002-05 board for communication with a floppy drive and a 10MB (or so) hard drive. Unfortunately, I don’t have any documentation and information on the ICON and LexiCON are very scarce.
I have also seen an ICON standalone computer where the ICON has a floppy drive underneath the monitor (next to the power switch) but I don’t know anything about that configuration. My guess is it needs the Western Digital board to talk to the floppy drive and it also has a specific set of jumpers and software but this information may be lost as I have only seen a picture.
I would love to take this ICON computer further. I am on the hunt for any software, documentation or any additional hardware that may remain. The ICON computer systems were primarily funded by the government and were in field trials and classrooms in Ontario, Canada. Not much is left but if anyone has any information, please contact me through the “Contact Us” link above.
Now for some pictures.
External pictures of the Burroughs ICON computer:
Specific pictures of the motherboard and jumpers: