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The Curious Case of the Radio Shack Partner 1680X
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SirDave
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 11:43 pm    Post subject: The Curious Case of the Radio Shack Partner 1680X Reply with quote



Above on the left is the Radio Shack Partner 1680X and, likewise, on the right is the Partner 1680X so, of course, they are the same model. Or are they?

First, some history. It is well known that many, if not most of the Radio Shack chess computers of the past have been repackaged Saitek units. In most cases, if not all, the only difference between a given Saitek unit and its twin Radio Shack unit has been a difference in the packaging and the name on the unit. The manuals usually appear to be from different authors, but even so, some passages and descriptions are the same and the button functions and descriptions and characteristics of the levels are exactly the same. Furthermore, from what I can tell, it was not typical of Radio Shack to make any minor or major changes to the hardware or firmware of a given Saitek unit before selling it under the Radio Shack name.

But the Radio Shack Partner 1680X presents a rather unusual twist in this process. It turns out that there are two different Radio Shack Partner 1680x catalog numbers: 2428 and 2428A. Nothing on the boxes or the units themselves indicates any difference between the units with these different catalog numbers: The boxes carry the same Radio Shack Partner 1680X name front and center and the units themselves are otherwise indistinguished in every respect, unless you happen to read the manuals. But, as will be shown below, the inconvertible fact is that these are, in fact, two different models.

The possibility that this was true appears to have been first mentioned here, where it was suggested that the catalog 2428A model might actually be the Saitek Sensor XL.:

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.schachcomputer.info/forum/f2/infos-zum-saitek-olympiad-3977.html

And was subsequently mentioned in a footnote at the schachcomputer info wiki website that the catalog unit 2428 was the Saitek Olympiad, but that the 2428A was not (though it was not suggested what the 2428A might be):

http://www.schach-computer.info/wiki/index.php/Saitek_Olympiad

So, the question is, where did the Radio Shack Partner 1680X catalog number 2428A unit come from?

We do know that the RS Partner 1680X catalog 2428 is the Saitek Olympiad. This was a very popular chess computer by virtue of the number of them that show up on eBay all the time both in North America and Europe. This popularity is also true of the RS Partner 1680X. However, there are three other Saitek models using the same design that followed the Olympiad, but it is rare to find any of these on eBay. All of these units are listed below using information largely from the (the late) Tom Luif’s Overtom Chess Museum website:

Saitek Olympiad: 1992, 2Mhz, 7.5kb ROM, 176 bytes RAM
-rated for occasional players
Saitek Executive: 1993, 10Mhz, 16kb ROM, 512 bytes RAM
-rated for strong occasional players/weak club players
Saitek Barracuda 1998, 10Mhz, 16kb ROM, 1kb RAM
-rated for average club players
Mephisto Mystery (released after Saitek purchased the Mephisto): circa 1998, 12Mhz, 16kb RAM
-rated for strong club players

So, again, just what is the Radio Shack Partner 1680X catalog 2428A? Let’s examine the clues:

The manuals for the RS Partner 1680X catalog 2428 and 2428A are quite different when it comes to the important area of selecting the levels and the description of the levels themselves. The catalog 2428 model offers levels that appear aimed at beginners in that there are 39 levels that vary only in ply number and the type of moves being evaluated. There are 7 fixed depth levels and 8 fun levels. But there are no fixed time levels! On the other hand, the 2428A model offers a more advanced level selection that includes fixed depth levels and various categories of fixed time levels, a selection more appropriate those beyond the beginner level.

I opened up both the 2428 and the 2428A as much as was possible. (As is often true with these plastic boards, a proprietary method was used to attach them at the rear and to dismantle them completely without guidance could damage them so my investigation was limited.) However, I was able to determine that the 2428 and 2428A circuit boards were completely different and, most importantly, the 2428 has what appears to be one 256k memory IC while the 2428A has two.

The Saitek Barracuda and the Mephisto Mystery have two distinctive red buttons and were both released in the late 1990s. They are likely twins and the RS Partner 1680X catalog 2428A cannot be derived from these units since it does not have the red buttons, it does not have 1kb RAM and it was released before 1995. The 2428A is not the Saitek Barracuda/Mephisto Mystery.

As mentioned above, it has been suggested that the 2428A might be the Saitek Sensor XL. This is highly unlikely, if not impossible. They have distinctively different board designs and the Sensor XL does not have the Coach, Studies and Evaluation buttons and functions. Also, the Sensor XL has only 176 bytes of RAM while the 2428A has closer to 512 Bytes of RAM. The 2428A is not the Sensor XL.

Putting all this together, there is only one model that the Radio Shack Partner 1680X catalog 2428A can possibly be and that is the Saitek Executive. Both models look exactly the same, have the same amount of RAM and were released at about the same time period, circa 1993 to 1996.

However, there was one test remaining to prove the point. Tom Luif’s tests from the Overtom Chess Museum website showed that the Saitek Olympiad and the RS Partner 1680X catalog 2428 playing black at 10sec/move, could not beat Fritz8 at 1 ply, but the Saitek Executive could, so I decided to test the 2428A as black at 10sec/move against Fritz8 at 1 ply. Of the 5 games played, the 2428A model managed 3 wins and 2 draws, further evidence that the 2428A is the Saitek Executive. One of these wins is of particular interest and is presented below:

[Date "2012.01.31"]
[White "Fritz 8 ply1"]
[Black "RS1680X cat2428A 10sec"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A09 Reti Accepted Keres Variation"]

1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Na3 Qd5 4.e3 b5 5.b3 Ba6 6.bxc4 bxc4 7.Bb2 Nc6 8.Rb1 e5
9.h3 Bc5 10.Qc2 Bxa3 11.Bxa3 e4 12.Nh4 O-O-O 13.Bb2 Nb4 14.Qc3 Nxa2 15.Qc2 Nb4
16.Qc3 Nd3+ 17.Bxd3 Qxd3 18.Qxd3 cxd3 19.Bxg7 Ne7 20.Bxh8 Rxh8 21.Rb4 f5
22.Rg1 Kd7 23.Kd1 Kc6 24.f3 exf3 25.Nxf3 Rg8 26.Ne5+ Kd6 27.Nf3 Nc6 28.Rf4 Rb8
29.Kc1 Rb5 30.Rf1 Bb7 31.Ng5 Rc5+ 32.Kd1 Rb5 33.Nf7+ Ke7 34.Kc1 Rc5+ 35.Kb2
Rc2+ 36.Ka3 Kxf7 37.Rxf5+ Ke6 38.Rf6+ Kd5 39.R6f5+ Ne5 40.R1f2 Ke6 41.Ka4 Bd5
42.g4 Be4 43.Rf8 Kd5 44.g5 Kc4 45.Ka3 Bd5 46.h4 Kc5 47.g6 Ra2
# 0-1




Conclusion:
Between 1992 and 1996, the Radio Shack Partner 1680X was released as what are actually two distinctly different models. The only outward indication of this will be the catalog numbers 2428 and 2428A which are indicated at the top right corner of the box, on the front of the manual and on the back of the chess board itself. The 2428 model is the Saitek Olympiad which is more for beginners (and perhaps slightly above depending on one’s perspective), while the 2428A is the Saitek Executive which is a nice unit for both beginners and those in the category between beginner level and club level.

The Saitek Olympiad and RS Partner 1680X can be seen on eBay frequently. However, from my own, albeit limited, investigation, the catalog 2428 unit appears on eBay about 4 to 1 compared to the 2428A. Since almost all perspective buyers will have no knowledge that the 1680X is available in what are two distinctly different forms, the final bid or Buy Now price will be the same for both, so it will be very much to the buyers advantage to look for the 2428A (ie. the Saitek Executive) and not the Saitek Olympiad or the RS Partner 1680X catalog 2428. Often you can see the catalog number in the photos or the product description, but if not, ask the Seller before buying.

One can only guess why Radio Shack chose not to take advantage of the release of what was, by any measure, a significant update of a model. It is even possible that at some point Radio Shack stores might have had the RS Partner 1680X catalog 2428 and 2428A units on the same shelf at the some time. It would seem unlikely that they would sell at different prices since, other than the catalog number in relatively tiny print, there is no indication on the box that they are actually different models. It’s a mystery!
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Steve B
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2012 12:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very Interesting and informative post Dave
made even more interesting for me by the fact that i own only one of the seven different chess computers you mentioned in the post

that certainly doesn't happen every day

Collection Holes Exposed Regards
Steve
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SirDave
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve B wrote:
Very Interesting and informative post Dave
made even more interesting for me by the fact that i own only one of the seven different chess computers you mentioned in the post

that certainly doesn't happen every day

Collection Holes Exposed Regards
Steve


Thanks Steve (missed this post due to preoccupation with Madison Square Garden negotiations... Smile ).

Apparently, yet another unit has the same board design as those listed above: The Mephisto Mythos which is likely the same as the Saitek Executive. So now we have the following in the group that have much the same board design:

Saitek Olympiad: 1992, 2Mhz, 7.5kb ROM, 176 bytes RAM
-rated for occasional players
Saitek Executive: 1993, 10Mhz, 16kb ROM, 512 bytes RAM
-rated for strong occasional players/weak club players
Saitek Barracuda: 1998, 10Mhz, 16kb ROM, 1kb RAM (look for red keys under the LCD display)
-rated for average club players
Mephisto Mystery: released after Saitek purchased Mephisto and is probably the same as the Saitek Barracuda
Mephisto Mythos: likely the same as the Saitek Executive
Radio Shack 1680x catalog 60-2428: same as the Saitek Olympiad
Radio Shack 1680X catalog 60-2428A: same as the Saitek Executive

Btw: It's worth reiterating that the Radio Shack Partner 1680X often appears on eBay without mention of the catalog number and almost know one knows that there is a difference between catalog #60-2428 and #60-2428A so that will never be mentioned nor will a Buy Now (or, for that matter, the final bidding price) reflect the difference. But if you make sure that you're getting the 60-2428A, you will get a substantially better board that is stronger, has twice the memory and has a more useful level selection.
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Steve B
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent and very useful summary
i will return to it early and often

Bookmarking Regards
Steve
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SirDave
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve, glad it will be of some use. I enjoyed 'outing' the 60-2428A Smile and putting it together. Hmm, I tend to be a stickler for good spelling and grammar and in my last post, I came out with this: 'and almost know one knows...' which due to the inabililty to edit one's post after the first few minutes will be enshrined on this forum forever.

I No I'll Never Misuse Know Again Regards,
Dave
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Steve B
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SirDave wrote:
Steve, glad it will be of some use. I enjoyed 'outing' the 60-2428A Smile and putting it together. Hmm, I tend to be a stickler for good spelling and grammar and in my last post, I came out with this: 'and almost know one knows...' which due to the inabililty to edit one's post after the first few minutes will be enshrined on this forum forever.

I No I'll Never Misuse Know Again Regards,
Dave


well what am i to say then ? ...i doubt that even one of my 4400+ posts contain perfect speling or gramor or syntacks.not one post even
i once tried one of those spell checkers on my post but i got an error message that said something like..

What are your kidding?
No way i am going to correct that mess
they dont pay me enough to do that!


or something to that effect..
Gramaticaaly Correct Regards
Steve
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Mike Watters
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that informative post Dave. My guess is that there plenty more examples to be found of manufacturers and distributors switching specifications in mid production. In the 80s and 90s they didn't seem so bothered as to the detail of what they were selling to the consumer. There was often no specification information in the manual.

On occasions when I have had two or more models of the apparently identical chess computer I have opened them up and noticed significant differences in spec. Fidelity seemed particularly keen on changing models on the fly and only some of the changes show up on boxes, stickers and manuals. Others such as SciSys/Saitek with long production runs of popular models did the same.
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SirDave
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike Watters wrote:
Thanks for that informative post Dave. My guess is that there plenty more examples to be found of manufacturers and distributors switching specifications in mid production. In the 80s and 90s they didn't seem so bothered as to the detail of what they were selling to the consumer. There was often no specification information in the manual.

On occasions when I have had two or more models of the apparently identical chess computer I have opened them up and noticed significant differences in spec. Fidelity seemed particularly keen on changing models on the fly and only some of the changes show up on boxes, stickers and manuals. Others such as SciSys/Saitek with long production runs of popular models did the same.


Very true. I guess what made this case particularly unusual for me was that Radio Shack apparently took what was newer, more powerful, model (Saitek Executive) and packaged it as the same model (Partner 1680X) that had previously been a much 'lesser' model (Saitek Olympiad) with only a minor catalog number change to indicate the difference.

I don't know what the original prices were, but my guess is that the Saitek Executive sold for more than the Saitek Olympiad given a faster processor and twice the memory. Why wouldn't Radio Shack have taken advantage of the difference also? 256 bytes of memory is minimal by today's standards, but in the early-mid 90's I would guess that adding another 256b chip to a board would have added enough production expense alone to mandate a price difference.

Or is it possible that Saitek had (for some unexplicable reason) a whole extra bunch of Executive model boards to dump and sold them to Radio Shack at a major discount and some exec at RS not being aware of the major difference that could have been taken advantage of simply allowed it to be released under the (old) Partner 1680X name.

One additional reason this gnaws at me is that I was big into building my own regular (as opposed to chess) computers particularly in the 90's and any upgrade of a motherboard on this scale meant major hype and a price increase.
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Mike Watters
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dave

You can find some of the answers in the Radio Shack online catalogue archive. The Partner 1680X appears in the catalogues from 1995 to 1998. It is always priced at $69.99 and has model number 2428 throughout. In 1997 the description changes from 16 levels to 64 levels.

My guess is that in 1996/97 Saitek decided to switch production away from the Olympiad board to the Executive board. If they had loads of Partner 1680X cases and components left and were selling to Radio Shack for the same price they might have been happy to go along with the change.

BTW in late 1994 Eric Hallsworth was selling the Olympiad for £99 and in late 1995 he was selling the Executive for £99.
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SirDave
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 2:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike Watters wrote:
Dave

You can find some of the answers in the Radio Shack online catalogue archive. The Partner 1680X appears in the catalogues from 1995 to 1998. It is always priced at $69.99 and has model number 2428 throughout. In 1997 the description changes from 16 levels to 64 levels.

My guess is that in 1996/97 Saitek decided to switch production away from the Olympiad board to the Executive board. If they had loads of Partner 1680X cases and components left and were selling to Radio Shack for the same price they might have been happy to go along with the change.

BTW in late 1994 Eric Hallsworth was selling the Olympiad for £99 and in late 1995 he was selling the Executive for £99.


Mike, thanks for shedding a little more light on the subject. With that extra info, if I had been head of marketing at RS when the catalog #60-2428A was released, I would have at least splashed across the box: Radio Shack Partner 1680X -Now New & Improved At The Same Low Price!! Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike Watters wrote:


You can find some of the answers in the Radio Shack online catalogue archive.


Hi Mike
got a link for the online catalogue?
i am looking for a manual for the 60-2160

Best Regards
Steve
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Mike Watters
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve B wrote:
Mike Watters wrote:


You can find some of the answers in the Radio Shack online catalogue archive.


Hi Mike
got a link for the online catalogue?
i am looking for a manual for the 60-2160

Best Regards
Steve


Hi Steve

The Radio Shack Online catalogue archive just consists of scans of all the catalogues issued by Radio Shack over the years. So the 60-2160 Tandy Computerized Chess can be found in the 1981 catalogue here - http://www.radioshackcatalogs.com/catalogs/1981/
Page 150.

Unfortunately no help at all if you are looking for the manual.

There is a website for Radio Shack manuals -
http://support.radioshack.com/support_games/3169.htm
but alas no Computerized Chess manual there either.

If you want a manual scan for the (almost certainly identical to the 60-2160) Acetronic Traveller just say the word.

All the best
Mike
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the Info Mike
and thank you very much for the offer of the manual
i have my eye on a Tandy 60-2175 which is up for grabs on Ebay ..
AFAIK its the same as the 60-2160 only the display is LCD rather then LED
if i win the auction i will see if that manual works for the 2160
if so.. im good to go
if not ill take you up on that nice offer

Best Regards
Steve
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Mike Watters
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 6:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

60-2160 = SciSys/Novag Chess Champion Pocket Chess
60-2175 = SciSys Intercontinental Traveler
http://www.chesscomputeruk.com/html/intercontinental_traveler.html

There is a manual for that one on Alain's website. Some differences.
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SirDave
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve B wrote:
Thanks for the Info Mike
and thank you very much for the offer of the manual
i have my eye on a Tandy 60-2175 which is up for grabs on Ebay ..
AFAIK its the same as the 60-2160 only the display is LCD rather then LED
if i win the auction i will see if that manual works for the 2160
if so.. im good to go
if not ill take you up on that nice offer

Best Regards
Steve


Congrats Steve- looks like you got the 60-2175 at a very nice $25 for a unit that looks to be in great condition.

Your Collection's Storage Space probably looks like:
The Finale Of Raiders Of The Lost Ark Regards,
Dave
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