Dick Smith's CAT
Australia joins in the Apple Clones
Australia has had its fair share of involvement with the Apple cloning business. Maybe the most well known, due to its main stream distribution, was the Apple clone by Dick Smith Electronics, called the CAT. Although Australia was producing world class design engineers working on products such as MicroBee, Labtam, Webster and TEC as well as a true Apple clone called Medfly, it was decided by DSE to import the rebadged Hong Kong based Laser 3000 as the DSE CAT instead. It was the second time in the company's history that they had considered an Apple Clone as part of their product line up. The initial consideration was with a different Hong Kong company called EACA in 1979. EACA produced cloned computing equipment from several different vendors, primarily Apple II's as well as other Z80 based systems, including the popular 1977 release of the Tandy TRS80, the Model 1. EACA had been established just in time for the personal computing technology boom, and with a modern plant with in-house facilities, EACA was in a position to copy and manufacture just about any existing system as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer). This offered the high tech entrepreneur Dick Smith a choice of systems, upon which the TRS80 was chosen over a close Apple II clone, mainly for its low cost and established software base. The system would be sold exclusively by Dick Smith Electronics in both Australia and New Zealand; it was released in 1980 and would be known as the System 80. For several years the System 80 enjoyed good sales and became quite popular across Australia. The product was featured for many years in Dick Smith Catalogues, complete with a comprehensive line up of peripherals. However, in early 1984, around the same time Apple engaged to decimate the cloning industries of Hong Kong and Taiwan, EACA simply vanished, along with its CEO, Eric Chung. As EACA broke up, production ceased with its manufacturing lines and assembly stock was sold. The System 80 could no longer be sourced. By now Dick Smith Electronics itself had been sold to another company, a food distribution firm called Woolworths. Woolworths resurrected the Apple clone concept and approached the ASIC protected Hong Kong company, Video Technology, or Vtech, to supply a legally hardened Apple II clone. Enter the DSE CAT.

Laser or CAT?: The Dick Smith CAT was a rebadged Laser 3000 from Hong Kong manufacturer, VTECH. The solid build and modern keyboard made the CAT a popular choice. Although introduced late in the Apple II clone life, the CAT sold very well.
Under the hood: although the CAT was a compact tidy design and consisted primarily of two major ASIC's, the CAT did suffer from a low quality build and an unreliable switch mode power supply. Many CATs were eventually shipped with external power supplies.
Full Kit: the CAT came complete with a comprehensive array of add on peripherals giving it all the functionality of an Apple IIe. The CAT also came with a high quality 'KAGA' copy RGB monitor (not pictured). The add on cartridge between the main computer and the monitor was an age old cloners way of providing full compatibility with the Apples it copied, by supplying an external plug in ROM pack. In the CAT's case, it was referred to as the "Apple II Emulator Cartridge".