Dedicated Chess Computers

ChessEval Journal
About Dedicated Chess Computers

The Odyssey of the Caravelle, Part I
Written by Maurice M. Ohayon
First edited | 04/29/2014 | by MMO
Last edited | 02/04/2016 |
Additional Information:
Additional references: Hein Veldhuis, ChessComputerUk,
Ohayon MM
Reference to cite: Ohayon MM. The Odyssey of the Caravelle Part I, ChessEval Journal, 8, April 2014,

The story of the \Caravelle is interesting and intriguing.
The Caravelle was announced by SciSys in the same series than the Mark 10, Rapier, Courrier V etc...
Its price was a little higher than the one of the MK10 (around 130 Euros).
This computer was essentially sold in France.

The name Caravelle is a French word for a sailing ship used by the Portuguese around the XVth century in their maritime exploration. The English equivalent word is Caravel.
Christopher Columbus was using these ships to set out on his expedition in 1492:
- La Santa Maria of one hundred tons was the flagship,
- La Pinta and La Niña were the escorts, smaller caravels of 60 to 75 tons.

Caravelle was also the name given to the famous French bi-reactor plane, revolutionary by its conception and its two reactors along the fuselage.

Wikimedia: Air France Caravelle Gilliand

The SciSys Electronic Chess is an ultra slim table computer
, very attractive by its red playing surface, its reduced dimensions and its light weight: a true portable computer, still having a good size.
It has 8 levels of play and a long battery life.

Decades after, it remains mysterious and its rarity is not helping investigation.
In fact, the main question is to determine if the Caravelle is  a MK10 with a red color playing surface, or a different specific computer.

The Investigation on the Caravelle and its comparison with the MK10
The Boxes
- on the box, nowhere the "Caravelle" name , but also no "MK10" name.... Only, one name: "Electronic Chess".
- the box is exactly the same than the one of the MK10: same dimensions, same design. Only one difference: the red color of the Caravelle box.
- the other mentions on the box are similar to the one of the MK10 box with the exception of the reported size of the computer: 24cm x 24cm x 2cm (versus 23.8 x 23.8 x 2.0 cm for the MK10).


On the rear labels, the wording is in French for the Caravelle and in English for the MK10
: "Fabrique a Hong Kong" (Made in Hong Kong).


- version 5G3 for the Caravelle (1985)
- version 5G1 for the MK10 (1985)
Is this new version of the microchip (5G3) specific to the Caravelle or only an upgrade done for all the MK10 series? In my discussion with Eric Belot, we discover that his Caravelle had a version 5G1 of the microchip... More confusing is that the 2 versions of the microchip were done in 1985. It would be interesting to know if the MK10 with the version 5G3 were made...

The Hitachi HD44868 is a single chip microprocessor in a 4 bit architecture.
This CMOS 4-bit single chip microcomputer contains ROM, RAM, I/0 and Timer/Counter in a single chip.
The HMCS47C has an efficient controller and arithmetic function.
This CMOS technology provides to portable microcomputers a long life battery (more than 1000 hours according to SciSys).
Made specifically for company application (in this case SciSys), it is almost impossible to know the content of the ROM.
No documentation on the versions of the application made for SciSys was found.

Characteristics of the Caravelle
- SciSys, 1985 (versus 1984 for the MK10)
- Program by Craig Barnes,
Julio Kaplan

- Table top chess computer
Microchip Hitachi HD44868 version 5G3 (versus 5G1 for the MK10)
- 0.6 MHz 

- RAM 80 bytes 
- Pressure Sensory
- 16 edge LEDs
- 8 levels of play

- Size: 24cm x 24cm x 2cm (versus 23.8 x 23.8 x 2.0 cm for the MK10)

In conclusion, for the best of our knowledge, the denomination "Caravelle" of the red version of the "Electronic Chess MK10" was never stamped on the "Electronic Chess" red version.
According to Mike Waters, this "Electronic Chess" red version is "the elusive Caravelle model announced by Andrew Page of SciSys in early 1985 along with the MK 10, Travel Mate II, Courier V and Rapier" (

The  "Electronic Chess" red version is rare and few exemplars were produced.
The red version has no mention of MK 10 and doesn't have the same model number than the MK10.
The Caravelle name is attached to this red version and probably will remain associated.
Synonym of voyage (ship or plane), the Caravelle has not finished its intriguing trip.