Matthew Reed's

Miner 2049er

Bill Hogue, through his company Big Five Software, was known for producing some of the best games available for the TRS-80 Model I and III. Games like Galaxy Invasion and Robot Attack were legendary in TRS-80 circles. But Bill Hogue and Big Five Software’s most successful game wasn’t for the TRS-80. It was Miner 2049er, the 1984 Electronic Game of the Year. Miner 2049er was an Atari platform game with ten levels that had versions available for more computers than any other game at the time.

Here is a description of Miner 2049er from a 1983 Big Five Software flyer:

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The Rest of 80

In late 1982, 80 Micro magazine and the TRS-80 itself were riding a wave of popularity. Some issues of 80 Micro topped 500 pages and it was the third largest magazine in the United States, not just among computer magazines, but among all magazines. 80 Micro actively solicited articles and those enormous issues were filled largely with articles submitted by readers.

The book The Rest of 80 was another result of this abundance of material. It was a collection of articles submitted to 80 Micro, but never published. They were described as “some of the very best manuscripts ever sent to 80 Micro.” The Rest of 80 cost $9.97 when it was introduced in 1983.

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Commander 80

“Commander 80” was a column that ran irregularly in 80 Microcomputing magazine from the May 1982 to the May 1983 issues. It was written by Jake Commander, TRS-80 author, technical consultant to 80 Microcomputing, and a very frequent contributor to the magazine. Despite the fact that there were only nine “Commander 80” columns, it remains one of the best remembered columns from the magazine.

Jake Commander described “Commander 80” as “a regular pot-pourri of TRS-80 facts, ideas, and opinions” in his first column:

This is the first of a series of columns I’ll be doing every month for 80 Microcomputing, covering topics ranging all the way from software and hardware to my general opinions on whatever takes my fancy. This is an opportunity I’ve waited for — to be able to sound off and air some of my views.

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Microsoft BASIC Decoded and Other Mysteries

There were many books that documented and disassembled the TRS-80 Model I ROM, but Microsoft BASIC Decoded and Other Mysteries by James Lee Farvour was the most famous. Microsoft BASIC Decoded and Other Mysteries, volume 2 in the IJG’s TRS-80 Information Series, includes a complete overview of the Level II ROM in the TRS-80 Model I and is one of the best sources of information about the TRS-80 BASIC ROM. It cost $29.95 when it was introduced in 1981. A January 1982 review in 80 Micro said “Without a doubt, it is the most comprehensive book on Level II BASIC ROM to be published so far.”

Microsoft BASIC Decoded and Other Mysteries is made up of two sections. The first half of the book collect a wide assortment of details about BASIC, including some not commonly found elsewhere. This includes information such as reserved BASIC keywords, functions and entry points, the format used for cassette storage, even the formulas used by the BASIC math functions such as SIN and COS. One chapter covers disk operating systems, which weren’t even part of Microsoft BASIC.

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The Epson MX-80

The Epson MX-80 was one of the first very successful consumer dot-matrix printers. It was introduced in October 1980 by Shinshu Seiki Co., Ltd. (later known as Epson Corporation) of Nagano, Japan. The Epson MX-80 was the best selling printer in the United States and Japan and became synonymous with dot-matrix printers.

The printer control language used by the MX-80 (later known as ESC/P) became an important standard that was supported by other printer manufacturers. It was a rare TRS-80 program that could print and didn’t support the Epson MX-80.

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Monty Plays Scrabble

Monty Plays Scrabble (catalog number 26-1954) by Ritam Corporation of Fairfield, Iowa was a sequel to their earlier Monty Plays Monopoly. It cost $34.95 and was released in 1982 for the 32K disk TRS-80 Model III. Ritam also sold a version of Monty Plays Scrabble for the Apple II. Other than color, the Apple II version was nearly identical to the TRS-80 version.

Like Monty Plays Monopoly, Monty Plays Scrabble was a “computer opponent program” allowing up to four people to play Scrabble against their computer. Unlike it, Monty Plays Scrabble was officially licensed by Selchow and Righter Co., the Scrabble trademark holder at the time. (The manual identifies the title of the game as “Monty Plays the SCRABBLE Brand Crossword Game.")

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Machine Language Disk I/O and Other Mysteries

Low-level floppy disk access was one of the most advanced programming topics on the TRS-80 Model I and III. The floppy disk controller was documented in technical reference manuals, as was the TRS-80 disk interface itself. But translating that information into reliable disk access routines wasn’t easy. All disk operating systems and low-level disk utilities did it, but the difference between working and excellent implementations was great. Kim Watt (with Super Utility) and Vernon Hester (with MULTIDOS) proved that it was possible to write fast and bullet-proof disk routines, but the methods they used weren’t documented anywhere.

Machine Language Disk I/O and Other Mysteries by Michael J. Wagner, volume 5 in IJG’s TRS-80 Information Series, was one of the few sources of reliable information about low-level TRS-80 floppy disk access. It cost $29.95 when it was released in 1982. A 1983 review by John B. Harrell, III in 80 Micro described it as an “expertly assembled, compact, and fact-filled book” and “a perfect reference source for any programmer who would like to try his hand at disk I/O programming.”

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FidoNet is a private network connecting bulletin board systems. Unlike most other similar networks, FidoNet still exists today. Created by Tom Jennings in 1984, FidoNet provided a way for ordinary people to communicate across bulletin board systems long before Internet access was available to the general public. FidoNet wasn’t (and isn’t) the only service to interconnect bulletin board systems, but it was the most popular. Jennings described it in 1999 as “largest privately owned computer network in the world.” At its peak in the 1990’s, there were over 30,000 systems on FidoNet.

Tom Jennings created FidoNet in 1984 as part of his Fido BBS. At the time, bulletin board systems only allowed a user to send messages to another user on the same system. FidoNet identified each system by node and provided a way to send a message to any remote system that was part of FidoNet. Jennings later described it as a “store-and-forward emailing and file-transmission system.”

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BASIC Faster and Better and Other Mysteries

BASIC Faster and Better and Other Mysteries, also known as BASIC Faster and Better, is one of the best books about advanced BASIC programming on the TRS-80. It was written by Lewis Rosenfelder and published by IJG, Inc.

The book, which was volume 4 in IJG’s TRS-80 Information Series, cost $29.95 when it was introduced in 1981. Radio Shack also sold it as BASIC Faster and Better (catalog number 62-1002) for the same price, describing it in their catalog as “a guided tour of advanced BASIC programming.” A review in 80 Microcomputing stated:

The book is worth the money no matter what level of programming ability you possess.

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Feedback Loop

“Feedback Loop” was a popular column in 80 Microcomputing magazine. It began in the June/July 1982 issue and ran until the magazine ended in 1988. “Feedback Loop” answered reader letters about “any questions or problems dealing with any area of TRS-80 microcomputing”. It was one of the best sources of TRS-80 information available at the time.

“Feedback Loop” was written by Terry Kepner for most of its run. It replaced “The Exclusive Oracle”, a similar column written by Dennis Báthory-Kitsz that also answered reader questions.

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