Articles in the "Books" Category

TRS-80 Disk and Other Mysteries

One of the most popular books ever written for the TRS-80 was TRS-80 Disk and Other Mysteries by Harvard C. Pennington. It was published in 1979 by International Jewelry Guild of Upland, California (a company co-founded by Pennington) for a price of $22.95. The book was an unexpected success for International Jewelery Guild (better known as IJG), at the time primarily a seller of gold coins and diamonds. The first two printings of TRS-80 Disk and Other Mysteries sold out before IJG had even received them from the printers. One advertisement described the book as “the definitive work on the TRS-80 disk system.” The manual for Super Utility described it as “a ‘standard’ reference.”

The TRS-80 Model I was less than two years old at the time, and Pennington had been one of the first purchasers. There was a great demand for TRS-80 information and Pennington wrote about many topics in the TRS-80 Disk and Other Mysteries. These included using hexadecimal and binary, a discussion of TRS-80 disk operating systems, the TRSDOS directory structure, even Pennington’s opinions of Radio Shack. William Barden, Jr. described the contents in the preface to the book:

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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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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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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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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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Introduction to TRS-80 Graphics

Introduction to TRS-80 Graphics (catalog number 62-2063), also known as TRS-80 Graphics, was a book describing how to make best use of the block graphics of the TRS-80 Model I. It was written by Don Inman and cost $5.95 from Radio Shack. Like many of the books sold by Radio Shack, there were two editions of the book with two different covers: one was sold by Radio Shack and the other was sold by dilithium Press. (The name dilithium was intentionally lowercase.) Other than the covers, the books were identical.

The focus of Introduction to TRS-80 Graphics was entirely on “understanding the graphics capabilities of the TRS-80 computer using Level I BASIC.” As the book stated: “No attempt is made to teach programming in BASIC.” A dilithium Press advertisement described it this way:

For those who want to do more with graphics, this excellent self-instruction text provides a complete introduction to the basics of graphics programming using dozens of examples.

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80 Micro's Review Guide

80 Micro (originally 80 Microcomputing) was the most popular of the TRS-80 magazines. The book 80 Micro’s Review Guide collected over 500 reviews that were published in 80 Micro during its first three years (1980 to 1983). The reviews (which were abridged) were divided into three broad categories: software, hardware, and books. They were further divided into 27 finer categories, such as word processor, disk drives, and modems.

The back cover stated:

The reviews are taken from the pages of 80 Micro magazine, the leading source of information in the TRS-80 world. Authors include some of the most knowledgeable people in microcomputing, including William Barden, Dan Robinson, Dennis Báthory-Kitsz, Terry Kepner, and Jake Commander.

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TRSDOS Commented

There were many popular books published back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that examined the TRS-80 Model I in detail. But there were far fewer books that served the same purpose for the TRS-80 Model III.

TRSDOS Commented, published by Soft Sector Marketing with “decoding and data entry” by Rick Papo, was one of those few. The book’s cover described it as “a must for every Mod III owner.” It included a complete disassembly for the code comprising Model III TRSDOS (minus Disk BASIC) in much the same way as the IJG book TRSDOS 2.3 Decoded and Other Mysteries did for Model I TRSDOS. One notable difference was that the disassembled listings in TRSDOS 2.3 Decoded and Other Mysteries were published with full permission from Tandy Corporation. Soft Sector Marketing had no such permission and included this disclaimer at the beginning of TRSDOS Commented:

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The Custom TRS-80 and Other Mysteries

The Custom TRS-80 and Other Mysteries is one of the best remembered TRS-80 books. It was written by Dennis Báthory-Kitsz and published by IJG, Inc (also known as the International Jewelry Guild). The first printing sold out in less than a month and the book ended up selling 50,000 copies around the world in three printings. The Custom TRS-80 and Other Mysteries (which was volume 3 in IJG’s TRS-80 Information Series) offers an interesting and entertaining look at the hardware and software inside the TRS-80 Model I, the custom TRS-80 of the title.

Dennis Báthory-Kitsz was well known for his TRS-80 writing, including his articles in The Alternate Source and his 80 Applications column in 80 Microcomputing. (Some of the information in The Custom TRS-80 and Other Mysteries had previously appeared in his Alternate Source articles.)

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MOD III ROM Commented

There were many books written that described and in some cases disassembled the TRS-80 Model I BASIC ROM. A few of the more famous examples were Microsoft BASIC Decoded and Other Mysteries from IJG, Inc., The B00K from Insiders Software Consultants, Pathways Through the ROM from SoftSide Publications, and Level II ROMs from Tab Books. But there were far fewer books serving the same purpose for the TRS-80 Model III BASIC ROM.

One of the best sources of information about the Model III ROM was TRS‑80 ROM Routines Documented by Jack Decker, which was published in 1983. But probably the best known was MOD III ROM Commented from Soft Sector Marketing. MOD III ROM Commented was published in 1981 with two printings. It contains a very detailed disassembly of the Model III BASIC ROM. As the book cover promised: “Not a rehash of old information, but an explanation of ROMS in the latest machine from Tandy.”

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