Articles in the "General" Category

The World Power Systems Fraud

In March 1979, a company named World Power Systems began running multi-page advertisement in many popular computer magazines, including Byte, Creative Computing, Interface Age, and Kilobaud Microcomputing. World Power Systems, founded by Jim Anderson, advertised a number of interesting and unusual products for the TRS-80 and S-100 computers at prices that seemed almost too good to be true. As it turned out, they were too good to be true; Jim Anderson was actually a prison escapee named Norman Henry Hunt and World Power Systems was an elaborate scam that ended up costing customers and suppliers hundreds of thousands of dollars.'

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Model I Level II BASIC ROM Versions

The original TRS-80 Microcomputer System, later known as the TRS-80 Model I, shipped with Level I BASIC when it was introduced on August 3, 1977. An improved Level II BASIC written by Microsoft was announced at the time but was released some time later.

Radio Shack used four different versions of the Level II ROM over the lifetime of the Model I, even though the part number (26-1120) remained the same. Radio Shack never officially named the ROM versions, or even acknowledged the existence of any version other than the last, so the names used were created by users.

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The Atari Anti-Piracy Advertisement

In late 1981, Atari began running an unusual full-page advertisement titled “Piracy: This game is over.” It appeared in several computer magazines, including InfoWorld, BYTE, Creative Computing, and SoftSide. Atari also sent copies to a number of software publishers. The advertisement read:

ATARI has led the industry in the development of video games such as ASTEROIDS and MISSILE COMMAND. The outstanding popularity of these games has resulted from the considerable investment of time and resources which ATARI has made in their development. We appreciate the worldwide response from the videophiles who have made our games so popular.

Unfortunately, however, some companies and individuals have copied ATARI games in an attempt to reap undeserved profits from games that they did not develop. ATARI must protect its investment so that we can continue to invest in the development of new and better games. Accordingly, ATARI gives warning to both the intentional pirate and to the individuals simply unaware of the copyright laws that ATARI registers the audiovisual works associated with its games with the Library of Congress and considers its games proprietary. ATARI will protect its rights by vigorously enforcing these copyrights and by taking the appropriate action against unauthorized entities who reproduce or adapt substantial copies of ATARI games, regardless of what computer or other apparatus is used in their performance.

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Version Numbers

Computer software has always used version numbers, but there have been many different ways of managing them. (For an interesting history of version numbers, see the article The Amazing World of Version Numbers by Harry McCracken.)

Most personal computer software followed a consistent pattern of major and minor version numbers. I found this description of the Radio Shack approach to version numbering from the TRSDOS and DISK BASIC Reference Manual to be interesting:

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An Exatron Stringy Floppy Primer

I recently added emulation of the Exatron Stringy Floppy to my TRS-80 emulator for Windows. This has created some new interest in the Stringy Floppy, a storage device which was a popular add-on for the TRS-80 back in the early 1980’s.

The Stringy Floppy is one of those items that many people remember, but they remain a little fuzzy on the details. Here is more information about the commands used on the Stringy Floppy.

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Irvin Mike Schmidt (1932-2009)

I was saddened to learn that Irvin Mike Schmidt passed away on February 16, 2009. Usually credited as I. Schmidt or Mike Schmidt, he was the founder and driving force behind 80-U.S. Journal, the TRS-80 magazine that he published from 1978 to 1984. He was the editor-in-chief for most of its run and his influence was very evident in the magazine.

You can read an obituary for him here.

Model II Warning from 1980

This somewhat alarming warning appeared in the June 1980 issue of 80-U.S. Journal:

The video controller of the Model II is mapped to I/O port 255 (FFH). If an output is made to this port with a value of less than 25, there is a very good chance that YOUR VIDEO WILL BE DESTROYED! We don’t know why this happens yet, but we do know that about a dozen of them across the country have been blown in this fashion, resulting in an expensive repair bill. If for any reason your screen should go blank unexpectedly, accompanied by a very high-pitched whining noise, you have less than 7 seconds to TURN THE COMPUTER OFF! Don’t worry about having disks in the drives or anything. Even the data you lose is cheap compared to having to do without a computer while it is being repaired.

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Tandy Corp. v. Personal Micro Computers, Inc.

In February 1981, Tandy filed a lawsuit in the state of California against Personal Micro Computers concerning the PMC-80, their Model I compatible computer. Personal Micro Computers was the United States distributor of the PMC-80 but the computer was manufactured by EACA International in Hong Kong.

The case, “Tandy Corp. v. Personal Micro Computers, Inc.”, was an important precedent in computer copyright law. Along with “Apple Computer, Inc. v. Franklin Computer Corp.” in 1983, this decision helped to establish the concept that computer code was protected by copyright. Even today, it is frequently cited in computer copyright cases.

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The TRS-80 on Computer Chronicles

Computer Chronicles was a television show about computers which aired from 1982 to 2002 on PBS stations in the United States. Back in 1991, Computer Chronicles devoted an episode to Radio Shack computers. Tandy was still manufacturing computers at the time, and most of the show was about their current computers.

But at the start of the show, Stewart Cheifet, the long-time host of Computer Chronicles, showed off his first computer: a Model I that he bought in 1978.

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The NADSBox Is Introduced

It isn’t everyday that a new piece of TRS-80 hardware is introduced. If you have been following the Model 100 mailing list, then you have already read about Ken Pettit’s development of the NADSBox. The NADSBox, which stands for New Age Digital Storage Box, is a memory card interface for the Model 100, Model 102, and Model 200 that supports SD, SDHC, and MMC memory cards.

Now the NADSBox is available for pre-order through Club 100, Rick Hanson’s excellent Model 100 user group and site. The pre-order cost for the NADSBox is $150.00. Shipping worldwide is $10. You can buy it along with a TS-DOS ROM for an additional $35.00. The cost will go up to $200.00 on January 1, 2009.

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