Articles in the "Software" Category

Alcor Pascal

In the early days of microcomputers, many considered learning Pascal to be the logical next step for beginning programmers after learning BASIC. Alcor Pascal, sold by Alcor Systems of Garland, Texas, was a “complete Jensen and Wirth Standard Pascal” and a popular choice for TRS-80 users who wanted to expand their programming horizons.

In addition to the TRS-80 versions (which cost $199.00), Alcor Systems also sold Alcor Pascal versions for CP/M (including the Apple II with the Microsoft CP/M SoftCard) and later on for MS-DOS computers. Starting in 1983, Radio Shack began selling licensed versions of Alcor Pascal for the Model I/III (catalog number 26-2211) and the Model 4 (catalog number 26-2212). Both versions cost $249.95

Alcor Pascal had its origins in 1978 as a Pascal compiler for CP/M systems, a history that was detailed in the first issue of the Alcor Systems Newsletter in 1982:

Pascal 80

Pascal 80 was a Pascal development system for the TRS-80 Model I, III, and 4. It was written by Phelps Gates, also the author of APL-80, an APL compiler for the TRS-80.

The Pascal 80 package consisted of a full-screen text editor, monitor, and compiler. Pascal source code could be compiled directly to memory or to disk. Editing and compiling Pascal source code in memory made programming Pascal similar to using interpreted languages, such as BASIC. According to the Pascal 80 manual:

Efficient and compact code allows Pascal 80 to have a monitor, editor, and compiler in the computer at the same time, yet leave enough room to create programs up to 23K bytes, with an additional 9K available while the program is running for variables and work space. This allows programs to be written, compiler, edited, and compiled again without time consuming disk access.

When written to disk, resulting programs could either be created as p-code (an intermediate compiled format) or could be merged into standalone /CMD files.

Zorlof the Magnificent

Zorlof the Magnificent was a powerful word processor for the TRS-80 Model I and III. It was written by Peter Ray and sold by Anitek Software Products of Melbourne, Florida. Released in 1982 for a price of $69.95, Zorlof was often described as a “second-generation word processor,” one generation beyond Electric Pencil and Scripsit.

Zorlof was a full-screen word processor that supported lowercase on the Model I. It provided 61 editing functions, which included common tasks such as deleting lines, global search and replace, and block moves. Word-wrapping and justification were automatically handled by Zorlof. As it stated in the manual:

MULTIDOS

MULTIDOS was one of the major TRS-80 operating systems, described in advertisements as “the most compatible, user friendly operating system on the market.” It was written by Vernon Hester, the author of ULTRADOS, and was in some ways a continuation of that operating system. MULTIDOS was the least expensive TRS-80 operating system and also the one with the most recent update (MULTIDOS 5.1 in 2005). It was also the only TRS-80 operating system to offer software compatible versions for the TRS-80 Model I, Model III, Model 4, and the Lobo MAX-80.

ULTRADOS was an earlier TRS-80 operating system for the Model I that was sold by Level IV Products. After Vernon Hester parted ways with Level IV Products in 1981, he began writing a completely new operating system. This operating system, which was briefly advertised as ULTRA-II, soon became known as MULTIDOS. Vernon Hester originally sold MULTIDOS through his company, Cosmopolitan Electronics Corporation. The Model I version of MULTIDOS was released in late 1981 and the Model III version was released in January 1982. The price started out at $79.95 but soon increased to $99.95. Later on, MAX-80 MULTIDOS was released in late 1983 and Model 4 MULTIDOS (originally known as MULTIDOS 80/64) in 1985.

M-ZAL

M-ZAL was a powerful disk-based editor assembler system for the TRS-80 Model I and III. First introduced in 1981, M-ZAL (which stood for Modular Z80 Assembly Language) was written by Jeffrey Krantz and David Willen. It was sold by Computer Applications Unlimited (also known as CUA) for the price of $149.95.

Although expensive, M‑ZAL was one of the most advanced assemblers ever written for the TRS-80 and it was used by many professional TRS-80 developers. The advertisements contained endorsements from several TRS-80 authors, including:

Level III BASIC

Level III BASIC was an enhanced version of Level II BASIC for the TRS-80 Model I. It was created by Microsoft, also the authors of Level II BASIC, but sold by GRT Corporation on cassette for $49.95. Level III BASIC was said to be the first consumer product from Microsoft, which had previously sold only to manufacturers.

Rather than sell Level III BASIC directly to consumers, Microsoft decided to release it through GRT Corporation in 1978. GRT Corporation, which stood for Great Records and Tapes, was a music company that had expanded into the software business. The GRT software division, named G2, was started by Vern Raburn and Level III BASIC was sold under the G2 label.

The Level III BASIC manual contains this surprising statement of authorship:

PC-Four

PC-Four was the first TRS-80 Model 4 emulator for IBM PC compatible computers. It was written by Michael Gingell and introduced by Hypersoft in mid-1987 for a price of $79.95. PC-Four required a computer with at least 384K of memory and worked on both floppy and hard drive systems.

PC-Four (sometimes referred to as PC4) was quite different than later TRS-80 emulators. It achieved most of its compatibility not through Model 4 hardware emulation but by emulating the Model 4 operating system. This approach (similar to the MS-DOS emulator DOSBox today) allowed PC-Four to approximate Model 4 speed when running on a Tandy 1000 SX. The PC-Four manual described it this way:

Super Utility Plus Special Edition

In late 1982, PowerSOFT began advertising the “Super Utility Plus Special Edition.” The package, sometimes referred to as “Super Utility Plus S/E,” was a premium limited-edition version of Super Utility. Only 500 packages were produced and each cost $500.00, including shipping. PowerSOFT took reservations for several months and began shipping on January 20, 1983.

Each Special Edition was numbered (1 to 500) and each was personally signed by Kim Watt. In addition to the Super Utility manual, it also came with two books:

Super Utility

I suspect that almost everyone who used a TRS-80 disk system remembers Super Utility. First released by Kim Watt in 1980 through his company Breeze Computing, Super Utility was regarded by many to be an indispensible tool. It was described in advertisements as “The King of Utilities” and readers of 80 Micro must have agreed; they voted it 1st Place in the utility category for both the 1982 and 1983 Readers' Choice Awards. According to one source, a copy of Super Utility was a required purchase for all United States government offices with a TRS-80.

In all, there were versions of Super Utility for the TRS-80 Model I, III, and 4, the Lobo MAX-80, and the IBM PC. I think William D. Allen said it well in a 1983 review in 80 Micro:

This program is like a fire engine. You don’t need it every day, but when you do nothing else will do the job.

CHROMA BASIC

The CHROMAtrs was a TRS-80 Model I and III add-on that could display color text and graphics on a separate monitor or television. The CHROMAtrs had advanced graphics and sound features, but using those features required low-level programming that was beyond the abilities of many people. That all changed with the introduction of CHROMA BASIC.

CHROMA BASIC was written by Robert French, who was 14 years old at the time. It added over 68 commands to BASIC to manipulate the graphics, sound, and joystick features of the CHROMAtrs. Although originally priced at $30.00, CHROMA BASIC was soon bundled with the CHROMAtrs package and prominently featured in the advertisements.