Articles in the "Software" Category
VisiCalc is one of the most important programs ever created for microcomputers. It was not only the first spreadsheet program but is also generally regarded as the first “killer app.” It was the top selling program for four years, selling more than 200,000 copies in its first two years alone. Its popularity helped to drive early personal computer sales; many people bought a personal computer just to use VisiCalc.
Dan Bricklin came up with the idea for an “electronic spreadsheet” while still a graduate student at Harvard Business School. He and Bob Frankston founded Software Arts, Inc. in 1979 to explore the idea and VisiCalc was the result.
First demonstrated at the National Computer Conference in June 1979, the Apple II version of VisiCalc was shipped on October 17, 1979. Although developed by Software Arts, VisiCalc was sold by Personal Software (later VisiCorp), a company founded in 1976 by Dan Fylstra and Peter Jennings.
VisiCalc for the Apple II was so successful that versions for other computers were inevitable. The initial targets were the Commodore PET, the Atari 800, and the TRS-80 Model I. The Commodore PET and the Atari 800 shared the same 6502 processor as the Apple II and could use the same VisiCalc code. But the TRS-80 version required converting the VisiCalc code to use the Z80 processor, a project undertaken by Seth Steinberg. Despite this, both the Atari 800 and TRS-80 versions were released in late 1980, almost a year after the release of the Apple II version.
TRS-Opera, written by Richard Taylor, was an early TRS-80 music program. It was distributed by Acorn Software and sold for $9.95.
TRS-Opera is a BASIC program with an embedded machine language sound routine. The sound routine plays notes through the TRS-80 cassette port very rapidly, simulating more than one note at a time. The “opera” part of the name derives from the choice of music included with the program:
DoubleDuty is a utility that uses the full 128K of a TRS-80 Model 4 to allow more than one program to be run at one time. Introduced by Radio Shack in 1984, DoubleDuty was written by Randy Cook, the author of Model I TRSDOS and VTOS.
DoubleDuty works by creating three sections, called partitions, out of the Model 4 memory. Partitions one and two each contain a complete Model 4 TRSDOS system. The third partition is reserved for running TRSDOS library commands.
VTOS (which stood for “V
ystem”) was the second TRS-80 Model I operating system created by Randy Cook, the author of Model I TRSDOS. VTOS was released in 1979 and sold through Randy Cook’s company, Virtual Technology Inc. The original price was $49.95 for VTOS version 3.0. That was increased to $99.95 for version 4.0, or $125.00 for VTOS plus Operator’s Guide and Master Reference manual. There doesn’t appear to have been a Model III version of VTOS.
Wayne Westmoreland and Terry Gilman wrote some excellent games for the TRS-80 from 1981 to 1983, including Sea Dragon and Armored Patrol. In 1995, Wayne Westmoreland released all of those games into the public domain.
Here is a description, written by Wayne Westmoreland in 1995, for each of the games.
After upgrading their TRS-80 Model I to Level II BASIC, many people missed the “shorthand dialect” of Level I BASIC. TSHORT was a very popular keyboard macro utility for Level II BASIC that added a similar kind of shorthand for BASIC commands. It was written by Ron Wirth and released in 1979 by Web Associates for $9.95. (The name Web Associates was not a reference to the World Wide Web, which it predated by ten years.) TSHORT ran in high memory above BASIC and consumed only 580 bytes of memory.
When the TRS-80 Model I was first released in 1977, the BASIC interpreter that Microsoft was writing, Level II BASIC, was still months away from completion. Instead the Model I originally shipped with a BASIC interpreter known as Level I BASIC.
Level I BASIC was based on “Palo Alto Tiny BASIC”, a 2K version of Tiny BASIC written by Dr. Li-Chen Wang for the May 1976 issue of Dr. Dobb’s Journal. Because Dr. Li Chen-Wang placed his BASIC in the public domain (he labeled it “@COPYLEFT; ALL WRONGS RESERVED”), Steve Leininger, the designer of the TRS-80, was able to use it as a starting point. He added floating point math, cassette, keyboard, and video routines, doubling the size of the original code to 4K.
Rally was written by J. Weaver Jr. (Factory Programming) and distributed by Soft Sector Marketing. Rally was based on Rally-X, which was released by Namco in 1980.
The goal in Rally is to collect all of the flags in a maze, while avoiding “enemy cars”. Touching an enemy car causes you to lose your life.
ZBASIC is probably the most popular BASIC compiler ever written for the TRS-80. It holds the distinction of being one of the few programs originally created for the TRS-80 that is still being developed in some form.
The first version of ZBASIC was written in 1979 by Andrew Gariepy for the Model I and sold by Simutek Computer Products. ZBASIC began appearing in Simutek advertisements in 1980. It originally cost $99.00 for the tape version and $129.00 for the disk version.
ZBASIC fell somewhere between a traditional compiler and an interpreter. As an early advertisement described it:
Devil’s Tower was written by John Olsen and released by Fantastic Software in 1982.
The player starts the game on the left, separated from the Attackers by a tall mountain in the center of the screen. The goal is to shoot over the mountain and destroy the Attackers on the other side. To complicate matters, the Attackers shoot back at you, often displaying an uncanny ability to predict where you are moving.