The Freedom Option

written by Matthew Reed

FEC advertisement from 80 Microcomputing

Field Engineering Consultants advertisement from the July 1980 issue of 80 Microcomputing

The Freedom Option was a CP/M add-on for the TRS‑80 Model I, Model III, and compatibles. It was introduced in early 1980 by Field Engineering Consultants (better known as FEC) of Woburn, Massachusetts.

Originally, FEC sold two Freedom boards, both for a 48K Model I with disk drives:

  • The Freedom Option allowed CP/M (or the included T8/OS) to run by disabling the Model I ROM. It cost $245.00.

  • The Memory Expansion Option had the same features as the Freedom Option, but also added an extra 16K of RAM. This provided a full 64K of RAM for the Model I, meaning that 57K was available for programs when running T8/OS. It cost $295.00.

Both the Freedom Option and the Memory Expansion Options were fairly small boards that installed inside the Model I case. As one advertisement stated they were “easy to install plug-in boards; no wires or traces to cut; no soldering.”

T8/OS

The Freedom Option included T8/OS, a CP/M compatible operating system written by FEC. Much like Cromemco’s CDOS, T8/OS could run most CP/M programs. A few other manufacturers, most notably LNW Computers with their LNW80 Model 2, also supported T8/OS for their systems.

Unlike CP/M, which was written for the Intel 8080, T8/OS was written specifically for the Zilog Z80 used in the Model I and Model III. It used the extra Z80 instructions not present in the 8080.

The Freedom 3

FEC introduced the Freedom 3 in late 1981. It was very similar to the Freedom Option, but was designed for the Model III. FEC sold three versions of the Freedom 3:

  • The Freedom 3A was the base version which could disable the TRS‑80 ROM and allow T8/OS or CP/M to run. It cost $199.00.
  • The Freedom 3B was the same as the Freedom 3A, but it had sockets to allow the Model III to be upgraded to a full 64K of RAM. It cost $340.00.
  • The Freedom 3C came with 64K of RAM installed and a battery-backed clock/calendar. It cost $490.00.

Freedom Technology advertisement from 80-U.S. Journal

Freedom Technology advertisement from the July 1982 issue of 80-U.S. Journal

Not long after it was introduced, FEC combined the Freedom 3 with the Freedom Option. This created two products that would work on the TRS‑80 Model I , TRS‑80 Model III, Personal Micro Computers PMC‑80, and LNW Research LNW80:

  • The new Freedom Option was equivalent to the Freedom 3A. It allowed users to “run CP/M application programs in addition to TRSDOS.” It cost $275.00.
  • The Freedom Plus (sometimes referred to as the Freedom Option Plus) was equivalent to the Freedom 3C. It cost $490.00.

Interested users could buy a manual only for $25.00.

Freedom Technology International

In early 1982, Freedom Technology International of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania obtained “worldwide distribution rights” to the Field Engineering Consultants CP/M products, including the Freedom Option and T8/OS.

Later Freedom Technology advertisements mentioned a new product: the “Big Screen.” It appears to have been much like the Holmes VID-80, a way to expand the TRS‑80 display to 80 by 24.

The Freedom Technology advertisements disappeared from TRS‑80 magazines by 1983.

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