The Alternate Source

written by Matthew Reed

The Alternate Source

Volume II, number 1 of
The Alternate Source

The Alternate Source, also known as The Alternate Source Programmer’s Journal or TAS, was a well-remembered and very technical TRS‑80 publication. Later billed as “The magazine of advanced applications and software for the TRS‑80,” the first issue was published by Joni Kosloski and Charley Butler in January 1980. It was published once every two months for a total of six issues a year.

The concept behind The Alternate Source originated in October 1979. The Alternate Source was also the name of a company run by Butler and Kosloski that sold TRS‑80 books and software. TASMON (The Alternate Source Monitor) was one of their more popular software packages. They also sold The Alternate Source in book form, with each year’s issues collected into one volume.

Almost all articles in The Alternate Source focused on the Model I and Model III, but there were a few articles relating to the Color Computer. The magazine grew rapidly: the first issue was 27 pages long, but issue 18 was 164 pages long just three years later.

Unlike most magazines, The Alternate Source covered TRS‑80 topics in a great deal of technical depth. Charley Butler explained the focus this way:

If The Alternate Source were directed to one particular group, I would suggest that it would be the “systems analyst” at each TRS‑80 installation (though humble it may be!). In order to fully utilize a system, there must be at least one person who understands the basics of the system: CLOADing versus SYSTEM loads, subtle differences between Level II and Disk BASIC, a general familiarity with the various software components in memory at any given time and how they interrelate, or any number of a thousand other minor “rules and regulations.” Before we can truly test the limits of any system, we must understand the rules — then we can break them! That’s where TAS plugs in.

The Alternate Source featured many different popular TRS‑80 authors. Starting in the first issue, Dennis Báthory-Kitsz wrote many articles including:

  • “When You Turn It On: Power-up Routines of the TRS‑80”
  • “Embed Machine Language in BASIC”
  • “Let Your Finger Do The…… The Keyboard Scan of the TRS‑80”
  • “Through The Ins and Outs of Tape”

He later reworked some of those articles into his book The Custom TRS‑80 and Other Mysteries.

Another frequent author was Jack Decker, who wrote articles such as:

  • “Making Your Machine Language Programs Relocatable”
  • “Keyboard Input Buffer Routines”
  • “Improved Ampersand Function”
  • “TRS‑80 ROM Routines Documented”

He reworked several of those articles to form the basis of his book, TRS‑80 ROM Routines Documented.

One of the most popular features was “Bit Kickin’ with Jesse Bob,” a column in which Jesse Bob Overholt (described as the “proprietor of the famed Circle J Software Ranch” which was “nestled in the fertile plains of North Texas”) answered reader questions.

The exact number of issues of The Alternate Source is difficult to determine. It published until at least issue 18 but had ceased publication by 1984, with subscribers transferred to Computer User. At that time, The Alternate Source (the company) was selling complete sets of all 18 issues of The Alternate Source. But they also published an issue 19 in 1984, a “Special Issue” that was “full of great information for any serious users and programmers.”

The end of The Alternate Source, the magazine, didn’t mark the end of The Alternate Source, the company. It continued to exist until at least 1988 and also sponsored Jack Decker’s newsletter, Northern Bytes.

Categories: Magazines


chuck butler says:

I cannot believe I came across this article. Amazing sometimes what you can find on the internet! I was kid running around TAS and have great memories playing on the TRS‑80. My dad CW Butler (Charley) was always pecking away at code back then and playing as much music as he could. He liked to burn the candle at both ends. The one thing I still say to people today is that “you can’t break the rules till you know them”. I miss the days of the TRS‑80. At the time it seemed complicated, but now looking back it was so much simpler.

Ron A. Zajac says:

I, uh, *worked* at TAS, in two stints. I started helping out around the place back when they were on Ada Street (Lansing). I split for places southernly, for a spell, then got invited back after their move to… Pennsylvania St.(?) After a couple of years of providing support work, I decided to hie myself back to university and jump into the corporate computing game; worked in telecom for 15 years. I’m doing ESL (in Taiwan) now. My best wishes that both Mr. Butler & Ms. Koslowski are managing to prosper, whatever they’re doing.

Tim Smith says:

I had a very short article printed in TAS that saved our company many $ over the life of our TRS‑80 systems. It was only a handful a assembly code bytes, but it really saved the day by substituting a capital letter O in place of the slashed zero in the printer stream.

Until this little patch was in place our customers would pay us $18.88 when only $10 was due. Causing us to send thousands of dollars in refunds and processing expense. After this little patch to remove the slash in the zero (Capital O was really the same pattern with the slash removed). Refunds dropped back to pre-computer levels.

This was a great publication, I really miss it and I still recall those early 8 bit systems fondly. They provided a wealth of learning opportunities and the reward of achievement along a much easier path than the GUI world of today.

Chuck Butler says:

I wanted to update anyone that sees this posting. C.W Butler Died of liver cancer on 9-11-2014.

Joni is still alive and is living in Michigan still.

I have all the volumes of The Alternate source saved here at my office. If anyone would like copies or scans please let me know.

My father was a amazingly talented man.

Chuck Butler

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