April 27th, 2006


Off to meet old friends

Tomorrow irpooh and I will be on the road to Elgin, Illinois for the Fifteenth Annual Last Chicago CoCoFest. This is a meeting of users of the TRS-80 Color Computer. Back in the mid-80s when RAINBOW magazine held Color Computer conferences, over 10,000 people would attend. The CoCo 3 was last sold by Radio Shack in 1991 (they'd stopped production earlier, and were just selling the stock they had remaining), and this weekend I expect that about fifty of us will get together.

It's not just nostalgia; I will almost certainly buy one of the new VGA adapters for the CoCo, finally liberating us from the few monitors that remain that can do the 15.75 KHz TV scan rate. I am not sure what the status of Cloud-9's SuperBoard is. That will provide two megabytes of RAM (!), two decent serial ports, a bidirectional parallel port, and additional ROM options, and optionally support SCSI and IDE, a real-time clock, a PS/2 keyboard, and Ethernet.

We'll meet, and talk about what people are doing; this year we hope to have video streaming for those who can't make it to Elgin. We will probably have music again on Saturday night (that we'll make ourselves--computer and math skills are correlated with musical talent). Brother Jeremy, a monk who attends each year in tunic, tabard, and sandals and plays a mean rhythm guitar, will conduct mass on Sunday morning.

At some point we're going to have to consider the ASICs that aren't made any more—which, alas, includes the 6809 and 6309 CPUs—and how to wean the CoCo from dependence on floppies. There's some talk of deducing the design of the GIME chip from a discrete component prototype and, with luck, extending its graphics capabilities, cutting down on the granularity of memory mapping, and most importantly, decoupling the CPU clock from the video scan rate. There's also talk of an FPGA implementation of the 6809 or 6309. (One exists commercially, in the sense of existing as code, but would be too expensive to use for our purposes.)

Why go to all this trouble? The CoCo dates from before the dominance of PClones, back when there were actually different kinds of computers. Today, computers are commodities.

Now, Nortons and Indians and Greeves just won't do
They haven't got a soul like a Vincent '52

A couple of people in the CoCo community are in need of good wishes/vibes/etc. One is Dave Kelly, who won't be able to make it to Elgin this weekend, and another is one of the premier programmers of the CoCo, responsible in large part for the infamous OS-9 Level Two upgrade that Tandy ditched at the last minute: Kevin Darling.
  • Current Music
    "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," Bob Cook and Gary Audsley