SmartBASIC boxing program. Spoiler: it’s a joke.

You may have noticed a lack of posts lately.  There’s plenty to write about the short-lived Coleco ADAM computer, so writer’s block is not the issue.  It’s a lack of time and energy that is the problem:  I am back in the boxing gym, hoping for another go around in the sport.  Maybe a few more amateur fights.  One professional bout.  We’ll see.  Been back in the gym since March.  Slow way back since I haven’t fought in 8 years.

I found the time to write a post and thought to make it boxing related.  So I loaded the Virtual ADAM on my PC and started writing a boxing trivia game through SmartBASIC.  After I finished the first question, I realized this would be pointless unless you could guarantee that the person playing didn’t input the code themselves.  I quit writing the code after the realization the person playing would see the answers as they entered the program into BASIC.


At least you know I’m still around ;-)

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Was there a Coleco – Microsoft connection?

MsftColecoIn the early 1980s, Microsoft was creating software for many different machines.  Commodore, IBM, Apple, Texas Instruments, all had software produced by Microsoft.  If the computer was sold well, Microsoft was trying to make software for it.

I wondered if Microsoft considered making software for the Coleco ADAM.  Remember, there was a time when there was a lot of hype around this machine, thanks in part to the Consumer Electronics Show of 1983.  Perhaps Coleco caught Microsoft’s attention.  I asked Senior Software Engineer for Coleco, Howard Eglowstein, to give me a definitive answer.  He wrote:

“I’m not aware that Microsoft ever had any conversations with Coleco. About anything. Microsoft did write the floating point Applesoft interpreter – sort of. Apple employees took the Microsoft source and modified it. It was essentially the Microsoft code with some adaptations for the Apple. The version in ROM was integer BASIC only, and I *think* Woz wrote that.

Coleco’s BASIC was written from scratch by Lazer Microsystems. It was designed to look as much like Applesoft as possible. It was so good that it fooled a lot of people into thinking it was from the same source. It ran faster though (if you allow for processor speeds) and the floating point math was higher precision. Obviously the PEEKs and POKEs you needed to do on the Apple to reach places didn’t work either. I don’t recall whether the EOS file system was reachable with the PRINT/CTRL-D hack or not. It didn’t emulate the integer BASIC though and that was a problem for the marketing people. After they whined loud enough, the Lazer engineers implemented the “INT” and “FP” commands to switch from integer to floating point. All it did though was to change the prompt from “>” to “]” and back. It was enough for the crack marketing team though.

There are incompatibilities with some of the graphics due to the very different display hardware and programs that use floating point will behave differently since SmartBASIC has more digits of accuracy.”

Apparently there isn’t a connection at all, but at least I learned something about SmartBASIC.

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Coleco ADAM software: RECIPE FILER

Recipe FilerNot too long ago, a gentleman by the name of Virgil from my Facebook page, asked about a specific recipe from Coleco’s Recipe Filer.  I decided to record the boot sequence and go through the main menu of installed recipes.  This gave me an opportunity to discuss this program.

I’ve talked before how technology enthusiasts wanted to see computers throughout the entire home, kitchen included.  A program like this would make sense if you had an ADAM computer in the kitchen, assuming you had a BIG kitchen for this system.  You can save your recipes digitally and do without the recipe box.  It was a step in the right direction, but realistically, not feasible.  These days, with computers the size of notebooks, this idea works.

So here’s a video I made of Coleco’s Recipe Filer for the ADAM computer.  Enjoy.

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Don’t insult Coleco ADAM computer owners!

Oh yes, I'm quite immature.

Oh yes, I’m quite immature.

I hate to start the New Year with a negative blog post, but… here goes.

I was scrounging around the world wide web looking for a new podcast to listen to.  Of course, anything involving vintage computing will catch my attention.  Then I came across a podcast about Atari computers.  I downloaded all the episodes of the podcast to my phone and listened to the debut episode on my way to work.  Just before the 8 minute mark, one of the hosts mentioned that a friend’s first computer was the Coleco ADAM.  The other hosts chuckled.  Then he proceeded to say, “ least he got something but I don’t think that’s something I would admit to…”

Remarks like that get under my skin.  Apparently, I have thin skin.  Why does that bother me?  Besides insulting something that I have fond memories of, you’re insulting me and every other owner for having purchased it.  The vintage computing enthusiast world is a small one..  Why insult any of them?  Antics like this will lose you listeners and in this case, they lost me.

It’s true that many of the Coleco ADAM computers were defective, but by the time they were on clearance, those issues were solved.  It was a solid device with a decent word processing application built-in and was capable of doing anything an Atari computer can do.

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Coleco’s ADAM & Microsoft’s Xbox 360: things that make you go ‘hmm’

ADAM Xbox 360Those that know me know that I am a fan of Microsoft products.  I write about, read about them, own them, and use them.  Of course I am into the ColecoVision & Coleco ADAM as well.  I recently thought about the similarity of the Xbox 360 & ADAM computer.  Stay with me here as I will try to show how they are alike.

Coleco had much success with their game console the ColecoVision which was released in 1982.  Consumers raved about it.  Then Coleco tried to get their hands in the computer business by producing the ADAM.  Unfortunately, its creation was rushed.  As a result, nearly 50 percent (some say more) of ADAMs were returned as defective.

Red RingMicrosoft released a game console called the Xbox back in 2001.  Like the ColecoVision, consumers were very excited and happy about Microsoft’s gaming console.  When the Xbox 360 debuted in 2005, there were many owners complaining of something called the “red ring of death”.  Basically there was a flaw in the Xbox 360 that would cause it to stop working and a red circle L.E.D. to light up around the power button.  Microsoft exchanged these bad ones for devices that worked.  It has been estimated that somewhere between 25 to 50 percent of 360’s failed.  (Keep in mind, these are first generation 360s.  The 360 Slim, which came later, was a much better piece of hardware, with very little being returned as defective.)

Those first generation Xbox 360s would have bankrupt many companies.  Microsoft, however, has many divisions which bring in record profits year after year, such as Office and Windows.  Coleco was no where near as big as Microsoft and could not rely on their other divisions to save them.  While the Cabbage Patch Kids earned huge profits for Coleco, it was only popular for the first year it debuted.  Coleco had too much debt and not enough product to save itself.  And unlike Microsoft, they dropped their video game division at the first sign of trouble.

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Coleco ADAM’s SmartLOGO demo program.

I wrote about the SmartLOGO software for the Coleco ADAM computer earlier this month.  As part of that article, I uploaded the tutorial that came on the digital data pack.  What I forgot to show was the demonstration program that was included.  ColecoVision YouTube evangelist, 65GAMERGUY, reminded me about it and suggested I upload that too.  So without further ado, here is the SmartLOGO demonstration program broken down in 2 parts:

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Coleco ADAM software: SmartLOGO

As a child, I used to play with a program on my ADAM computer called SmartLOGO.  I would draw things with it, make animations, and sometimes songs.  This was my favorite piece of software for the ADAM.  I would look at the things it could do and think, “Wow, what will computer graphics be like in the future?”  Unbeknownst to me, at the time, computer programmers were already doing mind-blowing stuff in terms of computer art, graphics, and animation.  This post is not about that.  It’s about SmartLOGO.

The Coleco ADAM SmartLOGO manual.

The Coleco ADAM SmartLOGO manual.

SmartLOGO was made by Logo Computer Systems Inc. in 1984.  They are still around!  They make educational software.  Logo is an educational programming language that produces computer graphics.  Coleco’s SmartLOGO software came on a digital data pack and with a fantastic manual.  The author of the manual, Seymour Papert, was on the team that created the first version of logo in 1967.

The core of any LOGO program is the turtle.  Call it a turtle, call it a cursor, it is basically your pen on screen.  You can command the turtle to draw a straight line a certain length by using a command like “Forward 50″.  You can draw a square by telling it to repeat a command like so: “Repeat 4 [Forward 30 Right 90]“.   You can create a procedure to make a square with a few more commands: “To Square Repeat 4 [FD 30 RT 90] End”.  Then anytime you want to make a square, you simply type “Square” and press return.  In most LOGO programs, the turtle is a shape like an triangle, but in SmartLOGO, it is literally shaped like a turtle. However, you can assign your own image if you like.  SmartLOGO gives you the option of creating your own turtle or sprite.

In time, the user will learn how to make complex images, animations, how to use sprites, and even how to create music.  Coleco’s SmartLOGO came with a tutorial.  I recorded the whole thing using actual hardware, not an emulator.  Here is part one & two.

I also spent more than an hour creating what turns out to be a 3 second program using SmartLOGO.  Enjoy =)

* Like to thank the RETROIST for help with this post.

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