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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