You may have used my Coleco ADAM BBS

My family was fortunate to receive a ColecoVision game console with the bundled Donkey Kong cartridge as our 1982 Christmas gift from our grandparents.  The ColecoVision was a really big treat because my family was not often afforded such expensive hot sellers as gifts.  Compared to the other gaming systems of that time, ColecoVision offered the best home version ports of many popular arcade games.  I also witnessed Coleco’s advertised promise of an eventual full-blown computer add-on with great interest!  (This add-on version would later be known as the red-boxed model 2404 and called the Coleco Expansion module #3.)

Magazine articles started featuring stories and various photos of the Adam computer prototypes and I enthusiastically knew I had to get one.  When the Adam computer arrived in stores, I was not financially ready, and began to see worrisome complaints about Adam too.  I continued to monitor the situation and wait for an opportunity.

I think it was early 1985 when my local Toys “R” Us put the standalone Adam (blue-boxed model 2410) on clearance for just $300.  What a deal!  I felt somewhat wary of the alleged quality problems, but proceeded to purchase at closeout pricing the system I had been eager to own for so VERY long.  After following setup manuals and powering Adam on, I was severely dismayed… because THE ADAM EXCEEDED ALL MY EXPECTATIONS!  How could Coleco abandon this product when the final shipped version was just OUTSTANDING?

In time I found many people in the 1980’s Adam community wanted to share Adam information, buy, sell, and trade related hardware and software.  There were some online paid services like CompuServe that made this possible before the days of the World Wide Web, today called “Internet”.  Also, we had various privately funded and run dial-up electronic bulletin board systems (BBS) which were rapidly growing in numbers.  Yet Adam was being limited to connecting to BBS systems almost always running on Atari or Commodore computers!  While I appreciated those other computers and their home computing contributions, I strongly believed Adam hardware was more than capable of operating a native Adam BBS and started myself off to design one.

I attempted to apply my BASIC programming language skills towards self-learning the scarier (yet more promising) area of CP/M assembly language and the highly efficient machine language it produced.  As Beethoven had his Fifth Symphony, my many long months of tedious part-time training and coding produced my first and biggest assembly language program, now dubbed the ADAMcastle BBS.  I began selling it to a handful of customers both near and very far.  Also, I learned there were other Adam BBS programs developing including a SmartBASIC BBS, and another CP/M BBS converted for Adam CP/M.  However my BBS was written from scratch and ran entirely from RAM.  Therefore it avoided annoying delays such as interactively loading program modules or messages from data pack or disk.  Contents could be saved to media when wishing to shut down the BBS for other Adam tasks.  It was common for many BBS to share a daytime voice number with a nightly BBS modem line.  My BBS was favorably and briefly mentioned in the June 1988 Adam newsletter Nibbles and Bits.

As times changed, I somewhat left the Adam community behind in the mid 1990’s but never forgot.  I refused to part with many of my most precious Adam peripherals and software.  (Dragon’s Lair anyone?)  Today there is almost no reason to run a landline dial-up BBS system.  I am still tremendously proud of the product I delivered to increase communication among Coleco Adam owners and enthusiasts in these earlier days of home computing.

Today I have been drawn back into the still exciting, but somehow vintage world of Coleco Adam.  Maybe I will code some Adam assembly programming again.  I hope to make new friends and learn more wonders about my all-time favorite 8-bit home computer.  It certainly has a clever and storied past.  That long-gone toy company surprisingly engineered a lot of character and personality into our memorable and worthwhile computer system.

— Shawn Merrick

11 thoughts on “You may have used my Coleco ADAM BBS

  1. Thanks for the article! Takes me back to the BBS days using my ADAMLink and getting free trial version of Compuserve along with it. Where there were literally hundreds of BBS around the nation to connect to during that time. Spent countless hours on BBS and trying to find ones that were compatible to connect to. Fun times!

  2. UPDATE JULY 13TH 2021
    I have been rebuilding my Coleco ADAM computer setup over the last month in the hopes of making the BBS available again to our ADAM family. A part of this process includes reacquiring some equipment and jogging my memory for some things I had forgotten in the distant 30 years of the past. For example, each copy of the BBS program was personalized for the owner to encourage legitimate sales of my software. That is why there has not been an easily obtainable standard copy in current Adam archives. I just overcame a MAJOR hurdle reading my source code disk! Keep in mind I am re-learning where everything is located, and how to compile it on Adam again. My hope is to make this a 2021 Christmas gift to the Adam community.

    I have successfully built my own ADAM Drive Emulator (ADE) and begun transferring my assembly language source code to DSK files on microSD card. There are some odd quirks I am re-learning about using the physical 720K quad density disks in CPM. I’m making progress on the 1986 BBS program!

    The ADAMCastle BBS updates have been going well so far. There are 2,965 lines of source code. The Christmas 2021 release is now simply titled ADAMBBS v4.0 Vintage Edition. I have been discussing it on the Coleco ADAM Facebook Group which I recently joined. Seems like a good group : )

  5. A friend of mine linked me to this article. We were reminiscing about the old days when we first met. I developed and ran a BBS on my Coleco Adam mid to late 80’s. It was a SmartBasic / Assembler hybrid that went through a lot of evolution including 1200 and then 2400 bps modem, 64k RAM expansion module, disk drives …. The Z80A assembler was courtesy of my mentor and programming guru friend — someone who also had and was passionate about everything Coleco and Adam. I remember hacking an old joystick into an old-style telephone so my software could detect and answer incoming calls. I learned a lot about coding, memory optimization, caching, code efficiency, response times. I made that puppy sing and out-perform many of C64 BBS contemporaries. Proud of that. I also produced “SmartTerm 1.2” not to much commercial success. I look back on those times with fondness.

    • So… you and your BBS were… my competition? Nice to meet you at last! Tell us more about your BBS, I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to hear the details please.

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