Coleco presents the ADAM Computer System – video from 1983


I was surprised to find that the ComputerHistory account on YouTube has recently uploaded a video of Coleco presenting a finalized version of the ADAM to the public.  This is great.  There’s lots of demonstrations.  Heck, just watch the video!



What is this & who is Mr. Dolan??

So I decided to fire up the ADAM today and check out SmartBASIC.  After throwing in the digital data pack and pulling the reset key, I was presented with this screen:


I have multiple SmartBASIC cassettes which explains why I haven’t seen this before; I simply haven’t ever loaded this until now.  Anyway, I type in “1234” and was presented with this:


Then I tried to see the contents using the GET option in SmartWriter.  Here are the files on the tape.


Sadly, for whatever reason, when I tried to boot the tape by pulling reset, the tape wheels would spin but ultimately brough me back to SmartWriter..  I don’t know the reason.  However, I can still access the program(s) by first loading SmartBASIC from another tape, then loading the “HELLO” program.  More on this later.  Oh and who is Mr. Dolan?

Was the Coleco ADAM really expensive at first?

Listening to vintage computing podcasts when the Coleco ADAM computer is brought up, you would have thought the ADAM was ridiculously expensive when it came out.  That just doesn’t make sense to me, because when I look at the ADAM I see a robust product: keyboard, memory console with a software controlled tape deck, printer, controllers with one attaching to the keyboard to act as a numeric keypad and a built-in word processing application.  The only thing it didn’t come with was a monitor.

So I did some simple digging through the world wide web and found some things.  It seems the ADAM was going to be sold for $600, but when it finally came to market, it was priced at $749.99.  That does seem like a lot of money, but I’m thinking about this from a modern day perspective.  So I went to see the prices of other computers of the time.  In 1983, Tandy’s TRS-80 Model 4 was selling for $1999.  Also in 1983, the Apple IIe was priced at $1400.  In 1981 the IBM 5150’s base model sold for $1600.  And finally, the most popular home computer of all time, the Commodore 64 was selling for $595 when it was released in 1982.

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Now before you send me messages about how each one of those computers would decrease in price, some dramatically, the ADAM did as well.  However, at those original prices, the ADAM looked like a great deal.  The Tandy did come with everything you needed to get up and running out of the box, but you had to take out a bank loan to get it.  The Apple IIe and Commodore 64 were computers with built-in keyboards, but the customer still needed to buy a disk drive separately if you wanted to run serious software.  The Commodore’s saving grace was that software cartridges could be inserted into the back of the unit without the need for a peripheral.  The C64 would eventually drop to about 200 dollars but adding a 1541 disk drive and printer would set the price close to, if not more than, the ADAM’s introductory price.

C64 and Coleco ADAM

SmartBASIC graphics program: Sparkle

32 BASIC Programs for the Coleco ADAM by Tom Rugg & Phil Feldman

32 BASIC Programs for the Coleco ADAM by Tom Rugg & Phil Feldman

There was a time when screensavers were a must on computers.  That time was pretty much the 1990s and early 2000s.  Some screensavers were simply random images that would be generated through code and go on until infinity or at least until you touch the mouse or keyboard.

Some of Coleco ADAM’s users were using SmartBASIC to make  elaborate animated art that could have been screensavers, though I’m sure they didn’t know that at the time.  The book “32 BASIC Programs for the Coleco ADAM” had such a program.  It will seem rather plain by today’s standards, but I was in awe when I typed this out and ran it on my ADAM back in the mid 1980s.

Check out the video to see for yourself.

Here is the program:


Coleco ADAM video podcast. That’s right: Video!

The RetroistBack in 2011, The Retroist did a podcast about the Coleco ADAM computer.  That podcast, as well as all the others, are in audio format.  Being a Coleco ADAM fan and content provider for The Retroist website, I decided to make a video version of that podcast. Check out the video here:

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 😉

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.