Microsoft open sources GWBASIC

Liam Proven lproven at
Tue May 26 06:43:48 CDT 2020

On Mon, 25 May 2020 at 20:49, Fred Cisin via cctalk
<cctalk at> wrote:
> I apologise for offending you.  Sloppiness and insnesitivity on my part,
> not a deliberate attempt.

Just saddened, Fred, not offended.

I never had a ZX81, but the door-wedge joke is as old as the machine.
I think its historical position as the first usable computer for under
£100 is sealed, though, so if you're gonna use the joke, get it

"Knock knock!"
"Who's there?"
"How many Germans does it take to change a light bulb?"

... Doesn't work. Same thing.

I did show my late Uncle Tom how to use the ZX81 he bought himself,
though. Using knowledge I'd gained fooling around with PETs at school.
I typed in a Lunar Lander type game, saved it to cassette, and got it
working, as I recall. He was deeply impressed; he had planned to
return the machine as faulty.

His widow, my Aunt Valerie, is 85 now and just remarried. Good for
her! I vaguely hope she still has the ZX81 and lets me have it... I'd
love to own the first privately-own computer I ever used as a child.

> Character graphics were never an acceptable substitute for bit-mapped.


And whereas it's easy to forget now, I think the roles of colour and
sound in gaining the attention of children is underestimated.

I look at the specs and capabilities of something like the Acorn Atom
in 1980 -- _way_ ahead of a ZX80 or ZX81, and to me now, looking back,
far more desirable (and far more expensive, of course). But to me at
12? Black and white, silent? REPEAT...UNTIL loops? *BOOOORING!*

> Here, the default TRS80 was $600, which was about 300 pounds,
> but you could get it without the [ordinary] cassette recorder monitor
> (which was a tuner-ectomied RCA TV) for $400, which was about 200 pounds.
> But, instead, it looked as though they just replaced the dollar sign with
> pound sign, and ignored the exchange rate!  So, you paid about twice as
> much for the machines.  I have heard prices of PET: 600 pounds (V $600),
> Apple: 1200 pounds (V$1200), and TRS80: 500 pounds (V $400 to $600)

Yep, that was standard practice.

I am sure I've mentioned it before, but around 1984-1985 and possibly
for a while after, there was a company in London that sold US-model
Apple Macintosh computers for about 2/3 of the price of Apple UK. The
way they operated was:

• you placed your order

• an employee took a taxi to Heathrow Airport and bought a walk-on
ticket to New York
(NB: we don't really *do* walk-on tickets in Europe. Almost all
flights involve crossing an international boundary, customs, passport
control, etc. So you pre-planned it, as it meant ~2h of security at
each end. Ergo, walk-on tickets are super-expensive.)
(P.S. to N.B. the Schengen zone has somewhat reduced this in
continental Europe, but the security requirements and checks are still

• the staffer got into a taxi from JFK to the nearest Apple dealer,
bought a Mac cash.

• the staffer got a taxi back to the airport, while opening the box in
the cab so it wasn't new sealed goods which attract import taxes

• the staffer flew back to Heathrow

• you collected your Mac from the shop

This *still* meant a 15-25% profit margin on a new Mac, since UK
prices were 2.5x higher than UK prices. The price differential of
about £1000 allowed for a decent profit of a £200 or so after all the
taxi fares and the air ticket.

This is why Apple introduced a policy of limiting its international
warrantees to people living in the country where the machine was
bought -- until jet-setting businessmen complained, when it was
reintroduced as a perk of your rather expensive computer.

> ham radio shack was slang for wherever a amateur radio hobbyist set up.
> Other than that, "shack" referred to an improvised/impromptu dwelling,
> such as ones made of tar paper, so it had similar negative connotations to
> everybody but amateur radio.  When they wanted to move upscale, they set
> up "Tandy Computer Centers/Stores" to start to get away from the "Radio
> Shack name.  It was ABOUT 1983 that they discontinued using the "Radio
> Shack" name.  Transition is apparent betwen models of the Model 100 and
> the "Color Computer".


Bear in mind, as I said, we didn't have most TRS-80 models here. The
CoCo was the 6809 one, right? The underlying reference design was put
in a different case and sold as the Dragon 32 here.

I *think* but am not sure that the TRS-80 range existed but barely
sold -- it was so expensive for a somewhat indifferent spec that
non-US machines looked far more competitive.

One model was related to the Dragon. Another was related to the Hong
Kong-made Video Genie:

I never saw one, but I know they were around -- I saw mention of them
in the magazines and things.

> And, the USA market was oblivious to any offerings elsewhere.


But as discerning admirers of vintage kit, nowadays, we know better,
right? Right?

> I was able to get two used Epson HC-20, which was later marketed in USA as
> HX-20 (with beige instead of grey case, and removal of Katakana from
> keyboard aand character ROMs.  It had an impressive Microsoft BASIC for
> its time.
> Then, I got a friend going to Japan to get me an Epson RC-20 (wrist watch
> with Z80-like processor, RAM, ROM, and a serial port)  NEVER sold in USA.

Epson _printers_ were very common here, indeed the defacto standard
for years for dot-matrix devices. Still are very common in inkjets.
They sold lots of PCs in the early days, too -- before Amstrad came
out with PCs such as the PC1512 and 1640 which drove the price down by
about half.

Suddenly everything else seemed uncompetitive.

> I bought a used Yamaha MSX from Mitchell Waite, and it was the only MSX
> that I ever saw.  Well, I barely saw it - within an hour of getting it, my
> assistant, who was into music borrowed it permanently.
> I bought a Sony SMC-70 (3.5" drive, obviously Italian case design, and had
> had some amazing demonstrations, without actually becoming readily
> available for sale.

The MSX 1 machines were here, but fairly rare. MSX1 did not impress
me. MSX2 looked great, very impressive, on paper, and MSX2+ and
Turbo-R were amazing -- some of the most-upgraded 8-bitters ever.

 > I never got an Amstrad, but I was impressed with the 3" disk design, and
> had some 3" drives.

Hitachi designed I believe.

> . . . , and a couple of Toshiba T300s (fairly ordinary NON-PC-DOS MS-DOS
> machine with 720K 5.25" drives; I patched PC-Write's video segment to run
> on  them).  At one point, I loaned them to the local USA Toshiba Nuclear
> Magnetic Resonance Imaging group.

I don't think I have _ever_ seen a *desktop* Toshiba! Hugely important
company in notebooks/laptops and even some huge clamshell
not-really-portable gas-plasma machines.

> You are absolutely right.  I screwed up.  BIG TIME.
> I apologise.  again.


> We have a national culture of ehtnocentricity and arrogance.  "We're
> number one!"  (particularly in COVID-19!)


Mind you, closely rivalled by the UK who are catching up fast. I am glad I left.

> We have a spectacular level of ignorance and gullibility sometimes!

It is to weep.

> The Monster Raving Loony party gave up on establishing in USA, because we
> can be TOO loony, and elect candidates beyond their jokes.


> We wouldn't know humour unless you remove the 'u'!  Our FAVORITE COLOR is
> GRAY.  And we use 'z' instead of 's'

Most Brits do not realize it [sic] but all the 'z' spellings are legal
in British English too. I use them from preference, partly as I work
in US English, partly because I enjoy hand-writing a cursive Z, and
partly because I enjoy annoying people.

> Our TV "Sit-Coms" can not compare with what are called "Brit-Coms";  Ed
> O'Neill is quite goos as Al Bundy, but not as good as Richard Wilson as
> Victor Meldrew.

Ah, there you go. I veer the other way. There was great UK/ TV comedy
in the '70s and '80s, a little in the '90s (e.g. Father Ted), and very
little since, IMHO.

> For light reading, I have most of the published writings of Douglas
> Adams and Terry Pratchett.

As former president of the Official Douglas Adams Appreciation
Society, I approve of this message.

> > No, you're thinking of Windows.
> Absolutely.
> The more that I use Windoze XP and 7, the less that I hate them; so they
> want to force me to switch to 10, and probably have to search to find
> suitable software for what I want.

I put Windows Thin PC on an old Sony Vaio P recently and yes, I had
forgotten how much I liked it... but I am happier with MacOS and Linux

> I have always been impressed by her silly sense of humour, such as her
> flip watch and her cup holder.  But even more impressed at her
> demonstrations of homemade transistors and ICs.

Very true.

Also the distinction of being the only person ever fired from Valve, I

Liam Proven – Profile:
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