Microsoft open sources GWBASIC

Jim Brain brain at
Tue May 26 14:51:58 CDT 2020

On 5/26/2020 1:54 PM, Liam Proven via cctalk wrote:
> Interesting that you echo word-for-word the phrase used by a commenter
> on my blog. (I try to remember to turn all my longer ClassicCmp
> answers into blog posts.)
> "A gateway drug".
> Yes, indeed.


> But I guess most American readers have never heard of any of these machines. :-(

Well, *I've* heard of them, but I enjoy knowing about such things.  Most 
in the US do not.  But, to be fair, most in the US don't even remember 
all of the US-based systems.  Altair gets a nod as it shows up in 
articles concerning computer firsts, but none of the proto or early 
S-100 based systems are remembered (Cromemco, Northstar, etc.) nor the 
other Z80 machines like the Kaypro and Osborne.  FOlks know about IBM, 
but most don't know they still make mainframes and midrange (OS400 or 
whatever it is called now) machines, and Burroughs, Wang, Amdahl, 
Hitachi are missed. , Super computer is forever linked with Cray, but 
Control Data, Thinking Machines, Silicon Graphics, and even Sun are no 
more remembered.  On the micro front, Atari still carries some name 
recognition, mainly because of the coin ops and consoles, but everyone 
has forgotten about Commodore or that HP and TI made computers and that 
Tandy Radio Shack made a computer themselves and didn't just resell PC 
clones. THat doesn't even include the semi-pro machines or hobbyist 
options. So, while we didn't know about all the non US machines, we 
didn't even know about all the US ones, and folks have forgotten about 
the ones we did know about. People remember IBM because of the PC, and 
Apple because of the Mac (and that they did a "proto" mac machine back 
in the late 1970s (Hey, not saying it is true, it's just how people 
choose to position the Apple II).

It is a shame we didn't see the BBC machines here, and the 
Timex/Sinclair joint venture to bring out the TS1000 made a mockery of 
the entire line, apologize for that.  I agree the unit was plucky and I 
have one here.  Evidently, there exists a lower bound of functionality 
of computing capability in the US, and the little wedge just didn't make 
it.  By extension, all future machines were branded in the US, as I 
recall.  Japanese MSX machines, some of the neat options from Australia, 
lots of cool variety not seen in the US.

> Outside of CP/M were *any* mainstream American home computers Z80
> based before the C128?
I can't really think of any.  Some might say the Coleco ADAM, but it was 
> I am just surprised that this (to me) rather inelegant design survived
> and got to market, given what you've said about the same company's
> ruthless drive for cost-cutting removed one PCB trace even though it
> killed floppy-disk performance, or wouldn't use an extra ROM chip
> because it was too expensive.
> It seems inconsistent.

I have to believe (again), it was some Marketing demand.  There's a list 
of reasons it was a bad idea from the start:

  * 40 column and no soft 80 column option on the 64, where almost all
    CP/M software expected 80x24
  * No way to read CP/M disks in the market (all were FM or MFM,
    Commodore had no FM/MFM drive option)
  * Power hungry cart overloaded minimal PSU

It seems inconsistent with the general CBM trend.  Though, to be fair, 
there were a number of marginally useful carts for the 64 of this type.  
The Sound Expander, Magic Voice, the CP/M cart, etc. Most of them are 
footnotes at best.  Maybe there was an edict to fill the pipeline with 
peripherals, to make a point to competitors, and the value was in 
aggregate, not in the usefulness of each item.


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