[Coladam] Thanks for the Coleco Employee interview

shonmccallum at juno.com shonmccallum at juno.com
Sat Apr 3 20:19:13 CEST 2010


Thanks for the interview with the Coleco employee. Is there any chance we can get some unreleased software and hardware placed into public domain? This would be ideal before things get lost for every. There is a reliable professional review that was published many years ago in the early 80's about "Smurf the Supergame" for the old unleased supergame module. Maybe this can be ported over to the Adam if anyone has it. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
            In the 80's and early 90's I spent a lot of money to get unreleased Coleco software that end up in public domain.  


---------- Original Message ----------
From: coladam-request at adamcon.org
To: coladam at adamcon.org
Subject: Coladam Digest, Vol 58, Issue 4
Date: Sat, 03 Apr 2010 05:49:30 +0200

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Today's Topics:

  1. Re: SW roms (Geoff Oltmans)
  2. Re: Re :  ADAM Designer (Geoff Oltmans)
  3. Recommendation: New Pac-Man Trailer Should Ignite A Fever For
     Arcade Adaptations, on Movieline (cleechez at tamcotec.com)
  4. Buck Rogers (Bob)
  5. Re: Buck Rogers (Jim Notini)
  6. Re: Buck Rogers (Joe Blenkle)


----------------------------------------------------------------------

Message: 1
Date: Thu, 1 Apr 2010 22:09:41 -0500
From: Geoff Oltmans <geoff at oltmansfamily.org>
Subject: Re: [Coladam] SW roms
To: drushel at apk.net
Cc: coladam at adamcon.org
Message-ID: <E8E8EC0B-973A-4924-9709-F1F103D7B902 at oltmansfamily.org>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii

Ah, that's a good point. I hadn't considered that the SW code would attempt to swap back out to the ROM space rather than the RAM. Might take some patches as well, if they could reasonably be done.


On Apr 1, 2010, at 6:38 PM, Rich Drushel wrote:

> 
> On Thu, April 1, 2010 2:49 pm, geoff at oltmansfamily.org wrote:
> 
>> I'm not sure I agree. According to the Adam Technical Manual, the MIOC can
>> be set up where the Smartwriter ROM (in the low 32k address space) is
>> replaced with 32k system RAM.
> 
>     Hi Geoff, there are configurations to mix/match ROM and RAM address
> spaces.  But if you are running a SW ROM image from RAM, then you have
> to trap all the cases where SW is trying to swap back to itself in ROM.
> Writing code to use multiple address spaces is tricky, as you have to
> be sure to be running code from one 32K while only swapping out the other
> -- otherwise poof your code vanishes.  You can however load up sequential
> banks of XRAM with the same code at the same address space, so when the
> bank switches, it is still going to execute the same instruction.  RAMdisk
> code has to do tricky stuff like that.
> 
>     What I am sure you can't do is have an XRAM configuration where the
> low 32K is from one bank and the high 32K is simultaneously from another.
> E.g., low 32K from bank 0, high 32K from bank 1.  If you have put your
> SW ROM code into the low 32K to run it from there, as a shadow ROM, then
> you could only use the high 32K of XRAM for other purposes.  SW from ROM
> is expecting to be able to use both low and high 32K of bank 0 of XRAM
> for extra workspace.  It does this by moving some code bits into the
> banks to handle switching problems as described above.  SW does not know
> about any XRAM other than bank 0 (as 128K and up XRAM were aftermarket
> and need additional hardware to provide a separate XRAM bank-select
> port -- originally part of the Orphanware parallel interface, also available
> as an "addresser card").
> 
>     Thus, the easiest way to get SW to run from XRAM is to patch all
> the code that does bank-switching to put the SW ROM into low 32K, with
> the value to make that the low 32K of XRAM, and disable SW's own detect
> of XRAM (bank 0 = 64K), to prevent it from trying to use XRAM as a
> document buffer at all.
> 
>     I haven't looked over the SW code in detail for awhile, but this is
> to the best of my recollection (and also experience with RAMdisk drivers,
> which are elegant when they work but tricky to write).
> 
>     *Rich*
> 
> -- 
> Richard F. Drushel, Ph.D.            | "They fell:  for Heaven to them no hope
> Department of Biology                |  imparts / Who hear not for the beating
> Case Western Reserve University      |  of their hearts."
> Cleveland, Ohio  44106-7080  U.S.A.  |         -- Edgar Allan Poe, "Al-Aaraaf"
> 
> 
> _______________________________________________
> Coladam mailing list
> Coladam at adamcon.org
> http://adamcon.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/coladam



------------------------------

Message: 2
Date: Thu, 1 Apr 2010 22:22:06 -0500
From: Geoff Oltmans <geoff at oltmansfamily.org>
Subject: Re: [Coladam] Re :  ADAM Designer
To: Daniel Bienvenu <newcoleco at yahoo.fr>
Cc: coladam at adamcon.org
Message-ID: <A7EB8DD6-88DE-4692-8AA6-3E1917A2ECB2 at oltmansfamily.org>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1

It turns out to not be as interesting as I thought, but he did reveal some interesting information about a followup game system to the Coleco Vision.


On Apr 1, 2010, at 2:18 PM, Daniel Bienvenu wrote:

> Always wanted to hear more details about the unreleased super game module.
> 
> --- En date de : Jeu 1.4.10, geoff at oltmansfamily.org <geoff at oltmansfamily.org> a ?crit :


Here's the email thread... I've removed his email address for the list, but it was easy enough to find with his name alone. Start from the bottom.



> From: "Bill Rose"
> Date: March 15, 2010 4:44:23 PM CDT
> To: "'geoffrey oltmans'" <oltmansg at bellsouth.net>
> Subject: RE: Greetings!
> 
> Oh that one!! Another great story. The microwafer drive was the endless loop I mentioned. Didn't work. The Supergame Module was supposed to be based on that but as CES neared we realized it couldn't cut it. The unit that went to CES had to use ROM'd games "under the covers". The tapes only held the ROM bank select number repeated over and over. We would simply read the ROM bank code off the tapes, delay starting the game for a period of time and then play it from ROM. Had some quirks too. If someone removed the tape during play and put in another tape, the old game continued to play unless they hit reset. Some uncomfortable moments in front of press as the demonstrator screwed up. The rest is history. As for the "Super" games, we released some of them on Adam tapes for play on the Adam. I still have Super Zaxxon and others though I doubt they still play - the tape drives were a bit "finiky' even then. I know one of our old techs who still has copies of almost everything we ever developed. We did release a floppy drive for the Adam toward the end but too late to save it. Also too expensive.
>  
> We did work on an optical disk game system but the games were very poor. The problem was the disks were really video disks so the games attempted to use branching based on the player's moves. Do something and branch to another video scene, do something else, branch again. Seel times were slow so you had to wait a few seconds to see the next branch. The video processing at the time was too limited to seemlessly add game play or over lay the video. Also they were not good as data disks (no real data format) so loading data took some work. Killed that one too.
>  
> What no one knows is that we also developed an Apple II knock off in 3 chips. However, following on the heels of Adam, the banks wouldn't loan the money to go into production even though we did complete the design, ASICs, built prototypes and had negotiated with JVC to build it. It was a land mark machine. It used the Windows concept before the MAC was out (no one knew to call them Windows and we never patented the idea) - drop down menus, etc. It also included a 2400 baud dial up modem and a phone. We could play head to head games over the phone lines, download/upload files (even unattended over night), etc. Pick up the phone, your contact list would pop up - in the middle of a game!! Make the call by pushing a button or dialing and then resume the game. Touch the calculator keypad and a calc would pop up on the screen, etc. The case was designed by Porsch. Very cool and way ahead of its time. We had working models - don't know what happened to them.
>  
> Also developed a next gen video game system - 32 sprites per line (Colecovision had 4), much better graphics, colors, and sound. But the real kicker were the 4 vector engines that used the graphics engine for background graphics. The vector graphics created the space ships, etc. on the full graphics background. I believe we could handle 2K vectors at 30 frames per second. And with the integral dial up modem, we could play real-time head to head games with multiple players over phone lines since each player would put up his own background graphics and simply send the vector information (very compact) over the phone. Unfortunately Coleco exited the video game market before we could launch it. But we did have working prototypes.
>  
> They were exciting times. I ran Advanced R&D and had a team that eventually broke up and went to Sun, Apollo, Apple, Intel, and others. Very talented team. We did some Artificial Intelligence work as well for products like the Talking Cabbage Patch Dolls (each doll had a digital RF network to let them coordinate their scripts - they talked to each other, sang songs together, etc.  Another Coleco first was Laser Tag which was eventually released by Worlds of Wonder.
>  
> Bill
> 
> From: geoffrey oltmans [mailto:oltmansg at bellsouth.net] 
> Sent: Monday, March 15, 2010 4:01 PM
> To: Bill Rose
> Subject: Re: Greetings!
> 
> 
> I think you're referring to the Expansion Module #1 (Atari 2600 compatible) that was actually released. It was as you indicate practically a standalone system other than using the RF modulator and the power supply from the Coleco Vision. I was referring instead to this gadget (great pictures here, overlook the inflammatory language about the ADAM <g>). It used presumably the same wafertape/floopy drive you're talking about with the original ADAM drives...
> 
> http://www.colecovision.dk/sgm.htm
> 
> I see they also have a picture there of Super Zaxxon in CED videodisc form. I had found an article about Coleco making a videodisc capable system, so there was some early confusion among the hobbyists about whether it would be videodisc or wafertape based. I guess they tried both?
> 
> Very interesting info about the IBM PC compatibility mode! I can see how that would have been in the works. Seems like everyone up to and including the Amiga tried to make a hardware option for that if they couldn't do it in software.
> 
> I love a good story... I'll bet the home computer/PC industry was interesting to work in (and probably somewhat stressful at times) back when it was still hot.
> 
> Geoff
> 
> From: Bill Rose 
> To: geoffrey oltmans <oltmansg at bellsouth.net>
> Sent: Mon, March 15, 2010 2:41:41 PM
> Subject: RE: Greetings!
> 
> The serial network was my work. The original used the Z80 to 'bit bash' RS232 ports to each peripheral. I did a quick calc and found there were no where near enough instruction cycles in the Z80 to also run the OS and word processor. I designed the DMA at home in my 'free time'. We switched to the new design in early May but management insisted we had to ship in Aug. There was no hardware, drivers, or software when we switched. i.e. 4 months to do it all. Obviously not possible. At one point mgmt asked why we weren't shipping (around October). The answer was "they are all failing final test". Mgmt then informed manuf to cease final test and ship!!! Bad decision.
>  
> The game screens I referred to were in development when we announced we were exiting Colecovision as well as others we developed for distribution using the Adam's tape drives. I ran game design as well as hardware and software development at that time so I got early releases. These are screens that have never been seen by the public. Actually I haven't looked at them in years.
>  
> As for your questions, Adam was supposed to use miniature endless loop tapes - much smaller versions of the 8 track tapes of the 70's. Problem was reliability. They jammed just like their larger cousins. We could never get them to operate for any length of time. We scrapped them for the cassette tape drives. These were similar to standard cassettes except we added some holes that were used to align them and hold them in alignment during high speed operation. We operated at 20 ips (inches per second) with FFD/RWD at 80 ips. Standard cassettes had too much movement to keep the tape in comtact with the head. We also had to use higher quality tape - basically "first run" tape to minimize defects in the magnetic media. First run means the first batch of tape coming off a line. The bath they use to coat tape degrades as it is used. Similar to high quality video tape.
>  
> The super game module was actually a nearly complete Atari game system. About all we used from Colecovision was the power supply and perhaps the video modulator (I forget the details). It gave us full compatibility with Atari games because it was an Atari system. I don't think the Z80 or graphics processor was used for anything when using the module. Adam was a completely separate effort. No relation at all. It was the time of the Timex/Sinclair, TRS80 (pronounced Trash 80), Commodore VIC-20, and Commodore 64. Home computers were getting big and Coleco wanted to be a player. The initial design was simply a Colecovision with the RS232 ports added, the endless loop tape drive, a printer, and keyboard. The idea was that it was a computer with a real operating system and word processor out of the box. No need to program in Basic. I was hired to work on that design. See above for where it went.
>  
> We did design (paper only) an ASIC that would allow the Z80 to emulate an IBM PC. The designer, a kid fresh out of college, was Steve Perlman who later went on to found WebTV and MOXI. We killed the project before implementing it.
>  
> As I said, lots of unwritten history here.
>  
> Bill
> 
> From: geoffrey oltmans [mailto:oltmansg at bellsouth.net] 
> Sent: Monday, March 15, 2010 2:46 PM
> To: Bill Rose
> Subject: Re: Greetings!
> 
> Bill:
> 
> I actually started disassembling the code from dumps I made from the actual MCUs, but ended up getting a set of the source code for several of the 6801 MCUs from another fellow ADAM tinkerer on the Coleco ADAM mailing list. These were all listings from the ADAM Technical Manual apparently. The combination of the MIOC/6801 and ADAMNet implementation are probably the most interesting aspect of the system to me. That and the tape drive implementation, which seemed like a novel solution to the relatively high price of disk based storage of the time. It probably didn't hurt that it played Coleco Vision games which I also loved at the time. ;) Anyway, I've never seen any other home computers from the time frame that had a serial communications channel for the expansion devices that was DMA'able. I also like that it was generic enough to support a wide variety of different devices. I have kicked around the idea of making a USB->ADAMNet adapter so that you could use real ADAM peripherals with the emulator on a PC, or alternatively use a PC to emulate peripherals on a real ADAM system since they are relatively scarce. Probably would use something like a Coldfire microcontroller maybe (since I've got a neat little SBC prototyping board from Freescale anyways), or dirt cheap like a PIC. I'm new to the world of USB, so I figured that might be a novel idea for a learning tool. Did you also write bits of the EOS code also?
> 
> It is a shame that the system couldn't overcome the initial bad reviews. Bad news travels faster than good news unfortunately, and I guess they were so concerned about missing out on the Christmas buying season that slipping the ship date was politically impossible.
> 
> I think I may have seen a dump of a demo cartridge (store demo maybe?) for the ADAM that showed off a lot of different software they had planned. Might be the same thing you're talking about. Couple quick questions for you... I have seen a picture of alternate ADAM console pictures from the CES prior to release. It looked like it had slot-loading DDP drives similar to a car cassette player. Does this sound familiar? Also, is it true that the ADAM started out life as the Super Game Module attachment for the Coleco Vision, and then morphed into the computer design, or were they completely separate designs?
> 
> Nice to be able to put a (virtual) face to a design like this. :)
> 
> Later!
> 
> Geoff
> 
> From: Bill Rose
> To: Geoff Oltmans <oltmansg at bellsouth.net>
> Sent: Mon, March 15, 2010 1:14:51 PM
> Subject: RE: Greetings!
> 
> Hi Geoff
> 
> Wow that's a blast from the past. Didn't know anyone outside of a few at
> Coleco knew I wrote code for the Adam. I actually designed much of the
> hardware. My code was primarily the drivers specific to my hardware design.
> It had to be written in assembler to operate efficiently. The hardware had
> some very specific requirements that few of the software team were able to
> fully understand to write the code. Very timing specific to handle the DMA
> without impacting the Z80's operation. In fact they tried to rewrite it but
> ended up going back to my original code. Long story there. 
> 
> Nice to know someone remembers the Adam. It was pretty revolutionary at the
> time. Its undoing was trying to go from initial schematics to shipment in 4
> months. Took us about 8 months to get it stable but by then it was too late.
> The early shipments were too buggy to survive the bad reviews. Very long
> story there. 
> 
> I still have mine though it is in storage at this point. I also have some
> game screens in EPROM for Zaxon and others that were never released. 
> 
> Bill 
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Geoff Oltmans [mailto:oltmansg at bellsouth.net] 
> Sent: Friday, March 12, 2010 5:11 PM
> To: 
> Subject: Greetings!
> 
> Hello Mr. Rose:
> 
> Believe it or not, I stumbled across your name while perusing some source
> code that you helped write for the Coleco ADAM Master 6801! I just wanted to
> give you some kudos for helping to create one of my favorite home computers.
> This machine more than any other shaped my interest in computing technology
> as a child.
> 
> I now work in embedded system design at a company called ADTRAN. We design
> telecommunications equipment. In my spare time I like to dissect your work
> on the ADAM, and have been porting Marcel de Kogel's excellent ADAM emulator
> to work in Mac OS X.
> 
> I just felt it necessary to write to you and tell you how much I have
> personally enjoyed using the ADAM these many years. :)
> 
> Geoff





------------------------------

Message: 3
Date: Fri, 2 Apr 2010 13:16:19 -0700
From: cleechez at tamcotec.com
Subject: [Coladam] Recommendation: New Pac-Man Trailer Should Ignite A
Fever For Arcade Adaptations, on Movieline
To: coladam at adamcon.org
Message-ID: <20100402201619.A6DC15B4F8 at 03-www-autumn.irvine.colo>
Content-Type: text/plain

From: cleechez at tamcotec.com
To: coladam at adamcon.org


Our gamers will love this.


New Pac-Man Trailer Should Ignite A Fever For Arcade Adaptations

The classic 1980s arcade games are far from exhausted as material for movie adaptations. Sure, we've got the prospect of Asteroids, Space Invaders and Missile Command on the horizon, but where are the big-screen versions of Frogger, Q*Bert, Scramble, Defender,...
URL: http://www.movieline.com/2010/04/pac-man-trailer-should-ignite-a-fever-for-arcade-adaptations.php



------------------------------

Message: 4
Date: Fri, 2 Apr 2010 22:23:15 -0400
From: "Bob" <rslopsema at sbcglobal.net>
Subject: [Coladam] Buck Rogers
To: <coladam at adamcon.org>
Message-ID: <000c01cad2d4$9f5ad3f0$6b7ba8c0 at baywindow>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"

Was going thru swome of the old Nibbles & bits tonight and ran across a reference to 'ADAMland"  in Lander Wyoming, along with "beware"..........  THAT sounds familiar of the newsletter of Buck Rogers, or whatever his name really was.

------------------------------

Message: 5
Date: Fri, 2 Apr 2010 22:37:37 -0500
From: "Jim Notini" <jnoti2 at comcast.net>
Subject: Re: [Coladam] Buck Rogers
To: "Bob" <rslopsema at sbcglobal.net>, <coladam at adamcon.org>
Message-ID: <4D5E0988F0CD44F8850A108D15F4164A at HomePC>
Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed; charset="iso-8859-1";
reply-type=original

Yes, that was his newsletter and there were a lot of warnings put out about 
him. Unfortunately he did ripe off a lot of people before word got out. 
Exactly what the ADAM world didn't need at the time as I'm sure he caused a 
lot more people to give up on the ADAM for good.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bob" <rslopsema at sbcglobal.net>
To: <coladam at adamcon.org>
Sent: Friday, April 02, 2010 9:23 PM
Subject: [Coladam] Buck Rogers


> Was going thru swome of the old Nibbles & bits tonight and ran across a 
> reference to 'ADAMland"  in Lander Wyoming, along with "beware".......... 
> THAT sounds familiar of the newsletter of Buck Rogers, or whatever his 
> name really was.
> _______________________________________________
> Coladam mailing list
> Coladam at adamcon.org
> http://adamcon.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/coladam
> 




------------------------------

Message: 6
Date: Fri, 2 Apr 2010 19:49:26 -0800
From: "Joe Blenkle" <jblenkle at sacnews.net>
Subject: Re: [Coladam] Buck Rogers
To: "Jim Notini" <jnoti2 at comcast.net>, "Bob"
<rslopsema at sbcglobal.net>, <coladam at adamcon.org>
Message-ID: <7CDC96FB682448C3856BA69CBE10CDFA at sacnews>
Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed; charset="iso-8859-1";
reply-type=original

I must have caught Buck early on then before he turned "evil"...I never 
heard anything bad about him before I asked about him on this list. I just 
remember he had a lot of interesting sounding projects. Too bad there are 
always people who will rip you off...I publish a ski newspaper during the 
winter (for the past 10 years) and had never had any problems before last 
year and this year. An outfit stiffed me for a $220 ad last year and this 
season it looks like I'm out another $300 or so from several advertisers who 
apparently have decided they aren't going to pay me. It really hurts when 
you are expecting that money and it doesn't show up.

Fortunately most ADAM people are trustworthy and honest.

Joe B.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jim Notini" <jnoti2 at comcast.net>
To: "Bob" <rslopsema at sbcglobal.net>; <coladam at adamcon.org>
Sent: Friday, April 02, 2010 7:37 PM
Subject: Re: [Coladam] Buck Rogers


> Yes, that was his newsletter and there were a lot of warnings put out 
> about
> him. Unfortunately he did ripe off a lot of people before word got out.
> Exactly what the ADAM world didn't need at the time as I'm sure he caused 
> a
> lot more people to give up on the ADAM for good.
>
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Bob" <rslopsema at sbcglobal.net>
> To: <coladam at adamcon.org>
> Sent: Friday, April 02, 2010 9:23 PM
> Subject: [Coladam] Buck Rogers
>
>
>> Was going thru swome of the old Nibbles & bits tonight and ran across a
>> reference to 'ADAMland"  in Lander Wyoming, along with "beware"..........
>> THAT sounds familiar of the newsletter of Buck Rogers, or whatever his
>> name really was.
>> _______________________________________________
>> Coladam mailing list
>> Coladam at adamcon.org
>> http://adamcon.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/coladam
>>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Coladam mailing list
> Coladam at adamcon.org
> http://adamcon.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/coladam


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