[Coco] CoCo TALK #18 an introduction to OS9

Dave Philipsen dave at davebiz.com
Mon Jul 24 03:17:40 EDT 2017

My take on it is this: OS9 was an afterthought.  Tandy did not originally design the CoCo with the idea that a disk operating system would ever be used with it. Consequently, the ROMS really don't support it. Disk BASIC is just a very, very crude system for saving files that's just a little bit better than using cassette tapes. If Tandy would have built a BIOS into the CoCo similar to what a PC uses we'd have a lot easier time getting OS9 up and running. 

In addition to that, the CoCo was originally geared for people on a fairly low budget.  Let's face it, OS9 really doesn't shine until you start running it with a hard drive.  And when hard drives became affordable to the average user there were too many companies out there with their own ideas of how to make it work and they all worked differently.  There was no BIOS to insulate those differences from the end user.

Another problem is that there's virtually no compatibility between OS9 and ROM BASIC. I can still open a DOS box on my Windows 7 computer and run old DOS programs from way back. A lot of people did not like the idea that all of their DECB stuff would not run under OS9. You basically have to throw it all away and start anew. 

But I'll tell you this: the first time I booted Level 1 on my 64K CoCo 1 I knew it was going to be way cooler than anything I could do with Color BASIC. Unfortunately, I didn't do that much with it until Level 2 rolled around and I had a CoCo 3.

So now you've got all of these 'retro' folks who are playing around with the CoCo for the nostalgia of it but they are not that interested in OS9 now because they weren't interested in it back in the 80s. We live in a capitalistic society and there is no money to be made in developing for DECB or OS9 so it's just pretty much stagnant. There are some very small niches where OS9 could be used for profit and the people who would be developing for those niches aren't going to share their work for free and even if they did most people wouldn't have the desire or need for it because they are not involved in those niches.

My renewed interest in OS9 these days basically leans more toward embedded uses rather than a general purpose desktop computer. I personally am not in the least bit interested in running an emulator on a PC so that I can run OS9. I can just use Linux if I'm going to boot up a PC. However, for me the CoCo3FPGA is very appealing because we now have a small standalone computer that runs without having to boot up a PC, it has roughly the speed and power of a 33-50 MHz '386, and it is fully booted within about 2-3 seconds of pressing the power switch. If only we had a few more people interested in this platform who were willing to do a little hardware hacking and programming we could have a nice hobbyist retro machine. Even with the few people who have taken interest in it we are making small strides in the right direction. It is my hope that soon we will be able to take more advantage of the higher resolution graphics, audio capabilities, wifi, and high resolution ADCs for joysticks all under OS9. Recently, Bill Pierce and I wrote some fairly basic programs that display fairly large BMP files with 256 colors and I was able to quickly cobble together a little program that played a clip of a 44.1 KHz stereo wav file.  Under DECB this is pretty much impossible to do with the limited amount of storage available unless you do like Zippster and write your own routines to access mass storage. I now have a 4GB SD card accessible as a single volume on my CoCo3FPGA under OS9 and even though the hardware was not available back in the 80s the capabilities were there in the operating system.

And, as a side note it will still pretty much run most software that runs on a real CoCo 3 under Color BASIC!

Dave Philipsen

> On Jul 23, 2017, at 10:38 PM, Steve Strowbridge <ogsteviestrow at gmail.com> wrote:
> I would love to see and hear more about NitrOS9 projects, it's only been on
> my radar for literally like a week and a half, but, just coming from
> memory, I don't recall hearing or reading about too many OS-9 specific
> projects, and more importantly, I'd like to see more people give it a try,
> we have the means to run virtual hard drives on the CoCoSDC, in emulators
> and on DriveWire, so the ability exists, but I think there's a lot of
> reluctance, hesitation, and misconceptions about it, and from my brief
> exposure, there's certainly a degree of difficulty getting off the ground
> and wrapping your brain around everything from ground zero.
> I'm certainly going to do what I can to start compiling information,
> resources, stock images, etc., and try and make it easier for myself and
> hopefully other previous novices to this system.
> While I don't think this is for everyone, and even myself, I don't think
> I'd use it daily, I'd like to have a better understanding of it, a lack of
> fear, a level of comfort and competence, and then, see what creative sparks
> ignite from being able to "just do it" with the OS.
> Hopefully more people will take interest and good things will come.  We've
> got like almost 150 views on that video already, so it's seemingly a topic
> of interest.
> Steve Strowbridge, aka
> The Original Gamer Stevie Strow
> Website/Merchandise/CoCo links page:
> http://ogsteviestrow.com
> Email:  ogsteviestrow at gmail.com
> Get your "Game Play Goodnes" fix of CoCo and retro videos at:
> http://youtube.com/ogsteviestrow
>> On Sun, Jul 23, 2017 at 10:10 PM, James Jones <jejones3141 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Hmmm. I would have to say I can't recall any OS-9 user who wasn't/isn't
>> willing to share information and help someone get started or get ahead with
>> OS-9. The things that Kip, Curtis, and more other people than I can name
>> offhand are doing and have done are evidence thereof, and they have my
>> thanks and respect.
>> Acting so as to keep the community small and exclusive would be and is
>> counterproductive, and would've been especially so back in the day--all the
>> software intimately tied to every wart of the CoCo hardware is a large part
>> of what precluded improvements to the CoCo, so you want as many people
>> comfortable with OS-9 and writing software for OS-9 as possible.
>> Remember back when Microsoft Windows started coming with Internet Explorer,
>> making it far easier, especially in the days of modems when we were all
>> amazed when it only took *four minutes* to download a whole megabyte of
>> data, to just go along with IE and not bother to install those other
>> browsers, so that Joe Average thought IE *was* the Internet? And how it was
>> close to impossible to buy a prebuilt computer that didn't just come with
>> Windows, so that Joe Average didn't have to do anything to run Windows, and
>> thought Windows was free? In the same way, the CoCo just came with whatever
>> flavor of Color BASIC. If Tandy had really been interested in promoting
>> OS-9, the CoCo 3 would by default have come with OS-9 on ROM--to make it
>> sort of a better equivalent of what people were used to, it could boot up
>> in BASIC09, and have some option so that later on as a user gained
>> experience and wanted to customize, one could boot from a floppy. (Still
>> want to use Color BASIC? Pay extra to get the ROMs with it and get them
>> swapped in.)
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