[Coco] What would a CoCo successor have to have as a minimum?

Aaron Wolfe aawolfe at gmail.com
Sat Nov 20 12:02:16 EST 2010

On Fri, Nov 19, 2010 at 5:54 PM, Frank Swygert <farna at att.net> wrote:
> Assume we are talking about advance hardware features and advance ROM. I'm
> not asking for everything you'd like to see, but what would be the minimum
> requirements -- the least common denominator/best compromise.
> 1. CoCo3 compatibility. Drop CoCo 1/2 semi graphics and artifacting modes.
> The main purpose is to provide advanced but easy to program features while
> maintaining a decent software base, not run everything ever made for the
> CoCo line.

IMHO, every effort should be made to maintain compatibility.  Unless
there is some reason to exclude older video modes, why not include
them?  Maybe there is and I just don't know about it.

> 2. An easy to program I/O port of some kind. Doesn't have to be cartridge
> port compatible, just needs to be easy to program. I recommend the
> Centronics parallel port (LPT) which is still on most motherboards as it
> reduces hardware needs, but a USB satellite connector would be acceptable.
> There are also PCI LPT Port cards. Most ROM carts are available as DSK files
> (or some other importable format). Most of the useful Tandy hardware can be
> emulated/integrated on board.

Parallel ports are not included on a lot of the newer computers.  They
are extremely rare on laptops.  I don't think any Macs come with them.
 You can add them with add on boards, but why design a new project for
an outdated I/O port?  USB is much more of a pain to deal with, but it
would give a lot more users access and be supported for longer into
the future.

> 3. Some way to access a physical floppy drive for those rare occasions
> reading or writing a physical disk is necessary. This could be via something
> like CoNect or DriveWire built in or run as a utility connected to another
> PC, but the ability to connect a physical drive would be preferred.

I see floppies as nice to have if possible but not required.  I've
never actually owned one for my coco and it has not been a limiting
factor.  The ability to deal with disk images is certainly required, I
would assume this would be built in.

> 4. Switch the primary storage system to either HDSD cards (HD readers are
> backwards compatible to standard SD, but standard SD won't read an HD --
> I've seen mostly HD cards in retail stores) or USB drives. No need for a
> floppy all the time any more, but there is a need to transfer and/or store
> data physically.

You might want to think about how disks io is going to change in this
new coco 4 before worrying about the medium.  BASIC could use a lot of
improvement in how it handles large storage devices.  OS9 is pretty
good.  Do you want to maintain the "floppy disk/drive number" concept
in the new basic, with some translation between the coco and the
native filesystem (disk images stored on fat, etc).  Or do you want to
extend BASIC to deal directly with a filesystem like fat, so that
files can more easily be shared with modern computers?

> 5. Higher res graphics that are easy to program. Something standard -- maybe
> just 640x480 VGA.

As said elsewhere, I also think 640x480 is shooting pretty low.
Before any decision on resolution are made, some discussion is needed
about what changes are going to happen in BASIC and how a 6809 could
even deal with a large video ram address space.  Or maybe would we
change the 6809? :)  Lots of ways to tackle the "improved video" item,
but I think its to early to worry about resolutions other than to say
it should be better.

> 6. Use modern monitors.

yes, although "modern" probably means supporting widescreen aspect
ratios, not 4:3.

> 7. Easy access to 512K to 1MB of memory for programs. Something like the old
> "512KBASIC".

I think thats one of many improvements that could be made in BASIC.
There was a japanese 6809 computer that let you load multiple basic
programs into 64k banks and execute them simultaneously.  Something
like that would be fun.

> 8. Ochestra 90 pack built in, and also improved. I guess I really mean an
> improved version that's also backwards compatible. Or how important is
> compatibility? Only a few things used it...

Sound was never that strong on the CoCo, I don't think much software
used anything beyond the built in dac.  It would be nice to see modern
sound capabilities in a coco 4, and i don't think backwards
compatibility is much of an issue (beyond the built in sound).

> Okay, what am I missing??

Architecture improvements.. DMA would be huge.  Networking/TCPIP.  Do
we stick with a stock 6809 or extend/expand/change it?  GIME for MMU,
or something that can do proper write protection and other nice MMU

And last but not least:  Who's doing what??


> --
> Frank Swygert
> Publisher, "American Motors Cars"
> Magazine (AMC)
> For all AMC enthusiasts
> http://www.amc-mag.com
> (free download available!)
> --
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