Virtually Emulating First Loves

In an effort to re-ignite my first love whilst on my leave of absence – I’ve been looking for a good TRS-80 emulator to rekindle the flames of technical desire. Also over the last 4 weeks I’ve also had a small “side project” watching the goings on in the desktop virtualization space, especially on the Mac. Parallels has been an excellent investment to get Windows XP running on the MacBook Pro; just waiting for the ACPI/Direct3D (or VMWare for the Mac) version so I can run a build of Windows Vista.

Admission #1: the first computer my dad purchased for me was a TRS-80 Model I. Not the prettiest, nor the most powerful of machines – 1.77Mhz with 16Mb Kilobytes (I even accidently put Mb!) of RAM. Welcome to 1981. That’s right, 1981. 25 years/ a quarter of a century ago.

The best emulator for the TRS-80 is written by Matthew Reed. Found thanks to
Ira Goldklang’s TRS-80 web site. So, I have TRS32 running inside Windows XP in Parallels on MacOS X. Shells within Shells.

Quest for the Key of Night Shade

Admission #2: the TRS-80 we owned stored data onto a cassette, not a floppy disk. Way-back when I was one of those computer-store kids. Thanks to the sales guys at Tandy Electronics/Radio Shack, we’d spend all day sitting on the computers typing in programs and occasionally demonstrating to prospective buyers. As floppy disks were expensive, we didn’t get access to storage – so TRSDOS was not an environment I was ever exposed to. Getting the emulator working involved remembering how to get BASIC working, and learning yet another OS.

Admission #3: I’ve watched zero minutes of Lord of the Rings. Even from DVD. Ever since the school librarian suggested I borrow The Hobbit, attempting to read a single page, and quickly returning the mush – I’ve actively avoided the fantasy genre. World of Warcraft drives me nuts. Sorry Neil and Mark!

Before this dispassion arose, I did get into one fantasy-style game on the TRS-80: “Quest for the Key of Nightshade”. It is strange how you remember names such as these for many years. Last week I found a version of the BASIC program, originally typed all the lines from a computer magazine into Basic and saved to cassette, on Ira’s website. From memory, this was written by a Canadian programmer and won “TRS-80 game of the year 1981” in some US magazine and was reprinted in 1982 by Australian Personal Computer.

The screen dump above is from this game. Ahh, the fond memories of our first loves.

InDesign at ACP

For those interested in InDesign. The ‘engineer’ mentioned is, err, me.

How the mungenetengine works is a quickie description of what is going on behind the scenes.

There’s another rewrite in my head. In my features database, there are 21 to-dos. So many ideas, so little time. The more I think about mungenetengine, I realise that there is a better way. At the moment, the render engine is tied up in one object- not the best way to create a OO application.

When you ‘write’ your own application, and run it live, its easy to see how difficult it is to create large applications like Photoshop or InDesign. Let alone an operating system…