Coco related photos

This page has some historical photos from the Coco days. Some are not in the greatest shape (particularly ones from a Chicago Rainbowfest - 1988, I think, where I had not noticed that the flash on my camera was not working). But, interesting nonetheless.


Curtis Boyle (me) at his 16K Coco 1 circa 1982, in our basement rumpus room. By this time, I had a cassette player, 2 joysticks, upgraded to 16K from my original 4K (on a D board Coco 1 I got in late summer, 1981), and owned two program packs (Project Nebula and Skiing, if I remember correctly, which you can see in the background around the center of the picture. I would have been around 14 at the time).


"Super Coco system" in 1993 at Mercury Graphics, Saskatoon. This is the system that migrated to Mercury Graphics in late 1992, after Mercury bought out McKenzie Ray Tickets, a rival ticket printing company, where Bill Nobel and myself worked (me starting in May, 1988, and Bill starting a year or two later). Some back story: When I joined McKenzie Ray, they were running two 300 line per minute line printers (Printronix P300 models) from a PDP-11/34 (running RSTS), with a couple of terminals. One summer, the PDP died, and we were told it would be weeks to get parts, so I quickly brought in my Coco 3 system from home (at that time - 512K Coco 3, with a J/M disk controller with a built in parallel port, and a PBH serial to parallel port converter - these printers were parallel, not serial). It was fairly easy to get jobs running with BASIC09 programs (very quick to develop), and we could still drive both printers (although the PBH one needed it’s priority cranked up to keep up with the true parallel one). We did get the PDP parts (which were expensive), but it did show the owners that we could run everything much more efficiently with an “off the shelf” Coco 3 system, and not even need terminals to run the printers (windowing was great for this). By the time Mercury bought McKenzie Ray in October of 1992, we had the (I believe) biggest Coco system on the planet at the time. Bill had installed serial cables to various places in the building, and we had gotten really cheap terminals (this was for staff to search for docket #’s, leave messages for each other, multi-conference chat, etc.). By this time, we had:

1 MB RAM Coco 3, with a 6309 and clock crystal upgrade to true 2 MHZ (not 1.78).

Multipack Interface with IRQ strap line across all 4 slots (and all 4 slots full).

- Slot 4 - Frank Hogg Laboratories Eliminator card (designed by Bruce Istead, I believe). This was a monster card, with: No halt floppy and hard drive controller capable of handling up to 3 hard drives and 4 floppy drives simultaneously (we had 2 hard drives and 2 floppies), all in no halt mode, ROM boot straight to the hard drive, real time clock, 1 full speed parallel port, and 2 serial ports (6552 - none of the bugs of the 6551 that Radio Shack used in their RS-232 packs, and capable of up to 38,400 baud).

- Slot 3 - 2 more real parallel ports, designed by Bill.

- Slot 2 - 2 more 6552 serial ports, designed by Bill.

- Slot 1 - AlphaSoft Comm4 board, which had 4 serial ports (6551) compatible with Radio Shack’s RS-232 pack. We also had Keith Alphonso’s BBS package, which we modified somewhat (with his blessing, and help) to do the multi-person chats, etc.

- Floppy drives - one 360K 5.25" 40 track double sided/double density drive, and one 720K 3.5" 80 track double side/double density drive. Both no-halt, and we had the modified FORMAT command that put 20 256 byte sectors per track (not the standard 18), so that we got 800K per disk, which was used for backups using Bruce Isted’s STREAM command.

- Hard drives - Both Seagates - one 40 MB, and one 80 MB. We were running out of room by the time this picture was taken.

CM-8 monitor

NitrOS-9, from version 1.00 to 2.10, of which the majority of development was actually done on this machine. Often while we were running 3 printers at once (we would need to wait for pile breaks or switching jobs to install updates to test, but editing source, assembling, etc. could all be done while everything else was running).

3 true line printers. This included 2 Printronix P300’s (300 lines per minute, with 44 hammers per line), and one Mannesmann-Tally MT661 (600 lines per minute, with 66 hammers per line) (You can see the two P300’s in this picture, through the window behind the Coco system). At the end of the Coco’s run, the Printronix printers were retired, and a 20 ppm and a 32 ppm ATI (not related to the graphics chip company) laser printers took there place.

8 serial port terminals in various offices, and in the plant. The Coco itself ran all the printers, and programming, using NitrOS-9 windows. We had a mixture of ADM 3A’s, ADM 22’s, and one VT-100 compatible terminal whose brand escapes me at the moment. One nice thing as that we also had the OS-9 Level II Development Pack, which had Scred, a screen editor that worked on all of the terminals as well as the Coco. So, if Bill or I had to troubleshoot anything while at a terminal, it wasn’t a problem. All people who used the terminal had their own logins using the standard OS-9 time sharing, although Bill and I came up with MTSMON (instead of TSMON), so that we had one process that handled logins for all 8 terminals (rather than wasting memory firing up a separate TSMON for all 8 ports). We ran them all at 4800 baud (9600 worked fine, but it would slow down the Coco itself trying to drive printers if you had too many people actively using terminals at once. 4800 was a good balance for speed and multi-tasking).

If you look closely at the picture, you can see an ADM-22A terminal on the left, the Coco system itself on the desk, with the hard drives on the left, the two P300 printers through the window, and an open OS-9 Level II manual on the right).

Bill and I told Lonnie Falk about our system at one of the Rainbowfests (1989 or 1990, I am guessing), and he wanted us to do a video of it, showing it in action. We did record some footage, but never finished that project, and unfortunately, that tape has since been lost.

Rainbowfest 1989 Photos

The following are photographs I took at the 1989 Chicago Rainbowfest. This would have been the 4th one I attended, having been to my first one in May, 1986. Now, admittedly, my memory from that far back is a bit fuzzy, so I may be remembering some details incorrectly. If so, please feel free to email me with corrections. I should also note that some of these have appeared before on Facebook, in the group for Boisy Pitre and Bill Loguidice’s book, "Coco The Colorful History of Tandy’s Underdog Computer". I should also mention (although it will be obvious), that my flash had apparently quit working. Wish I had a digital camera back then, so that I could have seen that the pictures were not turning out that well. Also, these photos have been lying around since then, and have gotten a bit scratched.


Hyatt Regency Schaumburg Hotel, where Rainbowfests for Chicago were held in the 1980’s. The very first one I attended in 1986 was also at this hotel, at the same time the Chicago Bears football team were having a function there.


OS-9 Users Group booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. Has the famous ad/poster hanging on the wall, saying "MS-DOS… Just say NO!" (a play on the anti-drug campaign slogan used by Nancy Reagan at the time). In the foreground to the left is the back of Kent Meyers, a great guy who was part of the OS-9 Level II version 3 upgrade project, rewriting GShell (amongst other things).


Public Domain Software’s booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. They sold public domain software disks for cheap (RS-DOS, OS-9, PC, etc.) This is back before the Internet got popular, and the only other way to get PD software was either BBS’s or online services like CompuServe, Delphi, etc. That is me to the left making a checklist of which disks I wanted.


Cer-Comp’s booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. Cer-Comp was famous for having one of the very early editor/assemblers for the Coco, and did a lot of hardcore programming and utility programs. They were also famous for Window Master (and programs for it), which was a windowing system for RS-DOS that was more advanced than the OS-9 Level II version at the time (and their ad stating “you don’t have to be an OS-9 Rocket Scientist to do overlapping windows” inspired Kevin Darling and others to start the Version 3 upgrade project).


Disto/CRC’s booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. Disto was run by Tony Distefano (I believe his brother is holding the paper in the photo), who also had a hardware column in the Rainbow magazine every month. He designed a lot of hardware add-on’s for the Cocos, including multi-ROM disk controllers, no-halt disk controllers (including a mini bus where you could add a real time clock, parallel port, hardware serial port, etc.), as well as RAM upgrades. They also did the 1MB and 2MB RAM upgrades, which were popular with devoted hardware enthusiasts and OS-9 aficionados.


Zebra System’s booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. Zebra Systems was most famous for their Coco Graphics Designer Plus, a program for making banners, signs and greeting cards on your home printer. They had extensive support for dozens of printers, both black and white and color. Al Hartman is pictured here running the booth.


Game Point’s booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. Game Point was a distributor for software (and later, with the Rascan video Digitizer, hardware) for both Steve Bjork’s non-Tandy games, and Nick Marentes’ games in North America. So this included titles like Mine Rescue, Z-89, Rupert Rythym, Space Intruders, and others. It was ran by Pete Ellison, whom I believe was the brother of Monique Ellison, who was both the graphics artist and wife of Steve Bjork at the time. On top of the Coco 3, on the left, you can see a first generation digitizer hardware box (I owned the 2nd version later on).


Orion Technologies booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. Orion Technologies was more of hardware company, including their replacement (and cheaper cost) for the Radio Shack RS-232 pack called the Telepack. They also sold modems, and terminal software to go with them. Joel Ewy believes that Van Elliot of Orion is standing, while Bren Stockdale is seated.


Microcom Software’s booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. Microcom Software was one of Rainbow’s biggest advertisers in the late 1980’s. They sold software and hardware on behalf of other companies, as well as their own productivity software (like the Coco 3 word processor Word Power, which went through several major iterations. They kind of replaced Spectrum Projects (from the earlier Coco 1/2 days), although I don’t know if there was any official connection between the two.


Radio Shack’s booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. Radio Shack of course, is the company that sold the Coco and related products. They usually had good sale prices at the shows, and did brisk business. Ironically, this booth was populated from one of their Lombard stores… which is the town that CocoFests 15 years later are now held in.


Falsoft’s booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. Falsoft, of course, was the company that published Rainbow magazine, the largest of the magazines that was devoted to the Coco line of computers (as well as the TDP-100, MC-10, Dragon 32/64). They also published books on OS-9, program listing books for Adventure game and simulation programs, and sold each month’s worth of programs on tape or disk. They also were the main organizers/sponsor for the Rainbowfest shows themselves.


Gimmesoft’s booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. Gimmesoft sold both their own software (and hardware, like their Maxsound audio digitizer), as well as third party software. Their V-Term VT-100/VT-52 terminal emulator was probably the best one available for the Coco 3, including support for double high/wide characters, color, etc.


Game Point Software’s booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. As mentioned earlier, Game Point sold games, and the Rascan digitizer. In this photo, Steve Bjork and his then wife Monique are demonstrating one of their games for the booth visitors.


Oblique Triad’s booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. Oblique Triad took the place of Diecom Products as the premier Canadian games software company for the Coco 3. Their Seventh Link game (on display behind developers Dave Triggerson and Jeff Noyle) was an excellent Ultima clone, even better than Diecom’s earlier Gates of Delirium. They later did Those Darn Marble’s, and had a really excellent Defender clone called Defendroid, that unfortunately, was never released.


Burke & Burke’s booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. Burke & Burke was the husband and wife team that made the first really affordable (and fast) hard drive controller for the Coco. It even had RS-DOS compatibility. Chris and Trish are both on this photo, heading their booth. They also did memory upgrades, and some software (including an OS-9 port of the Cyrus chess cartridge).


Sundog System’s booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. Sundog Systems was the premier Coco 3 games company in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. Most of their games were programmed by Glen Dahlgren (pictured here), who went on later to do the Wheel of Time PC game. They had Coco 1/2 games as well, and later sold games made by other authors as well (including Photon, The Contras and Sinistaar).


Alphasoft Technologies’s booth at Rainbowfest Chicago 1989. Alphasoft Technologies was a software company that did a lot of utilities (and the Comm-4 serial card, with 4 hardware serial ports) for OS-9. Keith Alphonso (picture here) did all of the programming, and his Level II BBS package is what Bill Nobel and I used at our work (with patches that Bill Nobel and I did, with help from Keith himself) for running multi-terminal communications (see above).


Barclay McInness, a friend of mine (and neighbor) went with me to the 1989 Chicago Rainbowfest, and at the end of the show on Sunday, we took a picture of what all he ended up buying at the show. He is holding one of the Steve Bjork designed Hi-res Joystick Interfaces


And this final photo is of me (L. Curtis Boyle) at the end of the show on Sunday, with everything I had bought at the show. I am holding my Coco 3 (which I brought down, to play with and test software on) I got a fair bit of software, was well as the Tepco assembly language books, Spectral Associates Unraveled book series, Deluxe joystick (2 button version), Disto Super controller II with 3 in 1 board add-on, 2400 baud Zoom modem, etc.

L. Curtis Boyle, last updated Dec 31, 2015