We're updating the CD InfoBase for the year 2000 and, based on the newly released freeware offerings, this edition of the CD InfoBase will earn the title "The Blast from the Past." Here are some of the "new" additions.
VisiCalc: the Spreadsheet
If you've been banging away at personal computers for the last twenty years or so, you probably used VisiCalc as your first spreadsheet program.
Bob Frankston and Dan Bricklin originally created VisiCalc for the Apple II computer and, in 1981, rewrote it for the newly released IBM-PC. This amazing program won several awards including one for being the first "killer app", a piece of software so good that you wanted to buy a computer just so you could use the program.
For me, the most amazing thing about VisiCalc is that it did everything it was supposed to do in 27K bytes of code. Back then, that seemed like a lot of code: by today's "standards," that's like a grain of sand on the beach.
Ownership of the VisiCalc program went to Lotus Development Corp. where it has languished for the past eighteen years. Recently, Dan Bricklin got Lotus/IBM to release VisiCalc 1.0 in the public domain. If you want a copy right now, you can get it from the Web at www.bricklin.com.
VisiCalc 1.0 ran fine on my desktops in a DOS session under Win3.1 and under Win95/98. However, on my Palmtop, I got VisiCalc to appear but I could not enter any data in the cells. The memory indicator in the upper right corner of the screen said that I had 0 bytes of memory left.
After some experimentation, I took the easy way out. I turned the Palmtop into an almost-1981 computer by rebooting, pressing the ALT key and selecting option 4. (Use A: as the default drive and do not process the Config.sys or Autoexec.bat files). VisiCalc started and showed that it had 69K bytes remaining for data and formulas. That doesn't sound like much memory for a computer with 640K bytes, but remember, VisiCalc was designed to run on Apple computers that typically had a total of 48K bytes of memory.
On the 2000 CD InfoBase, we'll include the reference sheets for VisiCalc as an HTML document. You'll be able to read it with HV or on your desktop's Web browser. Hopefully we'll figure out a way to get VisiCalc to run under System Manager or at least in a Software Carousel session.
By the way, Bob Frankston now works for Lotus (i.e., IBM/Lotus) and Dan Bricklin has gone on to start several companies the latest of which is called Trellix. You can learn more about Dan Bricklin and what Trellix has to offer by pointing your Web browser at www.bricklin.com.
Borland Compilers: the Early Years
When the IBM PC first came to market, the only programming languages available were the built-in BASICA or Debug programs. If you wanted to spend money, you could buy an assembler or a C compiler. The cost of a couple of programming tools often approached the $1,000 mark. Then along came Turbo Pascal for $49.95 and PC programming took off.
Turbo Pascal, versions 1.0 through 3.02, contained an editor, disk manager and compiler that consumed a mere 40K of disk space. The editor and compiler could run on computers that had only 64K bytes of memory.
Turbo Pascal changed drastically with version 4.0 and started using "units". By version 5.5, most of the bugs introduced in version 4.0 had been worked out and the program became a favorite of shareware and freeware programmers.
In the late 1980's, as the C language became more popular, Borland brought Turbo C to market. Version 1.0 taught you more about how to restart your computer than it did about how to program in C. Versions 1.5 and 2.0 of Turbo C were more stable. The downside was that you needed a hard disk for a complete installation (almost 2 megabytes) and the cost was $99.95.
Recently, Borland/Inprise has released the early versions of Turbo Pascal and Turbo C to the public domain. All of these early versions work on the HP Palmtop. Turbo C can also use the PAL library of C functions and let you create programs with the look and feel of the built in Palmtop applications. We'll include most of these compilers on the 2000 CD Infobase but, if you can't wait until the CD is released, you can download copies of the programs from the Web at http://community.borland.com/museum.
Think Tank: The Outliner
Outliners are a great tool for writers. They're especially useful for preparing lectures and presentations. Nowadays, you can create an outline in Word 97 and import it into Powerpoint. Just add some graphics and you'll have another boring Powerpoint presentation. However, long before there was Word, there was an outlining program called Think Tank.
Like a lot of vintage software, Think Tank was written for the Apple II computer and then rewritten for the IBM-PC. I never used this commercial program but now that it's available as a copyrighted freeware I may try it.
We'll include Think Tank on the 2000 CD InfoBase. If you want the program now, you can download it from the Web site at www.outliners.com. Be sure to download the reference card mentioned at the site. Without it, the software will not be very useful.
Yet Another Calculator Program
Before there was an HP Palmtop, Hewlett-Packard was very active in the calculator market and dominated it. Texas Instrument was the only other company that ventured into the high-end, scientific calculator market. It cornered a small share of the engineering market. Today the roles are reversed. TI has captured the educational market and keeps updating its calculators on an annual basis. HP calculators still have their loyal followers but their latest offerings are based on a twenty year old processor.
Recently TI bought the rights to the Derive, symbolic math program. I can imagine what the next generation of TI calculators will look like:a Palmtop with a super math engine built in.
In the meantime, TI has started to offer emulations of its discontinued, graphing calculators. The one that is currently available is the TI 81 emulation. The program runs quite well on the Palmtop and may appeal to those who enjoyed using TI products. We know that the HP Palmtop's keyboard will last far longer than the TI keyboards. You can grab a copy of the emulator directly from the Web at www.ti.com/calc/docs/81.htm.
Ultra Precision Basic is a programming language created by a Japanese author. It has apparently been floating around on the Internet for a couple of years and even has a version designed to accommodate the CGA screen of the HP Palmtop. Its main use is for number crunching rather than writing word processors or games. It's free and available at ftp://rkmath.rikkyo.ac.jp in the directory\pub\ubibm.
If you want to download a copy for yourself, look for all the files that begin with UB. Also download the files called HABER.ZIP and PPMPX33E. ZIP. The Haber file contains a pretty good tutorial. The actual documentation is contained in a 75 page file called UBHELP.XXX. Most of the downloadable files are full of sample programs that others have written in Ubasic.
MS Word 5.5 for DOS
Microsoft has released a Y2K compliant version of Word for DOS. The program is meant as an upgrade to the International English version of MS Word 5.0. It is available directly from Microsoft at http://officeupdate.microsoft.com/downloadDetails/Wd55ben.htm?s=/downloadCatalog/dldWord.htm.
The download file is WD55_BEN. EXE. It is a self extracting file of 3.42M bytes. Instructions for installing the software are provided on the Web site. Instructions for using Word for DOS are contained in 50+ page electronic document.
If you are a registered user of Word 5.0, then you may download the English version of Word 5.5 called WD55_ENG.EXE.
According to the documentation file, there is a way to make this program work under Windows 3.0 and Windows 2.1. (Now, if MS would do something similar for Excel, we might have to re-evaluate running Win3.0 on the Palmtop.)
If we can get permission to distribute one or both of these files, they will be available on the 2000 CD InfoBase. They are too large to put on floppy disks.
The HP Palmtop Paper in HTML
While writing this article, I'm also working with a team of 10 volunteers who are converting all the text material from the past issues of The HP Palmtop Paper into HTML documents.
When we introduced the CD InfoBase several years ago, HyperReader was the best tool for the job. However in the past couple of years, HTML has become the de facto standard for hypertext documents. HyperReader doesn't conform to these standards. HyperReader works fine under Windows 3.1. However, when HyperReader is run under a 32 bit operating system, such as Windows 9x/NT, it begins to show its age.
Over the past couple of years we've had a number of requests to substitute an HTML version of The HP Palmtop Paper for the HyperReader version.
The biggest obstacle to converting from one format to another was the time and energy involved. It would take one person, working full time, eight months to complete the task. Hopefully with ten people on the job we can cut that time to two months.
We're aiming to have the material ready by January, 2000. It will appear, first, on the World Wide Web and then on the 2000 CD InfoBase. Our current plans are to keep the HyperReader program on the 2000 CD InfoBase and add the HTML version as well. The HyperReader version does have a rather complete and fast search engine.
If you're willing to help with this task, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emulators Can Turn the Palmtop into Game Machines from the Past
Do you remember 8080-based microcomputers running the CP/M operating system? Did you ever have a computer that used the GEM graphical user interface? Do you recall playing some of the games from Spectrum?
The CP/M operating system, the GEM GUI and the Spectrum games still live on even though the early computers that ran them have long since passed into oblivion. Software emulators can bring them to life again on your Palmtop.
On the 1999 CD InfoBase, there is one of the better emulators for the CP/M operating system. On the 2000 CD InfoBase we intend to add to the collection of emulators with a collection of GEM software and as many of the Spectrum games as space allows. n