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Microsoft Multiplan for the TI -- Cartridge Inquiry

TI-99/4A Multiplan Uber Cart

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#1 --- Ω --- OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 25, 2015 11:46 AM

I have a question regarding Multiplan for the TI.  Your answer(s) may be objective, or subjective, but still I'd really like to know what you think.

 

    Do you think the reason Multiplan has not been stuffed into an Uber Cart yet is because:

 

    a) The person doing it would be afraid of being sued by Microsoft.. even after all these decades.

    b) You think not enough people would use it, so it would be a total waste of time and effort.

    c) It's just not possible.

    d) It's possible, but it would take up too much room not leaving enough for BASIC or the E/A.

    e) ______________________________________________________________________ ?

 

I never really used Multiplan all that much myself, that is until I found the 80 column upgrade that works with the F18A, now I like to use my TI for small, but productive things from time to time. 

 

 

 



#2 save2600 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 25, 2015 1:02 PM

I'll go with B. :lol:

#3 Opry99er OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 25, 2015 2:04 PM

B

It is not one of the apps that stood the test of time. TI Writer is still somewhat useful, IMO. Multiplan, not so much.

#4 OLD CS1 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 25, 2015 3:07 PM

More people use Bert and Ernie than Microsoft Multiplan.  Other than that, I should not post my thoughts in a family-friendly forum, which has something to do with fecal matter.



#5 Gazoo OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 25, 2015 3:35 PM

More people use Bert and Ernie than Microsoft Multiplan.  Other than that, I should not post my thoughts in a family-friendly forum, which has something to do with fecal matter.

 

I'll raise a Pilsner to that, Batman!  :)

 

Gazoo



#6 --- Ω --- OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Apr 26, 2015 8:43 AM

Wow!  I did not know the dark side of the force was so strong against Multiplan.  Sure, large spreadsheets can be dog slow on it, but it gives our little TI's something productive to do!  :)  



#7 retroclouds OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Apr 26, 2015 9:28 AM

Actuallly from a technical perspective I found the Multiplan cartridge to be very interesting. 

 

About 5 years ago I bought a bad-quality xerox copy of a document that detailed the C interpreter Microsoft used for implementing Multiplan on the TI-99/4A.

I have no clue where I put the document, from time to time I've been looking for it, but without any success so far. 

 

To be more specific:

 

If my mind serves me well, there's some kind of "bytecode" interpreter in the multiplan cartridge (handling some Microsoft specific C dialect) 

Presume that the multiplan source code itself was mostly the same for all different home computer platforms out there.

The only thing they needed to implement for each individual platform was the interpreter itself. 

 

The document was supposed to get scanned and added to the development resources thread... Oh well, I guess one day I'll find it somewhere  ;)



#8 Ksarul OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Apr 26, 2015 3:24 PM

Sounds like what my Parsec source code document did to me--I pulled it out to get some information needed on a thread here, put it away, and couldn't find it for several years. . .but I got it scanned and through the OCR before it had a chance to disappear again. Somewhere, I have the source code for the BASIC Support Module too. . .but that is an absolutely horrible photocopy. I was working to restore it about 10 years ago and got sidetracked. . .



#9 pnr OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 28, 2015 6:55 AM

Actuallly from a technical perspective I found the Multiplan cartridge to be very interesting. 

 

About 5 years ago I bought a bad-quality xerox copy of a document that detailed the C interpreter Microsoft used for implementing Multiplan on the TI-99/4A.

I have no clue where I put the document, from time to time I've been looking for it, but without any success so far. 

 

To be more specific:

 

If my mind serves me well, there's some kind of "bytecode" interpreter in the multiplan cartridge (handling some Microsoft specific C dialect) 

Presume that the multiplan source code itself was mostly the same for all different home computer platforms out there.

The only thing they needed to implement for each individual platform was the interpreter itself. 

 

The document was supposed to get scanned and added to the development resources thread... Oh well, I guess one day I'll find it somewhere  ;)

 

If you do find it, I would be highly interested in a copy. It sounds like that document has documentation for the p-code part of Microsoft's "revenue bomb" C compiler (see here for some background). I think this p-code interpreter later evolved into the Visual Basic runtime, but that is speculative. Having a re-implementation of this bytecode interpreter, combined with old versions of Microsoft C that still included "cs" may lead to an interesting compiler option for the TI (it is said to create very tight binaries).

 

By the way, the fathers of this compiler, Charles Simonyi and Richard Brodie, are key figures in the microcomputer revolution of the 80's, driving the development of what eventually became Microsoft Office -- starting with defining the very concepts of it while at Xerox' PARC labs back in the 70's. Their wikipedia pages make interesting reading.



#10 JamesD OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 28, 2015 11:29 AM

Hmmm... was the C interpreter written in TI BASIC so Multiplan was triple interpreted?
That would explain the speed.  :D

Microsoft was good at making interpreters, just not fast ones.

Seems to me an embedded system I worked on had a C interpreter.  
I think that had it's roots in an old Dr. Dobbs Journal article.

It wouldn't surprise me if that's where Microsoft got the idea for Multiplan.
That or Tiny Pascal which was published in BYTE.



#11 pnr OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 29, 2015 2:04 AM

Actuallly from a technical perspective I found the Multiplan cartridge to be very interesting. 

 

About 5 years ago I bought a bad-quality xerox copy of a document that detailed the C interpreter Microsoft used for implementing Multiplan on the TI-99/4A.

I have no clue where I put the document, from time to time I've been looking for it, but without any success so far. 

 

To be more specific:

 

If my mind serves me well, there's some kind of "bytecode" interpreter in the multiplan cartridge (handling some Microsoft specific C dialect) 

Presume that the multiplan source code itself was mostly the same for all different home computer platforms out there.

The only thing they needed to implement for each individual platform was the interpreter itself. 

 

The document was supposed to get scanned and added to the development resources thread... Oh well, I guess one day I'll find it somewhere  ;)

 

I think the documents you refer to were posted in the yahoo group some 5 years ago:

https://groups.yahoo...ns/topics/72673

https://groups.yahoo...ns/topics/72672

 

The '673 document is the main specification, the '672 document is an addendum/errata to the former. It says that once upon a time Microsoft had a reference implementation in C for this spec, and also that the spec should be complete enough to write one from scratch. Has anyone ever attempted a disassembly & analysis of the Multiplan cartridge ROM?

 

This p-code looks quite well done, allowing substantial programs in little memory. It has a single 64K data space for global data and the stack, and an essentially unlimited segmented code space: the code is divided up into relocatable "segments" that are paged in and out as needed. Also, the p-code looks very tight, packing many C operations in a single byte.

 

If there is a reimplementation of this, and if someone has an old Microsoft C compiler (i.e. one of the DOS 16-bit compilers) that still supports generating this p-code, we would have another great tool for writing new software.



#12 Vorticon OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 29, 2015 11:26 AM

Well, I still use Multiplan to keep an inventory of my electronic parts. Why? Well my TI is set up in my hobby room so it's very convenient, and MP has all the features I need (except a cell search function unfortunately). The 80col version with the F18A made a huge difference in usability.



#13 mister35mm OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Dec 18, 2015 11:23 AM

not much in a multiplan cart!

 

I was expecting big roms/eproms.... not that.

 

 

Attached Files



#14 Ksarul OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Dec 18, 2015 11:26 AM

Yep--you've got five GROMs in there, for a 30K program. . .



#15 mister35mm OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Dec 18, 2015 11:32 AM

and the back.

Attached Files



#16 Ksarul OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Dec 18, 2015 2:49 PM

You will notice that each GROM has a unique part number as well. The 6K of program in each of them was masked ROM, as universally programmable GROMs were not made (true GRAM chips were not made either). Even TI went to larger logic boards like the EGROM or the GSIM when they wanted to test code for a future GROM on real iron.



#17 mister35mm OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Dec 18, 2015 3:05 PM

I was going to bin this, but keep the plastics for a new cartridge.



#18 mister35mm OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Dec 18, 2015 4:30 PM

Ok Panel, next up is the terminal emulator2 cartridge.

 

What can you tell me about this one.

 

 

Attached Files



#19 Ksarul OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Dec 18, 2015 5:07 PM

This is one of those mixed cartridges. It has four 6K GROMs and a single 8K ROM. This particular circuit card is also very useful if you want to build your own Supercart using the project plan for it on the Mainbyte site.



#20 mister35mm OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Dec 19, 2015 6:45 AM

and here's an old favourite.

 

with two double decker ic's.

Attached Files


Edited by mister35mm, Sat Dec 19, 2015 6:46 AM.


#21 Ksarul OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Dec 19, 2015 8:49 AM

Ah yes, that looks to be Extended BASIC, based on the GROM part numbers. The stacked chips are the four XB GROMs (GROMs don't mind being stacked at all, as that is basically what they are doing even when spread out on the board). The two ROM chips are controlled by the bank switching logic in the 74LS74 and 74LS00. Between then, they contain 12K of programming data, as the bank switch logic only switches the upper 4K. The part of the data at >6000 is always present, while the data at >7000 could be different, depending on the routine being used (and which chip it is in).



#22 mister35mm OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 20, 2015 8:49 PM

Very good!

 

This could be a new game! 

 

It's 'What's that grom'!



#23 Ksarul OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 20, 2015 9:40 PM

I would have to disqualify myself from the game though, as I have a truly unfair advantage. I recognize a significant number of the TI cartridge boards almost immediately, as I have a pretty extensive reference set of cartridge boards without the shells--each with an original label attached for quick identification. . .I've shelled a lot of the common cartridges to use the shells with new cartridge boards, as that is cheaper than using molds to make new ones (and yes, I have a set of molds) or 3D printing them (I have some of those too).



#24 mister35mm OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 23, 2015 8:22 PM

Perhaps you might have to have and handicap? 







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