Jump to content

Photo

First thoughts and impressions of an ADAM newbie

Coleco Adam

22 replies to this topic

#1 Vorticon ONLINE  

Vorticon

    River Patroller

  • 3,791 posts
  • Location:Eagan, MN, USA

Posted Tue Apr 23, 2019 7:32 PM

So I finally received my Adam computer from a gentleman in Canada, and it's in really great shape to my utmost relief. I promptly set about expanding it to a more usable configuration by adding a second tape drive and getting my hands on a VDD on Ebay. 

First few thoughts:

  • It's truly an under-appreciated machine that saw its demise way to prematurely. Yes, it has its quirks, but is really quite usable straight out of the box, at least for general home use and gaming.
  • The keyboard is a good size  and comfortable, but the keys are ridiculously spongy and unpleasant to type on. Coleco definitely cheapened out on that one...
  • The printer is of very decent quality for the times, but the lack of a tractor feed is a major omission in my book, particularly for the programmer. Listing a program to the printer will be an exercise in frustration, although I suppose one could use fanfold paper and hope that the alignment stays true. But for regular correspondence, it fits the bill well. 
  • The digital data packs seem to work as advertised. A bit on the slow side, but at least better than regular audio tapes. For serious work though, a disk drive is a must. The VDD is a very nifty device by the way and light years better than a regular disk drive.
  • RF video output is noisy but usable for games, but definitely not for typing or programming. The composite output is not the best either, and somebody please tell me that the 7-pin DIN aux connector is not just used for audio! That would be idiotic in the extreme as a simple audio plug would have sufficed. I'm going to need to make myself an audio cable and get a composite to VGA adapter. Can't wait for the new version of the F18A to come out.
  • SmartBasic seems a bit sluggish to me. I'll have to do some tests and compare. I come from the TI 99/4A world, so I definitely know what a sluggish Basic looks like :)

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with that system and I hope to be able to come up with some projects for it. I am not a collector and I like to use my systems. CP/M is my main interest along with Turbo Pascal, but SmartBasic complemented with some assembly looks promising as well.

 

I do need a serial and parallel interface, and I understand that ANN has something along those lines along with an IDE card... Do I really need more than the stock 64K of RAM by the way? 



#2 eebuckeye OFFLINE  

eebuckeye

    Stargunner

  • 1,306 posts

Posted Tue Apr 23, 2019 7:53 PM

The Adam is a cool system... a friend had one back in the day (briefly when it worked)..  I'm a TI guy myself.  :-)



#3 NIAD OFFLINE  

NIAD

    Quadrunner

  • 6,266 posts
  • Location:Chicago Suburb

Posted Tue Apr 23, 2019 9:10 PM

Congrats on the acquisition! As far as your observations....

 

- Back in 1983, I didn't notice any quirks seeing as it was my first computer and I had nothing to compare it to. :P

- Surprised to hear your feelings re the "spongy" keys. The ADAM Keyboard has always been highly praised throughout the years and an ADAM Keyboard ADAMnet-to-USB adapter was even made in a small production run so as to be able to use the keyboard on a PC.

- Big disappointment that Coleco didn't release their planned Tractor Feed attachment, but Data Backup did release one... only problem is that I have only seen 2 of them on eBay over the last 10 years and they were both included in a large collection of ADAM gear. I had pretty good success using tractor feed paper sans a tractor feed before I switched to a DMP when Parallel Interface were finally released.

- Saving grace re the Data Drive is that it functions just like a Disk Drive as far as I/O operations unlike tape decks used by other computers of the time, albeit slower as you mentioned.

- The 7-pin DIN Auxillary port outputs both Composite Video and Audio. The RCA Monitor port only outputs Composite Video. Only 5 of the 7 pins are actually used... see the schematic attached.

- SmartBASIC is sluggish and buggy. There are lots of patches and improvements available in the software archive that MilliV has made available as well as on Joe Blenkle's ADAM Computer website. Also, lots of great info in the newsletter PDFs on Joe's website. I got a feeling that you would be best served using SmartBasic 1.x Rev. 20 by Rich Drushel or SuperBasic+ 3.0 by TCR Software. Also checkout the "Hacker's Guide" and "ADAM Survival Guide" PDFs.

 

A 64K Memory Expander is really a necessity to run some of the better 3rd Party programs such as PowerPAINT, the ADAM Bomb games, etc. Check with ANN as I think the 256K ME they sell can be bought as a 64K ME and then upgraded at a later date to 256K. Note that a 256K ME will require a Parallel Interface/Memory Addressor installed in Slot #2 and ANN sells these as well.

 

Thankfully we have emulators at our disposal, so you can test out all the available software and then make decisions re hardware upgrades that you may want.

Attached Thumbnails

  • Coleco - ADAM Stand-Alone Memory Console AUX-Video Pinout.jpg
  • Tractor Feed Prototype - Flyer.jpg

Edited by NIAD, Tue Apr 23, 2019 9:15 PM.


#4 Vorticon ONLINE  

Vorticon

    River Patroller

  • Topic Starter
  • 3,791 posts
  • Location:Eagan, MN, USA

Posted Wed Apr 24, 2019 1:27 PM

Thanks for the info. I'm also debating on whether to add an IDE drive versus a second VDD. The latter is a more natural option in my view.
By the way, can an external power supply be used to power the Adam without the printer?

#5 chart45 ONLINE  

chart45

    Dragonstomper

  • 824 posts

Posted Wed Apr 24, 2019 4:43 PM

yes you can... milli vee was selling some i dont know if they are still aviable and rey build some too but i dont think he will offer another run...

#6 Vorticon ONLINE  

Vorticon

    River Patroller

  • Topic Starter
  • 3,791 posts
  • Location:Eagan, MN, USA

Posted Wed Apr 24, 2019 7:07 PM

If schematics are available I can build my own...

#7 NIAD OFFLINE  

NIAD

    Quadrunner

  • 6,266 posts
  • Location:Chicago Suburb

Posted Wed Apr 24, 2019 7:46 PM

Thanks for the info. I'm also debating on whether to add an IDE drive versus a second VDD. The latter is a more natural option in my view.
By the way, can an external power supply be used to power the Adam without the printer?

The IDE 100Mb CF Adapter package is the perfect compliment to the VDD, however there are numerous incompatibilities with EOS software (ie: the Super Games) and CP/M (loading CP/M overwrites the IDE drivers). So you will have to go with T-DOS when using the IDE package and it is FAST and you have 4 large partitions at your disposal that you can switch between like changing hard drive partitions on a PC.

 

I have attached my updated instructions for the IDE 100Mb CF Adapter package that I put together a couple years ago when I shared my CF Card image files. Hope it helps you understand it better.

 

BTW, you can try out the IDE setup thru ADAMem SDL v1.81 by Geoff Oltmans. It includes the IDE boot driver and HD image files but I don't recall if they are the ones I made... I can upload them if you need. I use this version of ADAMem the most along with Marcel de Kogel ADAMem Manager frontend.

Attached Files



#8 Vorticon ONLINE  

Vorticon

    River Patroller

  • Topic Starter
  • 3,791 posts
  • Location:Eagan, MN, USA

Posted Thu Apr 25, 2019 4:57 AM

Thanks! I will give it a shot. Incompatibility with CP/M is problematic however since it looks like TDOS does not include the needed programs for assembly programming and I need a second drive for this purpose. 

My likely upgrade path is going to be a second drive (real versus VDD) as this presents the least issues with program compatibility, a serial and parallel adapter, 256K memory expansion and then IDE for mass storage. A simple switch could keep the IDE powered off during boot when not needed.

Regarding the parallel port card, is port access via assembly documented somewhere? I am a fan of using the parallel port for interfacing with the outside world ( http://atariage.com/...vorticons-blog/ ) and would love to eventually use an Adam for this :)



#9 NIAD OFFLINE  

NIAD

    Quadrunner

  • 6,266 posts
  • Location:Chicago Suburb

Posted Thu Apr 25, 2019 7:34 AM

All the Adam Parallel Interface cards use the same Port, so the info that is available for the Micro Innovations lineup of interface cards with a Parallel Port should provude the necessary info or the public domain SmartBasic listing of the Parallel Interface driver.

#10 CharlesMouse OFFLINE  

CharlesMouse

    Chopper Commander

  • 102 posts

Posted Fri May 3, 2019 4:33 AM

Hello there,

I'm pretty new to the ADAM too but I have to admit I'm already smitten, quirks and all. I'm sincerely hoping you find yourself liking the ADAM as a CP/M machine - selfish motives I'm afraid. ;-)

 

FWIW:

Piggy-backing another 64k of RAM on to the existing IC's for this machine is pretty straightforward, or if you dare there's a (very) small chance I might have a functioning RAM card in the works.



#11 Vorticon ONLINE  

Vorticon

    River Patroller

  • Topic Starter
  • 3,791 posts
  • Location:Eagan, MN, USA

Posted Fri May 3, 2019 6:07 AM

So far I have not encountered anything I need requiring more than 64K. What I really want is 80col for CP/M though ;)

#12 CharlesMouse OFFLINE  

CharlesMouse

    Chopper Commander

  • 102 posts

Posted Fri May 3, 2019 8:11 AM

So far I have not encountered anything I need requiring more than 64K. What I really want is 80col for CP/M though icon_wink.gif

Getting there :-D



#13 Vorticon ONLINE  

Vorticon

    River Patroller

  • Topic Starter
  • 3,791 posts
  • Location:Eagan, MN, USA

Posted Fri May 3, 2019 6:42 PM

So I made a composite video DIN connector and cable for my Adam today, and frankly the quality of the composite video is dismal. There is a lot of ghosting which makes reading text rather tiring at best. I know there were similar, albeit less severe, issues with the TI 99/4A computer which got partly mitigated using a capacitor in parallel with the output. Is there a fix out there for that ghosting problem on the Adam?

Interestingly, when I connected an ancient 13" CRT TV to the RF output, the image was much better and clearer than composite, and that's just wrong...



#14 Vorticon ONLINE  

Vorticon

    River Patroller

  • Topic Starter
  • 3,791 posts
  • Location:Eagan, MN, USA

Posted Fri May 3, 2019 6:51 PM

Any recommendations for a good 40col CP/M text editor for the Adam?

I can make Wordstar to clumsily work in 40 columns, but it's a pain to use...

This is primarily for assembly language programming.



#15 NIAD OFFLINE  

NIAD

    Quadrunner

  • 6,266 posts
  • Location:Chicago Suburb

Posted Fri May 3, 2019 7:40 PM

You coukd try using an RCA Video cable in the Monitor Port and then your DIN cable for sound only Yes, the video output for the DIN port is tapped from the Monitor Port, but on my system the video output is slightly better.

Might also want to open up your system and look at the condition of the wiring to the Auxillary DIN and Monitor as well as the condition of the solder were the wires connect to the DIN connector. Coleco didn't spare any expense with the guage of the wire used.

#16 NIAD OFFLINE  

NIAD

    Quadrunner

  • 6,266 posts
  • Location:Chicago Suburb

Posted Fri May 3, 2019 7:49 PM

VDE comes to mind as a popular editor program. I don't recall if it's available as a separate disk image but numerous versions were made available in the 60 or so volumes of NIAD CNDV public domain disk images. You can fund them in the Adam Archive or on Joe Blenkle's website linked in my footer. Also, Doug Rosenvinge was the librarian bitd and provided listings of all volumes in the NIAD Newsletter... PDFs available on Joe's site.

It should work with T-DOS.

#17 Vorticon ONLINE  

Vorticon

    River Patroller

  • Topic Starter
  • 3,791 posts
  • Location:Eagan, MN, USA

Posted Fri May 3, 2019 8:26 PM

You coukd try using an RCA Video cable in the Monitor Port and then your DIN cable for sound only Yes, the video output for the DIN port is tapped from the Monitor Port, but on my system the video output is slightly better.

Might also want to open up your system and look at the condition of the wiring to the Auxillary DIN and Monitor as well as the condition of the solder were the wires connect to the DIN connector. Coleco didn't spare any expense with the guage of the wire used.

 

Yes the monitor port video is slightly better, which is not saying much.

I'll open up the machine this weekend and take a look at the connections. I'll also try so Deox-it on the connector as there might be some oxidation from age. Is ghosting on composite not a common issue then? That information would be helpful by itself since it would point to an issue with my system...



#18 CharlesMouse OFFLINE  

CharlesMouse

    Chopper Commander

  • 102 posts

Posted Sat May 4, 2019 8:01 AM

Yes, speaking as another relative newbie quality is certainly not the ADAM's strong suit. Mind you as my 8bit heritage is the BBC Micro and there's nothing better made than those I may be making a somewhat unfair comparison.

FWIW: I know the ADAMs keyboard is regarded as pretty decent but you're not alone in thinking otherwise. It's a possible rather than a likely but I'm tempted to see about fixing that if I can figure out an unobtrusive, robust, and sensible, key switch mod.

 

Thoughts:

On the video front I expect you know about the F18a (I'm waiting to hear about the next run) but that's likely not going to be helpful for CP/M without ADAM 80 column support with that device - is there any?

I don't like to mention in case I end up not just with egg on my face but drowned in a vat of the stuff but my first 80 column card is nearly done; just waiting on some final components - I may need a CP/M savvy tester or two. icon_winking.gif

 

While re-soldering my own DIN-SCART cable (clumsy family!) I've been a-thinking about those two spare pins on the DIN connector... I feel an S-Video mod coming on but:

-I've given it no further thought so far so I'm not aware of any potential issues

-Doing this may trigger discussion whether that's an imposed new standard or a problem for other mods / upgrades... I'd also quite like to see about getting stereo out of that connector, especially if my AY plans work. 


Edited by CharlesMouse, Sat May 4, 2019 8:07 AM.


#19 Vorticon ONLINE  

Vorticon

    River Patroller

  • Topic Starter
  • 3,791 posts
  • Location:Eagan, MN, USA

Posted Sat May 4, 2019 8:59 PM

Ah yes, the BBC micro. I watched all of the Computer Programme and Making the Most of the Micro series on YouTube and ended up acquiring a BBC Master with an SD drive, but I have yet to play with it unfortunately. It's on my list :) The specs and performance however are indeed outstanding for the era.

That said, from a usability standpoint, the Adam truly stands out given that everything you need to use it productively and effectively comes with it straight out of the box even without any expansions. Coleco really had something there, but they messed it up...

I did manage to reduce the ghosting effect on the composite output by playing with my LCD monitor's settings and reworking the DIN connector (see, you're not the only one!), but I have a feeling it will look better on a CRT monitor. I will have to pull my Commodore 1084S monitor out of storage and test it out. Not sure if S-Video output will be worth the trouble since a lot of monitors don't have an input for it. And yes I actually have 2 F18A VDP replacements currently in use in my TI systems, and I'm still waiting on revision 2 to come out eventually. Matthew Haggerty is trying to sort out the HDMI licensing issues given that the new version does away with VGA. 

Happy to help with the testing of your 80-col card within my limited abilities.



#20 NIAD OFFLINE  

NIAD

    Quadrunner

  • 6,266 posts
  • Location:Chicago Suburb

Posted Sat May 4, 2019 9:36 PM

Re. the F18A, someone would have to patch CP/M 2.2 in order to access it's 80 column output abilities much the same way that Eve Electronics and Orphanware individually patched CP/M 2.2 for their 80 Column Video Units that were sold in the mid-80s. Pics of the Orphanware unit that I once owned.... video output on my Sony 28" LCD was really nice.

Attached Thumbnails

  • 2 Monitor Hookup - #01 - Entire setup.JPG
  • 1 Monitor Hookup - #08 - Quatris (Tetris clone).JPG

Edited by NIAD, Sat May 4, 2019 9:38 PM.


#21 Vorticon ONLINE  

Vorticon

    River Patroller

  • Topic Starter
  • 3,791 posts
  • Location:Eagan, MN, USA

Posted Sun May 5, 2019 5:44 AM

Nice setup! What are the 2 boxes on the right side of the main console? Also it looks like you have CP/M running simultaneously with EOS???
Sony made the best CRT monitors and they are still stupidly expensive even today.
As for patching CP/M for the F18A, it should be doable with guidance from Matt Haggerty.

#22 Vorticon ONLINE  

Vorticon

    River Patroller

  • Topic Starter
  • 3,791 posts
  • Location:Eagan, MN, USA

Posted Sun May 5, 2019 10:36 AM

As expected, using a CRT monitor with composite output is far superior to an LCD monitor. I think I'm going to stick with my Commodore 1084S even though it's bulky because it's much easier on the eyes.

 

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • Adam system.jpg


#23 NIAD OFFLINE  

NIAD

    Quadrunner

  • 6,266 posts
  • Location:Chicago Suburb

Posted Sun May 5, 2019 5:05 PM

Nice setup! What are the 2 boxes on the right side of the main console? Also it looks like you have CP/M running simultaneously with EOS???
Sony made the best CRT monitors and they are still stupidly expensive even today.
As for patching CP/M for the F18A, it should be doable with guidance from Matt Haggerty.

The larger box on the bottom is the Orphanware 80 Column Unit that is powered by a CV power supply and the video cable is connected to the 27" CRT TV... not the best for clarity and that is why I switched to the LCD when I was testing out the unit. I used the small portable LCD when I was testing EOS programs and left it connected to the Auxillary DIN Port. Once the 80 column version of CP/M is booted, all video output is thru the 80 column unit. When switched to the Sony LCD, I had all kinds of composite video connections and just had to switch what input was being used. I probably should have just kept everything, but I don't like to hoard if there is someone that really wants to put it to use.

 

The smaller box on top of the above is the EVE SP-1 Serial/Parallel Interface.

 

Both are connected to the side expansion interface using a Multi-Unit Adapter cable.

 

The EVE VD-MB 80 Column Unit is pictured below....

Attached Thumbnails

  • VD-MB 80 Column Expansion Unit (Front) - #01.jpg
  • VD-MB 80 Column Expansion Unit (Inside) - #01.jpg
  • VD-MB 80 Column Expansion Unit (Rear) - #01.jpg

Attached Files







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Coleco Adam

0 user(s) are browsing this forum

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users