One easy way to look at GROM space in a cartridge is that it takes that space and expands it beyond the physical memory space of the TI without bank switching. A cartridge can normally hold 8K of ROM (and when TI was making them, some bak switching was used to add between 4K (banking only half of the space) or 24K (banking the whole space). The GROMs (you could have as many as five in a cartridge) would add up to 30K of program to the cartridge, but used a number of tricks to stay outside the TI address space but still provide data to the data bus when polled (they auto-incremented to the next address automatically so that every poll would provide new data). To run cartridges like these with the FlashROM, it has to lob the program and the GROM conversion routines into the TI's 32K memory space to execute them, as it doesn't have the specialized GROM circuitry to do it within the cartridge. The FinalGROM does have that circuitry, which is why there are two sections to the repository.
I think part of it is that each of us does what we can with the time available to us for hobby projects. I tend to do schematic diagrams, mainly because most of the ones that have come down to us through the years were of abysmal quality--and they are definitely needed to help guide repairs on existing parts (something that becomes very important as the equipment gets older). I've cleaned up some of the technical documents and source code files as well, especially when the copies we had were truly bad. I don't think it is lack of interest so much as it is lack of time. Each bit helps though. Sparkdrummer has been doing a lot of manual updates, Lee has a completely updated version of the Forth manual, Michael worked on an updated Geneve manual, and there is a nice version of the TI XB manual out there as well. There is progress--but it is slow. You are right that the third-party books are a bit orphaned--but with the online repository we have, we have a lot more now than was available 10 years ago, as back then if you didn't have a dead tree copy of the book, you didn't have access to it at all. There are still a lot of books that aren't in that repository either. They still need to be scanned in. This is especially true for the books in languages other than English. Some of those are on the Italian User Group site, but the selection of scanned titles there is small (but growing). I'm glad that so much has made it online now, and I will continue to enlarge that legacy for as long as I can.
The UberGROM gives you up to 120K of GROM, which would be three full pages of RML space, FDOS, although you would lose much of the third page by putting three 8K GROM slots into the GROM 0-2 space. What it also gives you is 64 pages of ROM space, so not everything has to be in GPL or in the GROM space.
There are still three assembled cards available from this batch. No worries on future availability either, as I have sufficient parts on hand to build another 20-30 boards (although I do need to buy some additional memory chips, as I am running low on those). I need to send Arcadeshopper some bare boards to restock his site as well.
That would actually present a different set of problems, as the main event tends to migrate to another location for dinner and presentations after we close up shop at the Library. Some of us depart at that point--others join the traditional Saturday evening pub crawl. Both the dinner and the pub crawl are part of the main event, and are unlikely to be skipped by the majority of participants.
I just talked to the folks over at IEC. I found out an interesting tidbit that I didn't know, but which makes a lot of sense now: they started out as a company supporting the TI-99/4A. The owner once worked for TI and started his business to repair calculators and to sell joystick adapters and other cables to the TI market. How's that for an interesting tidbit. They also used to use TI-99/4A systems as their primary business computer systems. . .so it is a good thing that we still bounce back to them, as they've been supporting us for a looooooonnnnngggg time!
On this one, I'd have to create a new UberGROM image for this, as anyone trying to update theirs would have to blank the program memory of their UberGROM and reprogram it with the new image. I'll see if I can get the time to build that this weekend (or next weekend, as this one is pretty full-up already with "Honey-Do" tasks).
My condolences--every minute of time counts when we are alive, as we never know when our time will be up. The memories of those good times are what helps us keep pressing on too--so make lots of good memories with those you love. They will really appreciate it when you're gone. I am really glad you were able to find something good in common with your dad while he was still with us, Omega. Not all of us get that opportunity. . .
The "+" variants were supposed to be the ones with the integral printer port, but DataBioTics didn't always use the labels that way (I have seen a lot of the ones without the PIO ports labeled as Miniwriter III+ or Miniwriter II+. I have to double check, but I think I have all four types. The original Miniwriter was a tape/disk for the Mini Memory, not a cartridge. Later iterations from this code base were the Wordwriter, Wordwriter Xtra, and Beyond Wordwriter cartridges. Further development was planned and announced, but never came to pass.
The problem machines are the ones with the entire power supply contained in the external box. It outputs DC, as the space for the internal supply is filled with the board managing audio (connected to the slide switch). It is a really bad idea to try and use an AC-only power supply with these (it will destroy them if you succeed in getting the power cord inserted and plugged in). The DC-output supply also does bad things to the boards expecting 22VAC to the internal power supply. . .and early European supplies of both types were externally identical with the exception of the output identification data and model number, so it was horribly easy to mix them up.
This is probably the first game written totally in GPL since TI pulled out of the market. There have been a number of utilities in GPL, and several XB extensions (all of which are good), but the language doesn't get a lot of love outside of RXB at the moment. I am really glad that David chose GPL for this one, as it is a really good showcase of what GPL is capable of. Especially nice is that it runs on an unexpanded console, and it provides a lot more program than non-bank-switched software can give us. The bank-switched masterpieces using some of the other modern cartridge boards are Assembly at its most powerful (and they are awesome games), but things like Break Free also support the TI users out there without an expanded system, and so the audience is a bit larger (since there really are still some TI users out there using unexpanded consoles).