Terminal Atrocity

I’m sitting at home using VPN to connect into work.  I’m downloading one of the later builds of whidbey and all of our source tree.  It’s going to take a long time.  At least I’m not doing it manually, my home computer is talking to my work machine using terminal server. Now that’s an excellent application.  I use it all the time.  Even if we bought the technology, it still rocks.  We’ve come a long way.  I remember running a project under contract years ago to build a remoted desktop product.  I designed the networking layer using an abstraction for asynchronous mailboxes.  It supported using TCP/IP, IPX, shared memory and direct RS232 connections, though it was nothing compared to Terminal Server. I suppose everyone can just point at XWindows and say its all been done before, and maybe that’s true. At least you don’t have to re-code to widgets.

In my early days of programming, back when the optimal platform was an Atari 800 and a creaky chair in the far corner of a cold basement, I wrote a few programs for terminal emulation over a modem. The best one was a app written in the Action programming language. I like that language the best.  It was a bit like a reduced set of C.  It ran off a 16K cartridge, which was actually pulling double duty as 2 bank-switched 8Kcartridges.  The apps written with it usually required the runtime on the ROM, but if you were frugal and wrote your own routines you could build a decent stand alone app.  My brother preferred to write his little projects using BASM, a BASIC assembler.  He didn’t actually write basic.  The product was a damn good assembly-assembler, ran fast and handled large files.  It put to shame the cartridge based assembly put out by Atari.

The terminal emulator did a bit of file copy using XMODEM protocol.  I’m sure it was not the best of the bunch.  I never sold it or gave it away.  Writing the code for me was always more fun than putting it to practical use.  Let’s hope I’ve changed. 

Of course, it was not my favorite.  My favorite was a tiny termanl emulation program written directly in 6502 assembly.  It was 126 bytes long, handled cursoring, CRLF translation, baud, parity, and duplex settings.  You see, even at a young age my brother and I were always in competition over who would write the best app.  At some point we got to competing on size.  Boys do that.  I won.  The whole program fit onto one disk sector, with room for the link-chain bytes at the end.  That was one of those 90KB disks.  I think I still have the IndusGT drive in the garage somewhere. I had to buy that one after the original drive burned out, the third time.  They don’t make’m like the used to.  I hope this doesn’t date me.  I’d rather date a real person.

But I digress.



Comments (3)

  1. The Younger Brother says:

    Ok a couple points of correction.

    1) The basement wasn’t cold.

    2) Atari didn’t put out an assembler. For the longest while the best assembler for the Atari was Microsoft’s Macro Assembler (MASM). Back then Microsoft was nothing more than a tiny building off SR520.

    3) I didn’t write in Basic; BASM was actually a variation of a 6502 Macro Assembler which also allowed for some Basic constructs. I primarily used it over Microsoft’s MASM because it compiled faster. In the later years of the Atari 400, 800, 1200 line I believe Microsoft’s attention was elsewhere.

    4) Action was great for those that couldn’t handle assembler (LDA baby all the way; throw in a zero page and we’ve got a party).

    5) It wasn’t XMODEM it was YMODEM as I recall; all the boards where supporting it and it was all the rave (well until ZMODEM).

    6) You might have won the terminal emulator battle, but you will not win the war!

  2. Matt says:

    1) Okay you have me.. It was cool, not cold.

    2) Right you are. It was made by Microsoft. 🙂

    3) I didn’t intend to mean you wrote BASIC programs, just that you used that product as your assembler.

    4) No way, ACTION! was the best.

    5) You are wrong. I used the original XMODEM RFC.

    6) Just you wait.

  3. Mike Fulton says:

    2) The Atari Macro Assembler WAS in fact by Atari, not Microsoft, although very few people used it after OSS came out with Mac/65, which was MUCH faster.

    Perhaps you’re thinking of Atari Microsoft BASIC which Atari published under license from MS.

    5) XMODEM was far and away the most common file transfer mode in the 8-bit days. YMODEM and ZMODEM appeared on the scene just before the 16-bit computers started to appear.