80-Bus News


March–April 1983 · Volume 2 · Issue 2

Page 11 of 55

A Change of Tactics

D. R. Hunt


In the past we have played down the numerous letters we have received describing ‘How I made my Nascom’. We have published a couple describing systems in use, but in general we have confined ourselves to reviews of component parts (boards) and descriptions of uses of component parts, rather than describing a complete system made out of the parts. Spurred on by the appearance of the Gemini GM835 Winnie just after Christmas and the Gemini implementation of a piece of software called CCPZ, I recently took the plunge and added this to my system. I intend to describe the change in operating procedure brought about by using CCPZ, but first, as an aid to understanding what it’s all about, I intend to break with the previous tradition and describe the evolution of my computer and the uses to which it has been put.


In the beginning there was a Nascom 1, the subject of much of my earlier series, the Dodo’s Guide to Assembler Programming. Most of what I know about home computing is directly attributable to that machine. I could never lay claim to being an expert on the Nascom 1, as perhaps I was more fortunate than some in that it worked first time, and most of it remained working until I finally disposed of it in its final rebuilt form a year back. I believe it is still working well with no problems, somewhere. My Nascom 1 soon sprouted 2K of additional RAM, addressed at F800H – FFFFH, which was originally designed as a programmable character generator, and this was shown on the Nascom stand at the PCW exhibition in 1978. The additional 2K of RAM was more than just a PCG, it could of course be used as 2K of expansion RAM. Bearing in mind that Nascom had not yet got round to making any of their own, Richard Beal borrowed the machine shortly after the exhibition and implemented the public domain 2K Tiny BASIC written by the American with the Chinese name (which unfortunately I have forgotten). This explains why Nascom Tiny BASIC resided between F800H and FFFFH. Then came the 32K RAM (A) card and buffer card with their additional problems. Overall, the Nascom 1 was a most useful machine and taught me a lot.

Nascom 2 came along, and I naturally acquired one with 16K of memory and indulged in a massive teach yourself BASIC programming exercise. Most of my knowledge of BASIC programming is down to the Nascom 2. As new goodies appeared, so these were either bought or acquired, again in the cause of self education.

Nascom got themselves into money trouble and there seemed as if there would be no disk systems for it, a great pity. So the Henelec/​Gemini disk system was born, designed by Peter and Richard (not Beal) with a little help from myself. The original disk system required field testing, and I gave it as good a bashing as most. In the process, learning a lot about disk systems. All this was done on the basis of “if you make enough mistakes, you’re bound to learn to get it right in the end”.

So my system grew both in power and in size. My wife started to object to the pile of cards and bits on the living room table, so the system ended up ‘cased’, perhaps housed is a better word, in an MFI office desk. With suitable modifications, the desk is still in use today, supplemented by a matching wood finished filing cabinet. The desk is about 5′6″ long and 2′6″ deep, and with a large cupboard and three drawers it is ideal. It even has a modesty board towards the back fitted with shelves 8″ deep. Absolutely the right size for Nascom boards. Perhaps the clincher was the price, at £49.50 (inc VAT) it was about the cheapest computer case on the market, offering all the advantages ‘her at home’ could ever require. From her point of view it is a piece of furniture, it is neat and tidy, all my junk remains in one place not cluttering up the table, and the only bits that show are the monitor, the keyboard and the printer, all of which are removeable when guests arrive. From my point of view, it means I have a permanent place to work at, without causing friction with the missus, all my

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