Subject: FLEX User Group Newsletter Vol 1 No 6
Hello to all,

This is FLEX User Group Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 6!
Dated 19990214, get used to the ISO date format folks, 
year 2000 is very, very near!

Welcome to the new members!
First the boilerplate introduction:


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My name is Ian Blythe and I am already known to several of you
with some private messages, however to those who have not heard
from me, I have picked your names from various sources as having 
a continuing interest in the TSC 6809 FLEX operating System.

1997 was the 20th Birthday of Flex (1977-1997 - so let's join
together and share our knowledge and enthusiasm for Flex.

If you do not wish to be emailed in the future on this subject,
please let me know, otherwise I welcome your thoughts on this.


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Well I've been very busy working 300km from home, but the good news is
that I've now got a Dell laptop and I can work on the newsletter and
other FLEX goodies during the evening in my hotel room.

I've been able to track down a few of the other leading lights of the
early days of FLEX (thanks to dejanews, altavista, Four11 and word of
mouth), including the great Robert Uiterwyk who wrote the first 4K 6800
Basic, 6800 8k Basic and both SWTP's and Midwest Scientific's DOS's!
That is before TSC FLEX took over at SWTP...

I found an amusing thread in the dejanews archives on Robert's 4K 6800
Basic which Interface Age Magazine included in their May 1977 issue as
their first "Floppy ROM". Remember those floppy black plastic 45rpm
record disks that came as promotional items on magazines?

Now something a little bizarre: as found in the US edition of PC
Magazine, page 168 of the December 15 1998 edition:

"Motorola PageWriter 2000 two-way pocket pager"
"Based on Motorola's own FLEX operating system, the PageWriter lets you
receive news, weather, and sports from a variety of remote news sources.
And thanks to the versatility of the FLEX OS, you can also download a
number of applications, mostly PIM applets and games."

Now does anyone have the copyright for the name FLEX in relation to an
Operating System? Dave? Something sinister going on here...

Also in the same edition of PC Mag, there was a review of two on-line
free chat hosts. Would you be interested if I formed a private club on
one of these chat hosts, so that we could all exchange comments and yet
share with others? I'm aware that a lot of e-mail is flying around
between FUG members, it would be nice to get a more family feel to the
group by sharing these messages with all (where appropriate of course).

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I'm putting a list of FLEX User Group members onto the website, for
those who have given me permission to list them. Perhaps you'd like to
add a few lines of personal history to go with your name and e-mail
references. Ronald Anderson kindly sent me a scanned photo of him and
his dear wife. This gave me the idea that it would be nice if we could
put photos up onto the FLEX User Group website too. Most of us seem to
be living all over the world, so it is very unlikely that we'll ever
meet face to face, so let's put a face to the authors of all those 
e-mails!

Mickey Ferguson has pointed out that I didn't have a link to download
the free Acrobat Reader from the FLEX User Group web pages for those of
us who can't yet read PDFs. This has been corrected.

I'd like to start up a FLEX Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on the
web site. Questions like:
'What is FLEX?'
'What is the format of a FLEX disk?'
'What is a random file?'
'What is the directory structure?'
'What are DSK files?'
'What is the difference between 6800 and 6809 FLEX?'
'What is UniFlex?'

I know that this is more a case of RTFM (Read The *Fine* Manual! ;)
However it will probably be easier for newcomers to FLEX this way, and
it will be interesting to see what questions you'd like to ask. Send me
your questions (and answers if you already know!) and I'll add them to
the web site.

New Documents:

MACE Version 2.60 manual
Windrush FLEX Software Catalog 1985
UK 68 Micro Group Disk Library catalog

Several FUG members have suggested creating mirrors of the FLEX User
Group web site. Feel free! All I ask is that the link back to my
personal home pages is maintained with a direct link.
If you wish to translate some of the pages into your own language,
please do so, but please send a copy of the page to me, or at least the
URL so that I can link to it. 
I actually think having a couple of mirrors to the website is a Good
Idea, as should my ISP's server ever crash (as it did regularly when it
was hosted on a MAC...) all would not be lost. Contact me if you are
interested.

Remember the URL for the FUG homepages is:
               


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Paul Waldman, in the Netherlands
Robert Uiterwyk, in the USA, the writer of one of the first OS's *
                             and the first tape basic!
Mickey Ferguson, in the USA, started up 68'Micro Journal with Don Williams!
Frank Wilson, in the USA
Bill Yakowenko in the USA


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I have put the catalog of the UK 68 Micro Group Disk Library onto the
FLEX User Group webpages. I was a member of the UK 68 Micro Group for 4
years in the late 80s. 

The MICROBOX ][ referred to in the catalog was a 6809-based system with
a fantastic Graphics output and was developed by David Rumball. I recall
that several versions were built, as a couple of graphic chip
manufacturers never actually got further than the sampling stage for
their products, before stopping production.

Dave has sent me DSK files for all of the disks in the catalog, I will
be putting them onto the website soon, and onto the FLEX User Group CD
Archive. If there is any file that is of particular interest to you, let
me know and I can send you the DSK file. I most likely have copies of
the Microcosm (User Group magazine for the 68 Micro Group), so if you
are interested in any of the references in the catalog to articles in
Microcosm, I will send you a copy of the article.

(I originally had the catalog pasted in here, but it put the Newsletter
to over 43K and added 8 A4 pages to the printout, so I removed it and
added it onto the webpages.)


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On the Windrush Disk collection that Graham Trott kindly sent me and
that JoŽl Setton kindly transferred to PC disks there were the Screditor
III sources for the manuals for all of Graham's programs, including
PL/9, MACE, XMACE, ASM05 (and indeed John Alford's Screditor III). I've
evaluated putting these into WordPro and I've found a typeface which is
very similar to the original. It's not quite right, but Graham has
assured me that they look as good as the real thing. So look out for all
these manuals on the website very soon.

JoŽl Setton has also found a way to capture the print output from his
FLEX system to his PC, and has a text to RTF converter. Pipe straight
into M$ Word and there you are, a finished manual!

Michael Evenson also has print capture available in his W95 hosted
6800/6809 SWTP emulator (see the Emulators section for more
information).

Still I think we still have a lot of manuals to scan in/check/edit/DTP
to keep us going for some time.


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From (c) Mickey Ferguson:

"There can be no argument that we in the 680x community had the best 
operating systems sompared to those "other guys" (folks whose computers 
used chips with 80 or 65 in their part numbers). And only a fool would 
argue that the s-100 bus was anything like as reliable as our SS-50 
machines.

But they _did_ a lot with their machines and we didn't.  They had 
WordStar, VisiCalc (later lotus 123), and DBase. What did we have to 
compare....nothing. Oh, we had 4000 different CAT and DIR utilities. a 
myriad of disassemblers & assemblers.

_Why_ didn't any of us write a WordStar, VisiCalc, or DBase?

Any ideas??"

Hmmmmm, this is a very good point, after all CP/M is well supported in
lots of web archives, Tim Olstead has his 'unofficial' CP/M site and
CP/M gets all the glory. OS/9 is still going and our wonderful, hackable
OS has somewhat faded from view. It is part of our job in the group to
make sure that FLEX never disappears.

Please send your comments to me on Mickey's point and I'll put a summary
into the next newsletter.

From (c) John J. Fiorino:

"Just one question. Has anyone solved the 2000 date problem. I have
re-compiled the DATE utility changing the 19 to 20, but the year 2000
prints as 200? After 2000 the rest on the date prints fine...
2001,2020,2050 etc."

Any comments anyone?

From (c) Bjarne BšckstrŲm:

"I have been talking to a few of the members of FUG and I think I'm
expressing the feelings of most of us when I say, that your work with
FUG is highly appreciated."

Gosh! many thanks for your kind comments Bjarne, I'm blushing! ;)
I'm also very happy that you are all helping to resurrect an almost long
gone OS, an OS that has a major claim to fame but was being allowed to
fade away.

From (c) Mickey Ferguson:

"In your History on your web site, you make the same mistake I keep 
seeing repeated of late.  The MITS Altair 8800 was _NOT_ the first 
commercially available microcomputer (kit or assembled). The SCELBI-8B 
from Scelbi Computer Consulting predated it by a year or more, as did 
the RGS008A by RGS Electronics (RGS stood for Real Good Stuff) as did 
the Mark-8, but I can't remember who made the Mark-8.  Those were all 
based on the Intel 8008 CPU which was a "little brother" to the 8080.

Incidentally, you might be interested to know that FLEX was _not_ the 
first operating system that SWTPc supplied with their disk systems. The 
first one wasn't even written by TSC.  It was written by Robert Uiterwyk 
(hope I spelled that right) of Tampa Florida.  He was the same fellow 
who wrote SWTPc's 4k and 8k tape BASIC. It was called simply DOS and was 
ungodly FAST.  Switching to FLEX from DOS was almost like switching back 
to tape!  However, it was well worth it. What Robert's DOS had going for 
it was speed, what it lacked was error detection/correction (more 
necessary with the early disk drives than with today's more refined 
products) coupled with its inability to work with DATA files....it could 
only save/load PROGRAM files."

Oooops! I stand corrected (and I'll correct the FLEX History pages too).
Come on folks, let's get more of the history the early days before we
all forget it, send all your reminicences to me and I'll collate the
data on the FLEX History page.

Now, was Robert Uiterwyk's DOS the first DOS? was Graham Trott's MACE
IDE the first IDE? do we have any real 'firsts' in the FLEX history?

(I actually have a 4004 in my personal parts collection, this predated
even the 8008 ;)

From (c) Frank Wilson

"Please don't get me wrong, but the name Flex User Group, while
perfectly correct, seems to be a little too cute. Keeping Flex alive
means introducing it to a young crowd whos parents (or possibly school
teachers) may not appreciate the initials FUG. The old style "hands on"
computer hobby is in trouble, and there is no room for mistakes. A few
years ago I put a Teletype in a plastic case and ran it from a Color
Computer. It made a good impression at the local high school Science
Day. Demonstrating the Flex operating system at the school is
intriguing, but telling teachers to access FUG just won't fly."

Interesting point, does anyone have any comments/ideas for a change in
name for the FLEX User Group? Actually I always spell the name out in
full for this very reason.


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I'm only going to list new copyright clearances here from now on, after
all the list is always available on the FLEX User Group web site.

From (c) Robert Uiterwyk:

"I can give the FLEX user's group rights to the rest of the stuff i.e 4k
Basic & MicroBasic, as well as the rudimentary editor, etc.(The later 2
were both published in full in SWTP's early newsletters, If you can find
copies."

Thanks Robert! Now does anyone have copies of the Basics, DOS or the
SWTP newsletters?

Robert has told me that Motorola bought his 8K Basic, "but they bought it
to put it in the public domain. They used to have a copy of the source
code on their bulletin board (eons ago)." It seems that the Motorola
website that had all their BBS contents has disappeared into the Black
hole of deleted websites. I managed to get a few files from this several
years ago, has anyone else copied all the files? I also found some
archives of the 6800 User Group, with a lot of code examples.
Unfortunately it seems that the archives were broken as several examples
are missing... I'll put this onto the website if you are interested. It
seems that Motorola no longer is.


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The latest version of Michael Evenson's W95 emulator now supports saving
and loading the SWTPC Keys in the registry to and from a file. You can set
up a complete configuration, save it, change it, and reload the original.
Very useful for people who use the emulator for more than just one setup.
(i.e. using SCREDITOR on the 6800 and PAT on the 6809, or CEDRIC, or
whatever). This way you can separate registry files for each configuration
and load them when required. 

Michael now has the unregistered version of his emulator on his new
website, download it, give it a try and then order a registered version!
Michael is very open to adding improvements so don't be afraid to make 
any suggestions for his emulator.

Michael's site is . 


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Items wanted or available:

From (c) John J. Fiorino:

"I wonder if you can help me get an 8in SWTPC SS/SD diskette be copied to
a 8in SWTPC SS/SD 6809 formatted diskette. Seems that the 6800 system's
controller information written in the Inter Record Gap ( IRG ) can not be
read by the 6809 controller chip, but a 6809 formatted diskette can be
read or written too by the 6800 controller chip.

I would like to find anybody that has a 6800 8in disk system copy the
original 6800 disk to a 6809 format disk so I can read the disk on my
6809 system.

I do have a 6800 system and a pair of SS/SD 8in diskette unit, but I
don't have a DMAF-1 diskette controller. If anyone one has one that he
might want to sell or let me have, or even to borrow for  awhile, please
get in touch with me."

Can anyone offer to help John? Please advise me and I'll put John in
touch with you.

From (c) Mickey Ferguson:

"Do you have any idea where I might be able to purchase S-50 & S-30 wire
wrap boards?? [Somebody somewhere is bound to have some left over
stock.]"

Well there were plenty of the wirewrap boards made (my first job
involved wire-wrapping a prototype of my design for a navigation
computer using multiple Z8000s and this was with a hand wrapper... 
Life was so much easier when the company invested in a wire wrap gun!)
So dig through your spares boxes and see if we can help Mickey.

From (c) Michael Evenson:

"Still can't get my old 6800 processor board to work. I can't find the
74LS55 chips anywhere."

Anybody got a few spare 74LS55s to send Michael?


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Please continue to send me the demographic data request that I put into
Newsletter #5. Many thanks to those who have already clipped the text,
filled in the relevant bits and sent me the data back by e-mail.

As an incentive, all who send me this information will get a free CD of
the FLEX User Group Archive towards the end of this summer. Newsletter
#5 is available on the website if you don't have a copy of #5 any
longer.


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Keep those messages coming! the more the merrier as this is YOUR group!


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Well that's the sixth newsletter. Bigger and better (I hope).
I appreciate all feedback and inputs, help keep the newsletter growing!
As ever if you hear of any FLEX software or systems being junked or
scrapped, please save it for us. I am collecting as much as I can.
I'm always looking for manuals, any condition, photocopy or not, as long
as the copy is clean and can be scanned.

Best regards to all

Ian Blythe
1 Domaine Ste Croix   +++FLEX
13710 FUVEAU          +++User
FRANCE                +++Group (Coordinator)


Copyright (c) 1998, 1999 Ian P. Blythe.  All Rights Reserved.

This newsletter may be further distributed provided that it is copied
in its entirety, including the newsletter number at the top and the
copyright and contact information at the bottom.
                 All trademarks are acknowledged.
--
        words are but mine own, I speaketh not for another
                    ipblythe@aix.pacwan.net

Please note that I will soon be leaving CompuServe, so please use only
the e-mail address shown above (or ipblythe@ieee.org).

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