Chapter I: Welcome to the World of ADAM!
Edited by Tom Keene
Congratulations, you are using one of the finest computers of its type and price ever put on the home market.
This Survival Guide is designed with special emphasis for people who are new to the ADAM Family Computing System, but it also has such very useful and pertinent information for even the more advanced ADAM.
You will find that the ADAM computer is amazingly simple to operate and yet, because of its very sophisticated electronic design, it's versatile enough to run a wide range of the very large number of public domain and powerful commercial programs that are available to it. These programs include everything from games to home management and complicated business budgeting; and a bit of everything in between.
The ADAM is a color computer, and yet it works almost as well with a black-and-white TV.
If you only want it for games, it's one of the best.
And do you need to do word processing? You'll soon find that ADAM's built-in word processor and the ADAM printer that are part of the new ADAM 'bundle'; are more than enough for most people.
And you will also soon find that even better programs and different printers, (and even advanced hardware), are available. (One of ADAM's programs, ADAMCalc, a 'spreadsheet' program for budgets, was an award-winner)!
ADAM lets you do your own programming in "BASIC". BASIC is a very simple computer language "dialect".("BASIC" is actually a method of programming, and is by no means unique to ADAM.) But the ADAM version, called SmartBASIC, is the best of it's time. It is remarkable in that it will usually tell you when you've made a mistake and give a hint how to fix it.
And ADAM is equally at home with CP/M, (or TDOS, which is a far superior replacement to CP/M). CP/M and T-DOS are operating systems. (An "operating system" is a series of small programs that tell a computer how to communicate with its attachments, like the keyboard, video screen, tape drive and disk drive, as opposed to application software which are programs which tell the operating system what to do with peripherals). Until the mid-80's CP/M was the world's most popular operating system.
There are thousands of excellent CP/M programs available, and most can be adapted for ADAM for use in business or the home.
Finally you may be surprised to learn that ADAM is still a very lively computer, considering the fact that it was "killed off" by Coleco, it's manufacturer, barely a year after it was introduced.
And yet, while it didn't really die, it is an orphan -- but one that needs, and thus far has had, a lot of support.
In fact, the very fact that you are reading this copy of ASG probably indicates that you have already found the most important source of support for ADAM; that is, you have found one of the many user groups or clubs in Canada, the U.S.A. and many other countries abroad.
(Incidentally, the compilers of the ASG are in no way connected with Coleco of any other company making or selling ADAM products; nor do they support any one particular AUG. In fact all members of ANN belong to an AUG, and very few belong to the same AUG as any other ANN member. The production of this ASG was done solely by ADAM users for the benefit of other potential ADAM users and is intended to be distributed to anyone who can use it.)
To get started, let me give a short overview of what you will find in this chapter.
This article, which will go on to discuss:
1. What you can -- and one thing you can't -- do with ADAM,
(Let me digress for a moment to explain something to the really new computer users.
-"Hardware" is what you can see and touch; such things as keyboards and printers and expansion boards.
-"Software" is what you usually can't see; the computer coding located in the computer memory, and/or located on the tapes or disks. This coding is what tells the computer what to do).
Now, on to something most computer articles and courses neglect -- one thing you CAN'T do with an ADAM, (or any other computer for that matter)!
You CAN'T hurt, wreck or just-plain-ruin ADAM or any other computer by pressing the wrong button, (or even a bunch of wrong buttons), at the wrong time. You won't start World War III with a slip of your finger or find yourself talking to a CIA master computer is Foggy Bottom, VA. Your ADAM won't disappear in a burst of electric energy and explosions like computers used to do in science fiction films.
That possibility, like the films wherein such things "happen", is just fiction.
In fact, if you do make a mistake ADAM will usually tell you, (somehow), often pointing out how to correct it.
About the worst that can happen is that you will lose valuable information -- [like your 10-page letter of love to your Great, (and very rich), Aunt Agness], if you make a serious error.
Even this kind of loss, though not entirely avoidable, can be greatly minimized if you regularly follow one of the first rules of self-defense in dealing with computers -- make backups and make them often.
That is, make copies of all of the media with which you are working, both of the original programs, and of the data you generate to save.
Some of the original "ADAM programs" have ways of making copies that are built in; but for more general use, you can also obtain good public domain copy programs or purchase commercial copiers. Study this subject in some of the other chapters in this ASG, choose a copy program, make backups, and save them for emergencies!
Then if you press the wrong key -- or worse yet, if you have a power failure when you are using your computer -- you won't feel frustrated enough to wreck your ADAM for real with a fire axe. (Remember, the more often you make copies of material you are creating, the less will be lost when the power goes off).
Having said that, feel free to let your fingers fly -- the best way to learn about ADAM or any other computer is through doing, and now you can do it without worrying about destroying the world as we know it -- or your computer.
ADAM was manufactured by Coleco, the people who also gave us Cabbage Patch dolls and countless other toys. It's development grew out of their familiarity with computers which they gained as they developed the ColecoVision game system.
The ColecoVision gaze system was the best on the market at the time. (See the chapter THE CREATION OF ADAM for a very interesting insight into the development of the ADAM ).
But don't be fooled! You don't have a Cabbage Patch computer! Unless the very most sophisticated things grow in cabbage patches these days.
THE ORIGINAL BUNDLE
ADAM was one of the first, and is still one of the finest, "bundled" computers. By "bundled", I mean that it was complete and ready to operate right out of the box. It had a keyboard, a printer; a CPU, (or central processing unit or 'brain' of the computer) and a built in mass storage drive, the digital data drive. ADAM comes with everything you need to compute. You don't really have to buy anything else other than paper for the printer.
But like the Biblical ADAM, while your ADAM has all of the essentials, they are the bare essentials. ("Fig leaves not included").
SOME ESSENTIAL EXTRAS
There are some "extras" you should consider keeping on hand.
The first is an adequate supply of digital data packs, those devices that look like -- but aren't -- audio cassette tapes. Digital data packs, or DDPs, are the tapes upon which you store information. They function very such like the big spools of tape you saw in those old science fiction films (but those big spools of tape from the science fiction movies weren't fiction!).
DDPs are basically much like audio cassettes, but there are important differences and you should not try to use ordinary audio cassettes in your ADAM. To attempt such a thing will only cause you frustration, cost you time and money and may perhaps cause damage to your tape drive.
Only properly coded and "keyed" DDPs will fit into the ADAM data drive. The DDPs have special electronic coding on them; coding that tells ADAM where each block of information is stored on the tape, and the location of the first block or the "beginning" of the tape. (See the ASG chapter on Hardware for information on a device to convert standard cassette tapes to DDPs).
You should keep several of these on hand. Exactly how many you need to keep, depends on what you intend to do with your computer. But remember all user programs need to be saved as back-ups; and those back-ups and your own work, (such as letters and lists), are stored on DDPs. It's far better to have one or two too many than it is to have just one too few.
The second "extra" that you should keep on hand is a supply of printer ribbons. The number of extra ribbons that you decide to keep will depend upon how such printing you do. Probably no one should have less than one extra ribbon, so that if one expires while printing, the other can be inserted to finish the job.
ADD-ONS AND UPGRADES
There are a multitude of add-ons, (or upgrades), available.
The first that I mention is really a "second", that is to say, I suggest that you get a second digital data drive. This device is identical to the original, and it is easily installed in the right hand "window" of the Memory Console of your ADAM.
While not absolutely essential, (and it is particularly not essential if you have more than one disk drive "add-on", which drives are next mentioned ), you'll find that having two data drives is a definite advantage in terms of the time and the peace of mind that having it saves you.
A second drive saves a lot of tedious tape switching in some of the more complicated programs, and acts as a back-up should something disabling happen to your original data drive. If you have only one data drive and it dies, (and they do die from time to time!), due to wear or malfunction; you are left with an unfinished task, and no way to save what you have done; and you have a computer that is little more than an electronic-age paper weight.
With two tape drives you can keep right on computing with hardly more than a pause for the appropriate, (or inappropriate, depending on your viewpoint on the subjects of etiquette, religion, "coothness", etc.), curses and blasphemes.
Remember to that only Coleco manufactured data drives, there is no other source. They were a very sophisticated device, and no one else has even attempted to replace their manufacture. So if you should see one it may be vise to get it quickly, you may not have the luxury of "second" thoughts!
--Coleco also manufactured a number of computer devices such as an excellent 300 Baud modem called ADAMLink and an automatic dialer for use with your phone.
Since the advent of regular phones with number memories, the auto dialer is little more than an interesting toy but the included address book program that goes with it is superior.
ADAMLink, the modem, can open the world of computing to your ADAM, from the obtaining of information on ADAM itself to personal banking, from "talking" to a friend's computer down the street to accessing massive information companies such as CompuServe Information Services, or perhaps accessing the computer at your school or office.
Like the data drives, they are no longer being made and should be on your ADAM shopping list if you don't already have one. Can't find one? Never fear, there is a way around that!
COLECO ADAM GAME ACCESSORIES
Coleco also manufactured a number of accessories for the ADAM, most of ties in the games area such as:
1. A roller controller similar to those used in game arcades
Like the data drives, they were only manufactured by Coleco, and are not being made by anyone else. Depending upon your needs you might consider obtaining any one, or all of these items, should they become available. Because they are no longer manufactured they can sometimes be found at very reasonable prices through friends, neighborhood bulletin boards such as those at grocery or corner stores or flea markets and yard sales.
NEW ADAM HARDWARE COMPANIES
When Coleco left ADAM "abandoned in the Cabbage Patch", other manufacturers moved in to play "mother to the orphan". (That theme might make a good movie). Most, if not all, are in the list of ADAM SUPPLIERS in another chapter of this ASG. Some of these, such as Orphanware in Ohio, have been particularly supportive of ADAM users in every way from new and innovative hardware and software to answering elementary questions about ADAM (the same questions were asked and answered, OVER and OVER and OVER!!!).
These companies and AUG user groups are the best sources of new ADAM products. Through them you can get such items as:
--Disk drives. These were originally manufactured by Coleco but are now made and/or upgraded by others.
Disk drives offer two major advantages over the Digital Data Drive, for anyone with an ADAM; and the obtaining of such should be seriously considered.
First, a disk drive is much faster and more convenient than Digital Data Pack (the tape) drives, so much so that it is difficult to comprehend without seeing one in action.
Second, because disk drives use inexpensive and commonly available computer diskettes, they can ultimately save you money as the much more expensive Digital Data Packs become more difficult to obtain. But since the advent of hardware which will convert audio cassettes to DDPs, perhaps that advantage is not as valid as the first one.
The original ADAM disk drives held 160K of information. (1 "K" or kilobyte is a volt of computer data storage measurement, usually more is better). Drive upgrades are also available offering 320K and 720K of information storage.
--Hard Disk Drives are also presently available, and increase data and program storage dramatically. (For comparison, the standard ADAM digital data pack holds 256K of information, the Coleco disk holds 160K, and upgrades are available to increase disk storage capacities to 720K; but the hard disk drives measure mass data storage capacities is the 30 to 40 MegaByte range!)
Hard Disk Drives are also exceptionally fast. To the new user they would seem to approach the speed of access from RAM itself in some situations.
CAUTION: You can only use disk drives and hard disk drives which are designed to interface with the ADAM. That is to say, you cannot use an Apple, Commodore or other disk drive by simply "plugging it in". It must be configured to interface with the ADAM.
Disk Drives, Disk Drive Conversions, and Hard Disk Drives are available from several sources, and are discussed is more detail in the chapter on ADAM HARDWARE
But please be advised that disk drives, like most other available ADAM add-ons, are likely to cost you as much -- or more -- than your entire ADAM family Computer System cost you when you bought it new. HOWEVER, this need not be a major concern, inasmuch as must of as obtained the entire new ADAM "bundle" for less than $200.00, and that was for a terrific computer that well deserves to be upgraded.
It would take a lot of add-ons to bring the price up to the quality of computer system that we have.
--Memory expanders "expand" the computer's memory; that is, they allow it to use longer programs and do certain other functions, such as offering quicker access to stored programs. They are available in 64K, 256K, 512K, and 1MB capacities, (again more is better). Although they are at essential generally, they are required if you intend to do serious computing with your ADAM. They are discussed more fully in the chapter on ADAM HARDWARE.
--1200 and 2400 Baud modems are connected internally or externally, and are generally far more complicated and somewhat more expensive than the internal ADAMLink modem. But they are also much faster.
They are well worth keeping in mind in case you cannot find an ADAMLink with which to begin your telecommunications experience. Or you may find that you have already caught the highly infectuous and always fatal "TELECOM-ITOUS", and that the only care is to have a modem at any cost or inconvenience. The added expense is more than compensated by the added speed of the device, (which saves money in long distance charges), and by the added features which immediately relieve the symptoms of "ADAMLink frustration".
Again, see the Ron Collin's chapter on ADAM HARDWARE, but see also the chapter by Bart Lynch on TELECOMMUNICATIONS.
--Dot matrix printers can replace or augment your ADAM printer. The ADAM printer is a letter quality daisy wheel printer. That is, it produces print identical to a good electric typewriter.
However it is noisy and it is slow. It is also severely limited in terms of producing graphics.
Dot matrix printers use tiny pins to create letters and graphics. At their very best they offer only "Near Letter Quality", (NLQ), printing, (which really looks quite good). But they are very much faster and much much quieter than the ADAM printer. And they can print graphics -- everything from detailed pictures to different type sizes and fonts.
They can also handle fan-fold or "computer paper" better than the ADAM printer. In fact, they were designed around the idea of continuous feed fan-fold paper. Most, but not all, dot matrix primers can be used with ADAM. All need a special electronic interface board before they can be operated by the ADAM. These interface boards are available to ADAM users, as noted in the chapter on ADAM HARDWARE.
When making a DM printer conversion, however, one needs to solve a small problem of maintaining ADAM power requirements.
The problem lies in the fact that the power supply for the ADAM computer is located inside of the printer housing which means you most still have the ADAM printer or some other power source such as a surplus power supply to operate ADAM when you add the dot matrix printer.
Most interface manufacturers have already provided at least one solution to this potential difficulty, so the problem is really solved before most of us even think of it.
For most novices, the ADAM printer is a perfect place to start. In fact some professional writers still prefer their standard ADAM word processor and printer to much more expensive and enhanced machines. Still other ADAM users keep both printers connected, and address either one as desired according to what the particular software they are using permits or requires, and/or according to the kind of output they desire.
--There are other devices, gadgets and goodies available for the ADAM and more becoming available every day. There is MegaCopy, (referenced above), which allows you to make your own Digital Data Packs, there are 80 Column Video Unit boards which let you use more professional word-processing programs, speech synthesizers, MIDI interfaces, and more. In fact there is much more.
ADAM may be an orphan, bet he's a well-endowed one.
--And he's well cared for. In addition to the companies listed in the chapter on SUPPLIERS, there are a large number of ADAM user groups, (AUGs), in the United States, Canada and abroad.
If by chance you are reading this ASG and haven't found an AUG in your area, or haven't found one that is doing the things that interest you, you can start your hunting in local computer stores. They may know of one. (So might your library, which is also a good source for books on BASIC, CP/M; and out-of-print books and manuals written specifically for ADAM).
Neighborhood bulletin boards are good sources of information. If you don't see a note about an ADAM club, put one up asking if there is one. You might even consider forming a club of your own if you find there is none but there are other ADAM owners in your area. (See the Chapter by Rich Clee on starting new AUGs).
And there are very exceptional established regional clubs which you can join by mail, which will keep you informed on the latest in ADAM advances.
Probably the best place to begin looking is with A.N.N., the producer of this ASG. A.N.N. keeps a list of active AUGs, and is anxious to connect users to User Groups. A.N.N. recognizes that healthy user groups are the key to ADAM survival and continued growth. Contact an A.N.N. member listed in the chapter IMPORTANT NAMES AND ADDRESSES for more information on AUGs, and see the list of AUGs at the end of the chapter by Rich Clee mentioned in the second paragraph above.
Remember that A.N.N. may not have a complete list, because we depend upon the user groups to keep us informed. But we try!
ADAM INFORMATION SOURCES
--Of the information sources available, A.N.N. is the best for current events, developments, and help; and libraries are good for general ADAM and program information.
--Another excellent source of ADAM information is CompuServe Information Services, for which you need a modem -- or a friend with a modem who also subscribes to CompuServe.
CompuServe is a massive information service in Ohio which has a special section devoted to ADAM users. As you might expect, it is one of the most active of the forums for orphaned computers. It is used regularly and you can get almost any information and personalized help there quickly. You can as well obtain the latest gossip about "our" ADAM
Compuserve also has two "data libraries" brimming with programs for ADAM; one in BASIC and the second in CP/M. It is a valuable source of free programs, all are public domain.
--AUGs are the very "meat and potatoes" for the ADAM user. They combine the resources of all of the above mentioned information sources and provide them to their members, as the members express their needs.
Use your AUG, and don't feel shy! Many ADAM users are "born teachers", just sitting is the meetings awaiting an opportunity to help someone with a problem. Some of these people are very advanced in their understanding of ADAM, but at the same time very capable and eager to teach according to the level of the seeker of knowledge.
--Past sources of help, (which help is still available, largely in printed form), are shown appreciation via these two final thoughts.
Perhaps it is because ADAM is an orphaned computer that you will find many ADAM users happy to help you with your problem, or who may be able to give you program or advice.
And two companies, Orphanware and Digital Express have been extremely generous in their support of ADAM
-Orphanware has devoted a great deal of time and effort in assisting ADAM users, as well as in the development of new ADAM products.
Orphanware is now no longer in business, the legendary Big John Lingrel has left ADAM, [but has kept his foot in the door, just ever so little, and we hope that be will be back].
But there is a great deal of their information in print, that has been provided by them for the ADAM user. Most of it is found in old newsletters, the obtaining of which may be facilitated through your AUG.
-Digital Express offers a superior newsletter and has donated some exceptional software free to all ADAM users.
[Digital Express has gone through reorganizations and is now known as Phoenix 2000 -- Sol Swift is the master programmer thereof.]
Although, again, the compilers of this package have no connection with either company -- or any other mentioned in this Survival Guide -- other than as customers; the great contributions made by these two companies to the ADAM community is such that they deserve special mention.
We sincerely hope that this ADAM SURVIVAL GUIDE will be of some help to new ADAM owners, as well as to those who are more advanced in their association therewith. We also hope that others will perhaps update, correct or augment it in the future via communications to UK, and perhaps as future ASG contributors.
Please feel free to pass this copy of the ASG along to a friend or make it available to others. But please also remember that this ASG is COPYRIGHTED! The work that went into this book was donated to the ADAM community. It was not intended that anyone should profit from it -- other than ADAM owners.
(Note also that some articles are individually copyrighted by their authors, [although a notation may not be made of such fact in the article itself], and all such articles are printed herein with their permission).
Cheers from Canada!