Softsystems

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Softsystems is the name used by the Northwest TRS80 user group to publish utilities for the Dragon.

Peter Mooney, one of the leading members of the group, told us the story behind Softsystems:

I was an early purchaser of the Dragon 32. I added the DragonDos cartridge knocked up some disk drives and a friend cloned the cartridge for his own disk system. We added extra memory, built the Maplin interface and RS232 boards and linked them to TRS80 Model 1s and IBM PCs.

Having members with CoCos to hand and several friendly Tandy RadioShack managers in the group we had access to technical stuff, magazines and occasional software and hardware goodies.

With a wide range of club member's machines to support and a monthly club magazine to produce we faced a challenge accepting submissions in a wide variety of formats - hand written, tape and disk - both text and program code, and produced on different machines. One of my early efforts was to read files from the Model 1 and IBM disks and CoCo disks and tapes which taught us a lot about Disk formats, directory structures and FATs. On the Model 1 there was an invaluable piece of software called SuperUtility. A number of our Dragon disk and memory reading utilities were modelled on this and bundled into Zapper.

Translating tokenised Basic between machines or transposing CoCo and Dragon ROM jump table addresses was another job. Another frustration was the location of the DragonDOS jump table at &h0600 which prevented some tape based MC games from running. It was a simple task to write a utility that could be appended to a tape based game and move the code up and down away from the 0600 page.

But with a 64k machine (whether an upgraded Dragon32 or a true Dragon64) there didn't seem to be any reason why the Dos jump table couldn't be moved to the top of memory so that graphics page location were identical on 32 and 64 machines. My friend Alan Butler wrote it and we called it DiskUp. Come to that, with the Dragon ROMs copied into RAM we could try to get the Tandy ROM images running (substituting alternative vectors where necessary, parallel printer code, alternative keyboard decode, etc.). We had quite a job but managed to get it to fit in the available space and called it TROM.

Alan had SuperdosE on his machine which had some nice features - so we hacked Dragon Dos to match and called it HighDos. I seem to remember cloning a Cumana DOS too - or was that on a BBC?

These utilities were all free to Group members but I don't know that anyone other than us actually used them. We weren't IT developers - just enthusiasts, and most of the time there were just 3 of us hacking Dragons but we offered our code under the name SoftSystems. We all had full time jobs to do (well I was a teacher at the time so I suppose I had a little more time) and we had other common interests like sailing. I'm not even sure whether I still have all the code any more and I know that Alan sold his Dragon soon after he got an AtariST so I will have to review my disks when I set up the Dragon again. I know I had piles of listing paper somewhere with my dissassembly and annotation of the various alternate ROMs but I couldn't find it last week. I think lots of stuff got binned when I moved from Manchester to N Wales where I am now.

Software