|Re: Anyone looking for an HP-85? [LONG]|
Message #3 Posted by Ex-PPC member on 29 Apr 2003, 12:46 p.m.,
in response to message #2 by Michel Beaulieu
It *is* a computer, one of the very first truly personal
computers, and one of the best at its time (1980+), long
before the IMB PC even existed. Most important characteristics:
- 16 Kb RAM expandable to 32 Kb RAM. Most micros of its
time had just 4 Kb or 8 Kb RAM.
- Built-in CRT display: 256x192 graphics plus 4 screens
of 16 rows x 32 char. per row, scrolleable. Graphics
and text where in separate planes and could coexist.
- Built-in thermal printer, could dump graphics as well.
Virtually unique then.
- Built-in digital tape drive, could store 210 Kb of
programs and data, offering sequential and random access for mass storage. Most everyone else was using audio cassettes, trying to guess where the program began on the tape.
- Excellent, full-size keyboard. The machine was heavy,
but nevertheless portable, I carried it home and back many times. Due to the excellent keyboard and built-in CRT display, printer and mass storage, working at home was a
- Excellent version of HP technical BASIC, with a full
screen editor, checking syntax on program entry, full error messages, 12-digit BCD precision, vast number of commands,
including graphics commands, printer commands, mass storage commands, arrays, strings, etc. The BASIC could be extended with new keywords written in assembler and available on tape as BIN (binary) programs or in plug-in ROMs. It would tokenize programs before running them and precompute branching destintations, to speed execution, then decompile them again if you wanted to edit something, all transparent to the user.
- ROM drawer, which allowed the user to insert plug-in ROMs, extending further the machine capabilities. Most ROMs added scores of new keywords to BASIC. For instance the Matrix ROM implemented full matrix operations at the speed of assembly, the Mass Storage ROM allowed using external disks instead of the built-in tape, the Plotter ROM, the I/O ROM, the Assembler ROM, the Advanced Programming ROM, etc.
- Incredible amount of peripherals: printers, plotters, disks, all kinds of measurement devices, HP-IB interface, GPIO interface, graphics tablets, ...
- Superb physical quality, superb documentation.
Most of those features were well ahead of their time, and much more advanced than the ones in the pathetic IBM PC, to be released much later. I still remember how disgusted I felt at the dreadful BASIC of the IBM PC, which would accept any kind of garbage as input and only gave an error after you pressed RUN and the program got to that line, if ever. You just couldn't be sure that your program wouldn't crash on a simple typo, at a much later time, unless you passed through each and every line. No syntax checking on line entry. Not to mention compiled branching.
On the other hand, I remember fondly the nights I spent programming the HP-85, which was an incredible pleasure, and running the amazing binary games written by someone at HP, such as the "bat" and "mouse" programs, fully graphical, interactive experiences, when everyone else was playing pong, if at all. The "mouse" program was and still is one of the most challenging and fun games I've ever played, and reaching level 32 (with all corridors being dead-ends and an inexhaustible source of cats) was well-nigh hair-raising !