Your IBM Computer, Nov-1983
by Lloyd Borrett
Your Computer, November 1983
When the IBM Personal Computer XT was released back in
March 1983, IBM said that while the PC1 and XT were aimed at
the same market, they expected the XT would erode the PC1's
market share. Obviously, with 10 Mbytes of hard disk, the XT
was aimed at those users with higher storage requirements.
It seems that, as for the PC1, IBM totally underestimated
the market for the XT.
In the US there is at least a six-week wait for the
delivery of an XT, and the situation is not any better in
Australia. Even with cash in hand it is difficult to get
hold of an XT.
PC1 Expansion Units
By the time you read this, it may be possible to get hold
of IBM's Expansion Unit for the PC1. Of course you pay more
for this way of turning a PC1 into an XT equivalent. How
much more? Well, consider a PC1 and an XT, without
peripherals, but expanded to a useful configuration:
PC with 64K memory,
360K diskette drive:
Expansion Unit PC1:
AST Research MegaPlus 256K memory,
calendar/clock, two serial ports,
one parallel port:
XT with 128K memory, one serial port, 360K
diskette drive, 10 Mb hard disk:
Additional 128K memory:
So the figures show you will pay $1362 more, and that is
after using careful purchasing options to obtain a
'discount'. (See my Your Computer,
September 1983 column for more details about
the AST Research MegaPlus.)
Note that I do not advocate
paying IBM's price of $502 for 128K of additional memory.
The eighteen 64K chips required can be purchased for $7 to
$8 each, so you can purchase and install the chips yourself,
or there is more than one dealer around who will supply and
install them for about $200.
An Australian XT Alternative
Col Davis and the staff at
CPU Computer Centre, Clayfield, Brisbane, have developed an
eXTended Australian Version of the PC1 called the PC
Plus-10. The product specifications are:
- Standard PC'
system board (64K RAM, floppy disk controller)
360K floppy disk drive (drive A, 100 per cent
- 10M internal Winchester disk drive (100
per cent IBM software-compatible)
- Multi-function board
with additional 64K RAM, asynchronous comms. adapter,
parallel printer port, real-time clock/ calendar, Winchester
host adaptor (all 100 per cent IBM software-compatible)
- Xebec Winchester controller mounted above half-height
- Replacement power supply.
The PC Plus-10 does not
function with option 3 of the IBM Diagnostics Diskette.
Apart from this, Col Davis assures me that the PC Plus-10
functions and operates exactly as an IBM-XT. All DOS 2.0
commands relating to the Winchester drive operate as on the
IBM-XT. All IBM-XT software will operate without
Besides the diagnostic incompatibility, the
only functional difference between the PC Plus-10 and an
IBM-XT is that the XT has eight expansion slots while the PC
Plus-10 has only five.
The PC Plus-10 has been demonstrated
to IBM's PC Group in Sydney, and will only be sold via IBM
dealers. A twelve-month warranty is given on the complete
system, and the recommended retail price is the same as for
PC1 or XT?
People have often asked for my advice on how
to decide between buying a PC1 or an XT. An important part
of the decision has to be the price difference.
difference between a reasonably configured PC1 and the XT is
$3142 (take out the expansion unit from the figures
presented earlier, and add a second 360K diskette drive). Of
course it is possible to find other ways to add on hard
disks to PC1 s and save on this; however, to do so one must
walk a very careful path. CPU Computer Centre's add-on hard
disk implementation is the only one I have seen which
offers full functional and operational compatibility.
Obviously there are applications which demand the
availability of a hard disk. Some require the extra storage
capacity, others the fast transfer rates, and of course
there are always applications which need both. For all
these applications, either you can justify the additional
expenditure or you can't.
But what about applications which
could run on a PC1? Assuming the extra money could be
raised, should the XT still be considered? The problem is
now a little more difficult.
I see two main factors that
should be considered, and the first is convenience. The
storage capacity of the hard disk makes it possible to have
all your programs, data and utilities available all the
time -no more shuffling of floppy disks. Many first-time
users, especially those buying the system for business use,
are not prepared to put up with managing a collection of
The second factor is the provision of an
expansion path. The computer system installed that doesn't
require an upgrade to expand capacity after one to two
years is rare. People always seem to underestimate their
With personal computers this seems to be even
more of a problem. While the system may be purchased to
perform one application, once the system is running other
applications are always found. It costs $5325 to add the
expansion unit to an existing PC1, which provides a system
with a second floppy disk drive now hardly used, but for
which $821 was paid. (I assume there would be very few PC1s
sold with only one diskette drive.)
If the extra money is
available, therefore, I would usually recommend that an XT
be purchased. In most cases it means spending an extra $3150
initially to save $3000 in a year's time.
Unprotecting BASIC Programs
There are three options
available when using the SAVE command to store a BASIC
program. By default the program will be saved in a
compressed binary (tokenised) format. By specifying the 'A'
option the program is saved in ASCII format, which requires
more space. The 'P' option saves the program in an encoded
binary format. When the program is later run (or loaded),
any attempt to LIST or EDIT it will fail.
There are obvious
reasons why you would want to protect a program, and equally
obvious reasons why you may wish later to unprotect it.
Fortunately someone in the USA has found the solution, and
made it generally available via user groups and bulletin
board systems. The procedure is as follows:
- Load BASIC or BASICA
- Type BSAVE "LIST',1124,1
- Load the program you wish to list, save, or edit.
- Type BLOAD "LIST',1124
- Now list the formerly protected program.
The first two steps will create a new program file called
'LIST; you can use any other name: you prefer. The program
can be transferred onto other disks or simply recreated on
Many of the less expensive software packages are BASIC'
programs saved using the 'P' option. By unprotecting them I
have been able to fix problems and add enhancements. More
than one package combined source protection with a disk copy
protection mechanism. Using this tip it is possible to
insert statements to branch around the protection code, thus
allowing back-up copies to be made, and the programs to be
used on DOS 2.0 formatted diskettes and hard disks.
Fighting Against Software Protection
I believe too much is made of the software piracy
problem; many software companies are spending too much time
and money trying to defend themselves against pirates. They
reduce, if not ruin, the usefulness of their products with
locked disks, unlistable programs, secret source code, codes
in ROM chips, and so forth.
These devices have made many programs inefficient and
costly to produce and support. We the buyers are greatly
taxed because we cannot make modifications or back-up,
copies of the programs we have purchased. Often we are
inconvenienced by added expenses for back-ups and future
Instead of paying each supplier for a back-up copy, I
advise you to purchase a program such as Copy II PC. This is
an IBM disk copy program from Central Point Software, which
can be used to back-up many 'protected' programs.
Unfortunately Copy II PC will not copy the Lotus 1-2-3
Release 1A system disk, but I'm sure there will eventually
be a way around that.
Let me make it quite clear that I do not advocate
software piracy. You should think twice before accepting
stolen software from friends; the result of illegal copying
is more expense and less convenience for everyone.
The sale of software is just that the sale of programs,
listings, source code, and back-up capability a complete
sale. Currently we are forced to buy a disguised lease. For
the money we spend we are entitled to software which is as
useful as possible. If you are not satisfied with a program,
write and tell the author or publisher the nature of the
problem, and even suggest possible solutions. You may be
pleasantly surprised as to how effective this can be.
The User-Supported Software Concept
A company called The Headlands Press, Inc. has started up
an experiment in distributing computer programs called the
Freeware user-supported concept, based on three
- That value and utility of software is best assessed
by the user on his/her own system.
- That the creation of personal computer software can
and should be supported by the computing community.
- That copying of programs should be encouraged,
rather than restricted.
The user-supported concept allows anyone to request a
copy of a user-supported program by sending a blank,
formatted disk to the author of the program, with an
addressed, postage-paid return envelope. A copy of the
program, with documentation, is then sent by return mail.
The program carries a notice suggesting a contribution to
the program's author. Making a contribution is completely
voluntary on the part of each user.
Regardless of whether a contribution is made, the user is
encouraged to copy and share the program with others.
Payment for use is discretionary on the part of each
Up to now, distribution of software has relied either on
restricting access (and charging the cost for doing so), or
anonymously casting programs into the public domain. The
user-supported concept might just might be a way for the
computing community to support and encourage creative work
outside the traditional marketplace.
This is an experiment in economics more than altruism.
Free distribution of software and voluntary payment for its
use eliminate the need for money to be spent on marketing,
advertising, and copy protection schemes. Users obtain
quality software at reduced cost, while still supporting
program authors. They can try it out before buying, and do
so at their own pace and in the comfort of their own home or
office. And the most useful programs will survive, based
purely on their quality and usefulness.
All software authors are invited to participate in this
distribution concept. The Headland Press Inc. is publishing
a Freeware Catalog of user-supported software by
program authors who are willing to make their work available
on a free, non-restricted basis.
The experiment has been running for about a year now, and
appears to be working. Freeware user-supported
software is available via the authors, user groups, and
remote bulletin board systems. To my knowledge all the
software currently available is designed to run on the IBM
Personal Computer, but no doubt others will take up the
The Freeware user-supported programs I have obtained are:
PC-TALK: a communication program
PC-FILE: a database manager program
CROSSREF: cross-reference utility
MONITOR: screen-user interface utility
EXPLIST: expanded lister utility.
All these programs are well documented, and some compare
favourably with $200-plus packages available via retail
Other Free Software For The PC
The New York Amateur Computer Club (NYACC), which
previously published catalogues of CPMUG and SIG/M
libraries, now also distributes the PC/ Blue User Group
The primary source of programs for the library is
material extracted from the CPMUG and SIG/M libraries, some
of which still requires conversion to be useful under PC-DOS
or MS-DOS. Of the 26 diskettes I have obtained, eleven
contain utilities and games which are immediately usable
under PC-DOS. The Freeware programs came from diskettes. The
volumes are on 13 cm single-sided disks. There are no plans
to support CP/M-86.
By the time you read this I hope to have made
arrangements for these disks to be distributed in Australia.
I will leave a notice on the MiCC Bulletin Board when
details are finalised, and a full announcement will be
included in my next column (Your Computer,
Saturday, 15 October 2011