Harry Hurst

Who am I

I am a 56 year old meter reader for the city of Goodland, KS. That may surprise you because you probably expected me to be a software engineer, "the IT guy", or some other such techie. I'm not one of those guys by vocation, but I've had computers as one of my hobbies since 1979, when I bought a TRS-80 model 1 with 4K of RAM. I upgraded that to 16K and Level II BASIC before long. I still have that computer, it works and once about every decade or two I get an upgrade for it.

Also, I did work in electronics for roughly 20 years. I started out my techie background in the Northwest Kansas Area Vocational Technical School in Goodland, KS. I took Communications and signed up for every extra course I could get. One of them was a self taught training program on logic gates. I didn't finish that, unfortunately, but I feel it gave me a pretty good foundation for reading a computer schematic, and determining what should be happening in this machine.

Going out of NWKAVTS I went into microwave communications and stayed at that for almost 3 years. In the course of troubleshooting an alarm system, for a network I was setting up for Tri-State Generation & Transmission in Thornton, CO, I was briefly, and peripherally, introduced to Z80 assembly language. After that I started to dabble with programming, at first just with programmable calculators of the time, and then with the Model 1 when I was at home in Lakewood, CO. Whenever I was home I would play at BASIC programming, or buy a cassette tape with a machine language game on it. My BASIC programs were just too SLOW, so I eventually learned Z80 machine language, and bought my first assembler, EDTASM, from Radio Shack.

I wrote a number of programs in assemtbly language, but the only one I remember is my Morse code trainer. I also wrote the worst chess player ever. I had had so much trouble with EDTASM not writing its output properly to cassette, that I hand assembled that using HTBUG(TBUG modified to run in high memory, I did that myself) to enter it into memory and test it. It's incredible to me now to look back and remember that. How many hours did I put into that without ever making it really work properly? I know I went through a lot of pencil lead and erasers. I wish I still had all those pages of code so I could perhaps find the problems that program had. Sigh. Some mice made a nest of those pages and a chapter from a TRS-80 programming book. All I might have left of it is the display routines, maybe. The chapter in the book was on BCD programming.

But I digress.

I changed jobs then, and to go with the new job I got a Color Computer from Radio Shack. I soon upgraded to 16K myself, and then had a tech at RS take it up to 64K. I got a disk drive system, Disk EDTASM, and some diskettes and started to work on a better DOS for that platform. Then I discovered Microware's OS9, and so I never finished that. Mine would never have been so good as theirs was.

I eventually moved on to MSDOS machines, working in assembly language mostly, until I tried out dBaseIII. Then I bought a clone of that, dBXL 1.3, and a true compiler for that language, Quicksilver 1.3. I did a good bit of programming in dBXL/Quicksilver for several years.

When I was in a Radio Shack in the early 90s I saw a Color Computer 3 was for sale so I bought it, two copies of the Level 2 OS9 operating system, and a windowing operating system which I have never used.

When I had gotten a little familiar with it I felt an old desire to write a game program for it, specifically, Sinistar. I had made a half hearted attempt at it long before on my original CoCo1, but when I saw the similarities in the screen resolution and colors to the arcade game I thought I would have to give it a try again. I've been thinking about it, now and then, ever since. In about 2004 I started looking for ROM images, schematics, circuit theory, etc. so I could make my game as much like the original as I was able. It was surprisingly easy to find all of that on-line. Disappointingly, I was not able to make much sense of the disassembly for Sinistar, so I eventually decided to try a simpler target by the same company. There were only three possibles on my list, Defender, Robotron and Joust. I think Robotron and Joust both had about 48K of ROMs + sound. Defender has 26K + sound. Defender was the smallest game that I was familiar with, so here I am working on it, and making considerably more progress with it than I did with Sinistar, though there does seem to be some gibberish shortly after a RESET that I can't seem to make any sense of.

I will return to Sinistar when I feel I've made enough progress on Defender, and feel like my disassemble "muscles" are sufficiently developed.

So, what qualifies me to be a computer archeologist? For one thing, I find it relaxing whenever I'm not too tired to concentrate, so it's not a chore for me. The short answer, though, is that I want to be. Also, Chris was kind enough to let me have this little corner in cyberworld. :)

Progress so far

08/02/2014

I'm just very good at this journal keeping, but I haven't found anything major in this disassembly so far. The jibberish that had me confused in the cold boot process turned out to be a memory test, followed by tests for most of the ROMs. Some of the stuff I have found that comes to mind includes:

  • FixedROM: routine to call subroutines from one $C000-$CFFF ROM page to another ROM that occupies the same space n the memory map.

  • ROMbank2?: Defender's vocabulary, or at least a large part of it.

  • ROMbank2?: Text painting routine(s). These could conceivably be used for other purposes, but so far I haven't seen them
used for anything else.

I have disconnected from the internet for the summer so I probably won't be very active in here until I select a new, or old, IP, but I no doubt will be doing some work occasionally via free WIFI providers.

01/31/2014

I thought I had found a problem with my disassembler's output of the indexed form of the JSR opcode. Consequently, I wasted some time trying to fix it just to find that I had done it right in the first place. :} Added a few comments, and changed some others.

01/29/2014

Did some analysis of Defender sound board schematic. Updated the Memory Map to reflect what I found there.

01/26/2014

Added disassembly for sound board, identified a few subroutines in same. Put in preliminary labels and changed a few to permanent symbolic labels in Sound ROM.

01/25/2014

I've neglected to keep a journal up to this point. Fortunately?, :{ I haven't gotten terribly far without documenting anything. I have been identifying subroutines, and I have commented a few. I've recently started to give them descriptive names, as I identify what they do, to make the task a little easier.