March 6, 2006
My second true computer, after the TI-99/4a, was the Coleco Adam:
I remember waiting in line in the snow with my Dad to get our hands on one of the first ADAM computers. Oh, the SmartBASIC programs I would write! I spent hours and hours hacking away in that terrible AppleBASIC clone. And loving every minute of it.
But the ADAM had some serious drawbacks:
- The world's loudest daisywheel printer. It was loud when powered on doing nothing. You know that's a bad sign. When it was printing, it was quite literally deafening. I kept a towel nearby to toss over it while it was printing, otherwise nobody in the room, myself included, could think straight. All this for a whopping 10 characters per second.
- Cassette tape drives. Okay, they weren't technically cassette tapes, they were fancy 256 kilobyte "custom data packs". Man, were these things slow. I could handle the slowness, but they also had a very unfortunate tendency to unspool. And when you've spent the last week writing the ultimate tank combat game-- which happens to be stored on that unspooled tape-- you develop some serious tape surgery skills, stat. I must have reconstructed those data packs fifteeen times over.
As with so many computers of my youth, I quickly outgrew it, moving on to the Apple //c. Coleco discontinued the ADAM in 1985, barely two years later.
Though it was never a particularly good computer by any objective measure, some people never gave up on the ADAM. Richard Drushel delivered this incredible, poignant speech at ADAMcon 7 in 1995, nearly ten years after the official death of the ADAM:
In 1995, if you are an active ADAM programmer, like me, there is no way that you can be doing it for hope of financial gain--by now, there's none to be had. I'm an ADAM programmer because I'm intrinsically interested in the ADAM. I write software for me, and if other people find it useful, that's great, but I'll program whether anybody else cares about what I'm doing or not. For me, it's been fun (though often challenging and frustrating) to learn about how the ADAM works, and how to make it do interesting things.
Unfortunately, I have not found many other people like me in the ADAM community. There aren't many of us programmers left, for a variety of personal and professional reasons. I don't believe you need a Ph.D. in order to learn how to write your own software in SmartBASIC or even assembler, but most of you out there believe otherwise; and I can't overcome the strength of your belief. There are many practical benefits to doing your own programming, not the least of which is that you can make your program do exactly what you want it to do. More important nowadays, however, is that ADAM programming skills can be part of your maintenance toolkit. If all the ADAM newsletters disappear, all the ADAM BBSes go off-line, no more ADAMcons are held, and you can't find anybody else who has an ADAM, then you, like Robinson Crusoe, can be self-sufficient on your own desert island. For me, that is an important motivation--because I'm really worried that the ADAM is about to become a desert island.
I don't remember how I found that speech. It must have been in 1996 or 1997 that I stumbled across it in some random pre-Google internet search. But I was completely unprepared for the depth of emotion and attachment people had developed for what was, at best, a footnote in computing history.
It's sad and irrational, yet oddly inspiring. Perhaps, as Richard points out, it isn't about the ADAM, but the people:
The ADAMcons are a public service to the ADAM community. They aren't supposed to turn a profit, but they have to break even. In order to break even, there has to be a certain critical mass of attendees. In order to make it worth someone's while, or some users group's while, to put effort into planning and running an ADAMcon, you'd like to see a little more than the bare minimum attendance. But I'm not sure that it's reasonable to expect much attendance at all. Already, the evidence is clear that there are not enough dollar votes to support new ADAM hardware and software development. What's the attraction of yet another ADAMcon? There won't be much new to see, the sessions will be pretty much the same as they've always been, most of the big-name personalities from the first 5 years of ADAM have moved on to other things, so those of you who like to hobnob with royalty will find only Johnny-come-latelies like me. Unless this is your first or second ADAMcon, everything is as familiar as an old shoe, only the city and hotel are different. Is it really worth $250 US for the same hamburger in a different bun?
Well, it must be, since all of you are here now. Unless you are a first-timer just discovering that there is a wider ADAM world, like me at ADAMcon 04, you must admit that the ADAM per se is only a flimsy excuse for your attendance this year. The real reason you're here is social. At past ADAMcons, or via now- defunct newsletters, or through now-disconnected BBSes, you met people who have become your friends. The ADAM brought you together, originally for some concrete and practical purpose (such as, you wrote some software that I want to buy), but now the ADAM connection is a historical artifact. Some of you would keep in touch whether there were still ADAMcons or not, whether you ever used your ADAMs again or not.
In case you were wondering, ADAMCon 2006 is in Chicago.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Oh boy. I've sung 18th century church choral music with atheists, taken part in a medieval reenactment society that doesn't believe in either religion or class, even attempted to introduce Emacs to a DreamWeaver addict, but THAT, I have to say, is more tragic than anything else I've seen.
ADAMcon. Hoooo boy. If they ever got a life, they'd still need to get a life.
It doesn't suprize me. There are still C64 user groups out there.
I had an Adam, although you seem to remember way more about it than I do. I don't seem to remember doing too much with mine, and soon upgrade to a used Apple IIe and eventually the Apple IIgs, which would be my last Apple computer.
The selling point for the system was the $500 college scholarship that was being given away by Coleco when you purchased one of these. I've never seen a dime of that $$$. I remember there being some type of class action suit over it at some point, but it's hard to get blood from a stone.
Oh boy, this takes me back. The ADAM was my first computer, and I had nothing but trouble with it. I eventually returned it and bought an Apple ][c clone.
Still, it was fun to use, when I wasn't gritting my teeth while printing.
Anybody up for a TRS-80 CON?
So Jeff, you have a future as a docent at a computer museum.
There are still C64 user groups out there.
Yes, but the C64 was actually popular-- in fact, it was one of the most popular early computers. The ADAM wasn't!
Check out the section of the graph from 1982-1987.
I took a gander at the site and sifted through a few of the code samples and it looks an awfully lot like Java.
My original TS/1000 (w/ its 16k expansion pack) is not more than 10 feet away from me as I type.
I'm betting the JUKI daisywheel I had for a compaq was louder. That sucker could get the whole table jumping... It didn't so much imprint the character as practically punch it out of the paper.
On the plus side, you could probably have read it even without the ribbon.
Wow, that just took me back about 20 years. I fondly remember sitting upstairs in my room and hearing the deafening roar of my dad printing something on our Adam, downstairs and on the other side of the house. Memories...
After reading the several posts before me, it caused me to go down memory lane. Yes, I remember the days of the Trading Post BBS, where I got to know several Adamites, Yes, I remember the previous conventions, AC02 through the current time. Even though I have NOT been able to attend the last few conventions, because of several changes in my life, that does not make me love the ADAM or the several friends I have met over the years. One friend I met, 20 years plus is STILL my best freind, so as Rich said, the ADAM has been good to me.I still have working ADAM's, still got the Trading Post BBS system, course the internet put a stop to that, and YES, I also have the emmulator software thanks to the programming skills of many of you. To be exact, I still got the 2nd phone line that the bbs ran on, that comes in handy quite often when the main line is in use, or for testing or tinkering with other systems. With luck, I would LOVE to make ADAMXon 18, and support Guy, for he sure as heck has supported us in the past. I was very glad to hear that he had gotten 18. I don't post or reply often, but I am still aware of MOST of what is going on.
Yes, I gave that speech at ADAMcon 007 in 1995. Yes, I have been to every ADAMcon from IV to 17 (except 10), and was Chairman for ADAMcon XIII. Yes, I still use my ADAM. Yes, I will be at ADAMcon 18 in Chicago in July 2006. Yes, it is all about the people now, but we still bring real ADAMs and set them up and do stuff with them, even though many people bring laptops with emulators.
Before the web, before the net, and even before BBSes, people who owned home computers had to form local user groups with actual in-person monthly meetings in order to get support for their particular model. This produced strong friendships which, in our case, have lasted for more than 20 years, even as the computers (and alas, some of the people themselves) have gone to the landfill.
The ADAM, despite many faults, has interesting technical design features. Indeed, most home computers of that era, in the period of adaptive radiation before the great extinction caused by the emergence of the IBM PC standard, are similarly interesting and quirky on the inside. They are simple enough to learn everything about, and you can easily carry the whole machine around inside your head. That vanished from mainstream home computing about the time of Windows 3.1.
Communities like our ADAM family are a product of that time, and as such look silly to people who have had Windows, Pentiums, and the Internet all their lives. Communities still form today around the same kinds of arcana as the ADAM, but these are not likely to be in-person. Communities all, just different communications media.
I wouldn't trade my 18-year hobby with the ADAM (which began when I rescued my Dad's original Christmas 1984 ADAM from the dumpster) for anything. Hacking the ADAM has taught me stuff that I have used in my professional research and teaching, stuff that my CS and CE students never get taught by straight academic faculty. I owe lifelong friends, and my wife-to-be, to the machine that Art Greenberg (President of Coleco Industries) once described as "a typewriter that plays Donkey Kong". Corny as it may sound, we ADAMites really are a family. Everyone should be so lucky as we are to have that at some point in their lives.
Yes, flogging dead horses does seem pretty futile. But there was and still is much to be enjoyed when old computer fans get together. My wife's Amiga group is a part of the larger Commodore group and meets with them; we both go to Adamcons and will be at 18.
And my ambition? Get more familiar with the Amiga, and learn the stash of TI-99/4as that I keep in the basement among the stash of Adams. Who knows, maybe sometime I'll even examine the Vic20 or Timex-Sinclair.
A tear comes to my eye. This was also my second compute after the TI-99/a4 and yes it was a total piece to something and I was constantly tripping over some limititation of some sort or the other, but like many freaks and nerds out there, I souped mine up with hard disks, 3.5 drives, etc all from this company Micro innovation. I then ditched it for the Amiga world, NexT computer, followed by the OS X revolution.
I recently bought two excellent examples from eBay along with purchsing some memory upgrades and floppy disks from Adams House and a lifetime supply for DDS tapes.
Why? I have no clue. I thihnk I just like having one around to annoy the crap out of me. The only reason I found this page now was because I was looking for some sign of life among former Adam nuts out there.
If anyone is ready to take the walk down memory lane, soup these suckers up and play with TDos until our fingers bleed, then hit me on email or something.
Also buy the adam desktop eeprom. Really useful.
For me, the Adam is really where it began and to this day I still tinker on it occasionally. I'm also happy to say that I likely have the only two Adams here in Japan ;-)
It's the notstalgia of an era where computers were fun, acessible and yet quirky. And yes, the friends made, despite never having been to an Adamcon.
The limited memory and speed is also a good arena in which to learn tight coding skills and critical problem solving abilities. It's a great way to learn efficient programming.
I look forward to the day in the near future where my son can start tinkering in SmartLogo. I look forward to seeing what his creative efforts will produce and regret that I have not kept programs I made from my youth.
Any AUFG magazine holders out there?
If anyone would like a Coleco ADAM (with MODEM, 64K expansion) in its original packaging with 2 tape drives, 2 disk drives and a few dozen cartridges, disks and programs please drop me a line with the word ADAM in the subject. All can be had for less than a $100. And it still works.
After seeing the comments above, I feel the need to add a few of my own. I first got dragged into computers 4 years after the ADAM was orphaned. My son was young and just starting w/computers, and I got pulled along. Since that time, he has moved on [with me trailing behind, of course]into the ibm world; but still has his ADAM and fiddles with it for fun. I, for the most part, as editor of the monthly ADAM News Network, still fiddle with the 5 ADAM's set up in the house along with 4 desktops and about 6 laptops. ADAM does a supurb job of yearly income taxes, although we must recopy the info on a gov't form. We used Excel 2003 to duplicate the forms this year.......found it a littel easier to program the formula's; BUT found nothing new that Excel did which ADAM Calc didn't do; except do formula's easier and calculate faster. sigh....nothing new under the sun, is there. Anyway, I am proud to throw my lot in with the above ADAM enthusiasts; and organize as well as attend our yearly conventions. I just wish that my blankity, blank ibm w/ windows was as forgiving and easy to use as some ADAM applications. Oh, for simpler times...
I had an Adam. It burned up in my home in 1999. Remember ADAM's HOUSE? They supported the ADAM with products for MANY years. I wonder if they are still around? Anyway, I have spent more on my TRS-80 Color Computer stuff in the last year than I have on my PC in the last 5 (and my PC is an Athlon 64 these days). By the way there are TRS-80 FESTS! There is one every year in Chicago, IL for the TRS-80 Color Computer :-) -r
I have no idea WHY I still keep mine, but I still do. At it's peak it had an external 10gb HD and 3.5 disk. Today I just have an external floppy and other such goodies.
I ned to just toss it in the trash, but being my second computer after the TI-99/4a, I just have some unbreakable bond to it.
I always just had a love for non-microsoft-os computers. After the Adam, I moved to the Amiga, then to OS X with annoying stints with Linux and BSD for good measure.
My first computer was an Adam, and it was of the ColecoVision expansion port variety. From the moment it was announced, I eagerly and agonizingly awaited its release. I begged my parents to let me spend my meager $400.00 worth of savings bonds (I argued that the money wouldn't exactly pay for college) on real-life personal computer. Fortunately, although sometimes much to their dismay, they relented.
I remember many nights spent writing code until daybreak when I was a kid. I had to learn to type in the dark without making any noise, and I even got busted once when I accidentally hit Print... BANG, BANG, BANG, oops...
That printer may have been loud, but it rocked at a time when teachers gave extra credit for "hand-typed" reports. Never a misspelled word. Math problems? - bring them on, I could code anything the 6th grade teacher could dish out. At the time, I didn't know anyone else who had a computer - it was like my personal secret weapon.
I remember a feeling of pure ecstasy upon receiving my spanking new 5 1/4" floppy drive after 9 months of suffering with those brutal tapes (for my parents, stuff like computer parts were left to the realm of Christmas gifts). And again when I finally got the CP/M assembler. I even wrote my own menu driven DOS. I too lament the loss of the days when one could do that sort of stuff on their own (that being said, I'm not giving up my Mac and Xcode!).
There really is something to be said for having to learn to squeeze a lot of power out of a small amount of code. Until I got CP/M, I had a mere 25k (25 pages of code!) with which to work. Man, that 40k expansion card sure felt good. Can you say 120k - put that in your sock, Commodore 64! Sorry, just a little time-warp smack-talk...
Even my Dad who had never touched a computer used that Adam for years. After I went to college (and got a Mac ;-), he put it together in the basement and did all of the accounting for his business with Calc. He did his checkbook, cash register, bookkeeping, tax forms, and even had a bowling secretary program. I couldn't believe the day I went home to visit and saw it there - it was so easy to use that he didn't even have to ask me anything about it. Well, he did ask if there was anything we could do about those damn tapes. Of course, I told him to go buy some 5 1/4" floppies and copy everything - twice... I think he went through a several floppy drives and tape drives before finally putting it to rest sometime around 1995. 12 years of somewhat faithful service for $400.00 - you just can't beat that. Actually, I still have it and it works!
I have the following ADAM components, and will sell them, one piece, any or all, for any reasonable, economical offer. All are located in Abingdon, MD. One system, including CPU with two Tape Drives, Printer, Keyboard, Disk Drive, 12" Monitor, all connecting cables, and miscellaneous disc and cassette software was in occasional use until approximately 3-5 years ago; it has always been in a living quarters, not storage. Nevertheless, I am not able to try it out, so I cannot guarantee that it is operable. Other components have been in garage storage.
Other Components include:
(2) additional CPU's
(2) " Printers
(2) " Keyboards
Please contact me by e-mail- email@example.com- Subject line ADAM.
I have never used an Adam, but I've owned a TRS-80, a TI-99/4A, a TS/1000, and two Commodores. My oldest computer now is a Tandy 286, which is still good enough for word processing, checking the weather forecast, reading e-mail, old games, and QBASIC. I think it's great people are still using the Adam; most of these older computers (I don't know much about the Adam in particular) do have some advantages that current manufacturers should aim toward - compact size, low electrical consumption, quiet, fast boot time, easy upgrades, etc.
I bought my ADAM from Gold Circle (Columbus, OH) in 1984 and still have the original box, modem and double tape drives. Over the years, I optioned to continue purchasing both hardware and software for the ADAM. It can even run ATARI 2600 game cartridges with the Expansion Module #1 I found on ebay. The spreadsheet program was both interesting and helpful. I used the ADAM when I was a Church Trustee in the early 80's to do budgets and type minutes of various meetings. I still have some of the church monthly meetings stored on digital tapes. I purchased a dedicated color monitor for the ADAM when the better half began resisting my switching the living room TV to do computer "stuff". It was difficult to not discard the ADAM during our last move, but I still enjoy powering it up and typing for a while. I suppose I should plan on its eventual retirement as I have little spare time for it - now that I am retired. Perhaps a computer museum would like a donation ??
ADAM was my first real pc. I rem the day in the 7th grade programing at night, on bbses there was a bbs in jax, fl that had 2 lines you could chat with the 2nd line. i remember getting busted on mine at 2 am also. That summer up 4 days/night writing bbs software and ran it for a yr till i went to a ibm laptop with 2 720k drives. Had a few girl friends on the boards finally met at bbs partys... had to beg parents to goto them.... From Jacksonville, Fl alias was Petty or grim grimreaper 85 was petty's race track then westside bbs later on in the 90's running wwiv on a pc... miss them days and all the friends that came along with it.., i guess i miss all the friends and rem the adam was the tool that found the friends... Jeff firstname.lastname@example.org
I remember my old adam well,.....it wasn't as bad as people said it was !
I can remember just when the c-64 started dying off, ( you know, no more new programs available)That I was still ordering new ones for my ADAM !! The graphics that I was producing on my Panasonic 9pin dot matrix printer from "CALANDER MAKER " was superior to what I was able to print on the same printer hooked up to a 486 DX 66 with the all great Print Master installed, and many other graghics progams still didn't do what this program did on the ADAM. Although supper slow to print with this program, it did a great job.
When a lot of my friends were just entering graphics with their c-64's -( special programs that printed graphics by overlapping characters on a print wheel), The ADAM community came up with a program called SIGN SHOP which did a superior job of the same thing.
It seemed the older the ADAM got,the more periffials that came out.
Does anyone remember a fax/modem available for the c-64 or 128 ??
For an 8 bit machine, this machine was fast......Its too bad COLECO got greedy and kept all the machine language a deep dark secret. This was the reason there wasn't much software available for the ADAM when it was still viable.
Like I said, the older it got, the more software,/hardware came out for it..........Imagine if COLECO would have opened the code - like comadore did,...........Imagine the PROFESSIONAL progammers that would have jumped on board !
I still have my Adam today, even though I haven't used it all that much despite owning 4 PC's (three desktops and one laptop). All have the Adam Emulator on it. I even wrote a bowling management program on the Adam as I was league secretary where I worked back in 1984.
Adam is still my first computer I own and even though Coleco had it's problems with the Adam. It's still a good computer for writing letters, doing small spreadsheets, databases and of course, games. Coleco did a very good job in making most of the popular arcade games as close to the real thing.
I've attended nearly every Adamcon (only the first two and eight I missed). But, it's the gathering of what's left of us in the Adam community that's keeping this computer alive and that's what matters.
I want to buy an unused or hardly used ADAM 5 1/4 disk drive. Please email me at email@example.com if you have one. Thanks.
Oh, man. The Adam was my third computer -- like you, I had one after the TI 99-4/A. First machine was a Sinclair ZX81 with 1k RAM. The Adam made sense at the time, since I had a Colecovision.
The Adam got me into BBSing, which of course set me up nicely for the internet ... and got my geek years over early!
The only Adam holdover I have now is an AdamLink modem I bought on Ebay just to have it ... and a folder full of Coleco Adam ads and news clippings I put together as a kid. I oughta scan some of that stuff and put it on my blog.
Wow, I didn't know anything to do with the Coleco Adam still exists. I got one in around 1983/84 at Christmas just after they were released. A few months later after Coledo abandoned the platform I joined a club in Montreal and we pooled our software and began making copies of it. At the time it wasn't clear if you could make copies or not, but because the computer was discontinued we didn't care.
I ended up with about 60 games and programs for about $2 a game. Some of the games were really good, and better than anything available for Commodore 64. I got the super-action controllers and we had a blast playing with the thing.
Adam's biggest problem was its marketing failure. Coleco at first wanted to keep the programming code to themselves so they could be the exclusive software developer. Commodore however, got everyone else to develop games for their computer. The result was a flood of games and programs for the Commodore, but a drought of software for the Adam. By the time Coleco realized the mistake it was too late, the competition was way ahead and deveolpers no longer trusted Coleco. Several did produce software though, and a lot of it was very good for the time. Few used the power of the digital data packs or the Adam disc drive.
We used to program games with the SmartBasic and that was fun, but it was tedious.
Anyway, my Adam is long gone, and so are the programs. It was fun at the time, but things moved ahead rapidly in the computer world and it really is an antique, like a gramaphone. It's fun to see there are still enthusiasts around though who like to have fun with it.
I hate being confronted with reality. :)
I have been to 14 of the 17 Adam Conventions, and living where I do (Canada's West Coast) I've probably spent more money than anyone else in the land getting to them. I still have 5 working Adam's. They don't see much active use these days, but I'm most reluctant to dispose of them. In fact, we of the "community" have sworn more or less in blood not to dispose of any of our Adam gear without reference to the the members.
Be that as it may, my interest in computers began with the Adam, and it still occupies a special place for me. Yes, we are now social, but.... every now and then I learn something new about computers that I can carry to my newest Wintel or Linux or Mac box (I have 'em all in multiples).
We have in our group of 25 or 30 some who, having cut their teeth on Adam, now occupy professional positions in the computer industry, and who still manage to lead us into something new and interesting each time we get together.
I am one of those who would love to program, but somehow I never quite get a "roundtuit". The days when I was churning out masses of spaghetti in SmartBASIC were exciting days for me. I felt like I was actually doing something useful with my computer. I have never really enjoyed the hobby quite as much as I did in those days.
I'm still more or less addicted. There are still half a dozen machines of various stripes sitting around here. There are Macs, Wintels, Laptops, even Windows in all its forms, and if all else fails, my Adam gear is not far away and can be setup in twenty minutes or less. I don't get to that often enough these days.
I regret that.
But I will continue to go to Adamcons for as long as the money holds out and there are Adamcons to be gone to. I can't think of any more rewarding way of spending my holiday money.
Comox British Columbia
I remember when I was in the fourth grade we bought an ADAM computer on sale at K-Bee Toystore...I loved that computer and was on it constantly. I remember being a little boy who was learning to type on that old machine and being so frustrated because I had o look for the letters. And playing Buck Rogers and MathBlaster...Unfortunately my house was hit by lightning and the next door neighbor and I were on the ADAM at the time playing video games....We both felt the strong shock come through the controllers and that was the end of my ADAM. It just amazes me how far computers have come since then. Now I just want to upgrade my old Dell so I can run Windows Vista. Wow looking back that was 22 years ago....Oooooh I'm getting old....
Criticizing a group of people who spend their spare time on a machine that touched them, as if the emotional response is irrelevant. You're the in-human losers I'm search of a life!