Re: ZX* dinosaurs and emulators (was Fixed Width Spaces)

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Fri Apr 02 2004 - 16:06:38 EST

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    RE: Fixed Width Spaces (was: Printing and Displaying DependentVowels)All those
    little "systems" are not completely dead. You can look for them in Google, and
    you'll see various emulators created for nostalgics that would like to
    rediscover their first past experience with computing. Available for various
    "modern" OSes of today (including Palm handheld devices, PC on Windows or Linux,

    The 32-bit Windows or Linux of today may become a dinosaur of tomorrow revived
    in emulators running in tomorrow worldwide massively parallel computer services
    with 256-bit computing. Who knows?

    Yes those dinosaurs are still interesting to study because of what they allowed
    to do in very few resources and various programming tricks found by geeks of
    yesterday. Those that programmed those devices are those that have participated
    the most, by their assembly language skills and studies of the most efficient
    algorithms, in the best optimizations implemented in today's compilers.

    I hope that there remains enough geeks today to be able to understand what is
    behind their today mastodont OSes. Certainly those that program those emulators
    have much higher programming skills than many programmers using out-of-the-box
    development platforms of today. May be they are the same geeks that have first
    learned to program on those baby systems, the only ones that were accessible to
    most people (yesterday computers were really expensive...)

    A simple search in Google would reveal those resources, for example:

    Interestingly, some emulators were created to run on now dead OSes like Atari
    TOS, which also runs in a emulator for Windows 3 which runs on Linux. Emulators
    in emulators sometimes work (at least this is true for some of the ZX8*

    The only question that remains is the legality of those emulators, as they
    require a ROM image, which contains a copyright notice, which refers to
    companies that may still exist or whose activities and rights were transfered to
    still existing companies (for example Atari is still a software maker for video
    games, and you may need a licence from Atari to get a TOS ROM image...) I don't
    know who owns the rights on the Sinclair OSes...

    For those that want to rediscover the charset used by ZX8* you may look at this
    online reference (don't know if this online version is legal as it seems to be
    the text and graphics from an original book):

    You will be surprised to see that the ZX* did not have even the minimum ASCII
    charset (only uppercase letters and a few ASCII punctuation and the British
    pound, plus the 2x2 square boxes), and not even the same encoding for the common
    set (despite this ZX-Basic had a "CODE" function and returning what was supposed
    to be the "ASCII" code of a 1-character string). Other codes were used as part
    of its BASIC encoding to save program space in memory, but were not available
    for displays (they were emulated using a very small font read by the Z80 CPU
    that was completely emulating the graphic display as there was no graphic

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Mike Ayers
    To: 'Doug Ewell' ; Unicode Mailing List
    Cc: Arcane Jill
    Sent: Friday, April 02, 2004 9:00 PM
    Subject: RE: Fixed Width Spaces (was: Printing and Displaying DependentVow els)

    > From: []On
    > Behalf Of Doug Ewell
    > Sent: Friday, April 02, 2004 8:34 AM
    > Arcane Jill wrote:
    > > 0x80 if I remember correctly.
    > I know you've already corrected yourself, realizing that you were
    > thinking of the extended-ASCII character set used by the ZX
    > Spectrum (TS
    > 2068, IIRC), but just to finish this thought:
            Another example is the dreaded "shifted space" of the Commodore 64. If
    you happened to have the shift key down when you hit the space bar, you
    generated a different character that printed as space, but didn't match space.
    So if there was a shifted space in a filename, the file was inaccessible until
    you tried shifting the spaces.
    > I'm sure they existed, but I can't remember anything sophisticated
    > enough to be called a "line breaking algorithm" in the ZX8*
    > environment.
            I know that runoff and word processors were common in CP/M environments
    (I had a Commodore 128, so I got three different machines to play with - lucky
    me!), and those had pretty sophisticated line breaking. I don't recall anything
    for the 64, so the ZX8* probably didn't have much, if anything, either.


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