[kw-pm] Commodore SuperPET Demo Thursday 18 July, 11am-12

Patrick Wong patrick_8 at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 17 14:49:56 PDT 2013

Would it be recorded and posted to the web (you tube)?

Sent from iPhone

On 2013-07-17, at 5:38 PM, Daniel Allen <daniel at coder.com> wrote:

> I just saw a poster for this; it hasn't been very well advertised, but for those interested in old computers, this might be of interest tomorrow, on the University of Waterloo Campus (in Davis Centre).
> http://computermuseum.uwaterloo.ca/exhibits/show/events/superpet-hostcm
> SuperPET/HOSTCM Demonstration
> Thursday July 18 | 11am-12 | DC 1304
> Go back in history to 1983! Learn how the Commodore SuperPET worked and how undergraduates learned to program in the 1980s with the Waterloo micro languages.
> Demonstration by Robert Ferguson (B.Math/1986)
> In the late 1970s, the University of Waterloo's Computer Systems Group (CSG) began experimenting with microcomputers for use in teaching undergraduates how to program. Until that point, students submitted their programs and jobs on punch cards or via terminal to be compiled and run on a large mainframe or minicomputer. Microcomputers, often described as "personal computers," would represent a new paradigm, being cheaper and smaller. Several microcomputers were tested, but all were found wanting, lacking the necessary features to create a suitable environment for beginner programmers who would be expected to transition easily to writing code for the larger minicomputers and mainframes.
> Having found no suitable microcomputer, CSG opted to build their own. Known as the MicroWAT, it had a Motorola 6809 CPU and, critically, the necessary serial port to upload or download code and data to and from a mainframe. A communications protocol known as HOSTCM was also developed to manage the flow of information. The MicroWAT did not come with a keyboard or screen, but relied on a Volker-Craig terminal for input and output. Finally, it could also run a full suite of special "micro" Waterloo languages intended for novice programmers: Waterloo BASIC, FORTRAN, Pascal, APL, COBOL, and Assembler. Jerry Krist of CSG founded a local spin-off, Northern Digital, to manufacture the MicroWAT around the same time as another spin-off, WATCOM (for Waterloo Communications) was founded to sell the Waterloo languages.
> However, the MicroWAT hardware was soon replaced by the SuperPET,  which was a modified version of a Commodore 8032 PET manufactured under licence from Commodore by BMB CompuScience of Milton Ontario. Inspired by the MicroWAT, the SuperPET included the stock Commodore PET MOS Technology 6502 CPU and a Motorola 6809. It was possible to switch between the 6502 to run standard PET software and the 6809 to run the Waterloo languages and communicate via HOSTCM to the mainframe. Students  could test their programs on the microcomputer, then upload (or download) the exact same programs to or from the mainframe, with the expectation that their code would run seamlessly or with minimal modification.
> Today, there are many SuperPETs still in the hands of enthusiasts and collectors, and many are still working. Robert Ferguson (UW B.Math/86) is one of those enthusiasts. He himself had used the SuperPET in a computer lab as an undergraduate in the early 1980s. In more recent years, however, he developed an itch that he had to scratch. In particular, while tinkering with his SuperPET he was having trouble getting programs and data on and off the computer and realized that HOSTCM might do the trick. Unfortunately for him, the HOSTCM protocol had fallen into disuse, but fortunately for us, he reverse engineered it to the point that it now works much as it did before (with a standard PC of today replacing the mainframe) and we can see, for the first time in decades, what it was like to learn to program on a Commodore SuperPET.
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