This is an original article taken from the issue #82 of The Computer Journal (TCJ)

12 July 1998

Happy Birthday, CP/M !

A report from Germany, where the annual Z-Fest has been held again

Gueglingen in Germany is by now well-known to many of you, although the town itself is not too big, nor is it of much historical importance, at least it wasn't, before we started holding our annual Z-Fests there.

An old house, first depicted in the 16th century as the "SCHAFHAUS", the sheephouse, is the place, where the meetings take place. At the end of last year, many of us doubted there would be another meeting this year. But then, the release of CP/M source code and other smaller signals from "the field" gave enough impulses to the Z-crowd, to get together again. I of course pushed activities and motivated people from al my address lists. I checked for valid email addresses and validated phone numbers. Pegasus Mailer helped to send mass emails to all the people. I often called the Vogelmanns to organize things remotely and every day, we achieved something new, coming up with a complete concept of what would be presented, how things would be set up, and, finally, how to set up a chat client to allow overseas users like you to participate in the meeting.

What also influenced the spirit of this meeting was the fact, that CP/M has its 20th birthday this year (approximately). This gave us the idea to present a variety of rare CP/M machines, documents, software and, last not least, the video I had made from the Boston Computer Museum and from the CP/M lectures and the giant fleamarket at Trenton 1995.

Another quite inspiring item was the letter I had received via email from Gaby Chaudry in Cologne, a young lady, that had the fantastic idea to start a CP/M club in 1998 (!) Of course, after only a short cycle, she had been passed to me from various sides, and I naturally invited her to Gueglingen. Everybody was keen to meet her, so, in the end, there were about 25 people, not counting the children and the wifes of Roderich, Uwe Herzceg and Tilmann!

Only shortly after our arrival at the "Schafhaus", the Vogelmanns realized that this time, there would be little room left for moving, after the cars had been unloaded. Quickly, some more tables had to be set up, a stand for my video projector, adaptive wiring to hook the net-capable computers into the Apple-driven house network, both BNC and Twisted Pair connections had to be matched.

Of course, many machines were not meant to ever co-exist in such an environment, but nevertheless, one of the old veteran machines, an antique HP9000, was even equipped with both IEEE and BNC network adapters.
Unfortunately, we did not have the time to even try to set this up. This huge "monster" was brought to Gueglingen by me, since I had just bought it for Gaby from a collector in Munich and Gueglingen was the place, where the transfer took place. This is, how I at least got a short introduction into the HP9000 and could pass some infos to Gaby. The machine comes on from EPROM and loads its native HP BASIC, which leaves you with quite a strange and antique syntax of how to address the storage devices:
MSI ":CS80,7" would bring you to the hard drive, from where you could use the famous CAT command to show the contents. To address the floppy, you had to tell it MSI ":INTERNAL", which already shows, that an external 8 inch drive could also be hooked up to it. Being operated normally in a network surrounding, at boot-up time the HP9000 tries to connect to its server to update its system clock to the date and time data of the master. Shortly after that, it gracefully times out and returns with an error message, but allows work.

The HP9000 had been built in 1983 and is said to contain a 32-bit (!) CPU. It features a working 10 MB harddisk and a five inch disk drive (full height). It has a nice color display on top of a heavy, although slim, body. The programs on the media are games and technical graphs, that display beautiful curves, that can be printed directly to the thermo-transfer printer, that is also buit-in.

Due to its size, the HP9000 had to sit on a table of its own. It shared some of the space with video cassettes, but not much space was left. Unfortunately, the various activities in the room were so confusing, that we could not do an official demonstration of "The Monster".

Fritz Chwolka and Gaby both had brought along their OSBORNE I, but both of them had drive troubles. Since the one from Gaby would boot up okay with only the B-drive being dead, Fritz offered to take the working drive from his machine to get at least one OSBORNE I fixed and ready to use. So, after this, I sat with the two and the computers and took them apart. We marvelled over the mechanical layout, but soon, Gaby's OSBORNE was up and running. I had brought some 40 Track PC drives that I gave to Fritz, who will try to get his OSSie running with those.

In the meantime, the rest of the people had arrived and place became crowded. Andreas "Andi" Kisslinger, one of my oldest computer friends, had brought his Power Book and his IBM Thinkpad and started to take care of the network setup with the Vogelmann's zabernet server. They also set up the chat and noticed a few things had been badly configured, so we already expected the chat to be inoperative. We were proven wrong, since we soon got into a chat cross-house, which was also quite funny, for the house itself was rather big and the distances quite lengthy. The greatest suprise was later, when, in the middle of all the "Jungle Talk", all of a sudden someone cried "Hey, there's someone in there from outside, I think from the US, does anybody know this guy?"
Yes, I knew him quite well. I was happy to see, Michael Crafton, SYSOP of Genie's Oldtimer Roundtable, had managed to find the peephole in the universe that led to the Stuttgart IRC, to where we were set up. He told us of the big difficulties he had trying to find us, so from then we no longer expected very many overseas guests. This became very true, for as we returned from our Pizza meal (No, Jay Sage, there were no anchovies in there or on there!), Michael couldn't make it back to the chat and nobody else showed up. The IRC 101 client for DOS I had sent to Howard Goldstein didn't help him to get through the chaotic last-minute setup, but at last, he had tried. Thanks Howard!

The signs of the time were clearly manifested in the way, pictures were arranged this time: there was a Quick-Cam to shoot random pictures of the room and a Quick-Take camera, that Roderich had provided to take "real" shots from the activities and the people. On the second day, we also had a CASIO disc camera there and only Gaby still had her hand-held flash camera with her, alas, for these are the only pictures I hold in my hands right now, the electronic ones failed to be transferred to me until today, two weeks after the meeting!
Besides, the mass of the material also might be a problem with most hard disks, for 67 MBs are only one block of the Quick-Cam ...

Of course, I had my video camera with me, but, since there were so many people, everybody tried to talk to everyone, and filming was at this point, not very communicative, so I decided rather to be with them than behind the camera. I was very happy to see some of the older contacts around again, like Juergen Peters, "The Captain", from Hamburg, who had been with us some years ago and had met Jay Sage in person, for which he was very happy. Herbert Oppmann from Erlangen had joined us, too. He was one of the acribic guys, who went into the heart of Turbo Pascal for CP/M. He managed to do a very complete commenting of the backsourcing and the runtime modules. He even sent these to David McGlone of Lambda Software, who had boasted to release LPascal, that should be 100% compatible with Turbo Pascal. I cannot imagine anyone has ever seen this piece of software! At least, I haven't heard anything in that direction. Empty promises have helped to kick CP/M's butt. Does anybody know, whether David has joined MicroSoft? <G>

Okay, back to the people here. Of course, Tilmann Reh was there, the builder of late hardware like the famous CPU280 (a Z280-based CP/M Plus computer, there were three at the Z-Fest), the Generic IDE (GIDE) adaptor, that plugs into any Z80 socket and allows using standard IDE drives with CP/M machines, and the Hercules monochrome Graphic Adapter card for the ECB-Bus, the great European industry 8-bit standard. Tilmann had dropped by with his whole family on the way back home from their vacation.

We were also glad to have Stefan Nitschke with us again. He was the one that had sat down at UZI (Unix for Zilog) and rewritten it for the Z280. I had had the chance to work on it for an hour at one of our former meetings, when he had his CPU280 with him.

One of the greatest guys I know, Joerg Linder from ex-Eastern Germany, had arrived on Tuesday already to spend his vacation in the romantic area of the "Zabergaeu". He is the one, that not only revived the KC User Group (KC was a product of the GDR using the Z80-compatible U880 CPU), but also got very much involved distributing Z-System software and helped very much with his excellent translations of some manuals into German, when I ran out of time. He has a few very active people in his group, first of all to mention is Mario Leubner. Unfortunately, he could not make it to Gueglingen, but, nevertheless, he was presented a special prize I had built from a sports trophy, the Z-USER of the year 1998! To explain this a little, I have to dig into something, I have already written about in previous articles.
The KC 85/4 (that is the exact name) consists of a central unit, of the first peripheral unit containing basic memory blocks, an optional second memory block to be used as a RAM-disk and a cassette system load the operating system! This CAOS (Cassette Aided Operating System) allowed to run terminal functions and small games with a sort of BASIC and a menu system. If you would hook up another unit containing a disk controller, you could issue a command to address 5 1/4 floppy disk drives. From there on, an add-on system could be loaded, the MICRODOS, a poor rip-off of DRs CP/M 2.2, but very incompatible, since BIOS, BDOS and CCP were quite mixed up and the code garbled. So this very Mario Leubner sat down and took the whole code apart, analyzed it and resorted the code fragments, so that slowly all the parts were together that are meant to be together in a normal CP/M system. At that time, Joerg Linder had asked me to send him material on all BDOS replacements like Z80DOS, P2DOS etc., but having been at Trenton, I was so impressed with Hal Bower's ideas, I recommended to use ZSDOS in their new system. So Mario gave it a check-through and, after a week came back with wet eyes from excitement. He managed to get ZSDOS linked with the parts from the KC's natively needed BIOS-threads and, while he was at it, quickly rewrote the screen output routine and expanded the terminal to stand-out capabilities and even added hard disk support. The new ZAS, as he calls it, is many times faster than the old operating system and can be considered a modern Z-System now, perfectly supplemented by NZ-COM.
In short, since I consider this task of maintaing both worlds to be even bigger than writing an operating system from scratch, I truly believe he deserves this award "Z-USER of the year 1998"! Thank you, Mario!

To continue with the report from the Z-FEST, Michael Scholich was there again with his C128 Tower(!), containing CMD hard drive and CD-ROM drive. It is always amazing to see, what nice job people have done in the past to make small home machines work like professional ones.

Arndt Oevermann had brought a complete MSX machine, a standard that was proclaimed to become THE standard in the home computer scene, but they never managed.

Of course, our own user group "SCUG" from Munich was present at the fest and, naturally, we had an Amstrad CPC with us, equipped with an external ROM-Box, that allowed the use of various extensions. It took me a while, until I realized, what was so strange about the initial screen after switching on: It neatly displayed it's owner's name (Stefan Sommer) in the sign-on message ... Also from our group, Robert Sterff had come along. He is the owner and SYSOP of the CCS-Box, a BBS-system connected to FIDO, that also kindly hosts my ZNODE #51 since two years now. I am very glad to see everything still alive there.

A lot of friends were there, that had to do with Amstrad (or the German dependant Schneider) in one way or another. For instance, there were Guenter Radestock, who had written a banked CP/M for the Amstrad CPC with the Vortex RAM-expansion and Guenther Schock, who had built some extensions and, based on a Z180, a CP/M laptop with 3.5 drives and a LCD screen.

For the first time, the JOYCE USER AG, a PCW-oriented user group from the cologne area, had joinded us at the Z-FEST. Werner Neumeyer-Bubel (president), Joerg Schaefer and Dirk Berghoefer presented their machines and joined very livey the atmosphere of our computer gossip.

Rainer Schmitz, an old friend, showed up on Sunday. He has a small collection of CP/M machines at home (I think an Amstrad PCW, a Wavemate Bullet and .. hm forgot). He used to work as a developer for Maerklin, a toy train manufacturer, if not THE toy train manufaturer in Germany. They have released interfaces for all kinds of microcomputers to control toy train circuits.

Some of the people were even new to me, like Christoph Brudy and Stephan Hartmann, but you don't stay all by yourself in Gueglingen! They were soon integrated into the pool of interests, and at the latest, when I showed Hal Bower's CHEAPLAN talk from Trenton, everbody was sitting side by side on the benches and watched quite amused. I realised, that more people seemed to be able to follow this completely English monologue, than I would have expected. Yes, times they are a-changing.

In the preparation of this years Z-FEST, we had the feeling, this would be tha last one, but after this great success, it is hard to believe, there will not be another one next year, with or without computers!

Best regards to all of you from Germany!

Helmut Jungkunz, ZNODE #51 ( FIDO 2:2480/3504 )