The DEC Period

The microprocessor revolution was just getting underway. There were still minicomputers all around the landscape. The DEC PDP-8 was a still popular system although somewhat eclipsed by newer minicomputers. FBE had one and developed software so that it could be used to develop programs for the Intel 8080 microprocessor.

The programs were CAL-80, an assembler, and SIM-80, a simulator. You would write your program with an editor, assemble it into machine code with CAL-80 and run it on SIM-80 which behaved much like a debugger. Input/output was via paper tape plus printer output for the assembly listing. The programs were distributed on paper tape as well. Later, CALOS-80 and SIMOS-80 were added to the line to run under the OS/8 disk operating system and used file/device input/output. These programs were available on DECTape as well as paper tape. Later yet, there was also CALOS-68, a cross assembler for the Motorola 6800 microprocessor.

Our cross development programs were sold through new product announcements and advertisements placed in professional engineering publications such as Electronic Design, Computer Design and Electronic News. Only about 30 sales were made. Customers included AMP Incorporated, Western Electric, Deere & Company, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, British Columbia Institute of Technology, NCR Canada and the Danish Space Research Institute.

A Bit of Weirdness

Somewhere around 1976, FBE developed a program called VERONA for the PDP-8 as an experiment in minimalism. It was intended to be the simplest programming system that could do useful work. It was inspired by TRAN and has some similarities to FORTH. In 1977, a version for the 8080, incorporating 8080 assembly language word definitions, was developed using CALOS-80 and SIMOS-80 that would fit in a 1k byte EPROM. VERONA can thus be installed on the simplest of microprocessor systems, requiring only a terminal and a tiny bit of RAM to run. With VERONA installed, simple assembly language programs could be easily typed in on the terminal and executed or be easily combined into larger programs. VERONA proved to be useful for initial checkout and characterization of small microprocessor-based devices such as data acquisition boxes. VERONA was too weird for the average programmer and it never sold. It was used by a few people at Boeing, however. A later disk-based version ran under CP/M and was useful in checking out newly designed S-100 cards.

Proceed to the Heath/Zenith Era

Copyright 1997 D. M. Brockman - Last updated March 15, 1999