I attended the first ever Tandy Assembly Meetup on November 4, 2023. Here is my report of the event.
The Bay Area Tandy Assembly Meetup is a brand new event which was started by Arno Puder. The event was held from 2-5pm on Saturday November 4, 2023 at San Francisco State University. From where I live this location in the extreme South-West corner of San Francisco is fairly easy to access, just a few minutes from where CA-1/19th Ave. merges off of I-280. Getting to the parking garage was an easy straight shot in from Lake Merced Blvd. One drawback of holding the event on a University campus is that the recommended parking lot is about a 5 minute walk from the building where the event was held. I did not bring any hardware with me to the event this time, but if they continue the event I will likely bring something to demo. I’ll have to bring a cart and drag it through the parking garage, up the elevator, and pull the cart uphill all the way to Thornton Hall.
Arno is the head of the Computer Science Department at SFSU. Since this was going to be a small event he pulled up a small classroom on the 3rd floor of Thornton Hall (it’s on a hill, so the 3rd floor entrance is at ground level on one side of the building, and the 2nd floor is at ground level on the other side). Thankfully there was a “TANDY ASSEMBLY” sign taped to the door so it wasn’t hard to locate. Since the room is normally a classroom it had many desks and chairs. Most of the unused desks were pushed to the window side of the room. The middle of the room was empty except for chairs. The other side of the room near the blackboard had tables along it for people to set up their demonstrations:
The event started a bit late because about half people who had signed up were no-show. There were 15 people in attendance. Arno got everyone’s attention and we arranged the chairs in a circle around the empty part of the classroom. Arno introduced himself and explained that this event was a trial run to gauge interest and see how it goes. We went around the room doing introductions which took about 30 minutes. Two attendees flew in from remote locations. One from Portland OR, and the other from Texas. Other notable attendees were: Tim Mann (xtrs emulator and CatWeasel) ; Sascha Häberling who runs retrostore.org; and Arthur Gleckler the author of Weerd.
After introductions were completed it was time for lightning talks. Arno gave the first talk. He showed his latest iteration of the TRS-IO card, the TRS-IO++. The card still has the ESP-32 module from the original TRS-IO but adds a FPGA board. He explained the card can be used in the same way as the original TRS-IO, giving the TRS-80 machine some wireless connectivity, but the on-board FPGA can also be used to emulate an entire TRS-80 machine directly.
Lawrence Kesteloot gave a demonstration of his http://my-trs-80.com website. The site has many interesting tools and functions. First, there is a TRS-80 emulator written in TypeScript running in the browser. You can click a button which displays a menu of the programs available on retrostore.org and clicking on those runs them in the emulator. There are other tools including his tool for cassette file conversion, and even an integrated IDE right in the web browser.
Michael Wessel gave a demonstration of his Talker/80 board. This board uses a modern speech board which runs the DecTalk software and connects it to a TRS-80. The board can be used in both DecTalk mode, including using the singing mode of the DecTalk. It also has an emulation mode which tries to convert the original Votrax SC-01(02?) phonemes to the DecTalk ones, with a moderate level of success.
The last lightning talk was my own. I gave a brief overview and back story of my FLEXing the CoCo project. The general feedback I got was people thought it was an interesting project. In the talk I discussed my progress from running FLEX in MAME, to an FPGA Board and later running FHL Color FLEX on a real CoCo. I had offhandedly mentioned that emulation and the FPGA board didn’t “feel retro enough” and people asked me what I meant by that. Since the event was not filmed or recorded, I plan to film my lightning talk and publish it on YouTube in the next few days.
After the lighting talks we gathered back in a circle and Arno moderated a discussion to get feedback about the event and for what people want in the future. While many things were discussed it was clear that all of the attendees were interested in more Tandy/TRS-80 themed events in the San Francisco Bay Area in the future. It sounds like that might be in the early part of 2024. There was also discussion on holding a bigger and more formal event such as Tandy Assembly, CoCoFest, VCF etc. Since this was the first meeting everyone was of the same mind — hold more meetups and if it continues on and grows then move to the next step at that point. To conclude the event, Arno summarized the discussion, said he would start a Discord Server so we can gather discuss and communicate, and we’ll go on from there.
With the event concluded, socializing and discussion continued. We helped Arno put the room back into classroom format. A small group of 6 people (including myself) had dinner at Max’s of Burlingame and we ate and chatted there for about an hour and a half before heading home.