My own computerhistory.

I was born on the 16th September of 1974.I lifed for two years in Begijnendijk until my parents moved to their own house in Pijpelheide/Booischot. Somehow sience and SF really interested me so I started to read al kind of non-fiction books, if they were related to robots and computers you couldn't stop me. One of the first books that I read was "Learning BASIC" (But in Dutch translated). I had already written plenty of simpel programs on paper before I actually had the change to type them in.

My first real contact with a homecomputer was when I was in the fifth elementary. A schoolmate had gotten a C64. So the next time I was at his place, I could finally type some programs in and test them. My first "AI"-program looked something like :

10 T=-1
20 INPUT I$
30 FOR I=0 TO T
40 IF V$(I)=I$ THEN PRINT A$(I):GOTO 20
50 NEXT
60 PRINT "Deze zin ken ik niet. Wat moet ik hierop antwoorden"
70 T=T+1:V$(T)=$I
80 INPUT A$(T)
90 GOTO 20

Great stuff isn't it. :-)
Well, good enough anyway to learn the computer to respond with hello how are you when you typed hello


I got my own computer when I was twelf. Philips had just introduced the MSX standard on the market. Since I was mainly intrested in writing my own programs, and my father thought it was a good idea to use a computer from a big-name-compagny, I got myself a VG8020. The few extra thousand Belgium franks for the 8020 instead of the 8010 were mainly because my father wanted the 'included' printerport which would became in handy later if I would ever think of buying a printer. Ofcourse, tape storage was needed also.

I got almost imediately abonemented on the MSX Club Magazine. My first number was number four, the januari-februari isue of 1986.It had, thanks to the YAMAHA CX5, a seven page article about midi, including the byte codes used !

In the second year of my secundary school, I had saved some (a lot of) money and was intrested in buying or a diskdrive, or an other computer. I had met some people who were using a C128 or C64 with 5 ¼ flopy unit. And the games they had on those machines!! It was more easy to get al kind of stuff for those machines then for an MSX. Luckely, my father and a store-owner convinced me to upgrade to a MSX-2 machine instead of buying a C128. So I sold my MSX-1 and with the extra money plus my savings I bouhght a VG8235, one of the first MSX-2 machines, and it had a 360 KB 3 ½ floppy unit!!

After a month the computer was brought back to the store. Never try to SET PASSWORD=CHR$(13) on a MSX-2 if you don't know the BIOS escape sequence!!!

The first publication of my name was also a fact. In the MSX Club Magazine of november-december 1987 (nr 15) my letter concerning transfer from tape to disk was publiced in the 'questions-corner' (Vragenrubriek)

In my tirth year secundairy school I met Koen Luyten, he lived at Herselt and regulary visited The Msx Computer Club, who's main address was in Herselt those days. The influence of the Netherlands wasn't that big at those times. It was with the MCM that I went for the first time to a fair. It was Zandvoort and it was HUGE, in fact it was so huge that they had two different buildings that fair. He and his friend Bart were mostly game and demo copiers. They also had some interesting hardware, a philips music module, a real fm-pac etc. When they lost interest in their MSX'es I was able to buy their Music Module and their FM-PAC.

When my MSX-2 was a year old I got my parents ,due to circumstances, to allow me to upgrade my 8235 to a (virtual) 8245. This happened in the Netherlands, by some professional hobbyists known as Jansen and Jansens. I also bought a 512 kB mapper from them. My visit to J&J resulted in the fact that I was the first Belgium to see the "Stereo fm-pak". They had justed finished their prototype and were doing the last small changes to the fm-pac roms. So I had the honour of an avant-premiere.
There was an advertisment for it in the januari-februari 1991 issue (number 33) of the MSX Club Magazine . The FAC released its first version of the soundtracker at about the same time. Ihave still an original around somewhere.

Since going to the Netherlands wasn't something we did everyday we made a daytrip out of it. During our citytrip I picked up my first MCM (MSX Computer Magazine) nr 39 august 1990. I especially remember the review of Doozle, a screen 12 packet. I were the first screenshots of the MSX2+ screens I saw. Since the Computer Magazine was more oriented to the programming hobyist then the (Gameplayers) Club Magazine I got myself a subscription on the other MCM also.

Before we went to the Netherlands for the single-side-to-double-side-rebuild, I tried to inform myself if it wasn't possible to make this changes a little bit closer at home. I visited a store in Lier. The name was SUCOM, a contraction of 'Shuterland computers'. I talked to a young person who stood behind the corner, when my questions got a litle tricky he asked an older person,his boss, for extra info. This was the first time that I saw Hugo Shuterland.

One of the reviews in the Computer Magazine learned us a lot about foreign money transactions done by the bank. I asked, as a 'Sinterklaas'-gift, for the best teksteditor on MSX, TED. My dad payed with a banktransaction and after all the reductions and conversing cost only 50% of the money ended up at Joost De Boer's account. So my father had to make a second payment to get the rest of the money in Netherland so we payed 200% of the original price since the bank (again)took half the amount as costs. Since then I have an aversion of banks.

Since there weren't really any MSX clubs in Belgium, Paul Vanopbroeke had the idea to start a club in Herentals.He placed an advertisement in MClM 28 (march-april 1990). Aparently he got some reactions (don't know if one of them was mine, I doubt it since I was quite young) and so a second add was placed in the next MClM number with a date for a first "meeting". It was a nice summery day that 19th may when me and a friend of my, Stijn Van Rompay, took our bike and drove aprox. 30 km to the meeting place at the bloso sportcentrum. After some meetings we got quit acuanted with Eric Van Beurden, Patrick Gijsbers and Bart Roymans. They could just program some simple BASICprograms and even that didn't work out very well. They were a jolly bunch of youngsters, who blew up other peoples computers and monitors (remember , Eric ?). But they founded a group. Me and my buddy Joost Damad helped them clean up their BASIC code for their first product, the infamous "Deathtrack" (releas date: 1992). Somehow my name got in the "special thankx" list and Joost was mentioned as coder.

A little while later I became an official member of Compjoetania. Doing al kind of small programs sometimes they ended up in their products, sometimes just ideas I offered were used in others.

In the summer of 1994 I didn't take a vacationjob and coded all summervacation on the debugger of COMPASS. This was one of the most interesting coding jobs I did. After studying some of the other debuggers I got a list of most of the pro's and cons of those programs and I stepped out to release a prog without al the cons I got on my list. Like, most debuggers couldn't debug ROM code. They used to write an RST30 after the instruction to execute, this didn't work ofcourse in Read Only Memory. Most debuggers mixed the debugger stack with the stack of the program to be debugged, so if you tried some code like:

     DI
     LD (holdsp),SP
     LD SP,begin_of_list
     LD B,0
lus: POP HL
     ADD A,H
     OUT (C),A
     DJNZ lus
     LD SP,(holdsp)
     EI
     RET

The debugger would screw up the datalist from which you were getting the odd dataelements.

And ALL the debuggers I examined would screw up if you were doing stuff like out (#A8),a or an ld (#FFFF),a and changing mapper code etc.

And writing to VDP with out commands wasn't a good idea neither.

So I ended up writing a partial MSX emulator on an MSX. Checking every instruction to be executed if it is allowed or not, intercepting almost everything that could change the memory layout etc.

And including al those little neet things a like a stack tracer, linking the minimonitor to to PC or the cursor.

Tilburg fair 1995 , Compass was released. It was a succes ! The original price was 49.95 guilders, so it was cheaper than 50 guilders.


Compassreleases:

1995:

#1.0 :first version, some bugs, no shell, very good

#1.1beta: betarelease of the second version of Compass, better than #1.0
Contains some VERY NASTY BUGS:
*does not run under DOS1
*no correct PUSHing in the debugger

#1.1 :some minor bugs were removed, but the above mentioned bugs were still there...

MCCM 76 (june 1995), a four pages review of compass was publiced. Only some minor complaints: the pulldown menu's didn't show the correspondend shortcuts etc. And some bugs, apparently the REL format was wrong and some details were wrong displayed. All in all a programmers must-have was the conclusion.

1996: the 'old' Compjoetania members stopped programming for the MSX-system. Except good old me; I gathered some other MSX-minded people to start a new group: Compjoetania The Next Generation.
The new members were Jon De Schrijder, a jonger programmer/hardware developer I met at a fair, and my cousin Wouter Vermaelen.
The fact that we continued under the Compjoetania name was simple, the old members didn't want that Compass would be lost for the rest of the MSX-world and they promised to give us the Compass sources so that we could continue the development.

Some phonecalls later...

June 1997: nothing received yet...

July 1997: Compjoetania TNG starts from scratch all over. We disassembled Compass #1.1 with... Compass #1.1!!!

August/September 1997: Now we really know how big 16kB is!......

Ready to release Compass #1.2beta.00!

This betaversion was only available on the 'MCCM-CD' and on 'Wicherts CD'.
This was a FULLY FUNCTIONAL promoversion, with an extra nag-screen displayed at random when you switched between the different parts of compass.
The 'Wicherts CD' was a CD who contained a collection off different programs, somehow wichert got the great idea to include a copy of Compass #1.0. So we contacted him, we sended him the MCCM promoversion, but licent to 'Whichert CD' and he would send us a copy of the CD to make up for he losses he caused us. I'm still waiting for the CD ....

April 25, 1998: Compass #1.2.00 , released at the fair in Tilburg

MCCM 89 (summer of 1997), finally a review of Calculus. It got a good review, an entire page review plus half a page of screenshots. It was a ,and I quote :"very impresief demo, certainly from a programmers point of view".To bad that a typo (20 was typed were 10 was ment) screwed up the end of the review. It was as if the price for the dutch people was twice the price asked of the Belgium clients.

Tilburg 1999: Sandstone is showed to the public. We thought it was release-ready but the day before the fair we found out that it didn't run on the MSX2 Jon brought with him. Since the hole thing was developped and tested only on Turbo-R machines we where quite shocked. We even tried to fix it on the fair itself. We didn't succeed. But something strange happened, we had customers who not only subscribed on the "We-want-to-be-warned-when-it-is-ready"-list, some of them even payed already for their copy so that we could mail it when it was ready !

At the way back I told my fellow Belgium C-TNG members, that I would cut back drastically on development on MSX. I was about to get married, my job was eating at my sparetime and me and my wife-to-be were looking for a house. The load was too much to handle.

Busum 1999 (aka Zandvoort, the new location): We finally sold Sandstone in its definite format. There were some positive elements about this late release. We now had reveived some faboulus music from Jorith Schaap and we found a solution for a problem we had in the introscreen. There is a hardware bug in the VDP that causes some strange effects when you try to do a "set adjust wave" when you had disabled the hardware sprites. Also my two compagnions had been playing the game for a while and a sicnificant change in the gameplay was added. It is now possible to switch blocks while they are falling or if they are already dissapearing. This way it is possible to create a lot of combinations. I implemented this by disabling the checkroutine who was to prevent this. As a side effect the controling routines were run during every screen refresh during the falling-and-disapearing sequence. This results in a slowdown when a lot of blocks are on screen. Ofcourse, all the reviews found this slowdown the worst thing of the game, and therefore a it-could-have-been-programmed-better-game. Worst thing however is the fact that at the begining of the fair Wouter connected the flatcable from it's SCSI harddrive to the cartridge of his slotexpander. We later tried to connect his HD to my interface but with no result. We are afraid that his disk has gone to the eternal bit-fields, and with it a lot of our latest sources.

I've now drastically cut down on my MSX time.
Developping some core-routines is fun, but then to create a menu for configuration, the drawings, trying to create sounds, ...
I will keep doing MSX but I don't want to do such projects as Calculus and Sandstone anymore, they ate up to much of my already precious time. Ofcourse I will program from time to time, but when the fun is over I will just stop the project.I want MSX to be fun and not the obligatory I-need-to-finish-this-before-the-fair-stuff it has become to me. I want to concentrate on being user of the system for the time ahead. I want to finish PA3 and want to play the lost world (I bought it and until now I just have watched the intro-demo, I haven'd had time to play it !!!)
So you'll still see me on the fairs, I still will be doing PR for C-TNG and I will continue to love MSX, but this time I'm going to take the relax-and-enjoy direction instead of the I-need-to-keep-development-going approach.
I feel I have pushed the MSX to it's boundaries on the pure technical site. I even did real-time texture mapped 3D objects on it. All that follows are variations on a theme. I worked out how to program a doom-like game on a msx2, but since I got the methods worked-out on paper, the fun is over. I know it is possible, I just don't feel the need anymore to put myself trough months of hard-labour and debugging of stupid small typing errors to prove my point. I will translate my notes to HTML some day and anyone can have a go at the real implementation of it. I'm already looking forward to playing the game.

Wel, that's it.
My personal history.
I'll see you all on one of the fairs!!!