Monthly Archives: March 2018

Sub-Etha Software announces more 2018 Chicago CoCoFEST! plans


Sub-Etha Software announces more 2018 Chicago CoCoFEST! plans

Des Moines, Iowa – March 14, 2018 – Iowa-based Sub-Etha Software reveals more plans for the upcoming 2018 27th Annual “Last” Chicago CoCoFEST! to be held April 21 and 22, 2018 at the Heron Point Convention Center in Lombard, Illinois.

“The biggest news,” says Sub-Etha co-founder Allen Huffman, “is that we will have Jolt Cola to drink during the road trip to Lombard, and maybe enough extra to share during the event.”

Among the new offerings at this year’s event will be CoCoWiFi, an inexpensive internet modem device that allows connecting the CoCo up to a WiFi network for accessing remote internet sites using telnet and other protocols. Both fully assembled and do-it-yourself kits are expected to be available, with pricing to be announced at the show.

CoCoWiFi is pretty cool,” says Huffman. “It looks like an old-school Hayes Smartmodem and can be used on any model Color Computer with any terminal program. If the MC-10 has a terminal program, I bet it would work there too. The best part about it is if you don’t wanna buy it, you can spend about $10 and put one together yourself without any soldering. But we’ll be glad to sell you one for much more than that.”

Another new offering will be SirSound, the serial port multi-voice sound device. SirSound provides (1980s) arcade-quality background music and sound effects from BASIC. It uses built-in commands with no assembly language or special drivers needed.

“SirSound is one of the funnest things I have ever worked on this month,” adds Huffman. “You can play the Frogger theme song just by typing a PRINT command. I expect it could also play the Pac-Man theme, too, but we haven’t tested that, yet.”

SirSound is still under development, as well as SirSound S (6-voices in stereo), SirSound Plus (SirSound with the ability to play stereo digital files) and Sir Sound S Plus. There will also be an open-source SirSound Jr project made available. It will have the most of the same features as SirSound, but will be limited to just 1-voice tone music. Beep beep.

“We also will have a selection of new-old-stock Sub-Etha items in original packaging for those who like to collect useless 5 1/4: floppy disks with photocopied instructions stored in plastic baggies. Of course, master disk images of all this stuff has been uploaded to the Color Computer Archive and will be available for free, too.”

Be sure to drop by Sub-Etha Software’s table in the main exhibitor hall during the event.

About Sub-Etha Software

Sub-Etha Software was founded in Lufkin, Texas in 1990, as a partnership between Allen C. Huffman and Terry S. Todd. It made it’s first CoCoFest appearance at the First Annual Atlanta CoCoFest in 1990, and it’s first Chicago CoCoFest appearance at the First Annual “Last” Chicago CoCoFEST! in 1992. They may be contacted online at

About the Chicago CoCoFEST!

The 27th Annual “Last” Chicago CoCoFEST! is sponsored by the Glenside Color Computer Club of Illinois. They may be contacted online at

Allen Huffman
PO Box 7634,
Des Moines, Iowa
Ph: 515-999-0227


SirSound video demonstrations

One year ago, on March 9, 2017, Sub-Etha Software announced the Sir Sound CoCo Sound Card, today referred to as SirSound, without the space. Today we present to you the first public demonstration of the project.

SirSound demo 1- introduction

This 7-minute video walks through the basic concept of the device, and shows how easy it is to convert BASIC “PLAY” music to use the SirSound device.

SirSound demo 2 – polyphonic music

This 4-minute video shows how multi-voice music will be handled. It demonstrates 3-part harmony, and also a quick version of the Frogger arcade game theme music, all from BASIC.

More to come…

Proposing PreciousPak: The One Pak to Rule them All

“It is fun to reinvent the wheel. If it were not for folks doing this, we would never have built a better mouse trap…” – Some Dude

But when it comes to expansion cartridges (Paks) for the Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80 Color Computer, what if we never had to reinvent the wheel again?

Programmable Hardware

These days, it is easy to make virtual hardware by the use of FPGAs and other such devices.  At a smaller level, there are already examples of expansion cartridges that have the ability to remap themselves into different I/O registers, all through software. This type of programmable hardware would be the basis of the PreciousPak.

PreciousPak artist’s rendering

Such hardware could, through software control, present itself at various I/O addresses within the CoCo’s memory map. This would allow it to appear at the same memory locations used by the RS-232 Pak, or the Orchestra-90 Pak, or anything else.

Then, the core hardware of the cartridge would be something like a programmable PIC chip or AVR (Arduino) processor, acting as an interface between the CoCo memory map and external hardware via SPI bus, I2C or TTL UART.

This is not intended to be a “one pak to do everything.” Think of it as the hardware equivalent of Jim Brain’s CoCoFLASH product. His smart flash Pak can be reprogrammed with various ROM Pak images, allowing it to act like any of those original ROM Paks. In the case of PreciousPak, it would require loading with custom firmware and adding the proper expansion hardware to it.

Here are some of the things PreciousPak could be easily made to do…

PreciousPak things.


The PreciousPak could have special firmware loaded on it’s processor to emulate the 6551 UART chip found in the the Deluxe RS-232 Program Pak. This code would fix the known bugs, and could implement an internal buffer allowing for better speeds without data loss. An inexpensive TTL-to-RS232 module would be plugged in to provide the standard RS-232 connector.


The PreciousPak could interface with a Digital-to-Analog converter, and map in to the Orchestra-90 I/O address, and become an Orchestra-90 Pak. For advanced use, the firmware might even be made to allow loading up an Orch-90 music file and have it play in the background while the CoCo does other things. (Orch-90+!)


Of course, the PreciousPak could interface with an SD card module or USB flash drive adapter and then have firmware to make it look like a Kenton or other SCS/IDE interface. This would allow it to leverage already-existing OS-9 drivers and builds of RGB-DOS. Depending on the capability of the core PreciousPak hardware, perhaps it could even be made to emulate the Western Digital 1773 floppy drive chipset and act like a true floppy drive, similar to how CoCoSDC currently works. (Though, I expect this would require much more capability than would be needed for most other devices, so why bother…)


Firmware could emulate the 6850 UART, used by various CoCo MIDI Interfaces. A simple TTL-to-MIDI adapter would be plugged in, giving MIDI ports. By making it look like a 6850 in the standard CoCo MIDI Pak address, it would instantly be compatible with all existing MIDI software.


Completely new sound hardware could be added, and the firmware could translate incoming commands as needed. Software written to use the Texas Instruments SN76489 chip (like in the GameMaster Cartridge by John Linville) could work on this sound pak, provided whatever native sound chip it used was similar, and the firmware translated the commands.

Perhaps firmware could exist to allow dynamically switching into different modes, to emulate the types of sound found in Roger Taylor’s CoCo on a Chip FPGA project, or Gary Becker’s CoCoFPGA project. Perhaps it could be made to provide some level of emulation of the Tandy Speech/Sound Pak.

Product or Service?

This common hardware design would allow more folks to come out with custom hardware. With dozens of types of expansion devices based on the same core board, manufacturing costs could be reduced. And, with many expansion add-ons being off-the-shelf parts (like adding .92 cent RS-232 adapter), the overall cost of many items would probably be a fraction of what a custom board would cost.

There are so many off-the-shelf devices available today that could be made into such a Pak… Real time clocks, camera modules, WiFi, etc.

And, for folks on a budget that might now want to buy multiple paks all set up for different devices, they could buy just the core board, and then several of the add-on interfaces. They’d have to swap out firmware and modules before they could use it, of course, but it would be possible.

I find it a very intriguing idea.

But, unless someone with the know-how steps forward to do it, it will remain just a proposal.

About the Name

I was calling it OnePak, but there is a company by that domain name.