See also: Announcing the MM/1, Announcing the TC-70 and Introducing the Tomcat from Frank Hogg Labs.
Just a few months after the announcement of the TC-70, Frank Hogg posted a Q&A file answering some of the questions about how it was different than the MM/1. This file also came from the GEnie online service:
Number: 4643 Name: tomcat_q_a_text Address: B.BRADY Date: 900704 Approximate # of bytes: 21420 Number of Accesses: 45 Library: 9 Description: The Tomcat is a replacement for the CoCo 3. All OS-9ers should read this file. Keywords: CoCo,Tomcat,OS-9,OSK,OS-9000,6809,68000
TOMCAT Questions and Answers in a random and sometimes confused order. 7/3/90 Q: Will the TC9 be a ready-to-go computer with case & power supply & keyboard or do we get those separately? Options either way maybe? A: The TC9 will be offered in five different formats. #1 is the board that you can install in your case. Price is $299.95 with ZERO K RAM. 512K installed is $49.95. #2 is a Low profile desktop case that is about 16 inches square and 4 inches tall. It will hold the TC9 +3 K-Bus cards +2 or 3 CoCo cartridges + 2 5 in and 2 3.5 in drives. It has a 200 Watt power supply. #3 is similar to the LP except it is about 6 high and holds 3 5 in and 1 3.5 in drives and and 6 or 7 K-Bus cards plus the CoCo cartridges. It has a 200 Watt power supply. #4 is a Mini-Tower about 6 in wide x 16 in tall by 16 in deep more or less. Holds 2 5's and 2 3's plus 6-8 K-Bus cards and CoCo cartridges. It has a 200 Watt power supply. #5 is a big Tower and it will hold everything, 8 drives, 16 slot bus etc etc. Stands 24 in tall x 8 in wide by 18 or so deep. It has a 240 Watt power supply. Q: Would I be able to just unplug the Multi-pak from my CoCo 3, with Disto II floppy controller, Burke & Burke HD interface & RS232 pak and just plug the works into the TOMCAT? A: Yes, because the TC9 has a CoCo Bus everything will work except ROM cartridge games. You may not want the RS-232 pak anymore because the TC9 has 2 RS232 style ports on it. Q: Hmmm, wait, I won't need the RS232 pak anymore. That still leaves two CoCo-type rompaks to run my existing drives - still need the multi-pak?, or can I connect my existing drives some other way? A: The TC9, should run 2 Paks on just a cable. The CoCo Bus on the TC9 is via a dual header rather than a card edge connector which was done to make it easier to cable the paks in the case. We and you have too too many ways to mount everything so we decided to make it flexible. Also we put 12 volts back on the bus for things like the Burke & Burke Interface. Q: Here's one - What kind of video resolution are we talking about with the new machines, and in how many colors?? A: The TC9 is exactly the same as the CoCo 3 because it uses the GIME chip. The TC70 uses the VSC chip which has up to 720 X 540 with up to 256 colors Q: Will the TC9 have an on board floppy controller or will it be necessary to use a CoCo or K-Bus controller? A: The TC9 is the same as the CoCo so you would use your present controller or if you added 68K compatibility you could use a controller there. Q: Does the TC9 have 256 color graphics or CD quality sound? A: No, the color graphics is the same as the CoCo because the TC9 uses the same GIMI chip the CoCo uses. Sound is better because the TC9 has 8 bit D to A as opposed to the CoCo's 6 bits. The TC70 has much better than CD quality . sound However you would have to define just what that term means. Q: Does the TC9 have a built in mouse interface? A: Yes, that's why we included two serial ports, one can be used for a serial mouse that is much better than the Tandy style mouse, smooth as a PC or Mac mouse, unlike the jittery operation of the Tandy mouse. Q: What software is included with the TC9? A: At this point we are planning to include software to allow running a modified version of Tandys OS9. We are working on modifying RS BASIC to the TC9. Details will have to wait until later. Q: What about MS-DOS compatibility? A: No, we do not plan this at present, although the possibility of doing a '386 board for the K-Bus has been discussed it is not planned. We considered emulation briefly but it would be too slow to be useful. Hard to swallow but the cheapest way to get MS-DOS is to but a cheap clone and use it as a terminal. Clones cost less than some terminals these days and are good for that purpose. Q: What about Mac compatibility? A: Yes, we are very interested in that avenue. The Mac uses a 68000 and hardware that is very similar to what we have on the TC70 and other K-Bus cards. It would make much more sense to do a Mac board for the TOMCAT and we are looking into it. No promises but we want it too. Q: Is the TC9 completely CoCo compatible? Will RS BASIC software work with the TC9? A: Yes, with a caveat. We did change the hardware (we made it better) Whenever you change the hardware even in a small way you stand the risk of some poorly written software not running. This should not be the case with OS9 but RS-DOS is going to be a bear. We are planning on RS-DOS compatibility but I would be lying if I said we would have it soon without problems. Again, OS9, no problems! RS-DOS ugh, we're going to do our best. Q: Can I use my (Disto, RS, etc) floppy controller and drives? A: Yes, the TC9 has the same CoCo bus as the CoCo and all non-ROM cartridges will work and some ROM cartridges will too. (see previous question) Q: Can I mount my drives in your case? A: Yes, The case has at least a 200 watt power supply and can handle both floppy and hard drives. Q: Will my (Burke&Burke, Eliminator etc etc) hard drive system work in the TC? A: Yes. Again the 200 watt supply can handle just about anything you have now. Q: If I have a hard drive on the TC9 will the tape backup system for 68K back it up? A: Yes, in theory at least. You would need to have OS9/68K running on the TOMCAT but it could work. Software would have to be done for this to work. Ahhh a new challenge. Q: Would it be better to run my hard drive under 68K or under OS9/LII? A: Tough one, depends on the level of software support under 68K. At some point in time when the software is completely done under 68K that would be the fastest way to go. Either way would work with 68K being faster than the 6809. Q: Will I need my RS232 Pak or can I use one of the serial ports on the TC9 for my (Modem, Printer, Terminal etc etc)? A: No you could use one of the 'real' serial ports on the TC9. They are the same style we used on the Eliminator. (6552) Q: Will ROM Paks work on the TC9? A: No. You would have to change the ROM to support the hardware we changed. Q: What OS9/LII software doesn't work on the TC9? None that you would want. All OS9 software that follows the rules will work. Software that doesn't follow the rules should be discarded. I don't think that there is much of that anyway. Q: What OS9/LII software does work or how can I tell what to look for? A: If the software is from a credible company and does not make direct calls to the hardware it will work. I know of none that will not work. Q: Will my (Disto, Hemphill etc etc) 512K upgrade work in the TC9? A: Yes, both plug-in upgrades and plug-in chips can be used. Q: Will the Tandy Hi-Res mouse work in the TC9? A: No, we decided to opt for the higher quality serial mouse that works as smoothly as a Macs. Once you see it you will not want to go back. Q: Do I need OS9/68K to make use of the 68000 with the TC9? A: No, the 68000 CPU is used by OS9/LII as a speed up device besides being used for OSK. You can get faster LII without OSK by just having a 68000 CPU. Q: How is the 1 meg Disto upgrade installed in the TC9? A: Just plug it in, no soldering required. We provided the header on the TC9 that you have to solder in the CoCo. Q: I have a PC keyboard, can I use it with the TC9? A: Yes, if it's a AT compatible keyboard. Some have a switch for XT/AT use, others auto sense. Either will work with the TC9 or TC70. Q: Will an XT style keyboard work with the TC9? A: No, not on the TC70 either. Q: Can I use the new style keyboards that have built in trackballs with the TC9? A: Yes, the trackball would be connected to a serial port and used like a serial mouse. Q: Can I program the function keys from the keyboard in the TC9? A: Yes and more importantly from the computer as well. Q: What about the other special keys on the keyboard? A: All of the keys are controlled by software in the computer. All can be easily reprogrammed. Q: Can I use my (CM8, Magnavox) monitor with the TC9? A: Yes and also standard TTL RGB such as PC's use. Q: What does the starter system include at $499.99? A: The TC9 board with 0K, case, power supply and keyboard and all cables. Q: What does the dual system include at $799.99? A: Same as above but also a 4 slot K-Bus and a 10 Mhz 68000 CPU card. Q: Can I use K-Bus cards without a 680x0 CPU card, in other words will the TC9 work on the K-Bus without a CPU on the bus and if not why not? A: No it will not. The TC9's 6809 CPU cannot directly access anything on the K-Bus. It has to ask the 68000 to do its work for it. The TC9's memory (CoCo memory) is the only thing that the 68000 sees. They use a simple but elegant interrupt protocol to talk to each other. Q: How does the TC9's 6809 communicate with the 68K cpu? A: Via a interrupt protocol. See above. Q: If I got a TC9 and a TC70 what else would I need to run both OS9/LII and OS9/68K? A: Just a 2 slot K-Bus to plug them into and a power supply to power them. Everything else is there. (oops... forgot CoCo memory drives etc.) Q: Can I run the TC70 without the TC9? A: Yes, the TC70 is a fully functional 68K color graphics computer with 68K etc etc. Q: Will the TC70 run OS9/LII software? A: No, no 68K computer can run LII software unless it has been recompiled under either C or BASIC on the 68K machine. New versions of software will have to be ported to 68K to work. A task best left to the original author. Q: Will Multi-Vue work with the TC9? A: Yes, just like any other OS9 software. Q: Will OS9/LII run on the TC9? A: Yes with mods included from us. Q: Will software drivers be included to support the AT keyboard, serial ports, serial mouse, parallel port etc? A: Yes, most certainly and in source too. Q: Will windowing software like Multi-Vue be available for the TC70 and your other 68K CPUs? A: Yes, it is being worked on now and should be ready when the computer ships. Q: Can the TOMCAT be configured as a multi-user machine? A: Yes, with 2 serial and 1 parallel port you have most of what you need to run a three user system with a parallel printer. Q: What hardware and software for the CoCo 3 will work with the TC9? A: Yes, on the OS9 side and most non-ROM hardware will work. Q: Can the TC9 use IBM style disk drives and monitors? A: Yes. Q: What's involved in upgrading to OS9/68K? A: Not much, 68K is like a superset of LII and although much more powerful it is actually easier to use. Q: Can the TC9 use more than 1 CoCo cartridge at a time? A: The CoCo bus on the TC9 is just like the CoCo with the same restrictions. You can use 2 with a Y cable like the CoCo and you can use one of the multi-pak like devices sold by third party for the CoCo (Howard and Orion should work OK) Q: Can the TC9 use the multi-pak and other 3rd party multi- pak like devices such as Howard Medicals? A: Yes, see above. Q: Can the TC9 use the host adaptor for the A-Bus? A: Should be no problem, however I haven't tried it. Q: How much RAM comes with the TC9? A: None unless you order it with it. ($49.95 for 512K) You can plug in any 512K upgrade or just add 16 256K chips. Q: Can the TC9 use RAM on one of the K-Bus cards? A: No not directly, although the TC9 could instruct the 68000 to move memory from the K-Bus to the TC9 memory for some interesting effects. Q: What is the resolution of the TC9? A: Same as the CoCo, uses the GIMI. Q: Can the TC9 hot key thru windows like the CoCo 3? A: Yes. Q: How will FHL supply the patches to OS9/LII for the TC9? A: Either on disk or in the EPROM on the board, haven't decided that one yet. Q: Will the TC9 autoboot OS9? A: Yes. Q: Can I use the case I have now. (I put my CoCo 3 in a PC case)? A: Yes, very easy to do. The TC9 uses a PC power connector. Q: Will the TC9 fit in the CoCo 3 case? A: No, too big and the CoCo power supply is too small. The keyboard would not work either. I just read your Advertisement in the June issue of Rainbow, for the TOMCAT. I was quite impressed, and glad you took a full-page.But, as they say, with the answers to questions come more questions. I have pulled out various issues, that I have tried to keep directly related to the Ad. You may want to break up your reply into 2 or more separate replies. Q: For the K-Bus system of OSK: I have heard that the K-bus is only 16-bit. Is this true, and if so, have you any plans to change this? A: The K-Bus is 16 bits data and 16 meg memory map. The 68000 series of CPUs are also only 16 bit so the only reason to change this would be for CPU's such as the 68030 and 68040. Most operations (I/O etc) on the bus are 8 bits so the only thing we could use 32 bits for would be memory accesses. We are looking at doing a 68040 card with 4 to 16 meg of 32 bit on board memory. This would use 16 bit K-Bus memory in a slower mode or on-board memory in full 32 bit mode. This makes sense because most boards on the bus would only cost more if they had to support the full 32 bits while doing 8 bit operations. (SCSI, Floppy, Serial, Parallel etc) As a side note our paper calculations with our 68030 CPU running at 16 Mhz and 16 bits data show only a 5% thru-put loss. Makes sense when you realize that most system operations are I/O and 32 bits doesn't help. Gotta be careful of benchmarks that don't show real world situations. The K-Bus 68030 is twice as fast as our 20X, a 68020 with a 32 bit bus! Q: (Since OSK is advertised with the K-bus) Does your $300 OSK package come with the C compiler? How much for it separately? A: There are two packages now for the K-Bus. The TC70 includes Professional OSK with C and Basic plus other software. The standard K-bus OSK which is optional does no have the C or Basic. Take your pick. The TC70 is a better deal for individual users while the standard version is cheaper for industrial users. Q: And mainly for the TOMCAT/TC9 : It was said that the TC9 is "K-bus compatible". Does that mean that it is possible to add on a K-bus, or does one come with it? A: It means that the TC9 plugs into the K-Bus for 68K upward compatibility and no, one does not come with it. We have 4, 8, 12, and 16 slot buses to suit everyone's needs. Q: How about 1.2/1.4 Meg floppies? A: The TC70's floppy controller supports all densities including 1.2/1.4 Meg. We will be doing a stand alone hi- density K-Bus card for floppies also. Q: You stated that the TC9 could use a 68000 board as a co- processor. Would that be in some ways automatic, or is it up to us to make our programs take advantage of this? A: OS9/LII would be modified to have to 68000 do things like memory moves, graphics etc. User software could be changed to take more advantage of the 68000 but would not be necessary to get benefit from it. Q: Similarly, What configurations are possible? TC9 and TWO 68000 boards? A: No, many TC9's but only 1 680x0 CPU. The TC9 looks like just a memory board to the 680x0 and because they are addressed in 1 meg increments you 'could' have 14 TC9's on the bus. Time will tell just how many will actually work. Q: Would a TC9 and a 68030 be better than TC9 +68000? A: Yes, although I question the dollar value of a 68030 in this case. Q: Since a 68000 can use TC9 as a slave board, can a 68030 use a 68000 board? A: No, only one 680x0 on the bus. Q: You said that the joystick res has been increased to 256. How will this affect a high-res joystick interface? A: You would use a serial mouse or serial joystick if the 256 x 256 wasn't good enough. The hi-res interface is not supported as yet. Q: Is there any way to get 640 by XXX joystick res WITHOUT using a hi-res interface? Will it be possible to use a logitech, or optical, "digital" mouse, under OS9? (since it will have "real" serial ports now) A: YES, and that is the way we think everyone will want to go. Trackballs and serial joysticks are also available but I haven't looked into that last one yet. Q: How about no-halt disk operations, under OS9, without a 68000 board? A: Would be the same as the CoCo. Q: You mentioned that under OSK, with the 68000 board as main CPU, the TC9 would be "a multi-function graphics co- processor". You didn't mention anything about the graphics board I have heard about here! Does the TC9 have increased res. over the CoCo III? A: No, but you can have many TC9's giving multiple graphics. Also the TC70 has color graphics which will also work with the TC9 in the system. Also multiple graphics cards can be run in the system with any of the 68K CPU's. Q: Can I use the 68881 math co-processor from LII? A: In order to use the 68881 from LII you would have to have a 680x0 CPU in the system. The procedure would be to pass the request to the 680x0 and then let it communicate with the 68881. The 680x0 would then return the answer to LII. In the case of a graphics speed up in a situation like this the 680x0 would also be used to do the graphics for LII. Q: How is the 68881 math co-processor used with 68K? A: In OS9/68K there is a module called 'math'. If your system did not have a math co-processor then the 'math' module would do the math with software. If you installed a co-processor in the system then by simply changing the 'math' module to one that used the co-processor is all that is required. Q: I don't have a hard drive now, would it be better for me to get a hard drive that is SCSI compatible for future use with 68K? A: Yes, although all hard drive systems for the CoCo will work with the TC9 and thru that 68K, a SCSI hard drive would work better with 68K Q: How is the power on the CoCo bus of the TC9 vs the CoCo 3's bus. A: Because we have the power of the 200 Watt power supply we are able to power more thru the TC9's CoCo bus than the CoCo 3's bus. Also we have 12 volts on the bus which is needed for some cartridges such as the Burke & Burke interface. This allows Y cabling these things that were not possible with the CoCo 3. The amount of power available at the bus is almost unlimited. Q: How about streaming tape backup? A: Yes, we have that on the 68K side of the TOMCAT thru the SCSI interface. Q: How is multi-user done? A: Multi-user is done by connecting terminals to serial ports on the TOMCAT. The TC9 can handle 2 while the 68K TOMCAT can have as many as 60. Memory and CPU power affect the number of users as well as the type of users. Users doing extensive C development beat the system much more than users doing data entry or word processing. As an example in an office environment 2-4 users could be supported by the TC9, up to 8 or so on a 68000, with a max of about 40 or so on a 68030. Using a fast hard drive and DMA is a great help as the hard drive is usually the bottleneck of any multi- user system. Q: Will the TC9 be compatible with the MM1? A: The issue of the MM1 vs the TOMCAT is covered in another file called TCVMM.CMP I decided to stop this first installment of QnA because of its size. Please Email me any further questions so that I can include them in QnA #2. Thank You Frank Hogg 70310,317