Friday, November 5, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

ThinkTank Review From 1983

Dave Winer:

[Way] back in 1983, Infoworld reviewed ThinkTank, my first outliner.

This review, along with the one in the NYT, launched the company. Early the next year we shipped our Macintosh product at the Mac rollout in Flint Center.

John Gruber:

This review is amazing. But what the heck were they talking about with “the Pascal operating system”?

Dave Winer:

It was the UCSD P-system. Without it I would not have wanted to make Apple II software, nor would I have been able to build an app as rich as ThinkTank. UCSD was an orders of magnitude more memory-efficient than BASIC or assembly language. And it had overlays. Which meant if something didn’t have to be in memory all the time, it could be swapped in when needed. Most Apple IIs only had floppy drives in those days, so it was slow and a pain in the ass, but a lot faster than quitting the program, inserting another disk and launching another app just to edit the text of a headline. What I learned as a result of Gruber’s inquiry is that the P-system was one James Gosling’s inspirations for Java.


UCSD Pascal was an amazing system for that time. On the Apple ][, it ran off several disks IIRC, but due to Apple DOS 3.3, it was performing quite well. It contained a text editor for writing code, and separate programs for compiling and linking. It was the first IDE I got to know (after learning programming on CBM computers before, mainly BASIC, machine code and Assembler).

Friends of mine wanted to write games for the Apple, so they wrote their own "tiny pascal" compiler that compiled faster due to dropping floating point support and generated 6502 code (UCSD-P was generally running interpreted code), along with a graphics editor for sprites that were pre-rendered in multiple shifted representations for animation. All running inside the UCSD IDE, ie. we used its text editor, for instance.

It was called GALA (Game Language). We wrote a few games for the Goethe Institute in Germany back then.

Exciting times.

Thomas Tempelmann

Correction: As mentioned by Mike Cohen on the Twitter thread, UCSD had its own disk operating system, not using DOS 3.3.
That's what made it so efficient.

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