CFOG's PIP, October 1988, Volume 7 No. 5, Whole No. 67, page 83

ROMBO for Osborne 1

by Hanns Trostli, Itu, Brazil

I installed recently ROMBO, the RAM and ROM extension supplied by Worswick Industries, San Diego. In a few words: it's PRACTICAL, it's FAST, it's GREAT!

Having little contact with other microcomputer users I have to judge the value of purchases by what I read. The ads in FOGHORN attracted me, then I read two favorable reports in FOGHORN, so I decided to upgrade my Osborne 1. The cost: $249 for ROMBO and $35 for an EPROM eraser. That's a lot of money compared with the value of an O1, but, at least for me, it is worth every cent of it.

My case is probably not quite common, but I want to describe my experience in detail. One never knows when somebody else will profit from one's experiences.

For my purpose the O1 is still a very practical tool that satisfies my needs. At this stage I can't foresee any valid reason for switching to a newer computer, I may do so when I decide to go into desktop publishing or if the intermittent disk drive trouble becomes intolerable. I still have 52 columns, I use WordStar 2.26, Supercalc 2 and dBase II and, rarely, MBasic. (I just received WordStar 4.0 but have not yet installed it.)

Before buying ROMBO I wrote to Worswick asking them whether I could use it at the same time as my RT60-A clock, which I find essential in my work, and SmartKey. I received a long letter from Mr. Bill Montgomery, explaining that I would have to use a special 57K version of CP/M which should work. I ordered it and installed the board with the new Z80A CPU and the 8 EPROMs. Installation was easy, the instructions for it are very clear.

I put WordStar 2.26, SuperCalc 2 and dBase II into EPROM, then XXDIR.COM (the directory program for RT60-A clocks, giving date and hour of saving or update of all files), FUSA.COM, (which I prefer to NewSweep, it works about the same), and DU, version 8.7. The EPROM directory takes up 2K, 6k is needed for warm boots, so I have 22k left in ROM. In RAM the whole 256k can be used as a RAM disk, with the exception of 2k for the directory. You can also reserve up to 32k for a print spooler. One way or the other there is more space in RAM than on Osborne single-sided floppy disks.

Now for the results. The increase in speed when using programs in ROM is fantastic. The ease of switching programs, of saving files (especially when they are in the RAM disk) is spectacular. I tested the following: saving a 3k file in WordStar, getting out of WordStar and into SuperCalc and then loading a 4k SC file took 27 seconds with ROMBO: without ROMBO it 78 seconds! All O1 users know that loading a SuperCalc file is a tedious affair -- now the sign-on message appears immediately, the second screen almost at once and loading the file itself is also much quicker. Consequently I save my SuperCalc files ever so often, using my SFK 1, programmed =A1<cr>/S<ESC><CR>BA<CR>; in WordStar I use ^KS^QP as much as possible.

While I formerly separated my data files, keeping WS files on one disk, SC files on another, DBF files on a third and organized my work in such a way that I stayed within one program as long as possible, I now keep my datafiles according to subjects and switch from one program to another with ease.

I must confess that I have a curious sort of trouble. I must load CLOCK.COM first and then SmartKey together with a definition file. Loading SmartKey without a definition file or loading CLOCK.COM only crashes the system. When using SuperCalc I avoid SmartKey, it takes away about 6k from the anyway limited memory. -- Thus I can't have CLOCK either. Worswick is looking into this strange problem, I am still waiting for a solution.

Another great advantage using ROMBO: disk drives are used much less, just for saving files. And just now my B drive isn't working. No problem: with ROMBO designated as A drive, my A drive renamed B, I can use my computer as I usually do with no complications. (One of these days I'll send in an article "What to do when only one disk drive is working". Regrettably, I have some experience in finding ways out of this quandary!)

ROMBO heats the innards of O1 and especially disk drive A considerably, so I had to install a fan to keep the temperature down.

Using my other O1 I now realize how slow it is. I have thus ordered another ROMBO for that one and look forward to enjoy the great advantage of using RAM and ROM, with little disk access.

Final note: Worswick may not know that "rombo" in Portuguese means "a crash"!