The German railroad system is very efficient and user friendly. After my arrival at the Frankfurt-am-Main Airport I only had to go down one floor to catch a train to the Frankfurt Central Railway Station. Another train took me from there to Fulda, the largest city near the meeting-place in Dietges. All in all it only took about three hours for me to claim my baggage, get through customs, exchange currency, and travel to the Fulda Station, where Peter was to pick me up on his way to the meeting.
It wasnt long until I was approached by a couple of suspicious-looking guys. One of them Peter pulled a ZX81 from inside his jacket and asked if I knew where he could unload a bunch of these. They hustled my luggage into Peters van, which also contained Peters wife Ruth and three other ZX-TEAMers. After a short drive we were at the lodge in Dietges.
By this time it was about six oclock on Friday night. The meeting room was full of people bustling around, getting acquainted, and setting up the equipment they had brought to show off. After dinner and a couple of more hours of looking over peoples shoulders I had to pack it in since Id been up for about 35 hours. I can never sleep on planes . . .
Saturday morning I was jet-lagged and didnt get up until after nine. Breakfast was almost over but I managed to scarf a few rolls and a pot of coffee (thank God the Germans make coffee the same way we do in the States) before the food was cleared away. Pandemonium then ensued throughout the day people were coming and going, trading information, hardware, software, etc. Additionally there were a number of demonstrations.
Kai Fischer was there and presented me with an IDE hard drive and controller for my ZX81 (I had traded him some State-side goodies in advance) and also to show off his other inventions including the ZX81 laptop, which has a hinged LCD screen attached! I think well see a lot more great projects from Kai.
ZX-TEAM founder Joachim Merkl and Gerhard Dohnke both had ZX96s on display. These are very impressive and powerful machines with features including an IDE hard drive, 3.5 floppy drive, 1 MB RAM, AT-style keyboard interface, LCD screen, serial and parallel ports, and an improved bus connector. Gernot Feucht set up a ZX81 with a modem attached and used it to dial into the ZX-TEAM Mailbox, a 24-hour BBS. In the non-ZX81 department, Wolfgang and Monika Haller (the Womoteam), who head up the Spectrum Profi Club, showed off their Sam Coupe which sported a 340 MB hard drive, CD-ROM drives, and 16-bit sound.
Halfway through the day the demos began, with a show of robots (robbies) built by Joachim, Gernot, Christof Odenthal, and Markus Schiuharl. Philip Mulrane gave a demonstration of a DOS/Windows-based C compiler which produces ZX81 code. Finally, Gernot showed a film of some of his other ZX81-based robotics projects. The rest of the afternoon and evening consisted of more people coming and going, lots of friendly trading, and for me, a grueling one-hour crash course in MEFISDOS at the hands of the master, Joachim himself.
The MEFISDOS (MErklFIScherDOS) operating system, developed by Joachim Merkl and Kai Fischer,
is powerful but very simple to use. The arrow keys may be used to navigate through subdirectories and LOAD programs, or commands can be issued directly from the command prompt. MEFISDOS commands can also be called from within BASIC programs, so its easy to make a program auto-run, for example. MEFISDOS was included in the hard drive interface I received from Kai, and I have been using it on a daily basis for over two weeks. I have yet to find any bugs or other anomalies.
The two main limitations I know of are: eight-character-max file names, and file size is limited to 16 KB. The latter isnt really a factor; since hard drive file i/o is fast, chaining programs is easy and practical, so its conceivable that a program really a group of them could consist of 1 MB of BASIC code, or more!
Sunday morning there was just enough time to eat, pack, clean the lodge, and say goodbye to the other ZX-TEAM members. I learned so much and met so many fascinating and genuinely helpful people, and in such a short time. Everyone was so willing to share whatever they had, which is especially remarkable considering that I dont speak German, and we had to converse in English. Ill treasure this experience for the rest of my life.
ZX-TEAM is a great group of people who are taking the ZX81 far beyond anything Uncle Clive ever dreamed of. Anyone who has the slightest chance of attending a meeting should start planning now.
You wont regret it for a minute.