ZXForth. Plagerism,clever marketing or something else?

General Chit Chat about Sinclair Computers and their Clones
Moggy
Posts: 2077
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2008 2:00 pm

ZXForth. Plagerism,clever marketing or something else?

Post by Moggy »

Attached is a an interview with D. Husband of ZX Forth fame.

The interview states that Husband spent six months "developing" a program which we know as ZX81 Forth and later further asserts that "He set down to work out "His" revolutionary new program..."

The general tone of the article is that this is his sole idea, invention call it what you will.

To the best of my own, albeit small, past research it would seem that this breed of Forth started life in the USA,created by Bob Alsum of Tree Systems Inc and was known under such names as Multi-Forth, Pluri-Forth and Tree Forth ( the ROM of which can be found in the emulator Eighty One).

The only difference I can see between the original US and the UK version is the changing of the copyright message,the 50/60hz cycle and the introduction of a small maths bug in the UK version, apart from that the code seems the same to the nth degree, both for example have the same last column inverse character flaw in the display routine which surely would have been fixed in an original work?

The article makes no mention of Alsum's work although admittedly in the original Skywave manual it states that ZXForth is "based" on Tree-Forth,though this seems to be omitted from some of the internet copies made that most may have my own included.

My question is this.

Based on this article as read,would forum members regard this as.

1) plagiarism.

2) clever marketing.

3) journalistic licence IE promoting a UK product in a positive light.


I would point out that I don't want this to be a character assassination Re D. Husband. I for one do not accuse him of anything underhand.
I only intend a discussion on the topic of ZX81 Forths origins IN THE LIGHT THE ARTICLE PRESENTS IT.

I would add that I am genuinely curious as to the fledgling mechanics of IP ownership as it existed then as opposed to how vigorously it is defended these days, hence this topic,and perhaps give us something slightly different to discuss regarding our zeddies.

Also a final thought regarding Forth.

Seeing as ZXforth was quite successful as a concept for the 81, why was the Jupiter Ace(dedicated Forth computer) an unmitigated failure?
Attachments
aaa.jpg.zip
(1.25 MiB) Downloaded 7 times
Last edited by Moggy on Mon Sep 14, 2020 6:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
1024MAK
Posts: 3135
Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:56 am
Location: Looking forward to summer in Somerset, UK...

Re: ZXForth. Plagerism,clever marketing or something else?

Post by 1024MAK »

Moggy wrote: Sun Sep 13, 2020 4:25 pm Seeing as ZXforth was quite successful as a concept for the 81, why was the Jupiter Ace(dedicated Forth computer) an unmitigated failure?
There is a big difference between adapting an existing machine and buying a “dedicated” Forth computer. The Jupiter Ace had the ZX Spectrum as competition...

Mark
Lardo Boffin
Posts: 1282
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2016 2:42 am

Re: ZXForth. Plagerism,clever marketing or something else?

Post by Lardo Boffin »

Looks like now is the time to sell Jupiter Ace’s! :shock:

AF423564-0971-4CA7-9512-D6A535E88171.png

Going back to the original article unfortunately its a bit blurry - possibly a reduction in image quality when attached? Or my eyesight...

However if two sets of code are virtually identical and share the same bugs the chances of them both having been developed entirely in separation do seem slim.

I could write a small program to do something and write it in a dozen different ways, most likely depending on how much coffee I have had, even if the changes are only superficial, e.g. the order of subroutines and functions etc.

Something as complex as a language implementation must have a stupidly high number of ways of being written. A program of any complexity is like the fingerprint of a brain - the order in which things are added to the program are determined by the order in which they pop into the brain. Even if everything is written down first and flowcharted (does anyone actually do that?) the flowcharts will still be unique to the individual. Even in a system where the end result must be governed by a standard - in this case FORTH - the order of the code would not matter (except in how it may affect performance) and therefore it would be unlikely that two separate implementations had the same order.
ZX80
ZX81 iss 1 (bugged ROM, kludge fix, normal, rebuilt)
Iss 3 ZXVid
TS 1000 iss 3, ZXPand AY, ZX8-CCB, ZX-KDLX & ChromaSCART
TS 1500 & 2000
Spectrum 16k (iss 1 s/n 862)
Spectrum 48ks plus a DIVMMC future and SPECTRA
Spectrum +2a
Moggy
Posts: 2077
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2008 2:00 pm

Re: ZXForth. Plagerism,clever marketing or something else?

Post by Moggy »

Thanks for well thought out response. Lardo.

Whilst I take the point about the order of things I think in this case it doesn't apply as the two versions are,code-wise the same,copyright message,TV standard and accidental bug, notwithstanding. Rather than something that cosmetically puts out the same runtime or visual result whose differently ordered code was arrived at in isolation.

If ZX Forth was done under licence from Tree software then that would be understandable but I have yet to see any reference to this apart from the original manual saying "based on " Tree-Forth By Bob Alsum.
The magazine article is somewhat pointed in that ZX-Forth is an original work based on nothing but Husbands blood sweat and tears with no mention of it being based on any work byBob Alsum or Tree-software, hence the three questions in my original post

Would it be ok, for example, for me to release a pastiche of a well known Spectrum title complete with my own copyright message and with the caveat that my code may do the same thing but is ordered slightly differently and was arrived at in isolation. If the answer to that is yes then Manic Moggy will be released very soon. :lol:

My main point is do we think IP rights were pursued less diligently back then? If today one large CPU producer released a CPU whose floating point units microcode for example was,barring the copyright message, identical to its main rival then I think the legal fallout would be immense.

Looking back to those times I can think of a few products for the zeddy made by rival companies which were a bit too identical to be coincidental yet no (as far as I remember) court room dramas, and I leave memory units and such out of this equation as by nature they have to share obvious similarities due to the way the zeddy works. Was it a case of smaller cottage industries not having the financial clout to pursue this?


Again no deep thinking required just something to mull over and hopefully get a bit of discussion going in these locked down times nothing more. :D


ZIP FILE OF ARTICLE ADDED AS THE ORIGINAL UNZIPPED ATTACHMENT WAS BLURRY
Attachments
aaa.jpg.zip
(1.25 MiB) Downloaded 10 times
Last edited by Moggy on Mon Sep 14, 2020 6:25 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Lardo Boffin
Posts: 1282
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2016 2:42 am

Re: ZXForth. Plagerism,clever marketing or something else?

Post by Lardo Boffin »

I look forward to Manic Moggy - sounds awesome! I’ve read a chunk of the commented disassembly of this game so I wish you luck moving stuff around. :D Even if stuff is in a different order if the subroutines themselves are identical I would still think that will fall foul of copyright. Code being in the same order is more about proof of copying than being in a different order is proof of originality. If that makes sense.

I think that back then there was probably a reduced chance of success with pressing copyright issues on software - how many judges of the era would have understood the situation and lack of precedent?

Also there had to be damages to be able to make any sort of claim I would imagine? If the software appears in multiple countries but the original author only sells in one country would they have even known back then before the web? If the American author had no interest in selling to the UK would he / she have cared if someone had released the same program over here?

I suspect modern technology and communications makes it much easier to find out if copyright has been breeched.

Unless you were a large organisation back then chances are you would either not be aware or not be able to do anything about it? As you say much of the software was cottage industry.
Last edited by Lardo Boffin on Mon Sep 14, 2020 7:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
ZX80
ZX81 iss 1 (bugged ROM, kludge fix, normal, rebuilt)
Iss 3 ZXVid
TS 1000 iss 3, ZXPand AY, ZX8-CCB, ZX-KDLX & ChromaSCART
TS 1500 & 2000
Spectrum 16k (iss 1 s/n 862)
Spectrum 48ks plus a DIVMMC future and SPECTRA
Spectrum +2a
Moggy
Posts: 2077
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2008 2:00 pm

Re: ZXForth. Plagerism,clever marketing or something else?

Post by Moggy »

Thanks for considered reply Lardo some excellent points well made and something for me to dwell on. :D
User avatar
1024MAK
Posts: 3135
Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:56 am
Location: Looking forward to summer in Somerset, UK...

Re: ZXForth. Plagerism,clever marketing or something else?

Post by 1024MAK »

Sinclair had trouble legally trying to prevent unauthorised “clones” of the ZX81 being produced. So have a look at that bit of history to see how difficult it was in trying to protect your product and your copyright.

And in some countries, at one time, for copyright to work, it had to registered. I’m not sure how that worked if the copy was sold in a different country.

It was only when copyright law was changed, that copyright was widely accepted as protecting computer code.

Mark
jdfan1000
Posts: 33
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2016 8:06 pm
Location: Buffalo, NY
Contact:

Re: ZXForth. Plagerism,clever marketing or something else?

Post by jdfan1000 »

Moggy's suggestion recalled for me the MicroAce ROM issue. I'm in the US, so everything I know comes from a few articles about it.

It's my understanding that the MicroAce ROM was slightly scrambled (and the address lines re-arranged) as an attempt by Compshop to bypass the Sinclair copyright. Here's the summary as Americans read about it:
https://www.timexsinclair.com/hardware/ ... -sinclair/

TL;DR: Judge ruled ROM could not be copyrighted.

From the perspective of Bob Alsum/Tree Systems, if it were an unlicensed version, Bob would have had to bring his primary copyright complaint against D. Husband in the UK.

I found an email address for Bob and dropped him a line (which hasn't bounced yet), so perhaps I'll be able to ask him directly.

I'm curious: what's the relation of Husband's ZX-Forth to Artic's ZX-Forth?
My archive.org collection, containing many Timex/Sinclair related publications.

TimexSinclair.com, my website about Sinclair computers in the US.
Moggy
Posts: 2077
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2008 2:00 pm

Re: ZXForth. Plagerism,clever marketing or something else?

Post by Moggy »

Thanks Mark and Jdfan, again some excellent input there and some research for me to do. :D

I would love to hear Bob Alsums take on it should he reply.

Thanks again lads.

As for Artic Forth no relation what so ever as far as I know. Artic the company was located in Hull in the north east of England and their Forth was software based(cassette tape) and frankly quite dreadful, whereas ZXForth(Skywave software was located in Bournemouth a south coast sea side town), Tree Forth etc was EPROM based and really quite good in my opinion.
User avatar
1024MAK
Posts: 3135
Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:56 am
Location: Looking forward to summer in Somerset, UK...

Re: ZXForth. Plagerism,clever marketing or something else?

Post by 1024MAK »

Ah, yes, it could have been a clone of the ZX80, not the ZX81.

:oops: Sorry about that little mistake. It’s been rather a lot of years since I read about it...

Mark
Post Reply