History of JForth - How it all happened

JForth was conceived at the end of 1985, shortly after the Amiga 1000 was released.

The initial design was started during the January to February 1986 period.

Mike Haas had received his A1000 developer package in January 1986.
He spent a few weeks figuring out what type of program to write, then decided to do JForth because he had much experience writing Forth and the Amiga needed a good one.

He started writing it in Metacomco 68K assembler with contributions from Brian Donavan and Jim King (they were all between jobs).

Jim King contributed legal expertise and worked on the Glossaries

Mike developed CLONE, the Assembler, Forth utilities and Textra.

Phil Burk started beta testing in early 1986 and started porting HMSL from Creative Solutions Forth to JForth in spring 1986.

Phil finally joined the company around about August 1986.

Phil worked on the higher level parts including the .h include files, debugger, ODE, Amiga library interfaces etc.

Dave Sirag donated his implementation of the Forth vendors group standard of Floating Point Arithmetic.

Martin Kees contributed Anims and Animbrushes as well as AREXX interface code.

Release dates

V0.9M anual, early Beta, printed on a dot-matrix printer.

V1.0 October 1986 $99.95 White cover - Released at an early Amiga conference in San Jose. One of the first products available on the Amiga.

V1.1 Not released publicly

V1.2 18th February 1987 Purple binder with expensive gold trim !

V2 February 1989 $179.95 Blue 3-ring binder - CLONE introduced.

V3.0 January 1992 $179.95 White cover with blue center - ODE could now clone, added Textra, Phils src-level debugger, many more tools (AREXX etc.)

Claim to fame !!!

Also, Mike and Phil used JForth to win $1000 in the "World's Fastest Programmer" Contest at Embedded Systems Conference, Anaheim, CA in 1988.

Everyone used Forth but they used an Amiga.

Before the contest they were told to prepare code to read and write to a standard parallel port.

The contest began with Martin Gardner revealing a gizmo with an LED Bar Graph mounted at the end of a hacksaw blade.
A solenoid was connected near the base of the blade.
The LEDs and the solenoid could be fired from the parallel port.
By firing the solenoid at the resonant frequency of the hacksaw blade, it could be made to swing.
They had to swing the blade and spell out "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain." like a scrolling marquee.

It took Mike & Phil about 1.5 hours to complete the project.

One other team managed to display one letter but no one else finished in the 2 hours allotted.

Phil said "It was a bit nerve wracking to have a crowd staring at our screen and muttering while we hacked.
Every so often a blade would wriggle at another table and the crowd would move to where the action was.

This was the only time Mike or I actually made any money off JForth and it was great fun."

Thanks goes to Mike Haas and Phil Burk for providing this information.

Martin Randall

© 1998-2023 Martin Randall