Forth Day 1995 Well Forth Day came and went again, pretty much un-announced and under attended. Each year on a Saturday in November, FIG sponsors a full day event discussing Forth. This year's event happened on November 18 at Dr. Ting's place of work in San Mateo California. I drove down with three others from the Sacramento Forth group. Our trip down was filled with discussions ranging from politics to Forth and embedded projects. The day started with donuts and social discussions. About 10 AM the official meeting started and short introductions from John Hall, president of FIG, and several chapter leaders, brought attendees up to date on Forth happenings. One visitor from Taiwan said their FIG chapter has over 300 members and is developing a commercial Forth (he can be reached at email@example.com). After introductions, the first of several speakers started talking about their projects. Jeff Fox gave an update on F21, the mpu21 version for handling Fiber communications. There are a number of bugs and errors in this prototype run, but Chuck Moore says he has been able to work around them for testing purposes. Speeds are looking good and sometime early in '96 a chip with less bugs will be available. A European company is apparently funding and pushing the project on a fast track of development. John Hall then talked about a RF signal tracking system using Forth Inc's ChipForth on a Innovative Integration SBC. They use VME style boards with TMS320C31 as the controller and signal processor. This is for UHF signal tracking with high speed switching between horn antennas mounted on a dome. Dwight Elvey talked about DSP filtering in Forth. He indicated you can do 36Khz filtering on 486/33Mhz system, all using FPC and integer math. He provided sample code and extensive explanation of how it works. After our lunch break, Alred Tang presented ideas on doing Exact Rational Math using forth. Leonard Morgenstern presented his latest Red-Tress: a way to achieve balanced binary trees. Al Mitchel from AMR (see back page) talked about using and selecting microprocessors for embedded control. Al compared price to performance and pointed out some of the good and bad features of those he uses and sells. Mosaic's Patrick Campbell talked about the QED industrial controller which has been getting some good exposure lately. Bob Nash related his experience with using Express and Forth Inc's polyFORTH at SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District). Bob has done things others gave up on and in times most thought impossible, all because of Forth's tools and his learned philosophy. Those concepts he uses are: keeping it small; modular projects; bottom up design; having a vision about the project; and making sure your design and concept is sound. In two years they have put on 6 systems using Express (the industrial control version of polyFORTH, a high level PLC type program) and leveraging their knowledge from the first successful project onto the next one. John Baumgarner talked about a Forth project he is doing to augment pilots ability to navigate. The idea is to have visual images projected into the pilots view from navigation devices, a form of virtual reality for pilots. Dave Jaffe, our last year's Programmer of the year recipient, gave an update on the Finger Spelling hand. Three companies are investigating development: one in West Virginia to do the hand itself; a college in Israel on using the hand as proteus or hand replacement; as a device to do hand therapy - to move a hand and thus exercise the muscles; possible use in remote or dangerous situations needing tactile operations. Chuck Moore gave his normal Fireside chat in which he updated and explained more about his progress with the F21. He covered his bad errors and how testing hadn't uncovered them. He discussed some design considerations and his options in dealing with them. Chuck also commented on a recent product release shboom, which may be an illegal copy of his previous work. As usual it was a very enlightening last talk of the day and got us already for the evening dinner. As one of the day's events, the dinner speaker, Skip Carter, was able to draw over 25 members to a local Chinese restaurant to hear him speak. Skip talked about where he considers Forth is going and some considerations of changes needed. From there a round table discussion continued and eventually spilled out onto the street as we out ran our welcome in the restaurant. Skip's feelings are based on his personal experience and his two ways of using Forth. He has used and is continuing to use it in embedded oceanographic projects. He came with a working six legged bug like robot that spawned many jokes. Skip also found he still uses Forth to perform many scientific data projects and as tools to solve special problems. He see's forth making it's way into the new operating systems and is currently looking for Forth for his Linux system. Skip Carter's WEB site currently holds most of the FIG's library of material, and he is also the librarian for the FIG Forth Scientific Library project. This is a project to collect library routines that are used in the Forth community and are all ANSI Forth compatible. It is the first of many ANSI standard projects. I asked the question as to what is going on with ANSI and if any commercial vendors are selling one. Skip said he had talked with three vendors at Rochester and two of the three were interested, but later decided not to change from their current direction. That means there is a Forth ANSI standard, but no commercial versions available for use. A public domain version was suggested but nothing more than that. Lunch Program Contest I skipped over lunch in order to explain it better here. For many years FIG meetings have had lunch time contests or seminars. This year a programming contest was presented and three groups tried their hands. Bob Nash, Charlie Shattuck and myself comprised one team attempting to program traffic signals. I have included the circuit since I think it is an easy way of learning how to do real life problems using simple tools and devices. As you can see the diagram is rather simple and shows just how a parallel port can do real I/O. The contest handout says this comes from Dr. Ting's “The Second Course” which is the second book of learning Forth (can be bought from FIG). The parallel or printer port has 12 output bits and 5 input bits. This simple design limits the crossing signal operations to having both sets of light work the same. By that I mean the north south set of intersection lights will operate the same and force the left turn signals to cycle for both directions before turning on the green. The contest went something like this, turn on all stop lights at power up. With no traffic turn on E-W green and N-S Stop. Then the fun starts, when traffic approaches you must use various amounts of delay with caution, stop, left turn, then go and so on. Basically you make it work as traffic signals normally do, all programmed in less than an hour. Well our Sacramento group did fairly well against the other two groups. No group got it fully working, but we all got some amount of operation to happen. We had a couple of on-lookers who where very much interested in seeing how we went through the design and programming stages. We basically did a bottom up approach. Create a basic set of words that control the numerous possible light combinations. If you analyze the possible conditions it quickly becomes apparent that you have only 8 output commands to the port. Once the basic commands are set, the next step is tying them together with timing loops and then integrating it all into the possible traffic switch conditions. This last one is where we had the most problems and ran out of time doing. Overall I felt it is an excellent learning project and recommend you try this on your own. We have done similar things at local meetings and find it a great way to get others into Forth and just doing things for fun. Overall I felt the Forth day this year a bit weak, definitely under advertised, and if nothing else shows a small lack of direction in the FIG organization. A number of new board members were to meet after Thanksgiving and discuss making changes. I have placed a request to hear what went on, but as yet haven't heard a word. So till next time, keep hacking. Bill.
Copyright © 1996, Kibler Electronics. 4/4/96