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TownsOS Tour Part 4: V1.1 L20 & L30

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TownsOS boot splash 

V1.1 L20 was released four months after L10, in July 1989. The pictures here will be taken in the next release, L30, because they appear to be basically identical while L30 comes with a lot more interesting pack-in software. L20 seems to come with nothing but the bare OS itself, so I figured I'd take all my pictures in one place. Remember though that the changes you'll see here were available only a few months after the Towns came out.

L30 appears to have been released nearly a year after the Towns, in October 1990, and I'm not sure what differences there are other than what software was included - there's a bunch at this point.

As a footnote, it was kind of a common thing for OSes that were having a hard time catching on to start including lots of pack-in software. OS/2, for one, started including absolute gobs of it by its later editions. I wonder if Fujitsu perceived that people felt their systems were a little lean out of the box?

Basic Layout

TownsOS V1.1 L30 desktop

While the interface is still primarily a fixed file browser, and the options available in the basic UI are mostly the same, the top navigation bar has been condensed considerably and scrollbars have been added making it much easier to browse, since more screen real estate is spent on displaying files.

The menus are now simple text, and have been condensed to just four - File, Disk, Settings and Special.

The button in the upper left toggles between Icon view and File view:

File view

Here you can see that file view is cleaned up - it no longer displays the file details, making it much easier to read, although here you can see more clearly that Fujitsu made an unusual decision. Unlike every other GUI OS I'm aware of, filenames are above the icons, not below them. I never quite get used to this.

From the File menu, we can reach Display Options:

Display options Details view

The options are for sorting, displaying details, and applying a file filter. You can see here that details mode remains if the user wants it - Fujitsu still has not created a condensed detail view like e.g. Microsoft and Apple did.

Subfolder view

You can see that although the path is still displayed as it was in the previous OS, and you can still click on it to go up one or more directories, the ".." object has now been introduced to folders to make this more convenient.

You still cannot launch DOS apps as far as I can tell.

Help viewer

The middle button in the upper right corner, the girl in a graduate's cap, is the help button you might have seen in other apps. This now presents a very basic help file for the OS - how to shut down, how to manipulate files, etc. It's only about 9 pages. There is still, as far as I can tell, no comprehensive online help included, so to understand everything you can do with this OS you would need to read a paper manual.


The contents of the menus are almost identical to L10, but things are moved around and there are a couple additions. One is a backup utility:

Backup utility Restore utility

I haven't tested this but it looks pretty straightforward. It's interesting because it looks like it only works with floppies, yet the smallest hard disk you could get for this system would have filled up at least 20 of them at full capacity.

There is also now a feature for setting the startup drive; I'm not sure why that wasn't in the previous OS.

The Special menu is mostly the same, it still contains the CD player, but they've lost the calculator for some reason. Also, there's a feature for something like "Video mode", which says on startup that it requires some kind of separately sold hardware device and then displays a black screen until I close it. My guess is that they sold a TV tuner you could use to watch TV through your Towns monitor.


TownsOS V1.1 L20 and L30 are very barebones, but L20 was just enough better than L10 to be comfortable to use for basic operations. It's what TownsOS should have been at release, leading me to suspect that Fujitsu rushed its development to get it released on a deadline, then followed up with L20 as quickly as possible to add some polish.

The next chapter will address the few applications included with L20.

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