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TownsOS Tour Part 5: V1.1 L20 - Applications

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L20 includes very little in the way of software.

L20's apps

There is a new TownsGEAR, a text editor (a glaring miss in the first OS), an icon editor, a curiously reduced form of the demo app from L10, and a readme file containing some errata and advice on installing to hard drives.

Text Editor

Text editor

The text editor is a Notepad, not a Wordpad. In other words, it does plain ASCII editing, no frills - the menu contains nothing but Load and Save. It is however an absolutely essential utility for an OS to have, so it's good that it's finally here.


Towns demo app

The CD ISO I have is a bad dump, so the first one won't run and the second one is corrupt, but since the second and third are identical to the demo under L10, I'll assume the other is the same as well. Why did Fujitsu remove the 3D demo? Did they think it was underwhelming?

Pattern Editor

Pattern Editor

The pattern (icon) editor is no different than L10, but I include this because this version actually displays a bunch of icons included with the OS.


TownsGEAR L20 menu

The built-in TownsGEAR notebook in L20 is quite different.

If it wasn't clear, what we saw in L10 was not a hardcoded application - that was, if I understand correctly, simply what was in "CONTENTS.GBX" on the OS CD. This is a different one unique to this OS, but in both cases you were expected to insert a floppy, point TownsGEAR to it, and begin creating your own notebook from scratch beginning with a blank screen. The notebook included on the disc is a just a demo, but it looks like Fujitsu has expanded it for this edition.

Most of the programs from L10 are here, plus a couple new ones. Music Album II just includes more songs, for instance, there are a couple notebooks meant to help you learn TownsGEAR, and the calendar in Schedule has been updated for 1990.

Image clipart

There's now a way to explore the asset library - a collection of images and sounds, basically multimedia clip art for use in your notebooks - which was actually present on the disc for L10 but had no mechanism for looking at any of it, no TIFF viewer or sound player.

As before, these are manually assembled slides, not any kind of automatically generated index. Again, it feels like these are things they meant to do with the first release and just ran out of time for. It makes me wonder if my copy of L10 is complete.

Nice to meet you

The TownsGEAR intro notebook is still here, but is now called Nice to meet you:

Nice to meet you slide 2 Animating dialog appearing Showing animation options

It now appears to be possible to make an element appear in a TownsGEAR notebook dynamically. When I click the blue button, this text field fades in, and if I leave the slide with the navigation controls (still here, but hidden under the double arrow icon up top) and come back, the dialog is still there; in other words, slides have state that persists.

After this, the intro is very similar to the intro app in L10, it just explains what TownsGEAR is, but there are a couple alterations.

Slide mentioning TownsPAINT

This slide now mentions TownsPAINT, a graphics app. I was initially unsure where this came into the picture since it isn't on the main disc, but I found this image in with the archive of the OS:

 TownsOS disc set

It appears that TownsPAINT and TownsSOUND were included as pack-ins with the L20 version of the OS. I will cover these in the next chapter.

GearBASIC instructions GearBASIC demo

There is now some mention of what GearBASIC commands actually *look* like, instead of just a passing mention that it exists - there's also a live demo, showing a line being drawn in random places and colors. It seems that GearBASIC is either more powerful, or Fujitsu is trying to highlight how powerful it always was.

Sliding puzzle

This is a sliding puzzle with increasing complexity. TownsOS finally includes a game. I believe this is implemented in BASIC.

Number matching puzzle

Another very basic game. Click on boxes to reveal the numbers and find matching pairs.


Message has been updated:

Message recording dialo

First, everyone has portraits - including the cat, and you better believe everyone who saw this promptly coaxed their cat into making a good long yell into the mic. You can replace these portraits with any TIFF you like, and set names.

The UI has been totally revamped to provide something more like five "mailboxes," with a portrait and name per mailbox, and then each mailbox can have three messages recorded, for a total of 15 messages.

When you go to record a message, you get this multi-select dialog box (record, play back, erase, cancel); again suggesting GearBASIC has been considerably extended in capability since L10.


I'm not sure how much GearBASIC has been extended, but certainly the pack-in demo software is more sophisticated now. On the slide shown in the second screenshot above, I edited the BASIC program for one of the record buttons:

As you can see, this is much more involved than what we saw in L10. The code displays a standard dialog box with named buttons, then makes a decision on what to do based on user input. Once a decision is made, it triggers a hidden UI object that (as in the L10 version) has builtin behavior to record or play a sound file.

The command to summon a dialog box is GUIDE(), which is interesting.  I'm not sure if that's the english word or some contraction beginning with "GUI."


Something I should bring up is that beginning in L20, TownsOS includes an OASYS.EXE which would continue to appear in future revisions of the OS, and I'm not sure what role it played.

OASYS was an earlier Fujitsu product:

My OASYS-Computer Museum OASYS 30AF-Computer Museum Fujitsu wa-puro Oasis OASYS LX – 3000 Plus ... -

A series of word processors produced beginning in 1982, Fujitsu had sold a significant number of these by the time the Towns came out. I'm totally speculating here, but my guess is OASYS.EXE is a reimplementation of the capabilities of these machines, as an app running under TownsOS. This is supported by the following:

Snip from Towns Magazine 1994 ヤフオク! - 【1782】4988618087551 OASYS /Win v2.3 新品 未...

This snip from TownsMagazine 1994 lists, under word processing, nothing but FM-OASYS and OASYS/Win (presumably Towns and Windows versions of the same software.) I can't find any pictures of the former, and the pictures I can find of the latter are very poor quality, but seem to illustrate what i suspect: an office suite based on and compatible with the OASYS lineup.

The trouble is, I can't run it. OASYS.EXE just asks me to do something like "insert a system disk" and if I put in a formatted floppy it crashes and restarts TownsMENU. Under later editions of the OS I've found the ability to format disks with the OASYS filesystem, but it's not present in L20. It's also possible that this is an implementation issue with the emulator I'm using, which is pretty old and incomplete.

I'm bummed that I can't figure this out. Nothing I can find seems to clearly explain what FM-OASYS is. If I could crack this nut, I suspect I would find that the Towns has excellent productivity software hidden in it.

With that said, L20 and L30 do not have icons for OASYS, it's just an EXE on the HDD. I can't imagine Fujitsu wouldn't want to call this out, so maybe there's more to it than I realize - perhaps FM-OASYS had to be purchased separately, but if so there's no disc for it in the collections I have.


TownsOS L20 still does not include much of great interest as far as software on the disc itself. Given how much space is left on the primary CD (400+ MB) it's remarkable that Fujitsu didn't see fit to include anything more.

Regardless, I'm particularly surprised by the lack of a serious word processor. A basic text editor is a beginning, especially compared to the total lack of one in L10, but it pales in comparison to what other OSes could offer. While this one is an extremely simple plain-text editor, consider that Windows 1.0 in 1985 came with a WYSIWYG rich-text editor that you could compose an entire book in if you pleased, and I think MacOS had the same in 1984. OASYS could be filling this gap if it's really what I think it is, but if so, why wouldn't it have an icon to let the user know it's there?

Next, let's look at the software included with L30.

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