[Coco] S-video Prospects...

Neil Morrison neilsmorr at hotpop.com
Sat Dec 17 16:43:09 EST 2005

Somewhere I have a note on the final owner of AST, Beny Alagem. He is out of 
computers and now owns the Beverly Hilton.



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Roger Merchberger" <zmerch at 30below.com>

> How much trouble would a person be in if he or she were able to... 
> "replicate" the PAL board? [[ Admittedly, it's not like said person would 
> be costing Tandy any lost profits... ]]

From: Frank Durda IV (uhclem.feb99 at nemesis.lonestar.org)
Subject: Re: Why Did Tandy stop making computers
Newsgroups: comp.sys.tandy
Date: 1999/02/13

All Tandy intellectual property related to its computer products, which
includes designs, software, and related patents, was sold on July 1st, 1993
to AST Research, later renamed AST Computers.  AST immediately got in
financial trouble and obtained loans in exchange for company ownership
from Samsung Electronics of South Korea.  By 1995, Samsung became the 
shareholder due to the increasing loans and in early 1997 finally obtained
all of AST.  At this point, these rights transferred to Samsung, as AST 
became a division (or more accurately, a marketing name) for Samsung.

In December of 1998, Samsung gave up on AST and sold their AST divisions
name and "intellectual property rights" to a group of investors, headed by 
former head of Packard Bell, who plan to sell computer products under the 
name.  In theory, that means the old Tandy rights passed to "AST Mark II" at
this point, but someone will actually have to ask Samsung whether that stuff
was in the deal.

In late 1996, I had a general agreement from the President of AST to release
the old Tandy material to the public domain, including all software that
didn't use Microsoft Windows.  However, AST lawyers got involved and citing 
baseless fear of releasing something to the public domain that might cause
them a legal liability, they buried the project when it was only a few days
from being a press release.  Shortly after, AST became Samsung, and all 
mails on the subject always ended-up in the Samsung/AST legal department. 
I got any reply at all, it was a "we still have reservations about this but
will investigate the matter" form letter.

Considering that AST did not ever use any of the patents or technology 
from Tandy that was older than 1991 (apart from a few patents used in a TI 
AST lawsuit defense that had been used the same way in the TI vs Tandy 
a few years earlier), nor did AST attempt any serious search for this sort
of material at the time (I was there and they were more interested in other
trivial things), this stuff is essentially abandoned and the ownership 
are not being enforced at all.

Therefore, AST Mark II or Samsung technically do own these Tandy items but
could probably never prove such ownership or even knowledge of ownership in
any court.   At last check, you have to know it exists and it is yours to be
able to claim something is yours.   You can't draw a big circle and claim
everything inside the circle is yours.  USL vs BSDI and UC proved that
argument was very flawed.

AST Mark II (or Samsung) would have to spend way too much money determining
who actually owned a given ball to sue anybody over it.

As to the older ROMs, I can't speak for the CoCo side of the shop (some
contained Microsoft and some contained Microware code), but two of the 
Model III ROMs and the Level II Model I ROM contained code acknowledged to
originally be a licensed Microsoft product but there is Tandy-originated
code in there too.  The Model III ROMs that came with the Model 4, 4D and
the disk image for the 4P were NOT (I repeat again NOT) a Microsoft product,
and these had a Tandy Copyright.  Tandy deliberately reverse-engineered,
modified and released their own version of the ROM and Disk BASIC, due to a
royalty dispute that had been brewing between Tandy and Microsoft for
about two years.  This happened prior to me getting into the system software
group, but I was told at the time that the last year or so of Model III
production III systems had this "Microsoft-free" code in them as well.
The key people who worked on that "Microsoft-free" project are now both
deceased (Ron Light - whose name you will find in early Model IV ROMs, see
the string "RON" - and George Robertson).  Dave Cozad also worked on the
no-Microsoft code at various times prior to 1983 and I took over work on it
around the fall of 1983, long after Ron and George had moved on to other

For Model IIIs, the "C" ROM was always a pure-Tandy creation.  Only the
"B" ROM and part of the "A" ROM were ever something licensed from Microsoft.
All three ROMs (and later two) on the Model 4s were all code that Tandy
claimed full ownership of.

Tandy, in selling the store to AST back in 1993, got the right to continue 
support their customers, and that was taken to mean (by Tandy) that Tandy
could make and sell replacement disks for operating systems and things owned
by Tandy.  However, Tandy got greedy and started making copies of anything
they had ever sold, regardless of who wrote it and who held the copyright,
including products that Tandy never actually duplicated/manufactured, like
SCO for PCs.  Microsoft, Lotus, Borland and lots of other people could have
sued Tandy big-time over the replacement disk program, particularly after
Tandy stopped looking for proof of purchase before selling anybody a $7 copy
of anything, but the rightful owners didn't sue Tandy, at least not yet.

Frank Durda IV

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