8-BIT SOFTWARE ISSUE 21
INTRODUCTION & NEWS
Welcome to another issue of 8-Bit Software! This article contains a
variety of important information, comments, changes that have occurred,
etc.; detailed information about what is in issue 21 itself can be found
in "About This Issue".
Issue 20 has, at the time of writing, been distributed to thirty-three
people. Hopefully this number will increase rapidly between now and
mid-September; I was in fact expecting a much greater response from the
mention in the Micro User (despite the inaccurate description), and
unfortunately a classified ad destined for BBC Acorn User hasn't found its
way into either this issue or the last. However, Duncan Webster has very
generously written to nearly forty of the old members, so this should
improve the situation considerably.
Considering the relatively low membership at present, I very much urge
members to try to recruit more people to 8-Bit Software - most disk
formats are now catered for, so try to find anyone with a BBC B, Master,
Compact or 512, or else put a mention on a bulletin board or anywhere else
you can think of. Issue 20 is now free (upon receipt of disk plus return
postage AND packing) until 16th September 1992.
So far only fifteen members have written back after receiving issue 20; it
has been very well received by those members who have written back -
perhaps the people who haven't written didn't think very much of it???
However, I expect that many more people will write in for issue 21 as time
goes by; it often takes up to six weeks to write again after receiving an
issue. In answer to an enquiry, Duncan Webster is still a member of 8-Bit
Software; his user i.d. is 105.
Despite the numerically-small response, the quantity and quality of
software in Issue 21 is quite high, with a great deal of very good
software which is unavailable elsewhere, and covers a wide range of
interests. The disk magazine contains several programming articles, an
article explaining how to find cheats in games, a large number of messages
on a (very) wide range of topics, and the results from the people who have
returned the questionnaire so far, including the database (sort of) of
Issue 21 sees the return of archiving, for the simple reason that everyone
sent me submissions with files exactly 2.3K long. But don't worry,
de-archiving software is very easy to do even if you haven't done it
before. See elsewhere for details.
Nearly everyone who has ADFS has received the special ADFS conversion of
issue 21, which has rather nice menus (thanks Steven) and !BOOT files and
even nearly works, maybe. Also it has a total lack of archives and might
even have some extra software hidden away somewhere if I remember. The
documentation is written entirely for the DFS version though. Sorry if you
really didn't want it in ADFS but I can't see why! If you want to convert
the ADFS version back to DFS, copy everything from the DISKMAG directory
onto side zero of the disk and everything from the SW directory onto side
two. It will still have problems though.
The disk magazine menu program is now Archimedes-compatible (I think), if
that's of any use to anyone.
The bad news is that the 50p charge is here to stay. At present 8-Bit
Software is making a small but significant loss, despite the 50p charge on
this issue, and I have no intention of turning this into a large loss. The
views of the minority who have expressed doubts about charging have been
noted, but there is simply nothing I can do about it since I am not
prepared to pour my own money away.
I would hope (eventually) to be able to reduce the charge to 20p per
issue, but abolishing it altogether is entirely unrealistic. At present,
it seems to make more sense to charge a reasonable amount, thus allowing
8-Bit Software to have a slightly higher profile. Recruiting additional
members by (cheap) advertising, sending disks to the Micro User, writing
directly to well-known programmers, enquiring about promised submissions
by phone and so on, must be an essential part of keeping 8BS going.
Anyway, enough of that. Issues 20, 21 and 22 are all available in the
following formats, either 5.25" or 3.5":
DFS 80T DS (the standard)
DFS 80T SS (two disks required)
ADFS M (two disks required)
If you know anyone with any of these formats, please let them know about
Just to make things absolutely clear, to obtain Issue 22 send 50p plus the
correct number of (formatted) disks plus return postage & packing. PLEASE
TRY TO GET SUBMISSIONS, TEXT, ETC. TO ME BY 16TH SEPTEMBER AT LATEST.
Issue 22 will be distributed at the end of September, hopefully; if your
disk reaches me after 1st October you stand a pretty good chance of it not
being sent before I go to university, which means you will receive issue
22 as a Christmas present.
There is a slight problem with this, in that I'm not going to be around to
edit it. I am currently enquiring of a few people as to whether they are
prepared to run, or help to run, 8BS for one issue or so during my first
term at university; I would then do another issue during the Christmas
holiday (rather quickly!) Chris Richardson has suggested that he could
probably do it, but if YOU would be prepared to do anything to help (like:
write 100K of text, edit the whole of the disk magazine, copy 50 disks,
edit and/or distribute the entire issue, or any combination of the above),
please get in touch as soon as possible. Quite a few people have said to
let them know if I want any help; please let me know how much help you can
POSTAGE & PACKING
A few comments on this would seem to be worthwhile - I see quite a lot of
it going back and forth. Some members put ridiculous amounts of stamps on
their SSAEs - 48p is a bit much to post one disk considering that some
people get away with 18p, though I wouldn't recommend that either if you
are sending large amounts of cardboard with your disk. 36p is more than
enough to post two disks, probably first class.
Equally, posting a 5.25" disk in a totally unprotected paper envelope is
hardly a good idea considering the care with which the post office treat
them. But it also seems like a waste of time and effort encasing disks
with concentric rings of cardboard, padding and/or board-backed envelopes
when I have never yet seen a disk damaged in the post, despite the
afore-mentioned unprotected ones. A padded envelope OR a piece of card
large enough to protect the disk is usually enough, though single 3.5"
disks can be posted unprotected in normal letter envelopes (seal them
Finally, some members determinedly re-cycle the envelopes they use for
sending/receiving disks. While I agree with this, and do it myself
wherever possible, it gets very worrying to see the same envelope coming
back for the fourth time (having been to and from six other people in
between), frayed and battered and about to fall apart. Do make sure that
your envelopes are in reasonable condition at least - it saves on sticky
A week or so after writing the above, I have just received a disk from
Sattar Shakoor, in a padded envelope, which the postman has determinedly
bent into a nice artistic curve, distorting the plastic in the process.
All the software (Loopy Loop II - see elsewhere) was perfectly intact, but
on verifying the disk I found a disk error on side two at track &30. After
reformatting the disk, it verified with no problems, though it was still a
bit curved. Whether this proves the point about packaging one way or the
other, I don't know, but the disk is going back in the same padded
8-BIT SOFTWARE POSTAGE & PACKING
I am now prepared to supply postage and packing to return your disks to
you, at the following prices:
5.25" disks 3.5" disks
One disk 0.60 0.40
Two disks 0.70 0.60
3-7 disks 1.00 1.00
Each extra disk after
7, max 15 total 0.10 0.10
All these prices are quite high since I am not prepared to buy padded
envelopes etc. in bulk when I don't know how many I'll be using; they cost
28p each from the post office. Small numbers of 3.5" disks will be posted
in good quality standard letter envelopes, everything else usually in
standard padded envelopes. Postage will normally be first class.
If you are quite happy with the usual system of supplying your own postage
and packing then please continue do so - it is cheaper for you and easier
Also, please note: everyone still has to supply their own disk for each
issue - no cash is accepted instead of this, as you have to send me a disk
to send your submissions, comments etc. on!
A note on payments; one member has asked if it is all right to send a
cheque to cover the 50p charge or any other charge. This is fine with me,
but members are advised to check whether their banks charge for each
cheque; it would be a bit silly if you write a cheque for a 50p charge and
then the bank deduct an extra 50p themselves! Cheques and P.O.s should be
made payable to "D.G. Shimmin".
Much discussion of various other issues is contained within the results of
the questionnaire, since it is more relevant to that.
I have just heard that Chris Richardson's ECG Simulator V.3 and M.T.
Farnworth's Power Raider have been included on this month's Micro User
subscription disk, which is good news (8BS got a little mention as well).
Incidentally, if you are writing a really excellent piece of software, why
not put a little advert for 8BS (including the address) on the title
screen just in case?
I am have now received quite a few additional disks worth putting in the
TBI pool, but at present I don't have the time to organise, test or
catalogue them; see issue 22.
I know this issue is late, which will give some of you less than two weeks
to meet the deadline; please do your best. In an attempt to prevent any
further delay, the issue has been tested not on the BBC B but only on the
Master 128, and even then not as thoroughly as I would have liked.
However, I can't see any reason why anything should fail to work, and much
of the software on this issue was originally written for the BBC B anyway!
Please get in touch if you have any difficulties.
COMING SOON (hopefully)
More hardware info, including BBC B upgrades, 512 info and...
32-bit second processor review - the ultimate upgrade for only #100.00?
Continuation of Steven Flintham's series on the user interface
New software from M.T. Farnworth (possibly a game or Power Raider V.2)
M.T. Farnworth's beginner's guide to using his Sprite Handler
Questionnaire results & info from slightly more members (I hope!)
Everything I promised in Issue 20 that hasn't arrived yet!
Hugh William's (detailed) reply to M.T.F.'s article on program protection
Sound samples, digitised graphics, etc.
Software from Andy Nibb's Masterdisk magazine
Tutorial on BBC BASIC, more PD catalogues (!), software from Carl Wheat
"Bat & Ball"-type game from Sattar Shakoor
There might also be new software from Chris Richardson, and I hope to see
plenty more articles, software etc. coming in. I would still like to see
as much "exclusive" software as possible (i.e. published in 8BS first),
but this is of course your decision.
CONTACTING 8-BIT SOFTWARE
You can still contact me by phone on 0204 492613 any time after 7:30pm,
though I don't guarantee to be in. To repeat something Duncan has said in
the past, please try to leave some sort of message if I'm not in; there is
at least one person who rang and I never found out who they were because
they didn't ring back and didn't leave their name!
The address is still: 8-Bit Software
1 Oakwood Drive
But remember that I probably won't write back unless I have an SSAE! If
you have received this issue after 1st October don't bother trying to
contact me at all until after 9th December.
ISSUE 20 ERRATA
Firstly, the questionnaire seems to work or not work largely at random
(whether you're using ADFS or DFS makes little difference), although
everyone who has written back has been able to supply a completed
questionnaire so it must have worked more often than it didn't.
The following corrections/clarifications were sent out on paper with all
copies of issue 20 apart from about the first ten or so:
1. Re: insertion of EPROMs into Master PCB
In fact, the Master 128 circuit board has three places where EPROMs can
be inserted. One (IC27) is for a 16K ROM (corresponding to ROMslot
no.8) and two (ICs 41 and 37) are for 32K ROMs (only 16K of each can be
selected at a time). Note however that in order to use the 32K sockets
you will have to set hardware links (LK18 and LK19) which will disable
two banks of your sideways RAM for each 32K ROM you insert. Refer to
Master Reference Manual Sections F.2-2, F.5-4 and F.5-5 for details. It
is probably easier, although more expensive, to use the ROM cartridges
mentioned in the disk magazine, corresponding to ROMslots 0-3, which
can be inserted in the external cartridge slots.
2. Re: co-processor compatibility in writing software
I appreciate that this is extremely difficult to guarantee, especially
in complex and advanced programs, or ones which require very high
speed. However, it is possible even in the fastest and most detailed
arcade games (e.g. the recent "Snacker" by ALT), and it is extremely
helpful, especially in utilities etc., since many users have second or
co-processors, and they can provide a speed increase of up to 100%
To summarise the notes of the Master Reference Manual on the subject:
I/O areas FRED, JIM, SHEILA should be accessed via OSBYTE calls
146-151, the I/O processor memory (e.g. screen memory) by OSWORD 5 and
6. MOS data in the machine should be changed or read via the MOS
routines provided (OSWORD, OSBYTE etc.) rather than by direct memory
access. Note that OSRDSC/OSRDRM, OSWRSC, OSEVEN, GSINIT and GSREAD will
not function in a co-processor in any case.
Further information can be obtained from the relevant sections of the
BBC B documentation or the Master Reference Manual.
3. Re: 10Mb hard disks from Display Electronics
The Master Reference Manual (J.1-2) states that Acorn-produced hard
disk drives are ready-formatted to ADFS for use when purchased, and
that HDD units by other manufacturers are unlikely to be compatible.
However, other manufacturers have produced BBC-compatible hard drives
in the past, and there are utilities available in the public domain to
format hard disk drives.
There was also a fourth note about possible difficulties with the
It is interesting to note that ALL the articles on this month's disk
(apart from mine) have been written by Archimedes-owners; I'm not implying
that there's anything wrong with owning an Archimedes, but why can't the
rest of you write something?
I would be interested to know what people thought of the various articles,
especially the ones which may have a sequel at some stage (such as the
articles by Steven and Stephen), so that I can pass on your comments to
In addition, if there is ANY topic which you would like covered - anything
at all - let me know and I will "encourage" someone to write an article on
Meanwhile, I would still like to receive any new software members have
written (or are thinking of writing), and please remember to send your
comments on any software in this issue; but try to give constructive
criticism, not just "it was good" or "it was absolutely pathetic".
Hugh Williams has suggested that someone with a modem should review one
bulletin board every issue (or maybe more than one?), giving full details
of the facilities on offer, any charges made, software available, etc.
etc., to make it easier for members with modems to choose from the vast
range of bulletin boards available. If anyone is in a position to write
something along these lines, please do so!
If you have any answers to any of the questions/technical enquiries etc.
in this issue, or have any ideas or replies concerning any of the
articles, please send in some text - I have been asked by one member if
text is good enough for a submission - at present good text is more
valuable than good software!
I hope you enjoy issue 21 - please try to send your submissions for issue
22 as soon as possible!
Daniel G. Shimmin, September 1992