8-Bit Software Online Conversion

RESULTS OF QUESTIONNAIRE So far sixteen completed questionnaires have been collected, including my own; this article contains an analysis of the results. This is interesting not just out of curiosity, but also because the information about what hardware the majority of members have, and what software they would most like to see written, will no doubt be of great interest to all programmers. Additionally, the various results will affect the way in which 8-Bit Software is run. The second half of this article consists of the details of members' interests, both computer-related and general. I hope members will have a look through these in order to find and contact other members who share their interests; I have found at least one piece of information worthy of further enquiry myself. Finally, please note that the collection of information is by no means complete; I hope to receive three times as many questionnaires as this or more. The averages and scores etc. will be updated for my own reference in running 8BS, and I will include a brief summary of the developments at some stage, though not in as much detail as this article. Details of new members' interests etc. will be featured as they arrive, but the ones in this article will not be repeated. HARDWARE OWNED Ten members owned a BBC "B" or similar, and six owned a Master 128. None of the members who have returned a questionnaire so far have Master 512 or Master Compact computers, although I think Duncan Webster has a Compact in addition to his model B. One of the BBC B's mentioned above is a B+ (or B+128 or whatever), and so there are seven members with shadow RAM (i.e. six Master-owners plus the B+ owner), leaving nine without. All the Master-owners, not surprisingly, have four banks of sideways RAM. Three BBC B owners have one bank of SRAM, one has two, and the B+ owner has four. Hence the total score for sideways RAM is as follows: 4 banks : seven users 2 banks : one user 1 bank : three users no banks : five users I would very much recommend that BBC B users without any SRAM get at least one bank; it certainly makes life a lot easier because many programs and utilities come as ROM images these days (HADFS, Fanfare Teletext editor etc.), and many pieces of software (e.g. most TYB software) require at least one SRAM bank to store data in. In addition to the Master owners (ADFS is built into the Master as standard), two of the BBC B owners have ADFS. One of these cannot *TYPE files in his ADFS. This makes a total of seven of the sixteen members having serviceable ADFS; clearly moving to ADFS is out of the question. I would recommend, however, that those without ADFS get an upgrade; as well as giving you an extra 240K per disk, ADFS removes the 62-files-per-disk restriction, and greatly improves disk organisation, with ten-letter filenames and a hierarchial directory structure - DDFS just can't compete. For programmers, ADFS is indispensable; one ADFS 'L' floppy disk can be for 8-bit machines what a 20Mb hard disk is for an Archimedes. When all members have ADFS, the days of archiving will be over, and I can fit as much as I want on each issue! To move onto the related topic of disk formats, twelve people have 5.25" drives only, three people (including myself) have both 5.25" and 3.5", and one person (spot the obvious Archimedes-owner) has only 3.5". Since I can handle both formats, this is of little importance, though it is interesting that very few 8-bit users have been tempted to upgrade to 3.5"; if you don't regularly need to exchange information with Archimedes or Compact owners, then a 3.5" disk provides no advantage other than that it is 1.75" smaller (pretty obvious from the name) and slightly tougher - which hardly justifies the expense of upgrading. Eight members use televisions, five good colour monitors, two poor colour monitors, and one a good monchrome monitor. Despite the predominance of televisions, only one member said that moving to a Teletext-format disk magazine should be a priority, with fifteen saying that it shouldn't be; one member even complained about Teletext-format articles. Moving back to Teletext is still on the agenda, especially since Chris Richardson is developing a whole range of programs to allow Teletext articles to be created easily, printed out in 80 columns, and even viewed in MODE 3 in several different formats. However, issue 22 will probably be in the traditional 80-column format; issue 23 may well be produced by Chris himself, so we will have to see! Now for additional hardware; this was fairly limited. I myself have an internal 65C102 Master "turbo board" co-processor, and M.T. Farnworth has a 6502 second processor for his BBC B; apart from these, no-one owns any extra processors. Two members own modems, and three members (including myself and M.T.F.) use Econet or know someone who does. Four members have a mouse, and two have either a Music 500 or a Music 5000. Obviously, software requiring any of these add-ons will be usable by very few people! However, everyone owns a printer of some sort. MISCELLANEOUS The average number of Electron owners that members knew was 1.4, which is a fairly meaningless statistic really. To put it another way, if all of the Electron-owers that members knew were different people, there are a total of twelve Electron users known to the sixteen 8BS members who returned a questionnaire. This is a surprisingly high number, probably making it worthwhile producing an Electron-compatible version of issues, depending on how many of these people have disk drives (entirely my fault for forgetting to ask). However I am not planning to take any steps in this direction immediately, as I haven't the time (and it would mean the end of the pretty MODE 7 menus). Presumably members can hand over compatible software from 8BS issues to the Electron-owners they know anyway. Twelve members thought that the 50p charge was reasonable, and four didn't. However, one of these four later changed his mind and said he thought it was reasonable too, which makes it thirteen in favour and three against. So much for that. All members but one thought a two-disk issue should be produced if necessary - I intend to do so once enough submissions arrive! The average age of members was 27.5, but this does not at all mean that most members are in their twenties; ages vary between 15 and 69, the only age-group in-between unrepresented so far being those in their fifties, and the most common being mid- to late teens. It is still a bit intimidating, though, that the average member is nearly ten years older than me! The average length of time members have owned their machines for is 6.6 years (according to my questionnaire analysis program, anyway), which means that the average member first used a BBC at the age of about twenty. On closer inspection of the results (to check that my program isn't just making things up), quite a few people seem to have got their computers at the age of eight, presumably for educational reasons. The vast majority of you seem to have much more experience of Acorn machines than me, though; I have owned my Master for less than two years! No-one admitted to having no programming ability at all; five people say they can write simple BASIC, five more complex BASIC, three members can write complex BASIC and simple assembler, and three people have put themselves in the exalted category of "experienced coder". Now, if everyone can write at least a little BASIC - where are all the submissions? PREFERRED ARTICLES The most popular subject for articles was advanced programming, which scored an average of 8.1, while simple programming - somewhat surprisingly considering the number of members at this level of expertise - scored only 6.1, beaten by hardware information (7.4) and reviews and cheats for commercial software (6.7). General topics and comms both scored badly, 5.6 and 4.0 respectively, though the latter is hardly suprising considering only two members out of the sixteen own a modem. I will do my best to select articles accordingly (starting this issue with a hardware review and three programming articles), but it would help considerably if people would let me know what specific topics within the more popular areas they would like covered. However, as well as covering advanced programming from every possible angle (another very lengthy article from Hugh Williams, with advanced encryption (I think) techniques and supporting examples, is on the way) I will still include as much as I can on simple programming; if you are not planning to learn to program on your BBC, you have got the wrong machine! Unless I receive more text on computing topics, I will have to include general articles just to fill up the disk magazine - I am sure some of them will be interesting to some people at least! Finally, support for modem-users will be continued (see Hugh Williams' suggestion elsewhere), since they provide a vital link to the world of bulletin boards - see the wide range of software from Resolve Communications on this issue, which is generally unavailable through PD libraries. PREFERRED SOFTWARE Utilities scored the highest by far with 8.9, followed closely by graphics/demos with 7.8 - I have heard that graphics and demos are generally the most popular software around, but presumably the more practical and technical-minded nature of 8BS members gives utilities the edge. Applications and games both scored the respectable figure of 7.3 (though Acorn consider games to be applications anyway). This left music with 6.4, and the surprisingly low (considering what the BBC was designed for) score of 5.0 for educational software. I have started adjusting the software content of issues to meet peoples' wishes already, beginning this issue by leaving out some rather good sound samples (which presumably count as "music", and so score only 6.4), and replacing them with a variety of archived utilities, applications and games from Resolve. However, even the lowest-scoring categories of software will continue to be featured; education was rated very highly by some people, so I will continue to include it whenever I can find it. New applications software and music are also hard to find, although utilities, digitised graphics and sampled sound are plentiful. This issue has quite a few games on it, but, from the current membership, only Sattar Shakoor writes good action games in any quantity. Finally, if you are planning to write a piece of software (or an article) in a category that has scored badly, don't be discouraged; I simply don't receive enough submissions to be able to exclude anything just on the grounds of this limited survey! MEMBERS' INTERESTS Interests are included under two headings (where available), computer-related and general. Phone numbers are included where members have requested it. Addresses are only included where members have either published their address in the past, or where members have asked me to publish their phone numbers (in which case I have assumed they don't mind their address being published as well). If neither address nor phone number are given, a textfile message can be sent to the member via the 8BS messaging system (see issue 20 for details). Alternatively, send the message you want the member to have on paper (no more than one sheet of A4) to me, and I will enclose it with the next issue. However, if you wish to use either of these last two methods, you will have to hurry up - message to reach me not later than 24th September. If any of the details below are wrong, please let me know ASAP and I will correct them in issue 22. Also let me know if I have not published your address and you would like me to. 15A Steven Flintham 6 LAYTHORPE AVENUE, SKEGNESS, LINCOLNSHIRE, PE25 3BX Computing interests: BASIC & C Programming Utility Writing Fractals Artificial Intelligence General interests: Astronomy Science Science fiction 16C Michael T Farnworth 27 Hunt St, Atherton, Manchester, M29 9JF Computing interests: Programming General interests: St John Ambulance Piano 176 Eric J Shuker 0271 864500 89 CHANNEL VIEW, ILFRACOMBE, DEVON EX34 9PU Computing interests: BASIC Programming Applications Word Processing 1K1 Abdus Sattar Shakoor Computing interests: PASCAL programming 6502 Programming Kick Off 2 General interests: Football Squash Badminton 204 Carl Wheat Computing interests: BASIC Programming Games Educational 20G Roy Dickens 0933 55556 40 SHORTSTOCKS, RUSHDEN, NORTHANTS, NN10 0EB Computing interests: Programming Board Games 275 David Roy Steadman 0777 706995 7 WOODSIDE, RETFORD, NOTTS, ND22 7YA Computing interests: Education Puzzles Chess General interests: Gardening DIY Electronics 2J3 Chris Richardson Computing interests: Word Processing Programming Cheats General interests: Cycling Model Building Electronics 483 Daniel G. Shimmin 0204 492613 1 OAKWOOD DRIVE, HEATON, BOLTON, BL1 5EE Computing Interests: BASIC/C/LISP Programming Hardware Expansion Word Processing General Interests: PBM Gaming Hockey 6EE Michael G Needham 0742 424474 153 FIRTH PARK ROAD, SHEFFIELD, S5 6WU Computing interests: Desktop Publishing Graphics Music 709 Hugh Stuart Williams 0873 810162 17 EVEREST DR, CRICKHOWELL, POWYS, SOUTH WALES, NP8 1DH Computing interests: Programming Graphics Comms General interests: PBM Gaming Food Films Bridge Chess 7GE Matthew R Price Computing interests: Word Processing Desktop Publishing Games General interests: PBM Gaming War/Board Games Music C83 David R Stillman Computing interests: DIY Hardware Graphics Games General interests: Martial Arts TV Reading Stephen King YJ2 Andrew P Snodgrass Computing interests: BASIC Programming AMX DTP Digi I. Sound Sampling General interests: PBM Gaming Amateur Video Hill Walking