MORE POSTAGE AND PACKING
After my comments in issue 21, a member living in the south of England has
commented that it costs him 45p to mail two disks in a padded envelope. It
appears that higher prices in the south apply to postage as well; by
comparison I have just received a return P&P envelope from a member in
Newcastle-upon-Tyne which is for three disks (+ cardboard); it has one 18p
stamp on it. So now we know why the majority of PD libraries are in the
north of England!
I have received the following message from user B27:
"I should like to make a plea for the availability of source code when
possible. I know that it takes up valuable disc space. I am also aware
that some programmers, while they are prepared for users to try and
disassemble their code, do not like making their actual source code
available - an attitude I do not pretend to understand. In the last disc
magazine you pointed out that the main function of BBC machines was to do
your own programming. A very useful way of doing this is by fiddling with
other peoples programs - but for machine-code programs this is difficult
without the source code. Is it possible for source code programs to be
sometimes available on the disc?"
I have in the past complained to Alan Blundell about BBC PD disk 50, which
is largely made up of source code which you need to assemble yourself.
This reduces the accessibility and appeal of the software, and is also
extremely frustrating when you spend ages assembling a program only to
find that it doesn't work. For this reason I will only publish programs as
either working programs or compressed versions of working programs if lack
of space makes this unavoidable.
On the other hand, of course, there is no reason why I cannot publish the
source code in addition to the working program, and I generally do so
wherever possible (e.g. *CLONE and *VIEWCON in this issue, JACKPOT (with a
great deal of assembler source in the BASIC program) in issue 21).
However, most programs are in BASIC anyway, and assembly-language
programmers either consider that no-one will be interested or wish to hide
secrets of some sort.
The issue of space is secondary, except as regards filenames under DFS,
and in extreme cases like Power Raider, whose source code may well have
approached 100K in size. I could always produce a source-code archive for
each issue, with all available source-code. So essentially the
availability of source code depends upon the willingness of programmers to
supply it. I imagine Chris Richardson has quite a lot lying around?
THE ARCHIMEDES ETC.
Members will no doubt have noticed my opinion on the necessity (or rather,
lack of necessity) of upgrading to an Archimedes. To offer a rather more
informed comparison of the Beeb and the Arch, M.T. Farnworth has taken a
look at the subject from a programmer's point of view (see separate
article). Considering the difference in price, the fact that the Arch
doesn't exactly win this comparison easily is perhaps indicative of
I know we have had some members enthusing about Archs in the past, but I
hear that Duncan Webster is not as impressed with his A3000 as he used to
be (rumours of buying a 386 PC?) There is also the fact that a
considerable number of Arch-owners still find the 8-bit world far more
interesting - nearly a third of 8BS members are Arch-owners.
I know the A3010 is only #500 or something, and the Arch is a very good
machine for DTP, but the two don't exactly fit together. If you are that
serious about DTP you will need 2Mb of RAM and a hard disk, and the A3010
doesn't have either. There are also people who say that an Arch DTP system
really needs an ink-jet printer, a multi-scan monitor, an ARM3, and an A4
scanner. Which you can't really get for #500.
Well, I'm not at all close-minded on this subject; if anyone would like to
reply to either the above, or to M.T.F's article on Beeb vs. Arch, then I
would like to hear from them...I would also like to point out that any
other alternative computer as an upgrade is even worse than the
THE COMMERCIAL COMPETITION
A few people have recently written in commenting on the diminishing level
of support shown to 8-bit users by commercial magazines. In particular the
8-bit content of both the Micro User and the 8-bit subscription disk
available with it have been criticised.
TMU has now been transformed into Acorn Computing, and I have asked two
people whether things have improved from an 8-bit point of view (actually
they were both Arch-owners, which probably didn't help to give them an
8-bit point of view). Anyway, one said that there was "virtually nothing"
for 8-bit users in the magazine, and the other said that the 8-bit
subscription disk was quite good (but not as good as 8-bit software
I have been expecting the decline of commercial support for the Beeb for
the last eighteen months; it was one of the reasons I considered 8-bit
software and the PD world in general to be important. However, some people
have mentioned that they are thinking of subscribing to another magazine
The options available are fairly limited. BBC Acorn User is a magazine
aimed at much the same market at Acorn Computing, and the emphasis is
similarly upon the Archimedes. However, Acorn User are making an effort to
continue supporting the 8-bits; I have heard that they are planning to
feature an article on 8-bit PD libraries soon, and a fairly recent issue
that I saw had a few Beeb programs and articles; also they appear to
concentrate on serious computer use, especially programming, somewhat more
Subscribing to Beebug magazine is around the same price as the other
magazines, but although this buys you membership of a "user group" with
free advice etc., regular readers of the other magazines will be
disappointed at the considerably smaller size and unpretentious
presentation of Beebug magazine. However, from the one issue I've seen,
the magazine is totally 8-bit orientated, and also covers programming
topics more often. They also featured long series' on the Master 512 and
on PD software. However, the disk that you can order with the magazine is
probably even worse than the others.
So to conclude...I suppose you have to make up your own mind. But there is
always 8BS and the other PD libraries who will be around to support the
8-bit machines for a while yet (maybe).
For those who don't know, it is probably worth mentioning that Alan
Blundell has now removed a large number of disks from the BBC PD
catalogue. The following is a direct quote from the latest BBC PD
catalogue & sampler disk:
"The latest update of the catalogue has seen several discs withdrawn.
They include several discs of sampled sounds by the 'Yorkshire Boys' and
others containing computer versions of a large range of well-known tunes.
The withdrawal was for two reasons; firstly, the Yorkshire Boys wrote to
me demanding a 'licence fee' to allow me to continue distributing their
work (Yorkshire Boys discs ARE public domain, and if you have copies I
understand that you can continue to give them to your friends, in case you
are confused by this). At the same time, I was beginning to hear of the
interest shown by the Performing Rights Society in Amiga and ST public
domain music software, and I investigated the position. Perhaps, with
hindsight, I should have considered copyright in the original music on
which the software is based earlier, but perhaps the common acceptance of
the software by PD libraries, users and the computer press for all musical
makes of computer stopped me.
Anyway, the position is that it is illegal to knowingly use someone else's
copyright work (such as a piece of music) without their permission, either
by sampling the sound of a performance or recording or by rendering a tune
via a computer program. In the light of this, I have withdrawn those
discs which contain such software."
8-Bit Software remains open-minded on this topic, as do a number of other
libraries, which means that, for the moment, both the TYB software and
other music will continue to be featured in the TBI pool.
IBM are planning to introduce a RISC PC by about 1994 or 1996. One little
problem - it will be a non-PC-compatible PC. Hmmm.
Acorn have a new range of Archs out (A3010, A3020, A4000), all with 1.6Mb
floppy disk drives, very little expansion capability, the ARM250 processor
(50% faster than the ARM2 used in the A310, A3000 etc.), RISCOS 3.1, and,
best of all, EDIT built-in (nearly as good as a Master 128 eh?) Prices for
the new range start at #500, and prices on the existing range have also
I'm sure something else has happened but I can't remember what.