8-Bit Software Online Conversion

Another contribution to the Archimedes Debate. By Phillip Miller. I have read with extreme interest the letters by M.T.Farnworth and Steven Flintham about the 'Arc vs BBC debate'. I feel that it is about time to add some sanity into the forum. I am the owner of many computers including an Arc A3000, two BBC B's, both variously configured, one with a 32016 co-processor; and a PC 386SL portable (which I use for most of my work at the moment). I have been programming computers since about the age of 7 when I started on a humble ZX81, which wasn't too bad considering that it only had 1K of memory, upgradeable to 16K which enabled you to fully address EVERYTHING. So, there were no multitasking WIMP, WYSIWYG things in those days, but for the software that could be written on the machine, it was adequate. In 1983 I was the proud owner of a BBC B, which was fantastic compared to the ZX81, with 32K of memory, most of it accessible and with COLOUR!!! In 1990 I got the Arc, about which I was enraptured - a 800K floppy disk-drive and 4096 colours to play around with, 32 bit addressing. Ah! slight problem. It was too bloody difficult to use half of the stuff. Basic was fine, but compared to 6502, ARM was a minefield of rubbish. However, the SYS commands and easy access to the WIMP via Basic V made the computer useful. Notwithstanding, the benefits of the Arc were 1Mb RAM (which had to be upgraded to 2MB to be of any use whatsoever), multitasking operating system - yes, let's run paint, edit and draw together. Very useful...HMM, NOT! OK., I've got two hands, but only one mouse. Joking aside, however, the multitasking is only a con anyway, there is ONE processor, ONE keyboard, ONE VIDC, etc., all it is is timesharing of resources, and allocating of memory between them. The consequence of this is that when you run something that needs multitasking, like a ray-tracing program (like QRT which incidentally was written for the PC originally), then whatever you are using in the foreground moves along at a snail's pace. So what did Acorn do, they bring out an ARM 3 with a 1K cache on the chip, (Big wow! Most PCs have 128K caches, which do much more effectively the job of allocating resources) and then the software writers take hold, masses of Computer Concepts programs which decrease your memory to about 16K for putting your pictures in. So you buy an A5000 with 4Mb RAM and an 80Mb hard drive and then you're in business. Ah, sorry, not many businesses use these computers do they? Which would you buy if you were a small company needing about 6 computers - 6 A5000s, setting you back about `1,700 apiece, or the top of the range PC 33Mhz 486DX with 105Mb hard drive, SVGA monitor for `1200? I know that the companies that I work for (while I'm not studying law) don't buy Arcs. And that is not for want of trying: I encourage people to buy Arcs if I can, but then they say BUT ****ing hell, that's another six grand it'll cost me if I do that. After that, they want to know what software they can run. Microsoft Windows, Lotus 123, all these sort of programs. Whack that under your Archimedes PC emulator and you might as well buy an Amstrad 1512 for `250 including EGA monitor for the speed advantage the latter will give you. So, what am I driving at? That the PC is better than the Arc. Well, not necessarily, it depends what you want it for, how much money you have to spend, how much time you want to spend programming your computer, what your compatibility needs are. Industry standard databases, such as Superbase and DBase for the PC are far superior to anything I've seen on the Arc. Excel as a Spreadsheet is about 30 times easier to use than the Arc based ones. Microsoft Word for Windows has to be the best wordprocessor on the market for any computer. It's idiot proof! Even my 81 year-old grandmother can use it. If she gets stuck, she presses F1 and the computer displays on the screen how to do what she was trying to do. My recommendations: If you want to program a nice computer, use an Arc with Basic. If you like machine code, and impressing your friends with your Hello World program running so fast that you can't see it, use ARM. If you like practical programming in machine code, use a beeb. If you want to be brilliant, take your Arc and hide for a year and learn assembly that way. Alternatively use a compiler and take the sweat out of it. If you want to write WIMP programs, use Visual Basic on the PC, you don't have to write hardly any code to get it to do brilliant stuff. If you want money for your programs, write for PCs. If you want to tell your friends the truth about purchasing computers, don't get them to buy an Arc because Acorn have lost something when they went from Beebs to Arcs, you can make a beeb brilliant, you can only make an Arc a little better.