8-Bit Software Online Conversion

To : 999 + 2J3 From : 483 (Daniel Shimmin) Re : Acorn User Show I will probably be at the Acorn User Show in Harrogate on Saturday 23rd April from about 1pm onwards (British Rail permitting), either at the 8-Bit Software stand or wandering around the place. From : 483 (Daniel Shimmin) Re : Acorn Computing, Manuals Also : New User Group I have just bought my first copy of Acorn Computing for quite a while, and it seems that they have finally seen the light! Well, sort of, anyway. Claiming in their magazine that they are the only news-stand magazine to continue supporting the Beeb, they have expanded their 8-bit coverage (slightly) from its previous levels. In this issue (the March one), there is a full-page review of a Beeb educational program (though it looks like being the last). There are also a couple of mentions of 8-bit machines in the "Problem Solved" section. One of these is quite useful, pointing out that WeServe Computer Services (0705 647000) have available the Master Welcome Guide, and Reference Manuals 1 and 2, and the New Advanced User Guide BBC B/Master, for £13, £14 each and £19.95 respectively, as well as the Master Welcome Disk, and a few pages of other Beeb stuff in their catalogue. Their address is 4042 West Street, Portchester, Hants PO1 69UW. The Reference Manuals are also available from that omnipresent company Watford (0582 487777) at £14 each, as well as their own Master Advanced Reference Manual at the bargain price of five pounds (unless that is a typing error and should be fifteen). They also have a range of a few dozen 8-bit software titles (no games), hardware add-ons, spares, cables, filing system ROM's/kits, and printers, as well as bargain-price new and refurbished monitors, printers and 4MHz 65C102 Master Turbo Boards (forty quid). Beeb and Master software is also available from Dabhand Computing (061 766 8423), who ask you to ring for a price list. Also, Acorn Computing have attempted to improve the quality of their 8-bit subscription disks - the one this month has what appears to be an advanced platform game with fifty frames per second high resolution graphics and four-channel sound (i.e. some pretty impressive statistics). The other offering on the disk is rather more practical - a flexible spelling checker allowing you to create your own personalised dictionary. But the area where the 8-bit world features in most detail - as you would expect - is in the public domain column. In this issue 8-Bit Software gets about a column and a half, starting with praise about,"consistent quality and presentation". Teri Paul then goes on to list half a dozen of the utilities 8BS has featured recently, together with a brief explanation of what they're for. Next the games "Phrases" and "Shopping" get longer descriptions, taking up three paragraphs between them. A couple of programs from the Destroyed Realities disk magazine also get mentioned. Further good news for the 8-bit world is in the news section of the magazine, where it is mentioned that an 8-bit user group with a bi-monthly newsletter is being set up - the Beeb Supporters' Group. Potential members or those wanting to write anything for the newsletter should send an SAE to Mark Brocklehurst, 1 Park Avenue, Markfield, Leicester LE67 9WA. They also support Electron users. To : 999 + 2J3 From : 483 (Daniel Shimmin) Re : File standards? You might know how, on the Archimedes, all files are "filetyped" so that you can tell what sort of file they are from the desktop; textfile, sprite file, drawfile, EXEC file, etc. Now, a desktop for the Beeb would be nice, or even a menu system for creating filetypes, reading them and treating files accordingly. However, that's not what I'm suggesting. What would be nice (and fairly easy to implement), would be to have some commonly accepted standard names for different sorts of files, so that we all know what sort of files we are talking about just by giving a simple name, rather than struggling through a list of precise details. We would presumably want to retain some of the names given by Acorn to files in the Archimedes range: Textfile (this (I think) has some line-feed differences to a Beeb ASCII file) Spritefile Drawfile Data (any miscellaneous lump of data, often numerical) BBC ROM (a 16K ROM image) Obey/Command files (files to be *EXECed) Utility file (a piece of machine code that can be run at any memory location) BASIC (tokenised, of course) Absolute file (a piece of machine code that has set load/run addresses) BBC font (what is the definition - to be *LOADed or *EXECed or *RUN?) And there are some standard names that would be fairly obvious: Viewfile (unless there are different sorts - View users please enlighten) InterWord file (the same applies) ViewSheet? I personally would like to suggest the following standard names: Display file (As produced by Chris' Teletext Editing Suite and used in 8BS issues) EDIT file (unformatted text as produced by EDIT and (I think) Wordwise, with no control codes, and RETURN characters only at the end of paragraphs - i.e. words can be split by the ends of lines). MODE7 file (a 1000-byte long file to be loaded directly into screen memory in MODE 7). MODE0, MODE1, MODE2 etc. files (The same, except these are files of the appropriate lengths for the appropriate modes) 80-column/40-column/etc. file (A file formatted, e.g. as by EDIT, to have lines terminated by a RETURN character, with no line longer than the given number of characters (but some may be shorter), and no control codes) 80-column/40-column/etc. FullWidth file (Similar to other x-column files except that no line may be shorter than the given number of characters - e.g. 40-col FullWidth files are required by Chris' Teletext Editor) I would be very pleased to hear from anyone who has any suggestions or comments about this idea, particularly anyone who can think of any other "filetypes" (e.g. files for different widely-used software packages) that ought to have widely-accepted names. To : 999 From : 483 (Daniel Shimmin) Re : Master 512 boards I was amazed to see that in the April edition of Archimedes World, Pyramid Computer Services (0384 396739) are advertising these second-hand for only fifteen pounds each plus three fifty carriage plus VAT - not very much compared to the one or two hundred pounds these were selling for second-hand a couple of years ago! They also have Master ROM cartridges and 40T SS Cumana disk drives. To : 999 From : 483 (Daniel Shimmin) Re : Bug in EDIT and HIEDIT To think I would only notice at this late stage! I'm sure this has already been noted elsewhere, but I don't remember it. Try the following: - Load up EDIT or HIEDIT - Go into Insert mode (I generally am already). - Type: The jumped over the quick brown fox. - Realise that "quick brown fox" should go before "jumped" - Move to just before "jumped" - Go into cursor editing mode - Move the cursor right and copy the last three words As you can see, as each character is copied its insertion causes the phrase to be copied to move to the right, while the copying cursor stays still - the result is that the first character is copied over and over again! To : 999 From : 483 (Daniel Shimmin) Re : New Computers? In the Problem Solved section of the above-mentioned magazine, Mike Cook hints vaguely at the possibility of a new range of machines emerging from Acorn fairly soon. I have heard a few (possibly unreliable) rumours about this, so I might as well mention them and hope that Acorn doesn't pre-empt me by releasing full details before this issue reaches members. There is a new range of machines coming out - an ex-member of 8BS knows someone who actually used one of them some weeks ago. Apparently they will feature a totally new ARM chip (ARM-8 or something like that), running at perhaps three times the speed of the current ARM-3, perhaps a lot more. They will (might) also feature something like sixteen or thirty-two megabytes of RAM and 24-bit colour (i.e. sixteen million colours on-screen as opposed to just 16 or 256 as on the current range). The cost (unsurprisingly, considering the amount of RAM), will be around three thousand pounds to start with, perhaps more. Right, that is about enough rumours for one day, needless to say I won't be buying one of these wonder-machines, though I may be unwise and buy an A5000 now before the new machines appear and force the prices of the old range downwards. How long before the old (current) Archimedes range suffers the same fate as the good old Beeb (with attendant feelings of betrayal, panic etc.)? Well it'll be 2-3 years yet before we're in the same position as in 1990 when I bought my Master, with the new hardware firmly on the way in and the old firmly on the way out; and another couple of years after that before widespread support for the old Arch range has really died out. But if you don't buy an old (current) Arch in the next eighteen months, I recommend you don't at all, so now is the time to start thinking about buying if you're going to; an A3010 with RAM expansion to 2Mb for about £440 inc. VAT, or an A3020 for just under a couple of hundred more; an A4000 2Mb 80Mb HDD for £830 plus VAT (and only a few hundred more will buy you a PC card), or a full-blown 33MHz 4Mb A5000 with 160Mb HDD for about £1300 plus VAT. Then again, if you feel that your Beeb does everything you need from a computer (which it does), then you can wait a few years until a whole new spectrum of machines will have appeared (and had their prices cut to affordable levels, and developed a massive software base, etc.) from all sides, and offered a plethora of choices which we can't even consider yet...Intel's stranglehold on processor standards will certainly have disappeared, and we're seeing the start of that process now... A machine that is not by any means a rumour is the new Apple machine, the PowerPC (or whatever it's called). For £1,350 or more, it claims to offer a lot more processing power than the currently available 486 PC range. The design of the processor that provides this power is a RISC one similar to the ARM range used in the Archimedes, and hence a step ahead of the CISC-design Intel chips used in PC clones. Previously, although Apple machines were widely known as being extremely easy to use, and were the market leaders in desktop publishing, they had a reputation both for being rather more expensive than equivalent PC machines, and for having rather expensive add-ons and peripherals. And, like Acorn, the equivalent market-leaders in the education market, they weren't "industry standard". But now Apple are hoping to shake off this image, with a range of machines that will still have the Macintosh ease of use (hopefully), but allegedly offer 10% more power than current Intel/IBM clone machines, but at 10% less cost. Not only this, but with all this extra power the new machines can also emulate PC's by running DOS and Windows software as well as their own Macintosh software (a similar stratagem to that employed by Acorn with the Archimedes). Up until now, standards in the computing world has been dominated by three companies - Intel making the chips (286, 386, 486, Pentium), IBM making the computers (the PC's upon which all PC-clones are based), and Microsoft the operating software (DOS, Windows). Other companies (Motorola making the 68000 and 6502 and Zilog the Z80 series chips, Acorn and Apple making their own computers and operating systems) have been largely sidelined. But now, in the contest for new, better systems to win a share of all the money being spent on them, things are changing; IBM have teamed up with Motorola to develop new RISC chips to replace Intel chips in the next generation of IBM computers, Microsoft are working with Apple to develop software for the PowerPC range, Acorn (or ARM Limited which Acorn own a large share in) are busily selling their ARM RISC chips to just about everyone, and so on. The market for operating systems is even more confused, as many PC owners are now considering having larger operating systems originally designed for networks (Windows NT, Unix etc.), and this brings in a whole new range of sales people (AT&T, Novell, etc). These operating systems (and Microsoft's next Windows update) all require huge amounts of RAM (i.e. six megabytes or a lot more). Archimedes owners are lucky - RISC OS will still run happily in two megabytes of RAM, or even one if absolutely necessary (mind you, the Beeb can manage with a few hundred bytes of workspace - how things change). All this may sound horribly complicated and, even worse, expensive. However, the optimistic view is that the more competition there is, the better (and cheaper) the manufacturers will have to make their machines. The new ranges of processors being developed, once they are a bit more widely-used, will provide more processing power than ever before and at a much lower price. Prices of other hardware (RAM, hard disks, monitors) won't fall as fast, but shouldn't be too far behind - bear in mind that, where a few years ago Acorn provided the early Archimedes with 20Mb, or at most 40Mb hard disk drives, the smallest they now make (for the A3020) is 60Mb, with the A5000 having a huge 160Mb hard drive. But more to the point, the machines with these new larger drives are several hundred pounds cheaper. In the PC world, though there are the large demands I mentioned above made by operating systems on the hardware, prices fall in proportion. While in, for example, 1986, a thousand pounds (+ VAT) would perhaps buy you a lowly 286 PC with one megabyte of RAM and a twenty megabyte hard disk drive, right now the same sum could buy you an extremely powerful 486 DX 33MHz with four megabytes of RAM and nearly two hundred megabytes of hard disk space, or a 486 SX 25MHz with similar facilities but also a CD-ROM drive (unknown in '86) and stereo speakers, or one of the last A5000 25MHz (which were sold off cheap by Beebug as the new 33MHz range replaced them). This may not be so helpful to those who do not have a thousand pounds to spare, but the new technology should also filter down to the cheaper end of the market - if the successor to the A3010 is as much cheaper as the A3010 was to the A3000, it will cost about as much as a Sega Megadrive! (O.K., slight over-optimism, but you know what I mean). LATEST NEWS - I have just found out that Acorn are now shipping some of their 4Mb A5000's with 210Mb instead of 160Mb hard drives, at the same price.