Your Spectrum
Issue 3, May 1984 - Frontlines
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There've been any number of Pacman variations for the Spectrum, but all have suffered from one obvious fault - none has been allowed to stay true to the original arcade version. With Atari holding on tight to the Pacman copyright, anyone producing a game in the same vein is forced to make it sufficiently different - on pain of writ.
At the Earl's Court Computer Fair in the summer of last year, DJL Software (remember that excellent Froggy program?) had on show a true Pacman program - albeit an unfinished version. A notice above the screen said, "Watch our advertisements for the release of this excellent program". We did, but nothing happened!
So, at the Christmas ZX Microfair, the question was put to DJL Software: what's happened to the Pacman program? "Ah well, Atari will now be marketing it." So does this mean the program will be mega-expensive? "Ah well, £14.95", came the sheepish reply.
However, at last a copy fell into our grubby little paws - see the screen shot. It was a pre-release cassette, without instructions and bearing a sticky address label. It loaded quickly and worked happily with the AGF, Protek and Kempston joystick interfaces; sadly there's no provision for Interface 2, but this omission may well be rectified before the game appears officially in the shops under the Atarisoft label.
Once the type of control has been selected, the game starts with a press of the 'S' key. A very complex maze appears, that's almost the
same as the one in the arcade version; the movement of the characters is smooth. The jaws of the Pacman move up and down as it eats its way around the maze and the sound - also a copy of the original - is constant throughout. The ghosts appear to have been programmed to trap the Pacman rather than just follow it! They never get stuck in the maze or follow a set path. And after Pacman has travelled through a power pill, the wraiths split up and move in all directions, making them very hard to catch.
Fruits appear on the screen at various intervals during the game, but they don't hang around for very long. And as you progress through the screens, the effect of the power pills decreases while the speed of the ghosts increases, making the game even harder.

Power Pac'ed Prices

This is the ultimate version of Pacman that many people have been waiting for - yes, it's 100 per cent true to the original. However, at £14.95, it can only be described as grossly overpriced and therefore unlikely to sell in large quantities. As we revealed in our last issue, Atari also has plans to release other arcade games under the Atarisoft label, for most home computers. These are expected to include Moon Patrol, Defender, Ms Pacman and Centipede. But don't hold your breath waiting for Atari to revise its prices before release. If they haven't learned before, they're unlikely to learn now.
Gavin Monk
New Generation Software has announced the launch of its latest game, Trashman - and the company's convinced it has a top ten best-seller on its hands. It claims "thrilling action, superb graphics and highly imaginative playing elements".
Players must collect and empty dustbins into a moving rubbish cart while avoiding a variety of hazards - like speeding cars, pavement cyclists, vicious dogs, over-eating and one too many in the pub. There are seven levels of play, which is not all that many when compared with some of the games around today, but if the end result is anything like as good as NGS's previous software then it must have credibility.

PACMAN screen

Pacman from Atarisoft. It's the real McCoy.

As part of a batch of educational programs announced at the end of last year to correspond with the Compec exhibition in London, Sinclair Research launched a package that includes a 'primer' on the language, Micro Prolog, together with a cassette containing the interpreter and a few example programs.
Prolog is the language that the Japanese have selected as a major component in their ambitious project for a new breed of computers called the Fifth Generation - planned for the next decade. And considering the Japanese designers are hoping to build computers that can emulate human reasoning powers, it's hardly surprising that the programming language they have chosen is a few light years away from homely old Basic.
The name Prolog is derived from the phrase 'programming in logic'. The language was originally developed at the University of Marseilles about ten years ago, and if you thought that all the programming you had done so far was 'logical' then you'd be wrong. As the authors of the primer point out, languages like Basic are 'imperative'. "Programs in these languages mostly comprise commands which specify actions to be performed."
Why else would you want to program a computer, you might ask? Well, again the answer is to do with changing the way we look at computers. So far they have been used to enable people to 'do' things, rather
than to help them think about things. All this talk of Fifth Generation, logic programming and the rest, is central to a change in our view of what computers can be used for.
Sinclair Research's version of Prolog in fact has a very respectable pedigree, based as it is on work done at Imperial College in conjunction with a project to teach primary school pupils how to program in logic. Having received no previous exposure to the deadly Basic (or, even worse, Cobol), these children will find it a lot easier to follow the arguments put forward in the Prolog book than many Spectrum owners.
Programming in Prolog really is totally different from Basic. For a start the distinction between program and data is non-existent. Prolog programs are written by establishing a series of relationships composed of data and 'instructions'. Unlike Basic, you don't write out a series of commands and then execute them with a RUN instruction. You sort of make it up as you go along.
The example in the primer builds up a database of what might be called a typical family. So, you get things like: Henry father-of Henry-2 Mary mother-of Henry-2, and so on.
Having entered definitions of this type, you can then perform manipulations on the database - for example, which (x : x father-of Henry- 2). The answer in this case would be : Henry. Sounds pretty useless doesn't it? I mean, you knew that Henry
was the father-of Henry-2 in the first place - otherwise you'd not have been able to define the relationship.
There is, of course, a lot more to it than this. You can build up lists of facts and make them subordinate to other lists and then perform some fairly complex logical manipulations on them. Another example in the primer is that of a parts explosion of a bicycle and this illustrates how the language can be used more practically.
The major criticism of the Sinclair Research implementation is that you have to 'type' everything in (no using keywords as per Basic) which as we all know can be a bit wearing on the old fingertips. There doesn't seem to be any way of using the printer either - which eliminates many of the possible practical uses of Micro Prolog as a database processing tool. It also means that you cannot print your programs out. (If there is a way of using the printer, apologies to Sinclair Research and could they please tell me which page in the manual it's on.)
Prolog is a language that tries to relate computers to the human language rather than to strings of numbers and procedures the way that Basic does. If you're looking for new ways to build exciting graphics or make funny noises, then forget it. If, on the other hand, you want to see what the Japanese are planning and don't mind lots of typing, then it's probably worth a throw.
Phil Manchester

"If you've heard any rumours about Fuller, don't listen to them" - so asserts Neil Roberts of Fuller, the hardware people from Liverpool.
Rumours ... what rumours? Well, first of all, there were stories of the fire in the Sweeting Street headquarters which destroyed much of the company's stock - which did nothing to help Fuller's struggle to meet the predicted Christmas rush for Spectrum hardware.
Then there was the teething problem with the keyswitches for the keyboards. Facing an acute shortage, one of the Fuller crew was forced to brave the wilds of Europe - eventually finding the switches he was looking for in Belgium. As a result, production of the keyboards is now well under way again, and has been since last December.
But that's not been the only problem. Plagued by more chip scarcity (speech chips, this time) Fuller was forced to re-think one of its Christmas ideas - to re-package the Master unit and joysticks along with four pieces of software. There just weren't enough speech chips around to make the units necessary to meet the orders that were coming in - exit one very good idea. Said Neil Roberts, "At first we got the impression that some other firm had been buying up all the speech chips. But it could have been some big dealer from the States who took them over for resale - speech chips out there are much more expensive".
Futher details from Fuller's new offices at nn xxxx xxxxxx, xxxxxxxxx n; phone nnn-nnn nnnn. And for those who've sat on this line for weeks waiting for anything but the engaged signal, the good news is that Fuller has now splashed out on more lines.
Roger Munford
The recent LET show at the Heathrow Penta Hotel found Phoenix Software's managing director, Gerald Rose, positively jumping for joy and regaling all and sundry with news of a piece of software that would have a dramatic effect on the Commodore 64 market - not to mention making him a mint in the process.
Mr Rose had just got word from one of his freelance programmers - an IBM whizz kid - that the wonder- program was finally finished. It would, he said, enable Commodore 64 owners to make use of the wealth of Spectrum software - a tricky bit of software that would allow it to run on their own machines. Certainly, it sounded an extremely sophisticated piece of programming, and something that might make him a touch unpopular with some of his competitors. Mr Rose was unmoved. He claimed the prototype had been "tested on at least 10 packages picked at random from the shelf, and had worked peffectly in every case". The only thing was that his programmer "needed the weekend to finish it off". As soon as a production copy became available it would be despatched to YS.
Days passed, and weeks passed ... nothing more was heard from Mr Rose.
Just in case Phoenix had forgotten about us, we phoned its offices and were told by a spokesperson (probably the office junior) "The program's got a bug in it, and doesn't work. We've had to send it back to the programmer for debugging. And until it's been successfully sorted out, we're saying nothing to the press". Ah well, such is the stuff of which dreams are made.
Ron Smith
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