Your Spectrum
Issue 6, August 1984 - QL News / SinclairWatch
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For those who want the complete story so far on the QL, there's a sister publication to Your Spectrum called QL User: The Complete Dossier now available and priced at £1.95.
Its 64 pages provide exacting tests of the hardware, evaluations of the four Psion software packages, the latest on the modestly entitled SuperBasic, plus programs and news. Tapping the major computing journalistic talent in the UK, QL User: The Complete Dossier takes a unique look at an innovative product.
You'll find the magazine available in the shops now, or you can get it from us by simply sending a cheque/postal order for £1.95 to QL User: The Complete Dossier, 14 Rathbone Place, London W1P 1DE for each copy you want.



Pitman Publishing Ltd and Boris Allan have definitely hit the line first with The Sinclair QL Companion.
Not only is this the first of many QL orientated books to reach the public, it's also managed to sell out in record time. Unfortunately, there's often a price to pay
for such 'fleet of foot' publishing action - quality can become directly proportional to the time taken to write it; and in this case, quite a few people believe that Boris has blown it!
In trying to get this particular title to the shops first, it's a fair guess that he relied heavily on preliminary documentation (now considerably changed) and the experience gained directly from other projects. For instance, a chapter on turtle graphics seems to have been lifted straight from a previous book (his Logo one) and although the program examples have been changed to reflect the capabilities of SuperBasic, the whole thing is now redundant. Why? Because SuperBasic now contains all the keywords and functions necessary for performing turtle graphics.
And there's a section on the Intel 8049 processor (for keyboard and other associated processes) which is useful, but only five pages in length. That's hardly a good enough reason for spending £6.95.
Nigel Cross



Quicker than expected Sinclair Research has shifted the errant 16K of hardware back to where it
should have been in the first place, inside the case.
Normally it takes several months to 'burn' a new ROM and bring quantity supply up to a reasonable level. Sinclair, however, has taken a quicker route and, for the time being, has kept the whole thing on EPROM, the new 16K being piggy- backed onto the existing 32K.
These days, the normal retail price for a 16K EPROM is around the £9 mark; but the cost of the 32K version is something else altogether and enquiries among the cognisenti reveal a retail price of up to £80! However, Sinclair Research claims to have 'done a good deal'.
Anyway, with the Kludge out of the way, at least the company is less likely to be mauled by adverse publicity. With Uncle Sir Clive strongly touting his new wares in the direction of the BBC, it could be argued that satisfaction is now the name of the game; in addition, of course, the move releases the cartridge port for programs on ROM - all that's needed now is for the software houses to play ball.
The code for the latest version of SuperBasic is 'AH'. To check whether that's what you have, Print VER$. Those who've been blessed with the latest edition say many of the previous problems really have been erased; it's now, for instance, nothing like so easy to crash the machine.

Now the QL has been around in its various forms for quite a while, the infamous Sinclair Research 'returns' service is beginning to reveal its QL tactics. Those with problems of a Psion package nature - regular crashing, perhaps - find that contacting Sinclair Research seldom proves fruitful. As soon as you mention the word 'Psion', the reply is "it's nothing to do with us", and that you should contact Psion itself for an upgrade. However, if you haven't paid your £35 to be a QLUB member - too bad - you'll just have to pay for a replacement.
I've even heard vile and nasty rumours that some, so sick of crashes and non- functioning of a program, physically damage the tape in the cartridge in some way - from subtly leaving it in the drive while repeatedly connecting and disconnecting the power, to the earthy process of wiping dirty hands on the tape itself! Once the tape is corrupted so that it won't load, Sinclair Research are legally bound to replace it under guarantee - and the theory is you'll get the latest version. Despicable I call it.
There could well be a large potential market for EPROM copiers on the QL at the moment - so that users can upgrade their machines themselves. All you need is quick access to a QL with the ROM (or EPROM) version you desire, then just plug the copier into the back of it together with some blank EPROMs, and copy your mate's firmware straight on to them. Then unplug it, take your new EPROMs home and plug them in.
One recent example of the strange attitude of Sinclair Research to software compatibility is the implementation of the AT command. This is used to position the text cursor on the screen, and was originally intended to be followed by first the y position and then the x position. However, the first version of SuperBasic went out to customers with the opposite syntax, namely x first followed by y. Someone noted this discrepancy and, instead of including a note on the ever-growing Addenda sheet to the 'official' manual, decided to change the subsequent Basic; the end result is that the AT command
works rather differently on each version of the QL. Now the latest Psion programs test to see which Basic is installed, so they know which way round to put the parameters. One hopes that other misprints in the manual - of which there are many - will not be corrected by changing SuperBasic to suit!
On a lighter note to end this month, hands up those who'd like a good laugh. First grab your QL manuals - provisional or otherwise - and turn to page 30 of the Concepts chapter. As part of the 'general care' section you are told 'NEVER touch the cartridge while the drive is in operation'. Good advice you may say, until you check out the warning at the bottom of the page ... 'If you attempt to write to a cartridge which is write protected then the QL will will repeatedly attempt to write the data. Remove the cartridge to stop the QL'. What!!! Of course, you may have the edited version of the manual like our Troubleshootin' Pete - he's just had the relevant page ripped out; it's good to know that Sinclair Research has its finger on the pulse.
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