Your Spectrum
Issue 8, October 1984 - SinclairWatch & QL Affairs
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By the time you read this (according to those who ought to know) the QL will be available in the shops and mail order will have ceased. Sinclair Research has realised that, after all the cock-ups, it just had to make it available on the high street shelves before Christmas to stand any chance of selling in quantity. However, there won't be that many - Nigel Searle has admitted that "demand will exceed supply", for both the QL and the flat- screen TV (which is being retailed at the same time). The flat-screen TV is an even longer running saga than the QL. It was launched just under a year,ago and only a few have been sold by the notorious mail order (potential customers were spared the heavyweight advertising campaign). At least early deliveries have shown that the device isn't bug- ridden!
We should, in theory, have seen the last of the kludged QLs. As I write this, the first customers are being given the opportunity of sending their prototypes back to the Camberley mailing house for upgrading. The whole process is 'guaranteed' to take less than
10 days, though what happens if it takes any longer is not specified. Although the upgrade actually only takes about five minutes to complete, the 10-day stipulation is a result of the QLs being returned to the 'wrong' place. The Camberley office takes the machines and bundles them off to Thorn EMI - which accounts for at least some of the 10 days.
The User Guide supplied at present makes hilarious reading to anyone who knows anything at all about Basic - it's packed with misprints and general inaccuracies. Wags have been hazarding that the thick tome must have been proof read by a one-eyed Norwegian (No offence to our Norwegian readers. Ed.) in a dimly lit room. It's clear that as the Basic was changing so rapidly, the authors of the manual didn't really know what was included in the machine and what was not. The result is that many commands are inaccurately described, and several arc missing altogether. Early QL owners have not just been used as a development facility for the machine, but also as proof readers!
After a long battle, it's been
decided that the QL is not to become the next BBC micro. It's been an uncertain couple of months, but at last the Beeb has decided to stick with Acorn's rapidly ageing device and its promised processor add-ons. In many ways, the decision is curious. The QL has most of the hardware/software qualifications of the Model B, as well as being launched with a bug-ridden O/S, long delivery delays and accompanied by the non-appearance of promised peripherals - all quite reminiscent of the Beeb's own machine.
A company called GST was commissioned last year to write an operating system for a machine that was to become the QL. This it did, but eventually it was decided not to use the end result and Sinclair Research's own O/S was chosen instead. GST is now going to be selling its product as an alternative to QDOS. The reason, it transpires, for the refusal was that GST had exceeded the memory limit by about 2k - ironic considering that Sinclair Research itself was exceeding the limit by a huge 9K by the time of release!

Q L   A F F A I R S
Presented by Leon Heller, Chairman of the Independent QL Users Group (IQLUG).
Users curious about how the QL works can get a full set of documentation for £35 (inclusive) from QJUMP, nn xxxx xxxxxx, xxxxxxx, xxxxxxxxx xxn nxx. QJUMP is Tony Tebby, who wrote QDOS for Sinclair. He's now left Sinclair Research and has acquired the distribution rights to the QL documentation. Be warned! The documentation will not be of much use to you unless you are an experienced MC68000 assembly language programmer! You also need access to a MC68000 assembler or cross-assembler; hand-assembly of MC68000 code is not recommended if you value your sanity!
Incidentally, I managed to get a copy of the QDOS documentation out of Sinclair Research, and it is quite excellent, which is more than can be said for some of the books published on the QL.
The QL User's Bureau (QLUB), Sinclair Research's much-vaunted users' group for the QL has at last managed to produce its first newsletter, entitled QLUB News. It's a slim document, comprising of just four pages, and a large proportion of this 'magnus opus' consists of blank space.
Sinclair Research invites contributions from QLUB
members and asks that letters be kept as brief as possible - presumably so that it can maintain an editorial policy of 50 per cent text and 50 per cent space in subsequent issues!
There are those who would wish to use an RGB colour monitor with their QL, and who are encountering some difficulty in making up a suitable cable (they don't seem to be available from Sinclair Research yet). The hard-to-get eight-pin DIN plugs are obtainable from: Maplin Electronic Supplies Ltd, xx xxxn, xxxxxxxx, xxxxx xxn nxx. The code to order is: FG40T (DIN Plug 8-pin) TQ 100; and the price is a mere 62p each. In fact, they're still hard-to-get since Maplin is out of stock as I write this, but at least you now know another source to order them from when supplies become plentiful.
Bristol software house Metacomco is producing a range of languages for the QL. Its first offering is likely to be an assembler and editor, followed by BCPL and C compilers ... and, for when the 0.5M memory expansion materialises, a LISP interpreter. They'll probably sell for around £100 each.
Sagesoft has completed its accounting software to run on the QL, the result to be marketed by Sinclair Research. The whole caboodle is likely to be quite expensive, however.
For some inexplicable reason, the software is not integrated with the Psion suite.
Member of IQLUG, Jeremy San, has written a terminal emulation program for the QL which will shortly be placed in the group's software library. Written in assembly language, the program's being 'tarted up' to allow the uploading and downloading of Microdrive files. Because of the limitations of the QL serial ports, Jeremy's been unable to make the program function satisfactorily with the standard 1200/75 baud Prestel service, but it works fine with a standard 300 baud modem for accessing computerised bulletin boards.
Sinclair Research is thinking seriously about putting the UNIX operating system on the QL. UNIX has hitherto been available only on minis and up- market micros like the Fortune. The QL will need the 0.5M RAM expansion and a sizeable hard disk (30M or so), but the move could make the QL a very popular machine with the universities.
IQLUG is a non-profit making independent QL users' group. Further details on the organisation are available from: Brian Pain, Acting Secretary, IQLUG, 24 Oxford Street, Stony Stafford, Milton Keynes, Bucks. Tel: 0908 564271.
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