Your Spectrum
Issue 9, November 1984 - Rumbles & Concurrent Affairs
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Clive cartoon
Our sleuth on the software scene, Ron Smith reveals the rumours.

Earlier this year the BBC filled its early Saturday evening spot with an American series that was all about the adventures of a computer whizzkid and his machine- projected, holographic friend, known as Automan.
Exciting stuff, eh? Anyway, spotting a good theme for a computer game, Liverpool-based Bug-Byte decided to pursue the idea, and is now working on a Spectrumised version which should be in the shops just before Christmas.
According to B-B
boss, John Phillips, the game will begin with an underworld consortium having stolen the design of the program to create and control Automan, which they use to produce an evil facsimile. That, of course, will never do, so it's up to the player to find the impostor's controller and destroy the program - a task which will only be possible after working through the game's two main modules.
The first of these will be a cartoon adventure in which animated characters move around on what John describes as a lifelike display, while carrying a variety of objects and performing an equally varied selection of tasks. Exactly what these objects are, or what dangerous deeds are to be performed, JP isn't saying. Anyway, on to phase two.
This is where it'll all happen, because the impostor's controller will have to be chased through a 3D display of Manhattan skyscrapers to his home base, where there'll be a cartoon showdown as you try to destroy this techno- criminal's computer and black out the impostor Automan. The game - predictably entitled Automan - will probably sell for £6.95.
Short of fresh programming talent, Dream Software decided to place one or two discreetly worded advertisements offering heavy-readies, eternal life and super-stardom (but definitely no Porches) to anyone who had written, or was writing, a nifty piece of Spectrum code. Well, quick as lightning - via bush telegraph - came a promising-looking reply. It was from an Australian lady who was working on a program
called Crystal Caverns, the aim of which is being kept quiet, mainly because finding out what it's all about is part of the game. However, Dream spokesman, Keith Williams, says that the final program will feature a few railway carriages littered about and a ventriloquist's dummy (who just happens to be a prince who's been zapped by a spell some time in the distant past) to help the player through what's claimed to be a very hard game.
The release date hasn't yet been fixed, but it'll probably be some time in November, though a minor miracle could bring this forward a little. The price will be in the traditional £4 to £6 price range.
Mastertronic, the cheap games outfit, say they've had such a good response to two games written previously for some lesser-known micro (the CBM64?) that they're currently converting them to run on the Spectrum. The first is BMX Racers, which features the player astride his trusty cycle, passing bushes, lakes, trees, pedestrians, park wardens and so on, as he braves the various jumps and tries to cope with unexpected oil slicks - all in an effort to get along the track as far as possible.
The other game, which sounds less than original, is all about leaving a spaceship and venturing into deep space to rescue a satellite that's floating aimlessly about. Of course, the obligatory aliens are present and these should be either blasted or avoided; blasting them will result in the player scoring more points.
Both games should be available some time in January and will sell for the famous Mastertronic's price of £1.99.

Our man at the PCW Show, John Torofex, got out and about to check out the rumours of the moment - here's his report ...

At long last, it looks as though the QL backlog may have been sorted out. The hard evidence comes in the form of Sinclair Research minions distributing QLs to any lucky punters who happened to be strolling around the PCW Show with £399 in their hot and sweaty hands.
I even saw one disgruntled owner wheeling a faulty machine up to the stand to have it replaced with a shiny new one in seconds - there was only a brief altercation between the parties, but I'm sure the publicity wouldn't have done Sinclair Research much good, especially at its first real opportunity to sell the machines. I never found out what happened to the punter I saw wearing the "I've already had two broken QLs" badge though ...

If you're feeling LISPless, not to worry - the word is that LISP, the list-processing language frowned upon by the Artificial Intelligence fraternity, has been implemented on the QL. And who should take on this great
task? None other than the programmer who developed it for the BBC Micro.

Version 'JM' of the QL firmware ('JM' standing for its programmer, John Mathesson, by the way), which is intended to be the final version, appears to have a brand new bug which never troubled the 'AR' version (the one that preceded it, for all you QL watchers). Someone I know who wrote a 68000 assembler in SuperBasic on his 'AH' machine was more than put out to find the program wouldn't run on the latest version.
Chatting to the staff down on the Sinclair Research stand, the aggrieved programmer was first informed that his program was faulty and then - once he'd demonstrated it on an 'AH' machine - was told by David Karlin that he'd be "looking into it". Watch this space for developments.

Although rumours are emerging that Sinclair Research QL software duplication is done by a number of people running between machines, there's talk of a new wonder-machine being used for this purpose. This specially designed microcomputer-controlled duplication system will be able to copy many more cartridges at a time from a master cartridge. But don't worry too much about the people it's replacing - apparently, someone still has to put the blank cartridges in and take the
loaded ones out ... the miracle of modern science!

Getting on to some of the other companies caught up in the affairs of the QL, OE Ltd is developing a professional quality modem. Using a single chip, the modem will connect the single baud rate serial port of the QL to the 1200/75 baud rate necessary for Prestel and generate the requisite Prestel frequencies. The device is expected to be able to auto-dial and auto-answer, and includes some very sophisticated software. I wouldn't expect too much change from £200 though.
There's also some news on the software front as well ... from Computer One of Cambridge. It's just announced an editor/assembler package (partly written in SuperBasic) and a Pascal compiler; Forth is on its way, as is a touch-typing program. Prices are said to be in the £20-30 range. You'll also find an editor/assembler from Metacomco - this one's priced at £59.
68K/OS, an alternative to QDOS, is now available from GST for just under £100. The software is in EPROM and plugs into the expansion port. A switch is provided so that you can select either QDOS or 68K/OS.
In last month's QL Affairs Leon Heller suggested that you could get 8-pin DIN plugs to connect up your RGB colour monitor from Maplin Electronic Supplies Ltd. Well I'm afraid they're the wrong ones. Instead try Videk Ltd, xxxxx xxxxx, nn xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxx, xxxxxxxx, xxxxxxxxx. The connectors are only 40p.
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