Standards begin to fall
AS A REGULAR reader of Sinclair User with 11 editions under my belt, you may like to know some of my musings.
The standard of entries is, I am sure, beginning to fall, especially since the still birth of Spectrum User. I have owned a Spectrum since October, sweated blood with it in the early days and grown to love its basically good-natured, easy-going ways. It can, however, still be a bit of a pig - and that is where you come in.
You have to provide articles for those still finding their way round the keyboard and they should be of a high order but Sinclair users are growing up and your articles are not.
Now that Sinclair Programs is rising to dizzier heights, the listing of programs in Sinclair User have become more dross with gloss - no content at all worth incorporating in our programs.
It seems to me that only Hewson's column deserves a gold star, for your reviewers continue ad nauseum their soft-in-word-and-head approach to manufacturers' software. Let us see some bloody-mindedness for a change; other magazines do not seem so afraid to bite the benefactor's hand and, let us be honest, some expensive software is dreadful.
Your approach, however, seems to me to be the one Uncle Clive himself employs - shows promise, but exaggerates; misuses people's good nature.
You are spreading the jam too thickly with three magazines - Sinclair User, Sinclair Programs and Sinclair Projects. You antagonise ZX-81 users with Spectrum articles and vice versa. How about just two magazines - a ZX81/Timex 1000 magazine with programs, projects, news, views, and a ZX-831 Spectrum/Timex 2000 magazine? No separate programs. Your magazines will be more dedicated, more caring, more user-friendly, more profitable and, as computer succeeds computer, more easy to drop. I am sure Sinclair and his users would approve.
As an educational postscript, how about a listing from another computer - do not say BBC or Atari or Apple or Vic - fully analysed and translated into a Sinclair Basic listing.
How about a full list of PEEKs and POKEs for ZX81 and Spectrum on a plastic card and how about help in translating ZX-81 into Spectrumese?
May Sinclair User go on and on.
While not accepting the views, we understand that our readers have a variety of opinions which do not necessarily agree with our own. On the point about the numbers of magazines to serve the market, there are two ways it can be done. One is to have a magazine for each computer; the other is to have one for each type of user.
We think it better to make the split by the type of user Sinclair User for the general Sinclair owner, Sinclair Programs for the software enthusiast, and Sinclair Projects for the person who enjoys building add-ons.
In that way the magazines can adapt to change rather than launching a new magazine when a new machine reaches the market and disposing of an old one when the machines become less popular.
Adaptable RAM pack
IN MAY in the Hardware World article on our RAMLOK kit the author claims: "The RAM pack can be the only item used on the back of the ZX-81" and later "does not allow for the printer or any other device".
Those two statements are untrue. The fitting of our kit does not prevent the use of any other peripheral. If a ZX printer is used we recommend the use of the optional mounting bracket.
P J Turnbull, Adapt Electronics
THERE HAVE been many complaints about the ZX-81 voltage regulator causing problems. Remedies have been tried, such as cutting extra slots or holes in the case; using thermpath between the regulator and heatsink; drilling the heatsink to increase the dissipation; or even making a larger heatsink.
Those are all remedies which are not totally effective as they aim at easing the symptom, not the cause. Having tried some of the remedies with only minor effect, I measured the voltage from the power unit; it was supplying 10.5V at 550mA, so the poor voltage regulator was having to eliminate 5.5V. I therefore obtained a resistance of 4-5ohms which I placed in the lead and that drops the supply to about 8.5V; the rating of the resistor should be an absolute minimum of 2W, preferably 5W.
The ZX now runs very happily for very long periods and the keyboard is scarcely warm, whereas previously it was hot.
W D Langton
Figuring on 48K Spectrum
AN EDITORIAL published under the title of Figuring Things Out in the May issue of Sinclair User gives a brief account of University Software Library of Advanced Math/Stat/Econ. It is said that the "programs are available for the 16K ZX-81 and the 16K Spectrum. Tape one introduces matrix operations. The second explains polynomials."
From the enquiries concerning this editorial I understand that those three sentences leave the reader with the impression that our programs are not available for the 48K Spectrum and that tapes one and two "explain" only matrix operations and polynomials.
In fact, our range of software is available for 48K Spectrum as well as 16K ZX-81 and 16K Spectrum and tapes one and two are capable of carrying out all five matrix operations and computing the real roots of polynomials as well as explaining them.
B S Borar, Managing director, University Software
Testers for disabled aid
PLEASE ACCEPT my apologies. Some time ago I bought your magazine and felt that it left much to be desired. I was not impressed by the standard of materials or articles used. A short time ago I purchased the April edition and now believe I was over-critical and allowed my judgment to be clouded by snobbishness. I found the issue an excellent read and it contained some very good information.
One article in particular caught my imagination Disabled Aid brought to my attention the need for modern technology to be adapted for people with serious disability of the body but very intelligent and active minds. I was so motivated that I immediately set about writing a program to achieve a similar end to that of the Regis Amateur Micro Society.
The thought which occurred to me was that if a program could be written which required only one key to operate, then anyone with any movement in any part of the body could use the ZX-81 to communicate, write letters, or - in the case of a second mode in my program - to draw pictures.
I have since spent a number of hours writing a program which goes a long way to meeting those needs and includes some extra facilities. I require one or more such disabled people to test the program and the ease of adaptability.
My services to any of the people will be voluntary and my only aim is to give such disabled people a means of communicating easily with others at the price of the cost of a cheap micro - the program should be easily adapted to other micros - and such peripherals as may be necessary so that programs may be entered and saved, and that printouts may be made.
Radio hams united
CONGRATULATIONS on a well-presented and informative magazine. One area which is neglected is the amateur radio operators of the world. Most amateur operators are moving into the world of computers and the ZX-81 and Spectrum have the potential to open a new and exciting area of computing.
At the moment I am building a Morse code reader to interface to my 64K ZX-81 using a tone decoder and A/D converter.
I would like to hear from other readers who have information on Morse code readers or RTTY decoders suited to the ZX-81.
Is it possible to include perhaps one project per issue into Sinclair User as you do with program printout?
Spectrum versus Oric
REFERENCE John Gilbert's article on the Oric. I wish that people like him would write only informed articles and not the biased bunkum which seems to be the order of the day.
He has not understood how the Oric or the Spectrum works. His comment on saving variables - Spectrum uses LOAD DATA - the Spectrum has two facilities with variables; they can be saved with the program as per the Oric, or separately as a data file.
He says that the Oric has two modes of display, hi-res and normal. So has the Spectrum and it is easier to use the Oric has a peculiar additional screen flash when cleared. He has also skipped over the main display problem with the Oric where the ATTRibutes file and screen file are mixed, making a very complex colour set up when printing moving CHRS on the screen. I could go on and make a large list of items where the Oric does not even begin to compare to the very friendly Spectrum.
B G Cornhill
We agree that the Oric is not as user-friendly as the Spectrum but think that the reader has misunderstood the purpose of the article, which was to give an objective assessment of the Oric.
The Oric, which is more memory-efficient than the Spectrum, has two types of main screen format. You can switch between text and high-resolution graphics to use memory either for program and data or display. On the Spectrum you cannot do so and 7K of memory is always used for the high-resolution display.
Hooked on Sinclair
I BEGAN using my Spectrum and I discovered Sinclair User when a friend who also owned a Spectrum introduced it to me. Now when I read one month's issue I seem to enjoy it so much I cannot wait till the next month's is published. I would like to thank and congratulate the publishers of such an excellent magazine and it pleases me to think that owners of ZX computers can rely on Sinclair User for important and entertaining monthly news.
Scrolling for the Spectrum
I HAVE discovered a scroll trick for the Spectrum. While the computer is printing out a line a certain number of times it rather spoils it if the question "scroll?" appears at the bottom of the screen. I have overcome this simply by inserting the line INPUT INKEY$='Y' so the whole screen is scrolled up.
Also I have a small program which prints out a name 100 times in a sloping line:
5 BORDER 2: INK 7: PAPER J 10 INPUT "Your name?";a$ 20 FOR n=1 TO 100 30 PRINT TAB 17*n;a$ 40 INPUT INKEY$="y" 50 NEXT n