Technical uses need promoting
TODAY'S low-cost home computer - e.g., the Spectrum - is a sophisticated, powerful machine having the capabilities of the minicomputers of a decade ago which then cost £10,000-£15,000. Those expensive minis were properly used as tools for serious applications. So why is the £130 home computer not similarly used in the same roles?
Unfortunately they have become saddled with the image of toys.
It is clear that the potential serious user of a Spectrum, who is not interested in computing per se, is dissuaded from buying the computer, even at £130, to run one program. If it could be demonstrated that there was a library of genuinely useful programs available, low-cost computing would really begin to fulfil its promise.
I wonder whether Sir Clive has perceived this problem? It would be a pity if he rushed into bringing out a new business machine without first doing something to encourage and establish the Spectrum in the area of serious applications.
A start could be made by devoting space at all computer shows to demonstrations of serious software.
Serious application programs are, by their nature, often specialised, and the creation of individuals with expert knowledge of a particular field. Because of that, marketing can be both expensive and difficult - the intended user tends not to be a computer buff and does not buy computer magazines.
In an attempt to alleviate the problem I am preparing a software directory of genuinely useful technical programs available for the Spectrum.
The directory will be titled Spectrum Technical Software. If any of your readers would like to participate, they should write to me for a questionnaire.
G A Rooker, Beamscan
ACCORDING to the Spectrum manual, if a number is substituted for "x" in the program below a circle will be drawn. I have found that with certain numbers substituted for "x" a geometrical figure is drawn repeatedly ending in a high-resolution pattern between two circles. Good numbers to demonstrate it are 525 - which draws a triangle and rotates it - 625 and 4125.
10 PLOT 100,50: DRAW 100,100,x.
Listing script under fire
AS A NEWCOMER to home computing, having recently acquired a 48K Spectrum, may I say how interesting, informative and really helpful I have found Sinclair User?
I do not propose to join the correspondence about wasted space devoted to illustration in your program listing pages but I would like to ask why you find it necessary to publish program listings in what I can only describe as infuriating pseudo-television script. I find listings so printed difficult to read on occasions, though your magazine is certainly better than some I have seen in this respect. Surely it is possible to use a conventional and more easily legible form of type face while retaining the uniform 32 characters per line which Spectrum listings seem to require. Why not keep the television script to the place where it belongs - the television screen?
J H Sharpe
The script we use for the listings is not governed by any aesthetic qualities but by the practicalities of publishing accurate programs. The system we use is to check the program and then list it directly from the machine, thus reducing the possibility of mistakes which can creep in. The alternative would be to have the listings printed which would increase the possibility of errors.
How valuable are they?
I AM WRITING for assistance with a series of articles to illustrate how microcomputers are playing an increasingly valuable role as a low cost aid to management.
Can I ask readers to write to me with their experiences of installing a micro at work, be it a ZX-81 or an IBM? What problems they have encountered in software and hardware? Did the salesperson know what they were selling? Did, and was the buyer aware of the limitations of the computer he was being offered? Was the software adequate for the task for which it was bought? If not, what difficulties were encountered?
SU should be in binder
COULD YOU tell me if a binder is available for Sinclair Users?
We are considering making binders available and will keep readers informed.
Making your ZX-81 organic
I HAVE found that you can get sound out of a 16K ZX-81 by writing in these lines: POKE USR 1,1 then press "ENTER" and you will see your screen scattered with squares, so press enter once more and you will see the screen go blank.
If you press keys on the top e.g., 1, 2, 3, low pitches of sound will be heard and if you press Q, A or Z the pitch of the sound will become higher. Therefore the ZX-81 can be used as an organ.
Standards can be improved
HAVING READ articles and typed programs from the two magazines, Sinclair User and Sinclair Programs, I can safely say that the standard of the two magazines is on the whole extremely high. Occasionally one or two articles and some programs have not been up to the usual standard.
I think the standard could be raised even further by featuring bi-monthly competitions on a certain subject, i.e., a datafile or a computer versus man game - the computer taking the place of the missing person and fulfilling certain requirements. I am sure your staff can think of certain subjects which have been neglected.
Another improvement would be to incorporate more machine code routines which can improve the speed and the graphic displays of the ZX-81. Somewhere in the computer-riddled homes of Britain there must be someone who can supply such routines.
Can anyone supply more two-player games? At the moment the majority of all games - I would say a rough estimate of 78 out of 80 games cater for a single player.
W M Juned
We are always looking for more complicated games and listings and anyone who has written something like that should send it immediately.
Aid for deaf requested
I AM retired and British. One of my granddaughters, aged 11, is profoundly deaf - 98 percent; she attends a special school and the school and the education authority do not seem to understand the potential of computers in furthering her education. She is normal and intelligent in other ways.
I understand that there are a number of suitable programs developed for this type of handicap but they do not seem to be available in the U.K.
Are there suitable programs for use with the Spectrum 48K? It is very difficult living here and trying to get information.
Useful list of pokes and calls
I HAVE compiled a list of useful pokes and calls to the ROM which all ZX-81 users will find very helpful when programming. They are:
RAND USR 963 - Clears program area
Note that the amount of memory the computer has is not important when using these commands.
Picking up the points
HERE ARE a few tips I would like to share with other readers. Before playing Jetpac, tape down the "ENTER" key with some adhesive tape. That helps a great deal because it fires continuously and all you have to do is MOVE. In Hungry Horace you can gain a great deal of points by slightly hitting the bell and then moving back. Every time you are under the bell you will hear a "grating" beep. Your score goes up until you move away from the bell.
When Cyber Rats has loaded, you will be asked to enter "2" for a two-player game and "S" to start. If instead you press "CAPS SHIFT" and "BREAK" the program will NEW, together with the USER DEFINED GRAPHICS. Is that a bug in the program?
Patterns from E-mode
I HAVE found that on my Spectrum the TRUE VIDEO and the INV. VIDEO commands do not always work. For example, I typed in a line using INV. VIDEO and closed the brackets and I could not get it back to normal print.
I have found that you can get it into normal print by ... Getting Extended Mode (E) and press the 7 key on its own, so then after you do that you can get normal print.
You can make patterns using E mode and keys 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 0.
Sean Simmons (11)
Early retirement for corner man
WHAT HAS happened to the little man on the corner of each page of Sinclair User? I have not seen him since the March issue. Is he ill, dead or on holiday? Wherever he is, please bring him back.
Sinclair User is a very good magazine but for two points. First, as many others, I think too much space is wasted on program pages with drawings; second, let us see some decent programs in machine code which permit smooth movement of graphics and the like.
Following the change of layout some months ago we decided that because of lack of space we should give the little man an early retirement, which we felt he deserved after many months of sterling service.