Decline and fall of micro empires?
ON YOUR FIRST news page of issue 29 four news items were covered. No less than three of those were about companies in financial difficulties or going into liquidation. Imagine, Carnell and Lynx are all well-known names to computer enthusiasts, but even they have trouble keeping alive.
Is this the start of the decline of home computers? Will the computer industry disappear as fast as it sprung up? High-priced tapes and pirating have a lot to do with it but so have advertisements in computer magazines, and no-one says anything about that. Those big, double-paged, glossy and colourful adverts must run into thousands of pounds.
I fear that home computing is on the decline and too much commercialisation and greed is corrupting the industry.
I THOUGHT you might be interested in hearing of two ways in which you can save money when using the Sinclair Interface 1 with a printer. Do not spend £14.95 buying a special lead from Sinclair, buy a 10 ft joystick extension cable from Tandy, cut off the end that does not fit in the RS232 socket and solder a D-Submini 25 Female connector to the open end. The cable was £2.99 and the plug £4.69. I thus saved £7.27. It is easy enough to find out which of the nine wires to solder using a battery and bulb to complete a circuit.
I also have a Brother EP44 which you reviewed in July. Despite what you say, if you have listings without graphics it is a great machine. I found the smooth paper rather expensive though - £2.00 per 100 sheets at Rymans but Discount Stationery Supplies sell Liquid Toner Copier Paper - Super Smooth Bond - for only £2.35 per 500 sheets.
The mad Sir Clive?
I READ WITH INTEREST Sir Clive's speech to the U.S. Congressional Clearing house on the Future printed in your August issue. Although I agree that some of the ideas he predicts for the future are possible I am wondering if he is turning into a mad scientist in predicting that man could create a life form better than himself.
Before predicting such nightmares Sir Clive should consider that nothing science will ever create will surpass man, as neither science nor man will never understand the full power of the human mind. Man's brain and body may eventually be created but man's consciousness is not of physical nature and definitely cannot be created by human science or copied by computer software no matter how complex.
User of the century
IN REPLY to the gentleman who asks whether he is the oldest Spectrum user at the age of 72, I can tell you that he is not. We have one customer who bought a Spectrum when he was 86 years old and he uses it for household accounts.
G S Tickner
I WAS RECENTLY re-reading copies of Sinclair User and saw a program for the 16K ZX-81 called Machine Code Converter, in the 1983 April issue.
Could you please tell me whether it is possible or not to convert this program to the Spectrum. If it is not possible could you please list names of software on the market which do convert Spectrum Basic into machine code.
Readers who entered the Program referred to were amused - and in some cases annoyed - to find the screen displayed a message reminding them of an ancient British custom associated with the first day of April. Nevertheless it is possible to convert Basic into machine code using a compiler. One of the best is FP Compiler from Softek.
Virgin Golf error
AS THE WRITER of the Virgin Golf game mentioned in your "Software for the Spectrum Sportsman" article in the August issue, I was dismayed to see that you continue to refer to it as a 16K Spectrum game.
Anyone buying the cassette gets the 16K version on one side, and the 48K version - which is very much enhanced - on the other, so it will cater for owners of either machine.
The unmusical box
HAVING ENDURED the lifeless beep obtainable from the Spectrum for what seemed like an eternity, I decided to invest in a Fuller Box. Yes, I did mention Fuller, the company whose delivery dates make Sinclair seem reasonable and who are more difficult to contact than Lord Lucan.
I placed my order in November 1983 and received my Fuller Box in February, four months later.
The unit is a good piece of hardware, when it works; the only drawback is the manual - two pieces of paper folded immaculately into triangles - which explains how to program the joystick port and how to turn on and off the various channels of the sound chip. It fails to point out the most important thing to me, that being the numbers corresponding to notes such as C,D,A,F#, thus preventing me from producing a tuneful song. I have tried producing notes from the Fuller Box and comparing them to known notes from the Spectrum speaker, but to no avail. Does anyone in the world know how to produce real notes from the Fuller Box?
Microdrive cartridges with built-in obsolescence
WITH DISMAY I am joining the ranks of dissatisfied owners of Sinclair Microdrives. After an hour or so of use loading programs from cartridge becomes increasingly difficult. The drive whirrs on and on, finally stopping with the message "FILE NOT FOUND". I suspect that to be caused by overheating in the Spectrum and hopefully it will be remedied by fitting the PCB into a larger housing.
My irritation grew when one day the cartridge supplied with the drive suddenly failed to load. The same message repeatedly appeared on the screen: "Microdrive not connected". Other cartridges functioned normally. The only recourse was formatting the cartridge and erasing all existing files but again the same puzzling message appeared.
The cartridge is now useless. The instruction booklet for the Microdrive warns that cartridges will not last forever but that is ridiculous, it is barely two months old. Considering the price of cartridges - in Holland they cost nearly £7.00 - that is quite unacceptable.
With the recent appearance of low-cost disk drives which operate on the Interface 1 ROM, I am gnashing my teeth for not having waited a little longer for a more reliable fast access storage system.
LAST CHRISTMAS we purchased a 48K Spectrum for our 11 year old daughter, Julie.
She is so thrilled with the computer, I decided to knit her a jumper. This has won many a compliment along the street.
Mrs H Munckton
AFTER READING the letter by A F Anslow in Sinclair User, June 1984, I sent my Spectrum to ComputaFix, since it had stopped producing colours on the screen.
It was returned, by registered parcel, in just over a week. Not only were the colours restored, but their clarity and accuracy were greatly improved. Furthermore, the company had installed the PCB into its dk'tronics case somewhat more neatly than I had ever managed - see the article by John Lambert in the same issue of Sinclair User for an account of the difficulties in fitting it.
In short, not only did Computa-Fix repair my Spectrum, but it was returned in better condition than it had ever been in the first place. For £21.85, I think that is unbeatable.
I D Budden
Howzat over priced
THANK YOU for the excellent review you gave to our game Howzat in the August 1984 edition of Sinclair User. We were pleased to see it reviewed alongside other Spectrum cricket games.
At the end of your article the prices of all games were printed. Howzat was said to cost £6.95 when in fact it retails at £5.50. We would be pleased to see this corrected so that your many readers may not be misled.
Roger & Pauline Smith, Wyvern Software
Good and bad news
I HAVE some good news and some bad news about Sinclair User. The good news first: I find your reviews on software, hardware and books excellent and Quentin Heath's Mind Games page is very helpful.
Now for the bad news; all your articles on programming are very complicated and Hit Squad is the worst thing since roller boots. Now I have got that out of my system I ask the answer to one simple question; Is the Comcon programmable joystick interface any good?
The Comcon joystick interface is reviewed this month in Hardware World.
A FEW MONTHS ago I acquired a Kempston joystick interface and a joystick; I also recently acquired a ZX interface 1 and two Microdrives.
At the rear of the Interface 1 is an expansion port similar to the one on the rear of the Spectrum. The Kempston interface fits into this port perfectly but the joystick will no longer fit into the port on it, because the Spectrum is at an angle and it gets in the way of the port. That means every time I want to use the joystick, I must remove the Interface 1 and it also means that no programs can be loaded from microdrive that need a Kempston joystick.
Why can't the leading hardware manufacturers decide on designs that are compatible?