A SPECTRUM with a 'real' keyboard has been released by Sinclair Research. The new Spectrum sells for £179.95 and includes a new manual with colour diagrams and six items of software, including Tasword 2, Scrabble, Chequered Flag and VU-3D.
Sir Clive Sinclair says the product is aimed squarely at potential buyers of the Commodore 64. "Market research showed people thought the Spectrum was a better computer, but preferred the Commodore 64 because of its keyboard".
The decision to launch the package without advance publicity, was taken because of criticism over the handling of the QL launch. "We wanted to make absolutely sure the Spectrum+ was in the shops when it was launched," says Sir Clive. "Otherwise nobody would have believed us".
SANTA CLAUS has been roped in to help Creative Sparks with its Christmas software push.
The company's new game Special Delivery, for the 48K Spectrum turns the player into Uncle Santa who must be guided across the sky to drop presents on eager children. All the action is accompanied by what Creative Sparks calls suitable seasonal music.
Gordon Reid, product manager for Creative Sparks says: "Special Delivery makes an ideal Christmas gift, and games players will also be able to use it beyond the Christmas period, as it features four separate screens of play and fine animation graphics". If you want a dose of seasonal jollity then it costs £6.95 from high street stores. Ten out of ten for being quick on the bail but zero for lasting appeal.
ACCORDING to Sinclair Research it is theoretically possible to link Spectrum microdrives to the drive extension port at the righthand side of the QL.
The only problem is that the cartridge access slot must face backwards, which means that the insertion of cartridges is made very difficult.
The cable also has to be reversed in order that the connection can be made to the third microdrive. That still does not guarantee that the connection will be good enough for the ZX drive to work perfectly.
If you manage to get all the bits and pieces working then you can use the usual microdrive commands. The ZX microdrive will provide an inexpensive alternative to the QL microdrives which have yet to be launched.
THE COMPANY which brought the world Sabre Wulf, Ultimate, has just released two sequels to the game.
The two new titles are Underwurlde and Knight Lore. The first is similar to Sabre Wulf as it takes place in the same Underwurlde with hundreds of monsters to fight in a wide variety of different locations.
Knight Lore, on the other hand, is what Ultimate describes as "the first step in the new generation of computer adventure simulation developments which represents the very pinnacle of software development on the 48K Spectrum".
The scenario is portrayed in 3D representation with sprite aliens and monsters. The Sabreman character has over 200 individual frames and Ultimate claims that he is "the most animated character in computing software history to date".
NO SOONER had Neil Kinnock opened the Labour Party pages on the Micronet 800 database and telesoftware service than an order was sent through to shut them off from public view.
Accusations as to who gave the order have been flying from a number of sources but Dr Jeremy Bray, Labour spokesman for science and technology, puts the blame on Sir George Jefferson, chairman of British Telecom, who issued a policy directive last year that sought to make sure that videotext services did not develop a party political bias after an attempt by the SDP to advertise through Prestel during the 1983 general election.
Dr Bray put out an official statement claiming "Sir George did not check on the legality of such discrimination. To classify religion and politics with prostitution and crime while purveying share prices, exchange rates and the weather, betrays a singularly perverted view of society".
British Telecom denies that it got involved with the banning of Labour from the services public view pages. A spokesman for the company claimed that the Labour Party did not have an agreement with BT but with Telemap, an organisation which rents a large number of videotext pages from Prestel. It has to act in accordance with the Viewdata Industry Association and its practice of banning the use of pages open to the public to political parties or their viewpoints. The spokesman went on to say that it had been Telemap which had ordered the ban and that BT had brought no pressure to bear on the company.
Micronet firmly denies the claim and insists that the order came down through Prestel to Telemap. Meanwhile, Dr Bray has written to Secretary for Trade and Industry, Norman Tebbit, to ask him to intervene in the dispute with BT.
He says that the pages on Micronet are important if the Labour Party is to continue its link with members using viewdata.
A LUXURY reception at London's Ritz hotel marked the presentation of the Cambridge Award, co-sponsored by Sinclair User and Cases Computer Simulations, by Nigel Searle, managing director of Sinclair Research.
The winning entry, The Prince, for the 48K Spectrum, was written by John Sherry who received a trophy and a cheque for £2,000.
David Bark, Nicholas Holgate, John Sherry, Nigel Searle, Stephen Thomas, Thomas Frost.
The four runners up, Thomas Frost of Angus, Nicholas Holgate of Camberley, David Bark of Stranraer and Stephen Thomas of Luton, were presented with cheques for £250. Their programs, together with The Prince, are to be published by CCS.
Nigel Searle was pleased that Sinclair User and CCS sponsored the award and for "encouraging intellectually stimulating and entertaining games". He reminded the audience comprising national and computer press, television and radio representatives that the United Kingdom "had the highest penetration of home computer ownership in the world" and referred to the need to develop software to match the increasing power of home computers.
A WEEKEND in Paris for two is the prize being offered by Star Dreams for the first person to complete its new adventure The Sandman Cometh.
It is a bizarre game featuring dream sequences, each set with its own series of logical problems. The program was devised and created by the same person who wrote Aural Quest for the Stranglers' last LP. It was written by a team of programmers in a one year period.
The game is packaged as a parody of a motion picture and opens with film-style credits and a loading screen which looks like the Board of Censors certificate.
Richard Hildrick, a 15-year-old from York was the lucky winner of a QL, first prize in a competition run by dk'tronics. He personally picked up the first prize at the company headquarters in Saffron Walden, Essex. The runners up were Andrew Fairholm, from Rugby, Simon Harvey, from Hampshire, and Mark Middleton of Lincolnshire.
OWNERS of ZX-81s can now buy budget software, under £2.00, for their machines.
A new company called Pooter Games has joined the ranks of the budget software suppliers which include such salubrious companies as Mastertronic, Pulsonic, Atlantis and Virgin Games. Its programs will not be sold by mail order but will shortly find their way into high street stores. The £1.85 range includes Handles, a game for CB radio enthusiasts and Binary Brains, for those who want to know more about binary numbers.
The Spectrum budget scene also has a new member in the form of a company which modestly calls itself Omega, the last word in software. It is made up of several computer companies such as Anirog, Computer Rental Limited and Silversoft. Its members want to cause a stir with a product standard so high many software houses would have released its first twelve games at a much higher price.
Its range of £1.99 games for the Spectrum include Chambers of Horrors, Pool, Corruption and Handy Andy. Could this be the end of the software market as we know it?
THE CAMPAIGN to help sufferers of multiple sclerosis was further aided when the £2,100 royalties for Stuart Henry's Pop Quiz from Bellflower Software was handed over to the Radio Luxembourg disc jockey by Bucks Fizz stars Cheryl Baker and Mike Nolan.
The money has been raised by Bellflower and WH Smith from sales of the popular computer game for the 48K Spectrum which tests players' pop knowledge.
Stuart Henry suffers from the disease of the nervous system and the Multiple Sclerosis Society operates a research fund in his name. David Gordon, director of Bellflower, says: "Everyone who has bought the program so far has made a contribution to vital research into finding a cure for MS. We hope more people will take up the challenge of Stuart Henry's Pop Quiz so we can have more presentations".
BANDERSNATCH, one of the Imagine mega-games, has surfaced.
Last seen heading off into the sunset with directors Ian Heatherington and David Lawson, the game has come back to life in the Sinclair Research stables. Heatherington and Lawson are doing their best to finish a QL version for Alison Maguire, the Sinclair software manager. She says, "The games have enormous technical and marketing potential. They are at once complex, challenging and very exciting and will be ideal for the type of QL user we envisage".
The programmers are working on a fee basis for Sinclair Research but all the royalties will go to Imagine creditors via the official liquidator, Christopher Chambers, who arranged the Sinclair resurrection of the product. He says that it offers "very significant potential to recover monies for Imagine's unsecured creditors".
According to Sinclair spokesman Julian Goldsmith the new mega-game is due for release in the first quarter of next year. It could be ROM based but, he says, it is more likely to be stored on microdrive as it needs a substantial amount of memory - more than 100K.
The final format of the game has yet to be decided. Goldsmith says, "We are giving ourselves as long as possible to get it right. That would mean a release in the early or middle part of 1985".
BUDGET software house Mastertronic has taken over distribution of the former Imagine titles taken on by Beau-Jolly.
The deal is backed by £250,000 of TV advertising which will cover the British ITV network. Beau-Jolly is confident of reaching a target audience of more than 20 million viewers.
Distribution and advertising will focus on special Christmas packs of games. There's a six-pack for the 48K Spectrum and a four-pack for 16K Spectrum owners. Games will include established titles such as Arcadia and Alchemist but some new games, such as Cosmic Cruiser and BC Bill will also be put into the packages.
Colin Ashby, a director of Beau-Jolly, says "Mastertronic got it right from the word go, and we are very pleased to be working with them. The market for budget games is large and growing larger, and we believe that some manufacturers are still failing to reach it. The fact that Mastertronic have sold well over a half a million games in what is supposed to be the quiet season demonstrates this".
TOM DAVIES, winner of the Melbourne House HURG competition for the Spectrum is presented with a cheque for £2,500 by John Gilbert, deputy editor of Sinclair User.
The winning entry, written using the HURG games designer, features a character called Tim Drum who has to produce a record soundtrack using notes which he has created.
The idea, created by Davies, is to be sold by Melbourne House.
THOSE hoping that the sequel to Jet Set Willy will be released before Christmas are in for a disappointment as Software Projects does not intend to launch the game until the spring of 1985.
Matthew Smith and company director Alan Maton are still thinking about what should go into the game. Smith has some very definite ideas but only a few of them are printable. "Somewhere in the game we are going to have an Alice in Wonderland character". He says that there are some problems with that idea. "You can show a voluminous skirt in 16X16 pixels very well but you can't have any features".
The other reason for the delay is that Smith wants to include a hardware based add-on which will be of use to Spectrum owners even when not playing the game.
Meanwhile Software Projects have launched a game called Lode Runner, which is a levels and ladders game in which the player has to collect blocks from a screen which is re-definable.
A DRAMATIC development in graphics technique has been claimed in a recently launched game for the 48K Spectrum by new company Sterling Software.
Country Cottages, its first game for the Sinclair machine, uses landscape creation - a technique similar to that used in the Beyond Lords of Midnight, in which over 30,000 views of objects and places can be drawn using algorithms within the program.
Sterling, an off-shoot of reference book publisher Sterling Publications, claims that Country Cottages can draw infinite views of the surroundings with which the players are faced in this two-player strategy game.
After that the plot is much more mundane, being somewhat like Monopoly, in which the purchase and sale of properties is important.
The package of releases for Christmas also includes the first in a series of adventure games featuring ace secret spy the Ice Man, in a plot called Assignment East Berlin. The next in the series is already at the planning stage and is called Assignment Hong Kong.
THE YEARLY pre-tax profits for Sinclair Research are significantly less than expected.
For 1983-84 profits were £14.28 million whereas the previous financial year they were £14.03m. Company turnover, however, rose by 42 percent from £54.53 million to £77.69 million.
Sir Clive Sinclair, writing in the annual company report says that the low profit figure was largely due to the launch of major products such as the QL and the pocket television which 'added greatly to costs in the year but little to sales'.
He did have hope for the coming year. "Our Spectrum computer continues to gain in sales. Pocket television production is increasing and we hope to expand sales abroad next calendar year.
"Export sales have increased steadily and there has been rapid growth in the home market. Export sales are expected to increase as a percentage of total sales".
Looking into the future, something that Sir Clive is always doing, he stressed the company's 'strong technical leadership which we expect to enhance now that our advanced research laboratory, MetaLab, is established'.
BRITISH TELECOM has launched its own software house, Firebird, and its range of products includes six budget games for the Spectrum.
The company does not employ in-house programmers but buys software on a royalty basis.
The initial titles for the Spectrum include two arcade games, an arcade adventure and a war strategy program. The difference between Firebird's products and that of rival software houses is in its packaging. Firebird puts screen shots of games on the cassette insert so that potential customers will know what they are getting. Richard Hooper, Chief Executive of BT's Value Added Systems and Services says: "You can now judge a game by its cover. In a market where quality and prices tend to be variable and complaints of misrepresentation frequent, Firebird is setting new standards."
The first titles cost £2.50 each and Firebird sees that as excellent value for money. "Despite the pocket money price Firebird games will offer the same quality as some products costing twice as much. Firebird is committed to the home computer market and will deal only through established distributors."
Sir Clive Sinclair was to he seen clutching the QL for the inevitable photographs at the launch, held at Claridges, of two new guides for QL software, QL Quill and QL Easel.
The books written by Alison and Clare Spottiswoode and Francesca Simon, are their first venture under their new company Blueprint.
The books are aimed at the first time user who has no experience of word processing and business graphics. Both books will sell at £7.95 and are published by Century Communications.
A COMPUTER capable of creative thought is the incredible claim put forward in a new book from Viking Press, a division of Penguin Books.
The Creative Computer, by Donald Michie and Rory Johnston, shows how it is possible for computers to create new knowledge in order to solve the major problems facing humanity such as disease, economic stagnation and international strife.
The authors' findings are based on a major new discovery which is only now emerging from the world's most advanced computer laboratories. It is based on the new technology of expert systems, computers that contain accumulated knowledge upon which they can make judgements and the ability of computers not just to make predictions but also to show reasons for doing so.
Issues within the book involve philosophy, religion, ethics, the arts and politics giving it a wide appeal to readers outside the computer field. It costs £12.95 and can be obtained from Viking Press, London.
SELLING and buying micros or software is no longer a problem according to Micro Mart, a new fortnightly newspaper published by ECC Publications, which consists of advertisements and looks like a computer version of Exchange and Mart.
It is aimed at the two and a half million users of home computers, a third of whom say that they will upgrade to new machines within the next twelve months.
Micro Mart costs 35 pence and carries classified and display advertising for private and business sales. Its first print run was 70,000 copies and was backed by a £100,000 television, radio and press advertising campaign.
Barry Hazel, assistant managing director of ECC, explains how the company became concerned with the need to fill the niche in the magazine market. "Through our existing involvement in publishing in the micro business, we were very aware of the increasingly high turnover of products amongst customers and suspected that the market was now big enough to justify - and support - a magazine devoted entirely to buying and selling computers and computer-related products.
"Our slogan for Micro Mart is 'the buy-word for selling computers' and all the signs are that it has a very healthy future."