Pirate bashing is puritanical
THE rather sanctimonious letter of Andrew Turek bemoaning children who copy programmes because they can't afford the originals - January Sinclair User - should be taken with a pinch of salt, because of what he left unsaid.
If it is wrong for children to "pirate" games, can the often extortionate prices charged by some software houses be morally defensible?
Most people I see buying games programs in Telford are children, and the attitude pervading part of the industry is summed up in a short story by Robert Heinlein - The Man Who Sold The Moon - in which two rather dubious characters say '"... I want an angle to squeeze dimes out of school kids, too." ... "Why stop at a dime?".'
An old business maxim is 'charge what the market will bear.' School-child piracy indicates that the price is generally higher than the market will bear, but that greedy or stupid software makers will not see it. Some houses have and are to be praised.
Perhaps children are not the willing dupes that the 'adults' - and I use the word with reservations - controlling some software houses seem to hope, and will refuse to use their pocket money to subsidise the financial aspirations of people who want to get rich very quick.
Could Mr Turek please explain the difference to readers of Sinclair User between a software house deliberately setting out to market a copy of a board game without first bothering to obtain the permission of the legitimate copyright holders, and a school child who makes one copy of a game for a friend?
The answer is, of course, that the software house hires an army of lawyers to prove why they should be allowed to pirate other people's work.
Right and wrong exist for people who make things as well as for those who use them, and it is high time that everyone realised that.
IN REPLY to the comments on pirate-copying, may I say that here in Zimbabwe there is really no other way of obtaining games but by copying. There are no personal computer stores here, so we have to order from Britain or South Africa.
However, we are only allowed an allowance of Z$360 - which is about £200 - per person, per year. We must live on this when we go on holidays outside the country. That amount must also be used to buy hardware and software. If you do you have to pay a 69 per cent customs tax. A Spectrum bought privately here, with no extras, costs Z$800.
New improved print driver
WHILE agreeing with all that is said in your review of the Print-SP, Spectrum Centronics Interface - January, Hardware World - we feel that the heading of 'New COPY causes corruption' is confusing if not misleading. May we point out what your reviewer has very correctly said, that if the printer driver routine has already been loaded then a NEW command should not be executed.
We have accepted his constructive criticism and Print-SP is now supplied with a second printer driver routine which resides above RAMTOP.
Print-SP is meant to be a low cost, utilitarian unit. Those who want a sophisticated unit will have to wait a few weeks longer for our Polyprint which displays and prints in up to eight languages.
L Dicks, Cambridge Microelectronics
Up against a brick wall
I HAVE Knight Lore from Ultimate but I find it very hard. I can't get over or around walls.
Try standing on one of the objects which you have collected, not forgetting to pull it up after you as you jump over.
Reviews are influential
I FIRST bought Sinclair User six months ago, before I bought my Spectrum. Using the ads and features I was able to plan ahead, and know exactly what I wanted from my machine and the software available.
My favourite section is Spectrum Software Scene because you show an exact copy of the tape on the TV screen, one thing that put me off buying TLL, by Vortex.
Good luck in the future with your mag. You've got it right.
S P Strong
Last word on Sabre Wulf
I AM just writing to update the Sabre Wulf affair.
I finished the game on a much earlier date than June 7, in fact before it was made generally available. My dad, who owns a software shop in the Outer Hebrides, was given a pre-production copy.
I decided that five minutes work was not worth writing about, until now.
I claim to be mega super incredible amazing wonderful Sabre Wulf King.
P.S. I finished (my first go) with a score of 300 (clocked 8 times) and 99%.
THE REPLY given by Andrew Hewson to Mike Hughes' query - January 1985 - is unnecessarily complicated. The query concerned the suppression of the "start tape and press any key" prompt when saving multiple program parts. In fact this can be achieved by a simple POKE before each part which is to be saved, POKE 23736,181.
In a program the line which does all the saving would look something like
5000 SAVE "TITLES" DATA A$(): POKE 23736,181: SAVE "AUTHORS" DATA B$(): POKE 23736,181: SAVE "SUBJECT" DATA C$()
It is not advisable to put the poke before the first item to be saved otherwise the SAVE would start without warning. Once the SAVE is underway then all the parts would be saved continuously. Note that all parts of the program, the screen display, the variables and machine code can be saved by this method.
Faulty interface was reviewed
I WAS most concerned to hear from one of our many satisfied customers that your review in Hardware World of the AGF Protocol 4 joystick interface which appeared in the January Sinclair User, described certain operating problems with regard to the card programming system and controller movement response times.
Those problems are obviously the result of a defective unit and not a mode of operation which we would expect any of our customers to tolerate and I am most surprised that your reviewer considers those to be normal operating conditions.
I do note, however, that your tests were carried out on a pre-production unit and whilst I appreciate that your evaluation has to be based entirely on what you are given, it concerns me that much time and effort can be spent developing a product whose reputation can be instantly marred by comments which might be best levelled at the originator first in order to assess their validity. That would avoid misrepresentation and also a possible lack of credibility of reviews when users find that listed faults do not exist on their units.
Concerning the comment regarding limited life of membranes, regardless of our well-founded confidence in this proven technology, a quick calculation reveals that, even considering the worst possible parameters of operation, a card can be inserted 274 times a day over a period of 10 years without any adverse affect to the switching characteristics of the membrane. It is as well to remember that membranes are now widely used in keyboards which receive fairly constant operation - inserting and removing program cards is done relatively rarely.
The use of membrane switching on the Protocol 4 is a contributing factor to our 18-month guarantee on the product as it greatly enhances the reliability of operation.
In closing, I would suggest your reviewer should return his interface for immediate replacement as that is what we would expect anyone to do if any of our products fail to operate correctly.
A G Fosberry, AGF Hardware
IN reply to Declan Grady - Letters, January - full information on the SP0256-AL2 allophone set can be obtained from Maplin's Project Book Six. It contains a section called 'Allophone Speech Synthesis Technique' including information on the allophone names and length, sound, values in decimal, hex and oct.
It is available from Maplin Electronic Supplies. Price 70 pence plus 50 P&P.
The meaning of the word
AS AN ex-university lecturer with 10 years of research into computer languages and their implementation by code generation and interpretation, I must take issue with a statement in your magazine that Metacomco have produced the first 'true compiler' for the QL - Sinclair User January 1985.
Computer One has been selling a Pascal compiler for the QL since late summer. In fact we were the first company to sell a range of languages for the QL. Although our compiler produces a fast compact version of P-code which is subsequently interpreted this is still a 'true' compiler implementing full Pascal. You would have been more accurate to say their BCPL compiler was the first to produce 68000 machine code.
Hamish I E Gunn, Technical Director, Computer One
John Gilbert replies: While agreeing with Mr Gunn that the Metacomco compiler could be more accurately described as producing 68000 code the term 'true compiler' has become a loose one meaning 'a package which generates true machine code'. If my use of this term has misled any readers then I can only apologise to Computer One.
I CLAIM to have the highest score on Hunchback, to be the first person to finish Beach Head, and Ghostbusters.
On Hunchback I scored 1,800,900. I bought Beach Head on the morning of December 8 and finished it after one hour. I finished Ghostbusters on my sixth attempt, on December 24.
In the latter, when you reach the Temple of Zuul, you must avoid the Marshmallow Man and close the portal to the spirit world. When you do this, it gives you an account number. I have $22,600, and my account number is 11527002.
Call for a ZX-81 club
HAVING read Robert Tempest's letter in the December 1984 issue of Sinclair User, concerning a general lack of ZX-81 software and features, I can only give my wholehearted support to his points of view.
However, as I am not one to sit around and complain, I should like to suggest to Mr Tempest and the many, many other frustrated ZX81 users, that they should band together to form some sort of national, postal, users' club for owners of that excellent little machine.
If there is anyone out there who has similar thoughts on the matter then please write to me.
In defence of dirt
I AM writing in protest against your unfair review of Travel with Trashman in your December edition. Despite your reviewer's shocked attitude, I went out and bought it, and it turned out to be a very good purchase. I agree that Jerusalem and Benares are in bad taste, but the rest is tremendous.
I have managed to complete, in one game, all the screens except Kanyu, where the irksome little guy with the spear manages not only to bump into me, but also to out-run me. There are also various interesting 'things' on each screen. For instance, has anyone tried going into the large, dark arch on Moscow, the little hut doors on Kanyu, or behind the set of steps in Madrid?
Nick Liassides, aged 15