SINCLAIR has released version two of the QL bundled Psion software, and is shipping it to QLUB members as well as with new machines.
The programs, appearing 13 months after the launch of the machine, are a sufficient improvement to make the QL a convincing option as an inexpensive business machine or word processor.
Major up-grading is obvious in all four packages, with faster loading, immediate access to all commands, and some energetic debugging.
The Quill word processing packages now loads in 15 seconds, compared to around 40 seconds previously, and no further access to microdrive one is then necessary - the full command vocabulary being resident in RAM.
Within Quill, thoughtful improvements, such as the ability to swap cartridges in microdrive two without the need to re-load, and no time limit on the opening of text for insertions, have been added. Essential up-grades include the speeding of screen writing so that the cursor now keeps pace with even the fastest typist.
However, Psion has, apparently, been unable to improve the manipulation of text already present on screen, and functions such as Copy, Margins, and Erase remain painfully slow.
Several familiar Quill bugs have survived. The entire program can become infected with a stubborn underline function, which is passed on to new files as they are loaded and can only be shifted with a complete re-set. And the program still refuses to implement a deletion when carried out as part of a common sequence of CTRL and CTRL/SHIFT functions near the left-hand end of a line.
The improvements to Quill have, however, changed a scarcely serviceable word processor into one of professional quality. Along with similar improvements to the other three packages Psion has transformed the prospects of the QL.
A WAFER drive mass storage device is on the way from Sinclair Research.
The device, which will initially be able to hold 0.5 megabyte on silicon RAM wafers, is expected to be priced at £300. Other sizes will be available if users require them.
The QL wafer drive will run on battery power. A warning light will be incorporated in the device to inform the user if power is getting low.
Nigel Searle, managing director of Sinclair Research, is confident that the wafer drive would be reliable and would provide a good alternative to Sinclair's other pet storage device, the microdrive cartridge: "The unit is undergoing some final tests but we are confident that it is reliable and data loss will be unlikely."
The massive storage capacity puts it in the range of Sinclair's other project, the Winchester disc system. It could therefore provide an inexpensive alternative to other mass storage units now available, either floppy or Winchester, for any computer on the market.
A DISC system capable of supporting four 3¼in drives has been launched by Micro Peripherals Ltd.
The system has a total formatted storage capacity of more than one megabyte and operates using an interface module which can be purchased for £99. It provides several utility routines which include a screen editor, job control facilities and file handling commands.
The first drive which you buy for the system will cost £189 but subsequent units will cost only £159.
Further information about the system and forthcoming products can be obtained from Micro Peripherals Ltd, Hampshire.
REAL TIME Systems has developed a package which will convert C and Pascal programs to run with QDOS and C/PM-68K.
The system is priced at £3,800 and will run on most 68000/68008 machines under the Unix operating system. It comprises C and Pascal cross-compilers with a library of runtime utilities for QDOS machines.
Quest Automation has a version of C/PM-68K running with its disc package for the QL and owners of that'set-up should be able to run programs using the RTS package.
SEVEN thousand students at Strathclyde University will each have the use of a QL by 1990.
The project is being spearheaded by Professor James Alty - head of the University's Computer Science Department - whose aim is to give all students in related subjects their own personal computers for use in halls of residence as well as on the university campus.
Sinclair Research has joined forces with the university and has donated the first 525 machines together with some peripherals and software - worth around £250,000. Andy Knott from Sinclair Research comments, "We feel that the QL is an excellent machine for this type of use and we hope this will be the first of many such projects. We're terribly excited about it."
Further support is being given by the Computer Board for Universities and Research Councils which is providing a grant of over £150,000 and Epson and MBS Data Efficiency are providing printers and colour monitors respectively.
Professor Alty, determined to use British hardware and software for the project, chose the QL as it "could offer the computing power, range of applications and above all, the portability at a suitable price."
Alty explains the need for more computers at the university: "The need is for a work station capable of some stand-alone functions such as local filing, editing and program compilation while being capable of linking to the campus network."