The February backlash
WHAT ON EARTH have you done to Sinclair User? As the owner of every issue I am horrified at the final degeneration into a child's comic with the February edition. Even Andrew Hewson's Helpline has suffered.
R E Cante
ON OPENING the February issue I find a new style magazine. I then read the letter from Mr D Williams and your reply in which you state that "games coverage has increased recently partly because there are more games players out there." I would say that was because magazines, such as Sinclair User, put across that image of what the Spectrum does.
If you gave more space to programming you might find that people would become more interested.
DAVID WILLIAMS is right, you know. Watch out that you don't go the way of Your Spectrum. I still buy Sinclair User for its serious articles, for the technical expertise and advice and the reviews - I never buy anything, even games, without reading as many reviews as I can. But the increase in games orientation is evident and with it the demise of space allocated to helping people become generally computer literate.
In view of the government's attitude to the future of research, science, technology, microelectronics and the necessary education, any forum commanding the attention of large sectors of the public particularly our bright, eager schoolkids - has something of a duty to help towards computer literacy.
Good old Clive did the best thing he could possibly have done by making the Spectrum accessible, and SU has done much to capitalise on that: Keep it up!
• I'm glad you all liked the February issue so much ... But for those of you who didn't it's worth pointing out that although software has expanded, so too has Hewson's Helpline, QL news and reviews, hardware and Sinclair Surgery, particularly when the new, smaller, typeface is taken into account. The absence of business software reviews this month is due to our correspondent, Mike Wright, falling ill rather suddenly.
The new design is also meant to make the magazine more attractive. Doesn't anybody like it? Hang about. The next guy seems pleased ...
WHEN I opened your February issue I noticed your contents page was completely transformed.
There has generally been a great improvement and as regards your presentation of software and adventure, I think that it's fine.
In Program Printout it would be better if you could publish a whole range of programs, not just Space Invaders.
The Dancing Ogre's adventure helpline is OK, but, as one reader pointed out, it would be better if Gordo's column was longer.
For page content, colour content, presentation etc, your magazine receives ***** but please, please, more Pokes, tips and readers' programs.
• That's better. Your compliments could be a little less qualified but still ...
As to the length of Gordo's column, I'm sure he would agree with you, and we're certainly looking into it, but it's quality which counts, rather than ... (that's enough Ed)
ON BROWSING through your February issue I began toying with the idea of working out which software companies offered the best value for money.
Using your software directory and the star ratings, and concentrating only on adventure, arcade, simulation and strategy, I came up with the following figures:
1st Ultimate with 87.5% perfection (seven 5*, one 4* ratings).
2nd Beyond with 66.5% perfection (six 5*, two 4* and one 3* ratings).
3rd Melbourne House with 57% perfection (eight 5*, four 4* and two 3* ratings).
• Hah! A numerologist. Very interesting, actually, though it tends to confirm what you might expect. It's a bit unfair on Melbourne House as it has released more games than the others.
It's also worth remembering that the star rating reflects standards at the time the games were launched. These days Melbourne House is on the up and up, while Beyond and Ultimate seem to have lost their direction of late.
THERE I was, wowing at the graphics of Rasputin (and it is not £2.99. Tell that blockhead Gilbert that it is £7.95) when some grubby object hit me on the head. It was probably the Ed's corduroys, but anyway this thing told me to turn to page eight and read all about Sinclair Simon. Was he there? Hah! Was he on page six? Double hah!
Please - grovel, grovel - make sure that we see him every month. Apart from this I think it's a great mag.
• Gilbo apologises for the price mix-up and says that Rasputin is still value for money.
As for Simon, rumour has it that he's bought an Amstrad. Perhaps the next reader can sympathise ...
|The Curse of Sinclair|
ON NOVEMBER 15 I bought Spectrum from Dixon's Preston branch. On Christmas Day we discovered the joystick didn't work and the full stop and comma keys didn't function.
On December 27 I returned the joystick and keyboard to Dixons. While I was in the shop I noticed several people returning Spectrums for various reasons. My keyboard was found to be faulty and was replaced, but once home I still found it impossible to load any software.
Once again I returned it to Dixons and joined another long queue of people returning Spectrums. By now the store had none left and was asking people to return in seven days.
On seeing this I asked for my money back. I then bought an Amstrad 464 from W H Smith.
Is it any wonder that Sinclair is having money problems?
D Hopkinson, Lancashire
PS The Amstrad is PERFECT.
• The legendary curse of the House of Sinclair strikes again. Criticisms of poor quality control have been levelled at Sinclair Research since the year dot, but little seems to have changed. Some users, on the other hand, have never experienced any problems at all. Clive himself puts a lot of it down to young, inexperienced users "bloody good at spilling Coca Cola over them and otherwise messing them up."
But is it necessary to buy an Amstrad?! Hope you keep reading the mag though ...
I AM WRITING about the Lenslok security device on Elite. So far I have been unable to get past the security screens. This is very annoying and frustrating, especially after having read all the rave reviews. I am sure there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of frustrated computer owners who will certainly think twice before buying a Lenslocked game again.
Surely such a system is self-defeating. The dedicated hacker may see it as a challenge to get round the protection system but the average games player will be put off after reading about all the troubles others are having.
I hope Firebird will come to the conclusion that the system is impractical and, unless improvements can be made, will not employ it again.
I RECENTLY purchased Art Studio from Rain bird and Tomahawk from Digital Integration, and have a serious complaint.
Both were found to contain the Lenslok security system, no mention of which was made in the reviews or the advertising. The larger scale resolution of the family 23in TV, coupled with the need to hold the Lenslok device on the screen whilst operating the keyboard and working against the clock, make for an interesting challenge, though not the one I thought I was purchasing.
With Art Studio the scale adjustment part of the system could not be made small enough to operate on the TV, and so I have not even managed to run this program once.
I would be interested to hear from the Consumers' Association as to the legality of both the advertising and the system.
I AM SORELY troubled by these incompetents writing in complaining about Lenslok. I am 13 and have had no trouble using it. If Gerry Hunt - letters, January - is worried about me losing my eyes he must be terrified for his own.
Lenslok is an excellent attempt to prevent piracy and I hope Firebird and others are not put off by people such as these.
My gripe is altogether different. It seems that Elite (and Swords and Sorcery) are incompatible with my Ram Turbo joystick interface, though it works with all other games.
Long live Lenslok.
• The Lenslok controversy rages on ... As we pointed out in February's issue, Firebird is aware of the ambiguous instructions supplied with Elite and has updated them. On the whole, Tomahawk players appear to have encountered fewer difficulties, due largely to the better implementation of the system.
Fingers crossed ... let's hope that Lenslok's teething problems don't discourage others from using it.
|Load of the Rings|
THE FIRST DAY it came out I bought Elite, after reading the review in your magazine, and I had no trouble in using the Lenslok device.
But then, again after reading your magazine, I bought Lord of the Rings. I eventually got the game to load after 60 or 70 attempts, though the next day, while the title screen loaded perfectly, the rest of the program refused.
After another 30 attempts I went back to the shop, where they changed it, telling me that four other people had returned the game due to loading problems.
Lord of the Rings is still useless to me because it will not load. The specific peak loading volume is an awful way to stop tape copying because it means that people like me spend a lot of money on games which don't work.
• Melbourne House has acknowledged that there are problems with loading LOR, and will send anxious users a letter explaining how to load it. Our own Richard Price was one of the first victims and in his review advised loading the entire tape - even if it appears that a whole block is failing to load after the initial screen. The missing chunk is a restart position.
A black mark to the Aussies for inadequate instructions, though they assure us that the second print run of the booklet explains the problem.
I AM WRITING to protest about the advertisement on pages two and three of February's issue. I have a 14-year-old son and I do not wish him to read this kind of material.
Should this happen again we shall cancel our order for Sinclair User.
Mrs M White
• I wholeheartedly agree. US Gold's ad for Legend of the Amazon Women must be one of the most disgustingly badly executed illustrations ever to soil the pages of this magazine. Thos poorly drawn, out of proportion figures could well influence young and impressionable minds to emulate such incompetent graphics in their own pictures. Thank God US Gold has only printed half of it this month ...
|Blast! Blast! Blast!|
WITH REGARD to the Blast correspondence in recent issues of SU, I have mixed experience with this particular software.
My copy works with microdrives but often needs three attempts before runnable code is produced.
Re-entry to the compiler through the security is very irritating when the compiler has been cleared out only to find that the 'error-free' code produced will not run.
I find it very unsatisfactory to open the box, read the manual and then find bits of paper telling me that many features are missing.
Here is the praise! I run a program which performs digital analysis of stored waveform data. Part of this is a Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) routine which takes over three minutes to run normally, but when compiled this reduces to 35 seconds. This saving alone is worth the cost and problems with Blast.
If OCS can remove these bugs/features they will make a good product much more useful. For any serious work, you need at least one microdrive, and users must realise the limitations of any compiler and that claims of vast speed increases can be very misleading.
Dr W G Marshall
I AM quite happy with the Blast compiler, but it could be better documented and far more user friendly. I think that it is a pity that, now it is this close, OCS does not seem to be prepared to put the finishing touches to what I believe could be a very good product.
Your request was for letters from satisfied users, and whilst I doubt that you will get any from anyone who is 100 per cent satisfied, I feel that the record should be set straight in that the disc version 3.07 does work. It isn't dross, does give a good improvement in running speed - although nowhere near the 40 per cent originally claimed - but could be considerably improved by ironing out the more obvious sillies which still exist.
• Yes, we did request letters from readers who were satisfied with the Blast compiler, and no, we didn't receive any, other than those containing the rather mixed feelings printed above. OCS score ten for effort but must try harder in future.
|Laying down the law|
NOW to settle the arguments once and for all. Piracy is wrong, Gyron, Starion, Elite and Fairlight are all great games, Action Biker is pathetic, so are most Ultimate games and your front covers are great!