JD Speaks Out

By J. Lampert

Originally published in EUG #07

I haven't written to you before now, mainly because I haven't had anything interesting to say, luckily this has now changed.

I noticed in the last issue Alan Richardson moaning about how slow a printed dump routine was. One possible reason for this is of course the slow speed of the Electron; however, another possible reason appeared quite some time ago in Acorn User.

When the Electron was in development the fact that it lacked the various wonderful interfaces of the Beeb left plenty of space in the OS. This allowed an additional rom service code to be added, namely code &15; the 'polling interrupt'. When activated by OSBYTE &16, it causes all of the paged roms in the computer to be entered through the service entry point with code &15, 100 times a second.

This is a very useful feature and never appeared on the BBC Models B or B+ and was next included in the Masters' OS (OS 3.20+). It is this facility which is used by the Plus 1 ROM to print.

Since the ROM is only polled 100 times a second, only 100 bytes of data can be sent to the printer in a second, although you won't notice this in text printing (100 characters per second is quite reasonable) a lot more data needs to be sent for graphics printing (and even more for a colour routine).

Another writer enquired about a program called DOScopy. This is in fact shareware and is available on disk 3 from BBC PD. Despite the name they do have some support for the Electron; their disk-based catalogue has notes on Electron compatibility and they can supply software on 3.5" disk. So perhaps they deserve a mention in the 'Electron Supply Addresses'.

The address of BBC PD is:

18 Carlton Close

They presently have 135 disks in their catalogue.

I'm afraid that I must object to the title 'Using the Assembler Language' for one of your series; basically it gramticaly naff. Acceptable titles would be 'Using the Assembler' or 'Using Assembly Language'.

Re: Tom Boustead 'Workshop Observations' I use the family stereo for loading cassettes (when necessary) and this is very reliable compared to the 'datacorder' which has been useless for some time. (It's not necessarily the tapes which are worn more than likely it is one of the tacky type of datarecorders which become worn and their motor unreliable). Perhaps it's unsurprising then that Walkmans are more reliable.

Re: Different 'issues' of the Electron. My Electron is very old; it is an issue 2 (I assume issue 1 was the prototype). It cost £199 and had a somewhat more tacky manual than the later Elec's (the £129 one with five bundled games). Sadly it is now useless (except as a book-end); the ULA heats up at a phenomenal rate, it refuses to talk to the Plus 1 (also an issue 2; without the Acorn label which appeared on later ones) and the cassette socket is loose. (I now use a Master 128 with 3.5" disk drive.) I could supply a circuit diagram if you are interested in compiling them for all the different types.

Re: Chris Chadwick. Is he serious? "If you need a bigger, faster machine with HD and other 'office' type gubbins, an IBM-compatible is the only sensible move." Has he totally forgotten about the Acorn 32-bit RISC OS (one known as the Archimedes) computers, especially since PC-Soft (the multi-tasking PC emulator) is now easily available and is included in the Learning Curve packs? If I was going to upgrade (if I had the money, in other words) then the ARC would be the only possible choice.

Re: D. E. Williams: heaps of maps. Somewhen soon I'd like to write a RISK type game. The map routine in EUG would be most useful - would you mind supplying me with D. Williams' routines (and would he mind)? A game from BBC PD of this type loads a 20K screen from disk for each continent! I think the relative point type routine is much more efficient and flexible than this.

Lampi at BAU 92. Quite recently I went to the BAU show and was pretty well disgusted by the level of support (well, lack of it frankly) for 8-bit machines. I saw four Masters at the show; one on the Watford stand and three in the 'Schools section'. No other 8-bit machines featured. That said I did get some bargains from Videk Limited; where I got a neat little joystick interface plugs into the analogue socket, and a switched joystick plugs into it (the main advantage is that it allows rapid fire, and that the analogue joysticks available are old designs whereas I can now use the very latest switched joysticks designed for the Amiga, ST and ARC) for only £3. I also got a good and cheap mouse-mat for £1.95 and a TV signal splitter.

Videk's details are:

  Videk Ltd
Unit 10 Bowman Trading Estate
Westmorland Road

They supply all sorts of leads and things.

Back to the show: Now that there is 'liaison' between EUG and Solinet, perhaps for BAU 93, EUG could gang up with them and perhaps SLOGGER and the various PD companies to share the cost of hiring a stand there to show the 32-bit owners that the 8-bitters are far from dead.

J. D. Lampard

A solution to the problem of slow printing is given by Gareth Babb in this issue. BBC PD were given a mention way back in EUG #1. I don't think Tom Boustead would dispute the fact that modern stereo equipment is perfectly capable of loading tape software. His main point was that simple mono machines can be just as effective if adjusted properly [Please see Tom's extensive article on this subject in this issue].

Regarding Chris Chadwick's comments on upgrading his Electron, perhaps the fact that PC emulation on Acorn's 32 bit machines is seen as a virtue lends some weight to his argument. Another consideration could be that it is possible to buy a very nifty second-hand 386 PC for less than the lowest entry Acorn 32bit. From what you and others have told me about the recent BAU shows, it looks as if we would all be "flogging a dead horse" if we decided to hire a stand next year!

But, if other groups thought it was worth it and could scrape the cash together we could give it a go.

Finally, as the undisputed King of Fractured English, I am constantly embarrassed by my poor grammar. It's one of those things which, if not mastered in early childhood, returns to haunt one in later life, rather like out mutual inability to spell certain words correctly, eh, J.D.?