This And That

By Gus Donnachaidh

Originally published in EUG #08

"Gus Donnachaidh presents a pot
pourri of hints and observations"

After being a satisfied Electron owner for over eight years, a few months ago I bought an A3000. I am now going to sell the A3000 and use the money to buy some more upgrades for my Elk.

This isn't simply misplaced sentimentalism, though to hear some 16 and 32 bit users talk you might think it is a little insane. This is simply well thought out common sense.

Word Processing

  1. The Elk. Switch on. Pop in a disk. !BOOT it up loading a header at the same time. Press ESCAPE. Type. Time: About 10 seconds.
  2. The A3000. Switch on and wait for it to initialise. Pop in a Systems Disk and use the mouse to move the pointer to mount the disk. Use the mouse to select SYSTEM, wait for it to load. Take out the Systems Disk. Pop in the word processor disk. Use the mouse to mount the disk. Use the mouse to select the word processing icon. Use the mouse to run the word processor. Wait for a few minutes for the program to load. Set up the screen. Type. Time: About 10 minutes.
The Elk is by no means perfect. It has many faults, not least its tendency to lock up occasionally. But personally I do a lot of word processing as well as using a database and I simply don't have the time to sit and marvel at pretty graphics. I was told that a hard disk drive would make everything much faster. I tried one in a library and the Elk is still much faster. In any case, hard disks are very expensive, especially since current wisdom says that 40 Megabytes is the minimum useful size. This is because of the amount of space taken by each file. The word processor for the A3000 uses almost two double-sided disks.

Many friends seem to find it funny that I prefer the Elk to a 'modern' computer. But I can't help thinking that some computer manufacturers are conning a lot of people. The 16 and 32bit computers seem, on my experience, to be a case of the Emperor's New Clothes. Expensive software, some costing hundreds of pounds, games which have amazing graphics but are incredibly boring, large amounts of resident memory which proves to be inadequate for almost anything so extra memory has to be bought and I don't quite know what the point of having extra speed is if you need to wait ten minutes for something to load!

I'm progressive. I liked the Sex Pistols, I like Madonna. But when a computer becomes a status symbol in the same way as the 'right' pair of trainers then maybe some of the world has indeed gone mad. And it's not the Electron users.

I recently returned from holiday with a stack of VHS C videos featuring some memorable scenes and a lot of boring nonsense. Fearing the loss of all of my friends I started to transfer the best bits to VHS tape and decided that some titles would add to the fun. My trusty Elk came to the rescue. The video output socket (between the TV and the RGB sockets on the side of the Elk) fed a good signal into the video input of my video recorder. I used the following program to make titles and commentary.

        5 REM PAGE ONE
       10 FOR A%=1TO10STEP10:CLS:MODE5
       20 PRINTTAB(0,2)"text text text text."
       30 PRINT
       40 PRINT"text text text text"
       50 PRINT
       60 PRINT"text text text text"
       70 PRINT
       80 PRINT"text text text text"
      300 FOR T%=1TO2000:VDU23;8202;0;0;0;:NEXT:NEXT
      305 REM PAGE TWO
      310 FOR A%=1TO10STEP10:MODE5
      320 PRINTTAB(0,2)"text text text text."
      330 PRINT
      340 PRINT"text text text text."
      600 FOR T%=1TO2000:VDU20,1,0;0;0;0;:NEXT:NEXT

Line 10 sets up a single pass FOR NEXT loop, clears the screen and moves to Mode 5. Don't worry if you don't understand this. Just enter it in.

In line 20, you type in your text, up to twenty characters long. The TAB(0,2) is to ensure that the text will be printed some lines down from the top of the screen, two to be precise. After twenty characters put in a " to end the line.

Line 30 is simply a PRINT statement so that a one line gap is produced. This adds clarity.

The next line of text is on line 40. Here the TAB is not needed. Lines 50, 70 and 330 are like line 30; simply PRINT statements to produce a one line gap and add clarity.

Lines 60 and 80 are, like line 40, for entering text. Of course, they don't have to be used. And more of them can be added if you wish.

Line 300 cancels the cursor for a set period of time here set at 2000 though this can be changed. At the end of this period page one will vanish and page two will appear.

The second page is initialised by line 310 in the same way as line 10 did the first page. Text starts at line 320 when the FOR NEXT loop of line 300 has finished. It and any more pages can be made in the same way as the first.

A few points to note. Make sure that each screen is on long enough for your audience to read it and don't try to put too much on any page or indeed too many pages or your audience will lose interest and not watch your fascinating film work.

A few years ago I wrote to a company in Belfast called Vinderen Associates who advertised a program to design a PCB on the BBC B. I got a copy of the program and it was quite good. It will draw a PCB on the screen incorporating lines, four different sizes of pads and IC patterns from 2 to 64 pins. It has some other functions such as drawing labels, double sided boards and component overlay.

All in all the program was quite good. I produced PCB patterns which were subsequently used for artwork. Memory was a problem and tended to limit what could be done but a few tricks with the listing sorted these out. Also some of the functions such as double sided work and component overlay suffered from a few bugs in the software which I have never been able to iron out. But I use the program from time to time.

The program needs an Elk, a Jafa True Mode 7 board and DFS. I use Slogger's PEGASUS but ADFS E00 might work though I have not tried it.

I have recently spoken to Dr A. Refsum of Vinderen Associates who, while retaining the copyright, has agreed to let me give copies of this program free to anyone who wants one. So if anyone does, send me a 3.5" disk, a large stamped addressed envelope and four first class stamps. I will send the copies on DFS as soon as I can but be patient please.

Does anyone need 16K of Sideways RAM? I know of a simple technique to use two 8K RAMs to make 16K. The trick is to mount the two ICs piggy back. Then carefully solder each of the pins of the two ICs together except pins 26. The top one is carefully bent upwards. Now find an inverter. There are some inverter chips suitable in the 74 series. Unused pins should be tied to negative of course. Using short lengths of wire, connect one side of the inverter to the lower pin 26 and the other to the upper pin 26. Then connect the power supply pins. This is especially useful with the Slogger Plus 2 board in socket 13 but some ROM cartridges will accept RAM.

Lastly, a plea to any programmers. Has anyone managed to design a spellchecker which is better than the Slogger one? Almost any improvement would be welcome to those of us who do a lot of word processing.