Printers, Ribbons And Info

By Tony Boarer

Originally published in EUG #16

Sorry that my last letter was not sent to you on disk but I was not anticipating publication. Not that I mind. I use Starword as well so there will be no problem. Correspondents have been saying a little about themselves - which is a good idea since we cannot meet as a group - so here is a brief on my background.

I am now in my 12th year of retirement and I started my career as a Chatham Dockyard engine fitter apprentice, retiring as a member of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors. On the way, I obtained a BSc Honours Degree in Mathematics at London University as well as studying aspects of Engineering and Naval Construction at the Royal Naval Colleges of Manadon and Greenwich. I was also a Fellow of three professional institutes whilst a serving officer. I own two cars at present and do all the maintenance, as I have done since first owning a motorcycle may back in my apprenticeship days. How much longer I can do this I don't know! Otherwise it's mainly jobs about the house and garden and now the Electron as a hobby.

Why I started using the Electron was given in my letter published in EUG #6. Now that I have expanded my system substantially I realise how lacking I am in programming and electronic matters. So, as said in a letter in EUG #15, I must also add my thanks to Derek Walker for steering me in the right direction so many times.

After a while, I thought since I had such a large databank of financial information on it, what would happen if my Electron ceased to function? I certainly could not entertain losing access. So I bought another (second hand) 64K Electron fitted with the Jafa Mode 7 Simulator ROM, and then another (second hand) one with a faulty keyboard but unused electronics.

I use my original 64K Electron as my main computer and have this connected to the Slogger Rombox+ through the Slogger PLUS 2. At present, I have Derek Walker's BBRAM in pages 14 and 15 and the AMX Mouse ROM in page 13. Click (Version 1.04) is in pages 0 and 1, and the Slogger PEGASUS disk interface (with the Slogger T2PEG400) is in pages 2 and 3. I sometimes have to swap the interface and Click around but more about this when I write about problems. I have one of Derek Walker's ROM128s in page 6, and have a RAM Module (made up by Andrew Hilbig before Slogger ceased trading in its own right) in pages 4 and 5. Also connected to this computer is a Binatone Starcorder, and twin disk drives supplied by Slogger - also Database's Soundmaster. This latter is only a device to take sound away from the computer to earphones with volume control - OK for games without worrying my wife!

The 'MODE 7-ready' computer is connected to an Acorn Plus 1 through the original Slogger 8 ROM Rombox. The Plus 1 is fitted with Pres' AP2 ROM. I have the Slogger Joystick Interface fitted in the front cartridge slot and a Dixons TR17 cassette recorder fitted to this computer. The AP2 ROM occupies page 12 by default - and at present I only have the Jafa MODE 7 ROM fitted as well - in page 13.

My old 14" colour TV was recently on the way out so I bought a second hand Cub Microvitec colour monitor. This monitor is no longer in production, nor is the Philips CM8833, the other good choice. I wish I had gone to a monitor earlier as the difference in clarity is enormous. The message is "Snap these monitors up!" I have arranged my electrics so that I can have power on both computers at the same time and can switch one of the other to the monitor via Derek Walker's RGB TTL switch. This I find handy for I can work out a little programming problem on the 'Jafa computer' without downloading, etc my main computer. The other computer is a true spare residing in the desk drawer!

I have two printers connected through a FEC170 092 Centronics auto-switch which enables me to dump, for example, this letter to either printer or to dump the screen (or any part of it by use of the BBC Dumpmaster ROM) to either printer.

I have recently been around the buoy to buy my second printer. I would not advise a second hand purchase for a printer. This may be of interest to John Crane. Obviously an Epson-compatible printer is desirable and I think one will have difficulty in beating the Star printers for sufficient quality and price. I bought my first printer, a Panasonic KX-1081, several years ago based on advertisements in Electron User. It is black and white only but if one has Slogger's Stargraph ROM, graphics can be dumped in shades of grey according to colours by just ending a program with *PRINT. This ROM also allows different size dumps. The printer cost me around £150.00. However, costs are now much reduced and I would now, in the same situation, go for a Star colour printer as this can do black and white anyway. I have very recently bought the Star LC100 9 pin dot matrix colour printer for just £115.00 brand new and including next day delivery. If I remember correctly, I could have bought the 24 pin dot matrix colour printer for about another £60.00. The Star black and white 9 and 24 pin printers are correspondingly cheaper. 24 pin gives greater clarity if required.

I'm very pleased with both printers, but the latter has the advantage of electronic DIP switches. It is very tedious fiddling around with mechanical DIP switches. I say this because some ROMs require the DIP switch setting to be changed from their default setting. e.g. PMS NTQ.

My advice is to buy a copy of the weekly Micro's Computer Mart and peruse the various advertisements because there is quite a divergence in cost even for the same printer. I obtained mine this way through Tomorrow's Office at Leeds. If one does decide to buy a Star colour printer then one needs the BBC Dumpmaster ROM to dump graphics. Here one needs the last line of a program to be *BPRINT P22 to dump a colour screen (any colour MODE). *BPRINT P0 or P5 will dump in black and white as *PRINT will dump using Stargraph. The suffix B goes with Dumpmaster and is not required unless one needs to ensure the command does not go to Stargraph.

Onto my thoughts on ROM technology in expanding the Electron's capabilities, in particular Derek Walker's developments.

At first, after collecting too many Slogger ROMs (the Slogger AP2 was not then available) to be plugged in at once, I got annoyed by the hassle of prising ROM's out after installation (particularly from twin cartridges) and so by priority some were put aside and not used. Even now I am not keen to take cartridges in and out on a frequent basis. More about this when I come to problems.

However, the availablity of Derek Walker's ROM128/256 made me think of the possibilities and this advance pretty well coincided with my decision to expand my Electron system as a hobby and to keep me going in my dotage. Including BASIC I now have a 35 ROM availability and am in the process of getting them (except Jafa's Mode 7 Simulator and the AP2) into my main computer set up using a combination of straight ROM128's and paired ROMs in a cartridge. When page space demands I will transfer my Hilbig 2 times 16K module to the Jafa computer as, by then, the BBRAM will be sufficient on the main computer.

This amount of ROM availability - for with the ROM128/256 set up one can switch ROM's in and out without power down (in itself a vast improvement)-one comes across memory problems with the *commands as to what clashes may occur, particularly with abbreviated commands. So I have drawn up large sheets with ROM's down the left side and letters across the top. Now at a glance I can see my complete list of commands starting with any letter. To my surprise the only letters not used within my present command structure are Q and Y.

I hope this gives food for thought on the possibilities open. If anybody takes a recent member's advice to move on to latest generation of computer then please let me know what's for sale!

Tony Boarer, EUG #16