By John Crane

Originally published in EUG #22

Afraid that it happened. Yes, I was seduced by an A3010. A friend of mine bought one a little while ago, found it wasn't what he wanted and offered to let me have it at a very reasonable price. Having run both the A3010 and the Electron together for a little while, I almost decided to move away from the Elk altogether as I seemed to be having quite a few problems. However, after overcoming one or two difficulties, I decided I couldn't live without at least one Elk (I have several!) so I thought I'd just get rid of some of the surplus.

The main trouble with the Elk, from my point of view, is the half-hearted support that once dedicated firms are now giving it. ACP (Pres) are virtually unobtainable. They've moved and given me their new address but they don't answer my letters and still haven't sent some bits I ordered in May. I can get through on the phone but they are not very helpful. I had SP64 installed a good while ago by Bill Bradbury (BCC, formerly Slogger) and it conked out. I sent it back for repair under warranty in March and I'm still waiting! He assures me that it will be on its way soon, but he's been saying that since June!

Anyway, I thought I could use my repaired Elk as a spare when it comes back and concentrate on getting the most from Ex Derek's "SuperElk", so I decided that things weren't so bad after all. Then I was struck another fatal blow. Parcelforce (as the post office calls it, I prefer "Parcelfarce" must have dropped the beast in transit and quite a lot of damage had been done. I pulled one or two bits out and sent them to Derek who kindly repaired them for me. I then set about reassembling the SuperElk to the best of my slight ability. Needless to say, it didn't work. It was at this point, I considered abandoning the Elk.

However, after playing about with !Advance WP on my A3010 it struck me how long-winded it is just to get going - even for simple letters. View and SP64 are much quicker to get started on, and SP64 on the Hard Drive must be even moreso, I thought!

Thus, I carefully dismantled the SuperElk and checked every connection and joint. After some careful examination, I found a couple of loose wires and after a bit of careful soldering, I carefully put it back together. Plug in, switch on, follow Derek's initialisation instructions, cross fingers and hope! Incredibly it burst into life and I'm madly in love with all that's Electron again! I have written a separate feature on its performance.

If I may say so, I think that the all-singing, all-dancing modern machines lack the simplicity of the older ones and as such can make the simplest of tasks into a quite time-consuming affair. I still find View is excellent for letters. If I switch on the A3010 and load the BBC emulator from disk, I can then load an image of View and crack on. This is still infinitely quicker than loading ADVANCE (supplied with the A3010 learning curve package), creating a WP document, setting the size of the text, etc and loading the necessary printer driver. Why can't Acorn provide a 32 bit version of View for people like myself who quite often need to type a basic format letter fairly quickly? I'm sure it would sell.

Regarding Richard Dimond's problems with ADFS E00: I have had similar troubles. One way around it is to cut one of the legs on the ABR battery and connect a switch between the battery and ABR board. This could then be mounted on the ABR cartridge in a similar fashion to Click. The switch would normally be left on in normal use. In the event of a corrupt ROM image, simply switch off. Thus power is removed from ABR and within a short while, the Sideways RAM is emptied. I have found that approximately 30 seconds is the longest you have to wait.

I wouldn't necessarily say this was an ideal solution but, in my case, it just isn't practical to dismantle the SuperElk every time I have trouble with Sideways RAM. I have a switch mounted on the outside as obviously a switch on the cartridge would still require the cover to be removed.

One last thing before I bore everyone to death. As I have a two-sided drive, and I'm sure others have too, in the event of there being a bumper issue at any time, would it not be more economical to send out a "L" format ADFS disk? I seem to remember being asked what sort of drive I had some time ago. Or does this complicate matters? Just a thought. That aside, I thought EUG #21 was quite superb! I have recently joined the ARM club to hopefully get more out of my A3010. I must say I'm disappointed. They just aren't as much fun as EUG.

John Crane

I also once owned a 32-bit machine. In my case, it was an A3000. I had exactly the same problems as you. I sold mine. Having had some experience with PCs, I also found similar problems with them. Even the most modern machines are a little slow. I now use a PC for work and the Elk for fun.

I remember a play I once saw in the '60s about a couple of taylors who produced a suit with second-rate cloth, oversized and badly cut and sewn. They said to the customer, "Never mind the quality, sir. Feel the width!"

It would be nice if everyone had double-sided drives but, of course, some members don't. I have tried to produce a number of different formats in the past but it becomes very laborious and mistakes rise by factors of 10.

Gus Donnachaidh, EUG #22