New Dog, Old Tricks

By Tosten Lindh

Originally published in EUG #54

The Editor's strong words in EUG #53 have indeed prompted me to write - hoping others do too! - to comment on the Group's future.

When I got my first issue of the Electron User Group magazine (EUG #47), I was delighted "life was in the old dog" and it's been a pleasure !BOOTing up each one since. Those openers, the latest one no exception, are mindblowing and I share Will Watts' fascination as to how they are prepared. Is there a wonderful art package out there I don't know about? Similarly, the news roundup is always easy to understand, even for us non-techies.

I've been able to purchase some back issues and, finances allowing, hope to complete the whole set of EUG mags in a while. As a bit of a 'dabbler' in other quarters too, I truly think no other 8-bit computer can boast such an informed newsletter as this. There are some things I should bring to its leader's attention however...

It's only a thought but I wonder how many people are, like me, not owners of an Electron but of a BBC Master. Most people will know the BBC outlived the Elk by a good few years and the Master had more (shadow) memory. I'm not saying I ever sneered at Elk owners - and, if I did, I am put squarely into place by this mag's success - but I didn't know, in a fashion, that there were similarities between the two machines! So I went hunting only for User Groups with BBC in their titles. This may be because I joined the BBC scene a bit late (about '93) and the glossies, besides not catering for me, never mentioned the little Electron.

There could be literally hundreds of people who, like I was, are completely unaware that the "Electron" User Group is also a BBC User Group. You need more publicity stating how almost everything on each EUG disk works on a BBC too. On EUG #53, BBC owners could play everything on it (apart from HOUSE which I'll get to in a minute) and a few items of PD were even BBC only [ECG DEMO and Pyramid Patience - Ed]. And a huge advertisement page was filled with BBC, not Electron, wants and sales!

If I understand rightly from the web page itself, the magazine has 'evolved'. So if it's become as much BBC as Electron-friendly then it's time the name's changed to BEM ("BBC & Electron Magazine") or something as fitting. Had it been so, I for one would have been likely to contact it sooner! The "Electron" in the present title makes it still sound specific to Elk users! Is it or isn't it?

Now onto House which our Editor said he'd debugged. First, I'd never got as far as making a bomb due to another bug that occurs when you GIVE WHISKEY TO MAGGIE in Downing Street. You are meant to get petrol in exchange but instead both the Mode 7 Micro User 12. 6 and the Mode 6 BBC/Elk EUG version crash the inventory and ruin the adventure. The "patch" has no effect at all and, having been disappointed when I got stuck in House all those years ago, I was faced with the same bug again! What I don't understand is, if EUG is prepared on a Master - as the Ed informed me once - how this bug was missed. Let alone how he managed to play past it to use the bomb! I hope he will now re-check the code and patch up this other bug so I can finally complete it.

That's about all I can think of for now and to end positively I will repeat that EUG is, in all respects apart these, a fantastic publication and I hope it remains at its monthly circulation!

Torsten Lindh, Dunbarton

This letter prompted me to think carefully, not to mention arm myself with all manner of BBC machines - and a House solution - to check out Torsten's complaint, before responding. But in particular the idea of changing EUG's name seemed a colossal move!

The easy bit to answer regards EUG's recent opening screens. There have been many (well, three including his!) exclamations of bewilderment upon seeing these grace monitor screens on such 'simple' computers.

All will be revealed in full sometime but the most I choose to disclose here is that the colourful Mode 1 pics are created via customised programs, not a BBC/Electron art package. My occasional other EUG pics (in Modes 4 and 5) over the years were produced using The Art Studio by Impact Software; the best art package not requiring external addons!

Torsten's story of being unaware that the EUG disk was compatible with BBCs is a cause for concern and I can definitely see his point. If you've never heard of the Acorn Electron, then you're no more likely to search for an Electron User Group than you are an Amstrad one!

On the other hand, the opening page of the web site makes it very clear that the magazine is compatible, Torsten did realise this in the end, links appear on all the main BBC sites implying the mag will work and the name is well-established; to abandon it could seem unnecessary and pointless. Similar stories to his may sway me though - the Elk's importance is not underestimated by EUG but it is diminishing as more readers with BBCs send in subscriptions.

This area is an open invitation for readers' perspectives. Are any of those who have been with the mag right from the start completely opposed to change? Part of me wants to see EUG continue past 82 issues (i.e. even longer than Electron User managed!) but of course a new magazine would cut this completely short.

The final, not completely unrelated point, is House - It's Quite Badly Bugged Really. Passing the buck in one sense, I would like to note I had the idea to convert it when I obtained The Micro User Vol 12 No. 6 disk last month and, although I hadn't noticed it, the bug discussed (when handing over the bottle of whisky) is there in the conversion.

The odd thing is, though, that this bug only appears when playing on a Master 128 computer. On an Electron, both DFS and with PAGE at &1D00 and MRB enabled, it works absolutely perfectly (at least, with the patch I put in). With DFS on the Model B, it also works fine. This leads me to think that whatever causes the crash is a bug in the Master's architecture which it is, unfortunately, beyond my skills to doctor. Oh, and the "Convert" utility doesn't correct it.

The bug's there in every version; both the Micro User one and the EUG #53 one. It is not a result of my conversion which I game-tested on the Electron, not the Master, because I wanted to ensure (obviously) that it worked. It never crossed my mind that the version converted may actually not work on one of the BBC machines - especially when The Micro User was meant to be a BBC disk!

All I can do is to offer my apologies and appeal to someone more technically-minded to explain why it occurs.

Dave E, EUG #54