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Web article Eight

This page contains reviews of TI99/4A programs and a TI99/4A related web site
[ Rapid Copy | JP Drawing | Addatex Software | Top of page ]

Microreviews for March 1997 Micropendium
by Charles Good

RAPID COPY by Barry Boone and Texaments.

The person who copies disks from my user group's library for our out of area member, has been trying to get me to use Rapid Copy for a couple of years. "Charlie", he said, "I purchased Rapid Copy at a computer show a few years ago and it is the best disk copier I have seen. I use it all the time." At the 1996 MUG Conference I met the program's author Barry Boone in person and decided to give Rapid Copy a try. I purchased a copy from Ramcharged Computers, the current owner of all Texaments products. To make a long story short, Rapid Copy is now the primary whole disk copy software on my 99/4A system, replacing Rediskit, my previous favorite disk copy program.

Rapid Copy comes on a SSSD disk with three versions all on the same disk for TI, CorComp, and Myarc floppy disk controllers. You can load it as DSK1.LOAD from extended basic, in which case the software will detect which kind of floppy controller you have and automatically load the correct version of Rapid Copy. You can also load the appropriate version as an EA5 file, which is what I do off of a ramdisk in my 99/4a system.

From the main menu you can copy disks, format disks, catalog disks, and run the Myarc or CorComp disk manager if you are using a Myarc or CorComp floppy disk controller. The first two are really handy features and are two of the reasons I now prefer Rapid Copy. The third option is not really significant because there are better disk managers out there such as Funnelweb's Disk Review or DSKU. When formatting disks with Rapid Copy you can select single or double side and (with a non TI controller) single or double density. You can also select the interlace. I just accept the default interlace value. If you are using a Myarc floppy disk controller you can also select 16 or 18 sectors per track for double density. The disk catalog option is really handy! Without exiting Rapid Copy one can find out what files are on the target disk before these files are erased in the copy process. You can catalog any floppy drive but not ramdisks.

The copy process is easy and flexible. Before copying you can use the main menu to chose verification on/off. The default is off. You are prompted for the drive numbers (1-4) that contain the master and target disks. You can use the same drive number for both master and target disks if necessary and are then prompted to insert each disk as needed. If you have a Myarc ramdisk Rapid Copy will recognize it as drive 5. Other types of ramdisks are not supported, and no you can't copy to multiple drives. Only one target disk at a time is allowed. Too bad. If you are using a TI controller you are also prompted whether or not you want to format the target disk. With other types of controllers the target disk is always automatically reformatted whether or not it has previously been formatted. Press the "any key" and the copy process begins. First the target disk is formatted, then 5 (dd disks) or 10 (sd disks) tracks are read into memory and then written to the target disk. An on screen display shows the current track being formatted/read/written. I did some timed tests to check on copy speed. Using a CorComp controller and copying an almost full DSSD disk, Rediskit (which like Rapid Copy always formats the target disk) took 1 minute 18 seconds. Rapid Copy with verification off took 1 minute 24 seconds. Rapid Copy with verification on took 1 minute 39 seconds. With a TI controller these times will be slightly longer.

Verification is an important option in Rapid Copy and one of the reasons I now prefer Rapid Copy to Rediskit. Rediskit has some error traping and will sometimes abort when it finds a disk error which is good. But rarely Rediskit fails to detect a disk error and makes a bad copy without telling you. So far this has never happened to me with Rapid Copy if I have verification "on". If Rapid Copy detects an error it doesn't just abort the copy operation, it reports an error and asks you if you want to continue anyway and ignore the error. Sometimes ignoring is a good idea, particularly if the error is in the master disk.

The two features I like most about Rapid Copy are its ability to catalog target and master disks from within the program and its ability to verify and make sure you have a good copy. Rapid Copy isn't quite as fast as Rediskit, but the above two features make the small amount of additional copy time worthwhile to me. Rapid Copy is commercial.
[ Rapid Copy | JP Drawing | Addatex Software | Top of page ]

------------------- JP DRAWING by Jean-Pierre Morin

This is a very full featured drawing program that can be run from either extended basic or EA5. It is public domain, and everyone should take a look at it if only to see the demo. When you first boot JP Drawing you are asked if you want to run the demo. If not you are put in drawing mode with the cursor in the center. If you run the demo you can grab a cup of coffee and relax, because the demo goes on and on for well over 5 minutes. Music plays which almost never repeats itself while image after image flash onto the screen move around and change into other images. The demo is really marvelous!

This demo runs from a script file which feeds instructions into the program. These script files can be very long, many minutes in length, and can contain instructions for anything the program is capable of drawing. There are two ways to create and save such a script file. From within drawing mode you can enter a command that says, "Save everything I do starting now as a script for playback later." Later in drawing mode you can enter another command to terminate the creation of this script. There is also an editor which you access from drawing mode with Fctn-Clear (Fctn-4). From this editor you can type in a long sequence of drawing commands, edit and save the list, and then run the script.

JP Drawing has a long list of capabilities. You can draw on a full or split screen in bit map mode using either joysticks or 8 direction arrow keys. There are seven different brush sizes, including some that produce a ribbon effect (sometines broad, sometimes narrow) as the brush is moved. There are two different kinds of screen dumps including a fast small dump that is rotated 90 degrees to the right and a slower full page width dump.

As is common in most drawing programs you can mark the screen at one point, move the cursor to another place, and draw something based on these two points. These include straight line, circle, and rectangle. You can also do something between two defined points that you can't do with other drawing programs. You can draw an arc! You can specify the radius of the circle, the number of degrees of curvature of the arc, and whether the arc curves left or right between your two defined points.

Other commands include changing cursor and background colors from a 15 color tablet, fill an area with color, and put text on the screen. Your text can be curved in an arc or even in a circle if you want. There is a command that advances x pixels and rotates y degrees with each successive letter you type. This is one example of the logo-like commands that are part of JP Drawing.

There are a number of predefined shapes which you can draw with a single keypress. These include star, house, polygone, flower, and tree. Some of these shapes have to be loaded into memory from the editor and overwrite the program's background music. You can also define your own shapes with logo-like commands that include foreword, back, right, and left x number of pixels. You can also set the angle of motion. The predefined or user defined shapes can be drawn repeatedly on screen rotating the angle and advancing x pixels with a single command that includes all these variables; number of repetitions, angle of rotation, number of pixels to advance). This results in logo-like recursive shapes that can be quite intricate.

You can save and later reload up to 7 screens of graphics. JP Graphics is written in TI Forth and when you save a screen you are saving its information into one of the TI Forth screens or blocks on disk. You can only save and load to and from the JP Drawing disk and the resulting screen saves do not appear on a disk directory if you catalog the disk. The saved screens have no names other than the "01" through "07" names that can only be recognized by the program. These screen saves cannot be imported into any other TI software.

In conclusion, JP Drawing is fun to play with and will do some unique things such as drawing arcs and logo-like recursive patterns. The demo is lots of fun to watch, executes very rapidly, like an assembly language program, and illustrates the potential JP Graphics has for creating animation. The inability of the program to export or import graphics to and from other software limits its real world practical uses. It was not written to be "practical". It was written to allow users to draw color graphics in the TI Forth environment without having prior knowledge of TI Forth. This was a fun project for the author and users will also find it fun. The documentation ends with "Have a good time!".
[ Rapid Copy | JP Drawing | Addatex Software | Top of page ]

------------------ ADDATEX SOFTWARE by Malcolm Adams

This is so old that it is new. In fact, this software is so old, and so new, that until a couple of months ago I didn't know any of it existed. In 1983 and 1984 a fellow named Malcolm Adams sold 99/4A software in the UK under the Addatex name. The software consisted of various arcade action, logic, and education games and was sold on cassettes for 6.95 pounds sterling each, equal to about $13 US in 1983. The software was written in TI BASIC or Extended Basic, and some of the software gives you the option of using the Speech Editor or TEII cartridge to access speech. These programs were written for the legions of European users who had console only systems. I never heard of any of these programs. They were not reviewed or advertised in 99er Magazine and are not mentioned in Mike Wright's 99/4A CYC. The software was, however, reviewed in a number of British computer magazines back in 1983 and 1984.

Very recently Malcolm Adams has established an internet web site ( Addatex Software) dedicated to the 99/4A and his Addatex software. This web site is what makes the old Addatex software so new, to me at least. In my opinion this is the most visually appealing of the numerous 99/4A related web sites on the internet. Part of the display includes a television set that contains the 99/4A title screen. Elsewhere on the web site you see this television with changing screen shots of various Addatex programs. You can view screen shots and user instructions for all the programs and you can also view the reviews of these programs published in British computer magazines of the day including Games Computing, Software Today, Personal Computer News, and Home Computing Weekly. The reviews are, of course, highly complementary. The software is given 4 or 5 stars out of 5. The web site says that the 99/4A, "was by far the best home computer for the domestic market place." and invites users to, "Enjoy this nostalgia trip with software from Addatex and capture the feel of the first real home computer."

One way you get to "capture the feel" of the 99/4A on the internet is to listen to a sound file of a speech synthesizer equipped console introducing itself. The second way you can "capture the feel" is by downloading from the web site onto your IBM compatible PC a file that contains a working version the V9T9 TI emulator complete with all the Addatex software. The V9T9 emulator was originally shareware but it and its source code have been placed in the public domain by the V9T9 author. Just unpack the downloaded zip file to the root directory of your C drive and the necessary sub directories with their respective files will be automatically created. You need pkunzip or winzip software to unpack the zip file. Once unziped everything is now ready to run.

This is DOS software that will run on even the slowest 386 with VGA graphics. A very nice icon showing the 99/4A title screen is included in case you want to run the software from the Windows 95 or 3.1 desktop, but you don't have to use either windows 3.1 or windows 95 to get the emulator to work. When you start the emulator you get your choice of TI's demonstration cartridge or Addatex software. At the next screen you see, on your PC's monitor, the 99/4A title screen. When you press the "any key" to start you are given your choice of TI BASIC and either the demonstration cartridge or the Addatex programs. If you select Addatex programs you get a menu that lets you select any of the programs. The last item on the menu lets you read, from within the emulator, the 1983/84 published software reviews and some software user guides. All the programs also have their own on line instructions.

The software includes 8 games in TI Basic or Extended Basic, all very professionally done. All are colorful and most are accompanied by music and on line instructions. Some include an option for speech, although the emulator provided does not support speech More complete versions of this emulator obtainable elsewhere on the internet do support speech. All these programs are certainly better than the average commercial written-in-basic program of the 1983 time period. The following paragraphs give short descriptions of each Addatex game.

ROBOPODS is an aliens from space game. A defined number (increasing with each of the 5 difficulty levels) of robopods appear on screen, each numbered. There are also land mines. You have to use keyboard or joysticks to move your little man under and into each robopod to deactivate it. The graphic display of your man climbing into the bottom and out of the top of each Robopod is kind of cute. You have to visit the robopods in numerical order and you can't step on the mines or cross your own trail. This is a hard game, particularly because of the prohibition against crossing the trail of radioactive dust you leave behind with your footprints. Occasionally a protective mat appears on your trail that allows you, or the robopods, to move across your trail.

SECRET AGENT takes you to the days of James Bond. You have to run across the rooftop of a moving passenger train to retrieve a briefcase of secret papers at the other end of the train. You have to properly jump between train cars and avoid being knocked off the roof by stationary trackside electric wire towers as the train moves by. Its not easy. Once recovered, another briefcase appears at the other end of the train. When all the train's briefcases are recovered you find yourself next to cable cars. Briefcases are hidden in some of the cars and the agent has to jump into and out of the cable cars to recover all the briefcases. Your have a certain number of secret agents to consume, one at a time. When they have all fallen off the trains the game ends.

SPONTANEOUS REACTION is an addictive strategy game that won first prize in a UK computer magazine's programming competition. It is somewhat similar to Othello and uses two players, or one player against the computer. You can play with or without joysticks and with or without speech. The supplied emulator does not support speech, so it makes no difference which speech option you choose. If you play alone against the computer you may very well lose. The computer is a good player. The object of the game is to fill the entire board with your pieces according to the rather complex rules of the game.

GALACTIC ENCOUNTER is the only game I have ever seen that uses the same game code to provide speech from any of the following: Extended Basic, TEII, and Speech Editor. You can also run the game without speech from console basic. An introductory screen asks you to select from a menu which of these 3 modules, or no module, you are using. From the emulator you should select Extended Basic. This is a logic game. Two players, or one player against the computer, place armys on empty board squares one per turn. Opponent's armys in adjacent squares are eliminated. The winds of fortune can change very rapidly in a single move so that a board full of your enemy's pieces can suddenly fill with your own pieces.

THE PUZZLER gives you two types of puzzles and the option to use the speech synthesizer if available. It is written in TI BASIC. "Match the Shapes" puzzles are like the game known as Concentration. You get 24 tiles and you turn them over two at a time hoping for a match. You have to match colorful detailed patterns, which is a lot harder to do than matching the picture graphics found in most concentration games. Two people play, or one plays against the computer. You have the option of making the computer a difficult or not so difficult opponent in a one person game. In "Pattern Match" puzzles you get a display of 24 complex patterns with resolutions sometimes down to one pixel. You have to find the two displayed patterns that are identical. Even the easy mode is very hard. The game is timed and if you run out of time you are shown the correct answer. These both make great one person a games and are my personal favorites of the Addatex game group.

ARITHMETIC FUN TIME is your typical elementary school +-*/ practice software complete with music and cute graphics. You solve the problems just the way you would on a piece of paper. For example, in addition and subtraction you work from the right to left as you write down the answer on the monitor.

CHECKERS is NOT a computer version of the board game of the same name. It is instead a computer version of "jump a peg". You get a peg board with pegs all around in the peripheral two rows and all with spaces in the center vacant. You enter the coordinates of a "from" and "to" location to jump a peg and remove the jumped peg. The object of the game is to remove all except one peg and have this last peg in the center. I spent many hours playing this kind of game many years ago as a young preteenager with a real pegboard. It is a one player game, it is hard, and there are several possible solutions. This is another of the enjoyable Addatex logic games.

The Addatex software has been placed in the public domain by its author. If you have web access on the internet I highly recommend a visit to the very well done Addatex site. If not, send me $1 and I will send you the complete Addatex game package on a 3.5 inch IBM disk. You of course need an IBM compatible to play this TI software. I'm sorry, but I am just too lazy to type in all the code onto a TI disk. I will also send you the program pkunzip.exe on the same disk so that you can unzip the addatex file onto the hard drive of your IBM. The unziped file gives you the V9t9 emulator, all the Addatex games, a special version of extended basic, and the TI demonstration cartridge all of which run off of the emulator.

Webmasters comment: I ran a semi commercial software company back in the early 1980's, and I was most fortunate to be able to publish some of Malcolm's programs listed above. I met Malcolm for the first time in 1998. A visit to his web site is recommended. Stephen Shaw 1999.

[ Rapid Copy | JP Drawing | Addatex Software | Top of page ]
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