Manchester Musings by John Rice
The Printer Saga Continues
Courtesy of Howard Greenberg of Arcade Hardware I've just acquired a Centronics cable to connect the parallel interface on my Tandy DMP-110 printer to the Corcomp RS232 card's parallel port.
It works - so the Corcomp card does give a true Centronics interface. There are two interesting consequences. Firstly, the printer seems to go faster: even though it only prints at up to 83 characters a second and the Corcomp serial interface operated to it at up to 120 characters a second, I think this must be due to the way the printer and/or the Corcomp device driver handle the parallel interface.
Secondly, it doesn't drop characters, which the serial interface occasionally did, particularly after a row of underlining. I think that was a printer fault. The real incentive to get the parallel interface connected was The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy (like all Infocom games) gives the option of a printed copy of the script being sent to a 300 baud RS232/1 line (a speed at which my printer doesn't operate) or the parallel line - the latter clinched it
At the TI Users Show I purchased a secondhand TI external disk drive from Arcade Hardware. It's a Shugart-made drive and has the ability, previously only demonstrable on a Beeb drive at work, to read disks conveniently folded by my postman, The latter had the cheek at 7.30 a.m. the other Saturday morning to fold a packet in half, try to stuff it through the letter box, fail, remove the packet, ring the doorbell, and hand me a packet (admittedly unmarked) apologetically. Only afterwards did I realise what he'd done!
I really don't know how I ever managed without two disk drives; life's so much simpler these days. For Editor/Assembler or TI-Writer, the system disk stays in Drive 1 and the data disk in Drive 2; whereas with Mailing List I load the programs from Drive 2 and keep the data on Drive 1. It's great not having to swap disks!
I eventually decided to solve the problem of guaranteeing regular delivery of COMPUTE! Magazine by ringing COMPUTE! Subscriber Services one evening on 010-1-919-275-9NNN and ordering it with my VISA card at 30 dollars for delivery by surface mail ("lengthy and unreliable"). I placed the order on 13th March, the sum of GBP 23.40 was debited on 9th April (the exchange rate was certainly in my favour that day) and the June 1985 issue arrived on 16th May, two days before the May 1985 issue arrived at my local newsagents, where it cost GBP 3.10. Even allowing that phone calls to the USA aren't cheap, I think I've saved a pound or two (there's no tax on literature ... yet!)
TI Home Computer Users Club
I've had a reply to the letter I'd sent with the arguments I discussed in the last issue: quote response from TIHCUC: If you wish to receive the remaining publications during 1985 then please send us a cheque or postal order for GBP 4 and we will keep your name and address on our mailing lists. I duly sent off my cheque, and have been told we will be sending you the next copy of the Club News towards the end of May 1985.
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TI Clinic - a Postmortem
There were quite a few questions and comments from the TI User Show's TI Clinic which can usefully be shared with readers.
1.A user had a problem reading records previously written onto cassette when, in both cases, the files were OPENed as DISPLAY type with FIXED 16 records. The program worked alright when the same files were written and read on disk. The problem, I'm sure, is a result of the fact that TI BASIC rounds up the record length from the declared 16 characters to the minimum length (which is also the default) of 64 characters, and the program, reading a string, failed to take this into account. Incidentally, the only other two permissible record lengths on cassette are 128 and 192. You are also recommended to use INTERNAL, rather than DISPLAY, type files on cassette.
2. In Extended BASIC, how do you check whether a word's in the speech synthesiser's
vocabulary, without using CALL SAY and getting an "UHOH" spoken? One answer is to use
CALL SPGET, and check whether the return string is the same one that is obtained when
calling SPGET with "UHOH" as the word string. The program below illustrates the
10 CALL SPGET("UHOH",Z$)
20 CALL SAY("#READY TO START#")
30 INPUT "TYPE ANY WORD:":A$
40 CALL SPGET(A$,Y$)
50 IF Y$=Z$ THEN CALL SAY("#
WHAT WAS THAT#,#TRY AGAIN#")
ELSE CALL SAY(,Y$)
60 IF A$<>"END" THEN 30
70 CALL SAY("GOODBYE")
3. With the Terminal Emulator 2 module plugged in, one user reported problems when
using the command to list from a line number to the end of the program using the
"SPEECH" device; e.g.
He also said that if you break in on this command and re-issue it, the speech synthesiser gets confused and speaks some rubbish. Now, try as I might, I cannot reproduce this problem on my TI-99/4A at all. Has anyone else had the problem?
4. In Extended BASIC, what will disable the effect of the "QUIT" function key?
CALL LOAD(-31806,16) Disables the QUIT key
CALL LOAD(-31806,0) Enables it again.
5.The command to turn off all disk drives and free the buffer space, published in TI*MES Issue 8 on page 52, is incorrect. The correct command is:
which should be followed by NEW.
From Extended BASIC, CALL INIT must also be called.
6. In TI BASIC, typing FCTN/J/SPACE (all three keys together) has the same effect as typing FCTN/4 (CLEAR) - i.e. it causes a break point in a running program.
1. "TI-Writer Companion" by Dr. William G. Browning, NNNN Jersey Avenue North,
Brooklyn,MN, USA; $2.50 plus postage (about $6 air mail).
This is a 29 page A4-size document which comes 3-hole punched to insert in the binder of your TI-Writer Manual. It consists of 7 sections entitled Time Savers, Creative Uses of the Search Function, Special Strategies, Page Formatting, Numbers, Disk Management and TI Graphics. Dr Browning is safe in offering a money-back guarantee - the tips, particularly on how (albeit somewhat tediously) to get professional-looking right-justification, partially underlining words, and the size of files in words, are useful and it is well worth the asking price. However, the postal cost is so high that it takes the edge off the purchase.
2. "COMPUTE!'s First Book of TI Games" edited by C. Regena; ISBN 0-942386-17-5;
$12.95, 211 pages,
Available to download from TI Books
This book consists of about 30 programs, most of them published in COMPUTE! Magazine between 1981 and 1983. Each program has a brief accompanying description and there is a helpful introductory chapter on Programming the TI fForth.
The games are collected in groups of 3 or 4 under the headings: Maze Games, Chase Games, Old Favorites, Thinking Games, Creative Games, Scrolling, Action Games - all in TI BASIC, plus a closing chapter of 7 Extended BASIC Games
Like all COMPUTE! books, it's spiral bound so it lies flat as you type in the programs - a very useful feature. The programs are well written and, apart from being fun to play, demonstrate a wide variety of programming features which are worth studying.
3. "COMPUTE!'s TI Collection, Volume One"; ISBN 0-94238671-X; $12.95, 309 pages.
Available to download from TI99/4a books
The forward says "this anthology of games, applications, utilities, and tutorials for the TI-99/4A contains many never before published". In addition there are 18 which were published in COMPUTE! between 1982 and 1984. This is an ideal book if you want to start to explore what your TI-99/4A can do - particularly if you have Extended BASIC - even more if you have a disk and a printer.
The chapters are Getting Started, The BASICs, Applications (including "mini" programs for mailing list, spreadsheet, data base and word processor), Recreation, Sound and Graphics, Sprites and Utilities (Disk Deleter and Master Disk Directory - for up to 50 disks and 450 files), All the programs are excellent, but I'm a bit confused by the fact that it includes a character set generator program Superfont (with 19 commands) which is more comprehensive than the version of the same program (with only 16 commands) published in the June 1985 issue of COMPUTE! It makes you wonder how many more of the other previously unpublished articles will be re-published in future.
4. "COMPUTE!s Guide to TI-99/4A Sound and Graphics" by Raymond J. Herold; ISBN
0-94-A4 -46-9; $12.95, 210 pages.
Available to download from TI99/4a books
The jacket describes this book as "a complete guide to sound, graphics and speech synthesis on the TI-99/4A, including arcade-style games, music routines, and educational programs, ready to type in and use," The contents certainly live up to the cover blurb. The book is geared towards the use of Extended BASIC. Its chapters cover Graphics, Sprites, Sound and Speech Synthesis. The speech chapter covers the standard Extended BASIC Call SAY and CALL SPGET routines, but also the TI Text-to-Speech Diskette (which needs 32K RAM) which adds a library of routines to Extended BASIC (XLAT to translate text to allophone strings; SPEAK to speak them). If you want to write programs that exploit the 99/4A's facilities to the full, and have Extended BASIC, you'll find the book very useful
5. "COMPUTE!s Guide to Extended BASIC Home Applications on the TI-99/4A" by
Christopher Flynn; $12.95
Available to download from TI99/4a books
All tne programs in this book are in Extended BASIC, as the title implies. It starts with a chapter on Extended BASIC Techniques, with 11 short illustrative programs. It then launches into chapters on File Management, Electronic Spreadsheets, Computer Graphics (actually bar charts), Electronic Card File and Appointments Calendar, Each chapter includes programs which use a cassette drive for data file storage and will run without the 32K RAM expansion, but more comprehensive versions are provided to make use of the extra memory, disk drives and printer for those lucky enough to have them.
I'm a bit unsure of the value of these "business type" programs for the "home" - though the Electronic Card File is useful, within its limitation that "cards", once entered, can be amended (though their indexing information can't), but cannot be deleted. The final chapter provides a program to load all the others in the book, so if you are looking for a complete "home office" program suite, this book provides it.
6. "33 Programs for the TI-99/4A" by Brian Flynn; ISBN 0-942386-42-6; $12.95, 199
Available to download from TI Books
Who would want a set of programs to plan a US Individual Retirement Account, run a computer as a cash register, hide Brer Rabbit in a briar patch, do multiple linear regression analysis, and test the quality of the TI-99/4A's random number generator?
Here's a book for all the family! Well, one with parents in business, a mathematically-inclined teenager and a young child, anyway. There are chapters on Money Management, Basics for Business, Games, Curve-fitting Routines, Matrix Manipulations, Simple Statistics and Numerical Analysis. All the programs are in Extended BASIC.
7. "COMPUTE!'s Beginner's Guide to Assembly Language on the TI-99/4A" by Peter
M.L. Lottrup; 0-942386-74-4; $14.95, 262 pages.
Available to download from TI Books
Peter Lottrup wrote an excellent series "Have No Fear: Assembly Language Won't Byte!" in 99er/Home Computer Magazine. Here he provides a similarly lucid exposition of the joys of programming with the Line-by-Line Assembler for the Mini Memory Module. This book fits neatly between the over-thin Mini Memory Manuals and the over-technical Editor/Assembler Manual - in content as well as size.
It starts at the very beginning - assuming no previous knowledge. When you've worked through all the examples, you'll know about the Keyboard and Joysticks, Utilities, Mathematics and Scrolling, BASIC'and Assembly Language, Character Definition and Colour Changes, Creating Sprites, Generating Sounds and Graphics Modes.
I've seen most of the books on assembler for the TI-99/4A, and I think this is probably the best. Well worth getting.
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The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Infocom Software (available from Arcade Hardware); GBP 39.95 (disk only)
At last: the computer game of the stage show of the TV series of the book of the BBC radio serial! If you enjoyed any of its previous incarnations, you'll love this (text-only) adventure, even though you need 32K expansion RAM, a disk and one of Extended BASIC, Mini Memory or Editor/Assembler to run it.
Even before you've loaded the disk, there's the 25-page colour Instruction Manual to read, and an inventory to take of the handy objects included in the packaging: Fluff("goes anywhere - under the bed, behind the commode, at the bottom of your pocket, inside your navel!"), Destruct Orders for Your Home and Planet, "Don't Panic" button, Joo Janta 200 Super-chromatic Peril-sensitive Sunglasses, a Microscopic Space Fleet and No Tea('just like the tea professional hitchikers don't carry!').
The disk itself is a curiosity - a "flippy" - with two index holes punched in the casing, so that Side 2 is on the reverse of Side 1 - you just turn it over to read it on a single-sided 40-track drive. The program (in versions for different systems) occupies Side 1, and Side 2 is full of the data for the adventure itself.
Does the content live up to the packaging? "Yes". I'm not keen on adventure games usually, but the chatty, humorous, sarcastic dialogue makes even a total failure to solve the adventure an enjoyable experience.
You play the role of Arthur Dent "a rather ordinary earth creature" who suffers an incredible sequence of intergalactic misadventures. If you enjoyed the radio or TV series, you'd pay 3 million Altarian dollars, never mind, GBP 39.95, to play it. If you coulch't stand it before, you'll not like it now!
>GET OUT OF BED
Very difficult, but you manage it. The room is still spinning. It dips and sways a little,
>PICK UP THE TATTY DRESSING GOWN Luckily, this is large enough for you to get hold of. You notice something in the pocket.
>PUT ON THE GOWN
You are now wearing your gown.
>OPEN THE POCKET
Opening your gown reveals a thing your aunt gave you which you don't know what it is, a buffered analgesic, and pocket fluff.
>TAKE THE ANALGESIC
You swallow the tablet. After a tew seconds the room begins to calm down and behave in an orderly manner. Your terrible headache goes,
>DRAW THE CURTAINS
As you part your curtains you see that it's a bright morning, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the meadows are blooming, and a large yellow bulldozer is advancing on your home.
>PICK UP THE SCREWDRIVER
>FIND THE DOOR
You figure it out!
Ah, well; just time to pop the fluff in my pocket, polish my Don't Panic button and settle down for another evening's hitchiking. Who said adventures weren't addictive?
The "Mathematics Action Games" have been available in the USA for some time. The IUG stocked them at $34, which then declined to $34 for two - but at $4.95 they're a real bargain, Frog Jump, Picture Parts, Star Maze, Pyramid Puzzler, Number Bowling and Space Journey are in a fairly standard format: answering a maths question gives you a turn at a game. The sound and graphics are excellent,
The "Reading Skills Courseware", I believe, has not been issued before. The "regular
price" quoted is $39.95 - so $4.95 is a real snip. Some people worry about American
spellings and words and the effect they have on children - I suspect that's why TI
didn't distribute the previous reading modules in this series (Reading Fun, Reading
Flight, etc) in the UK - but there are hardly any words in the entire series which
are different in meaning or spelling between the US and UK.
Each module comes with a 32-page pupil's reading and activity book (in colour) as well as the usual module instruction booklet - and they're a distinct cut above the sort of material available on other home computers. More importantly, they follow on from the Early Reading module (though few use speech) and supply material for older primary school children - for whom there were few previously issued TI modules.
The use of colour graphics in many of the modules is nothing short of fantastic as "a host of animals and story characters help children strengthen a variety of reading skills."
The "Mathematics Courseware Series", for which the early parts (Addition and Subtraction 1, etc) have been available in the US and UK for some time, has been extended, I've received "Addition and Subtraction 3" and "Multiplication 2", SF's blurb that "brilliant use of colour and animation illustrates concepts instantly and helps children practice and improve their grasp of basic maths fundamentals" is true. All the new modules are designed for the 99/4A.
How do you get hold of these modules? I wrote to Scott,Foresman and Company enclosing my VISA number, name, address, signature and card expiry date. There's import duty and VAT to be collected by your postman, of course. Quote the Scott,Foresman reference number. Each module costs $4.95, and there's $1.40 postage and packing charge on the whole bill.
One of the problems buying software from the US for children is that it's
classified in "grades" rather than children's ages. SF have at last recognised this
difficulty and their new 'previously unavailable" modules are classified by age. So
I'll end this article with a complete list of those modules in SF's "closeout sale".
Reading Skills Courseware
SF No and Title
Contents and suggested Age
117 Reading Rainbows- Comprehension (needs Speech Synth.) 5-7
119 Reading Cheers- Word identification 6-8
121 Reading Adventures- Comprehension 7-9
123 Reading Trail- Literary understanding and appreciation 8-10
125 Reading Power- Study and research 9-11
127 Reading Wonders- Literary understanding and appreciation 10-12
Mathematics Action Series
SF No and Title
contents and suggested Age
176 Frog Jump- Counting and ordering numbers 5-8
179 Picture Parts- Basic +, - and x 5-8
182 Star Maze- Division facts,remainders,short division 8-12
185 Pyramid Puzzle- Multiplication facts, x by l00 and 1000 8-12
188 Number Bowling- Decimals and fractions 11-adult
191 Space Journey- Percents 11-adult
Mathematics Courseware Series
SF No and Title
Contents and suggested Age.
128 Addition and Subtraction 1- Basic facts through 9 5-7
129 Addition and Subtraction 2- Basic facts through 18 6-8
131 Numeration 1- Place value through 3 digits 5-8
130 Addition and Subtraction 3- 2-digit and 3-digit numbers 7-9
132 Numeration 2- Place value through 9 digits7-11
133 Multiplication 1- Basic facts 7-9
138 Decimals 1- Meaning of decimals, + and - 9-11
134 Multiplication 2- 1-digit multipliers 8-10
135 Division 1- Basic facts 8-11
136 Fractions 1- Meaning of fractions 9-11
137 Fractions 2- Like denominators 9-11
139 Decimals 2- Multiplication of decimals 10-11
N Edoln Road, Manchester MNN 3NN
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The U.K. console has a six pin DIN socket for the video connection, the sixth pin being in the centre.
sound o o + 12v o earth b-y o o comp vid o r-yThe connection for a monochrome monitor should be across pin 6 (earth), and pin 2 (composite video). If the monitor were connected Beware of earthing pin 3 (r-y) to ground which can damage the video output I.C.
by Gregory Roscow
One of the gaps in the range of software TI produced for the 99/4A is a flexible filing system. Although the PRK and Statistics modules, by themselves and with Personal Report Generator, can be very useful for certain purposes, there are restrictions on the length and number of records per file, the number of items per record, and on the options for printed output. Arcade Hardware has advertised a database by Navarone which may overcome these limitations, but I have not yet seen what it does. Perhaps Howard Greenberg could be persuaded to write and tell us about it, as a follow-up to his helpful comments on Multiplan.
Sometimes, however, file management and database software can be too powerful. It can take a lot of time to set up, and once you have done so you are generally stuck with the original configuration. I think many people, unless they are in business, want something that is both less powerful than a database and more flexible than the TI data management modules.
Enter TI-Writer. Suppose you want to keep a file of your computer transactions: who has bought or sold
what and when, what bits of hardware and software they're looking for, and so on. A typical record might
look like this:
10 Parsec Place
Bought Tombstone City 28 January 1985
Looking for expansion box maximum £60
There are several advantages to using a word processor to store such information. First, no special setting up is required. You simply type in what you want when you think of it. Secondly, you have convenient access to every piece of information in the record through the search facility offered by TI-Writer (or any other word processor worthy of the name). You are not restricted to a set number of keys to get at the information. What is John Smith's address? Just go to the command line and type FS (FindString) and /John Smith/. Whatever happened to the Tombstone City module you thought you still had somewhere? Type /Tombstone City/ or simply /Tombstone/. Who was it that wanted an expansion box? Etc.
Used in this way a word processor can be more useful for some filing purposes than true data management software. The one drawback is that you can't sort the records, but the search facility more than compensates for this in many cases and there is no need to bother with things like fields and keys. You can include as much or as little information of any kind and in any form that you choose, and it can easily be updated by insertion or deletion.
There is no need to define the format of the records. FindString does not care whether the information is stored in passages of purple prose or in terse single-line entries. To make the most of the search facility, however, you should try to keep the form of the entries as simple and natural as possible. It may be tempting to use the form "SMITH John" to head a record, but if you forget that you've used inversion and capitalization you're in trouble. Capital letters and punctuation should only be used when absolutely necessary. FS /expansion box/ will not find either /Expansion Box/ or /"expansion box"/, and it's unlikely you'd remember these forms. Abbreviations like /exp. box/ are best avoided for the same reason.
Whatever form you choose, the important thing is to be consistent. Some words and names, however, have alternative spellings and it can be difficult to remember which you've used. Did you type Munch Man or Munchman? There is e rule to remember that gets round this difficulty: FindString looks for the first complete form of the word or phrase in its search. FS /Munchman/ will therefore not find /Munch Man/, whereas FS /Munch Man/ will find /Munchman/ and FS /Munch/ will find both. Incidentally, you don't have to use slashes with FindString, which can save a little time if you're doing a lot of searching. If they're. omitted, however, only the first word in a string will be located. FS John Smith will find this name only if there isn't another John earlier in the file. With strings of two or more words it's safer to use the slashes.
The most important thing to remember when accessing information with FindString is that for each new string the cursor must be positioned at the beginning of the file. If it isn't, the search will take place only from the point in the file where you happen to be. To find all occurrences of /Smith/, home the cursor with CTRL L and roll up with FCTN 6, then keep using FS /Smith/ until you come to the end of the file.
It's a pity TI-Writer hasn't a single keystroke for this operation, but at least there is a way of getting to the end without using the roll clown key combination. Simply use FindString with a nonsense string like /xyz/, or make the last line of the file a Comment such as EOF (End Of File) and use FS /EOF/. This is particularly useful when you first load the file and want to add more records. A final comment line could also include the date, which could be altered each time the file is revised. Comment lines can be used as markers at other points to help you find your way about quickly in a long file.
While the sorting facilities of a database are not possible with TI-Writer, there is a simple method of accessing records alphabetically which can be useful for printing purposes. Choose a key for the file such as surname and a character to identify it, e.g. John _Smith. Don't use any of the characters that have a special function in TI-Writer, such as the slash (FindString) and the period (format commands), or that you might want to transliterate later to send formatting instructions to your printer. The purpose of this character is to limit the search to the keywords; otherwise all capital letters would be found.
To print the records in alphabetical order, position the cursor at the beginning of the file and work through the alphabet with FS /_A/, /_B/, /_C/, etc. Each time a record is found you can use the relevant line numbers with PrintFile to print it (see TI-Writer manual, page 76, "Printing part of the Text Buffer"). You'll have to go back to the beginning for each new letter, and the list will be alphabetical only with regard to the first letter of the name, but the procedure can be useful and in practice it is not quite as fiddly as it sounds. The screen scrolls up quite quickly if you keep the FCTN 6 keys held down.
Other characters could be used in this way to create as many keys for sorting purposes as you need, though this might begin to defeat the object of keeping the system as simple as possible. With the Text Editor the characters will of course appear on the printout, but you can get rid of them in the Text Formatter by using the transliterate command to turn each one into a space.
A simple and flexible filing system of this kind has considerable potential. Imagine a recipe file where all you have to do is look in the fridge and see what you've got, then type in the ingredients and try to come up with a meal! I have a monster file called THINGS that I dump everything into as I think of it and gradually sort out when certain records start to need a separate file. Where is the database that you can throw anything into in any form? THINGS is particularly useful for bits and pieces of information that are hard to classify or don't warrant a file of their own.
TI-Writer offers several commands to help with file management. Records can be re-positioned with the Move command. Material from other files can be incorporated at any point using INciude file. Selected records can be printed using PrintFile and line numbers in the Text Editor, or a separate file with special instructions can be created for use with the Text Formatter. Changing a piece of information throughout the entire file is a simple matter with the ReplaceString option. In short, TI-Writer offers considerable scope for tailoring a system to meet your particular needs.
Using a word processor in this way can help you to decide if you need more powerful file management software. If certain files acquire a lot of records in a standard format it is probably worth moving them to a database. I also have a Commodore SX-64 and use the standard word-processor Easyscript to collect information, some of which is then transferred to a powerful filing system called Superbase which has all the necessary sorting facilities. But with a manual of more than 200 pages, Superbase is hardly worth setting up just to remind me of what's in the loft, what birthday and Christmas presents to buy, where to find cheap printer paper, or what that bright idea was it I had for solving unemployment!
Fortunately, Superbase and Easyscript are compatible, so if files are to be transferred they needn't be completely re-typed. It would be helpful if the Navarone Database were similarly compatible with TI-Writer. One last TIp. If, like me, you tend to read manuals only when you get into serious difficulty, you may have missed the point that it's possible to turn off the 80-column screen. Windowing can be a nuisance when you're dealing purely with text rather than with columns of numbers. Use the Tabs command to set the right margin to 33 (with line numbers) or 39 (without line numbers) and all printing will then be visible on the screen. These tabs will be saved with the file and can be reset for printing with the Text Editor.
Gregory Roscow, University of Keele, Staffs
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