Z*Magazine: 29-Jun-87 #59From: Atari SIG (xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
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From: xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Atari SIG) Subject: Z*Magazine: 29-Jun-87 #59 Date: Fri Jul 16 10:22:25 1993 _____________________________________ ZMAGAZINE ^^^ June 29, 1987 Issue #59 HOT Atari News and Reviews _____________________________________ Zmag Staff: Ron Kovacs-Editor/Publisher Ken Kirchner-Assistant Publisher Susan Perry-Assistant Publisher _____________________________________ Xx SPECIAL NOTE This weeks edition is larger than the recent issues because we have been receiving many articles for publishing. We are also closing out the month with our older articles. _____________________________________ Xx ZMAG INDEX 59 /*/ XModem and PC Pursuit /*/ CompuServe Watch /*/ CompuServe Control Key Guide /*/ FCC Proposal Part 2 /*/ ZMAG Newswire /*/ Flash Help /*/ New Product Announcement /*/ 30 Secrets of the Old Atari /*/ Software Review by Steve Godun /*/ Upgrades and Expansions _____________________________________ Xx TELETALK ISSUE 12 EXCERPTS Why is X/Modem so slow on PC Pursuit? _____________________________________ QUESTION: "I use XMODEM across the system and transfers take twice [or thrice] as long as they should. Why?" ANSWER: As best as I can tell, the information we were passed from the Net Exchange BBS was well-meaning but wrong. Here is the scenario as I figger it--someone let me know if I'm wrong, too. XMODEM sends data in a 132-byte block that resembles a mini-packet: <----------Direction of transmission [SOH] [#] [#] [DATA] [CHK] | | | | |___ChkSum | | | +128 bytes of data | | |_________ block number | |_____________ Block number |_____Start of header (ASCII 01) This closely matches the size of a Telenet packet (generally 128 bytes) and can, for our purposes, be considered a packet's worth of data. PC Pursuit is set to forward data only on full packets and on expiration of idle timers (which are set for 1/10 second). The delay occurs because a connection through PC Pursuit goes through four modems and two entirely separate data transmissions. Each block of data must undergo the following (assuming a download from the BBS to the user): _____ _________ __________ | |__ ( )__ | | | BBS | /__( PDN ) /___|PCP user| |_____| (_________) |________| |_____| |_______| |_______| | | |_____ 1.1 | |_Variable (0.1/1+ |__________1.1 seconds That's potentially 3+ seconds to transfer data that would take slightly over 1 second to transmit in a direct connection--maybe 35% efficiency. To make matters worse, the acknowledgment (ACK) from the user to the BBS may take upwards of a second- -instead of a fraction of a second- -to be transmitted back into the network, have idle timers expire, be forwarded to the outdialer, and be transmitted to the BBS. As you can see, though, the real delay is *not* because of the delay in sending the ACK, but because the block size and packet size so nearly match, the two computers are almost never working simultaneously. A protocol that uses a larger block size--YMODEM, for instance--will run faster over the system, but not because it needs fewer acknowledgements. Instead, while sending the larger block, it causes data forwarding on a full-packet condition. After the first packet gets sent, both machines are doing work for most of the rest of the transmission, as such: BBS USER """ """" Start of 1K block Sends packet 1 Does nothing Sends packet 2 Receives packet 1 Sends packet 3 Receives packet 2 Sends packet 4 Receives packet 3 Sends packet 5 Receives packet 4 Sends packet 6 Receives packet 5 Sends packet 7 Receives packet 6 End of 1K block Sends packet 8 Receives packet 7 Does nothing Receives packet 8 (Of course, the BBS is not really sending the *packet*, just a packet's worth of data.) In effect, YMODEM wastes only 2 of every 9 128-byte transfers; it should run at about 75% efficiency. In addition, since it only has a single ACK per kilobyte (instead of 8), less time is spent in waiting for the idle timer to expire. Of course, to make things more confusing, there are XMODEM packages using 256-byte and 1K blocks and XMODEM packages that allow a "window" of unacknowledged blocks to be sent, among other flavors. Recently, the default parameters for the PC Pursuit ports were changed; by whom, I don't know. For best results, users should break to command mode and set X.3 parameters 1 and 10 to 0 (disables break to command mode and word wrap) and set ITI parameter 57 to 1 and parameter 63 to 0 (enable 8-bit transparent mode). This is all done with similar commands as those issued when connecting to Exec PC. _____________________________________ Xx COMPUSERVE WATCH ...HAPPY IBM FILE CONVERTER... ...MINDSCAPE UPDATE... _____________________________________ Capture from CompuServe's Atari8 SIG #: 190292 S3/Utilities 20-Jun-87 13:08:26 Sb: IBM to Atari and back Fm: SYSOP*Bill Aycock 76703,4061 To: ALL Still looking for a way to transfer files between your Atari and your IBM machine? If you have a Happy-enhanced 1050 disk drive, you're in luck! I just received in the mail today Revision 7.10 of Happy's Warp Speed Software. One of the claims made for this revision was a "feature that allows converting files to and from IBM PC format using the HAPPY 1050 ENHANCEMENT." After a very brief test, I can say that this feature works! The steps are pretty simple: 1. Format a SINGLE-SIDED disk in your IBM, using the command 'FORMAT A:/1'. 2. Copy the IBM files onto this disk. 3. Boot your Atari with a Warp Speed DOS, and run the program IBMXFR.AUT which is on the back side of the distribution disk. Make sure you have an Atari-format disk handy! 4. Select a few options, such as translation of CR/LF to EOL, then tell the program to copy from IBM to Atari. That's it! Swap disks as directed, and the file you choose is copied from IBM format to Atari format. Going from Atari to IBM works much the same way. This should work for any kind of file, but is most useful for text files. Or, you could download Atari programs on an IBM, then transfer them to an Atari disk to run them. As I said, my test was very brief. I'll do some more testing later and try to time how fast the program runs. If you have any questions, let me know! --bill-- #: 189751 S7/HOT News/Rumors 13-Jun-87 09:49:10 Sb: MINDSCAPE/ATARI GAMES Fm: SYSOP*Mike Schoenbach 76703,4363 To: All Online Today OLT-291 MINDSCAPE TO PUBLISH ATARI'S STAND-ALONE ARCADE GAMES FOR HOME Mindscape Inc. has signed an exclusive agreement with Atari Games Corp. to publish home computer versions of the Milpitas, Calif., company's stand-alone video games that now usually are found in coin arcades. According to a statement from the Northbrook, Ill., software publisher, first in the line-up of new titles will be Atari's Paperboy and Gauntlet games. Then, over the next few years, Mindscape expects to publish Road Runner, Road Blasters, Gauntlet II and others in home computer formats. "There are tremendous growth opportunities in the retail versions of coin-op games," says Mindscape President/CEO Roger Buoy. "We look forward to working with Atari because, with their consistently high-quality products and keen perception of the market, they are far and away the best company with which to be associated." --Charles Bowen _____________________________________ Xx COMPUSERVE CONTROL KEY GUIDE _____________________________________ Control Keys on CompuServe By:SYSOP*Charles McGuinness 76701,11 KEY Description === ================================ ^A Stop at end of line (delayed ^S, sorta) ^B Type-ahead control C. "hits" when the program next asks for input. ^C Interrupt. Either kills the program outright or tosses it into an interrupt routine. ^D Disconnect. If you're direct connected to a node, this is the equivilent to hanging up. ^E ^F ^G Beep! Break character... ^H Backspace ^I Tab ^J Line feed. Break character ^K Vertical tab ^L Form feed ^M Return ^N ^O Disable/enable output toggle. Output is bit-bucketed until another ^O or the program explicitly turns it back on. (Note the SIG is very good at turning it back on just before prompts) ^P "soft" interrupt -- flushes output, sets a bit program can check. Like ^C, but gentler. ^Q Resume from ^S or ^A ^R ^S Suspend output ^T Use to give a job status in the old days, nothing now ^U Abort current line ^V Retype current line ^W Alternate version of ^Q ^X ^Y ^Z End of file. One of the fun ways to get a program to end occasionally, usually with messy tracebacks. The SIG program is immune, but there's always some program floating around that isn't careful enough. -- charles _____________________________________ Xx FCC PROPOSAL Part 2 _____________________________________ In a move that could sharply increase telecommunications costs, the Federal Communications Commission last week proposed that enhanced service providers no longer be exempt from paying interstate access charges as of January 1, 1988. The charges could include a 3 cent per minute traffic-sensitive access charge, a 4.3 cent per minute terminating access charge, and a 2 cent per minute originating charge, depending on such factors as whether the call is local said Ruth Milkman, an attorney in the policy division of the FCC's common carrier bureau. Affected services include Telenet, Tymnet, Compuserve, and Dow Jones News/Retrieval. Paulo Guidi, president of Telenet Communications Corp of Reston, Virginia, called the proposal misguided and said it would discriminate against users of computer oriented services. "It's an issue we're going to be looking at very carefully" said Ken Allen, executive director of the Information Industry Association, a lobbying group in New York. The FCC is presently inviting comments from interested parties. _____________________________________ Xx ZMAG NEWSWIRE _____________________________________ SSI/TSR AGREEMENT? Strategic Simulations Inc. and TSR Inc. have signed a letter of intent to enter into a strategic alliance. The five-year licensing agreement gives SSI exclusive worldwide rights to produce and market a product line series of games based on TSR's classic Advanced Dungeons and Dragons(r) fantasy role-playing game. SSI will be the first company to bring TSR games to the computer. The agreement is valued at up to several million dollars over the contract period. At least ten different role-playing and several action game versions are planned by SSI for the most popular microcomputers, including C-64/128, Apple II series, IBM/compatibles, Atari ST and Amiga. Versions are also planned for family game systems, such as the Nintendo. The games will appear on the market beginning early next year and will be sold in SSI packaging with joint SSI/TSR logo identification. The games will be marketed through SSI distributors, retail, and hobby store channels amounting to over 10,000 outlets worldwide. Randy Broweleit, Vice President of Sales at SSI, states: "It's a high mark of recognition to be selected by TSR, the giant of the industry and creator of the most famous and popular fantasy role-playing game of all time, as their exclusive partner. We expect to create wonderful exciting new computer games based on a very complementary relationship." Michael Cook, Vice President of New Product Development at TSR said: "We are also pleased to begin a long-term relationship with SSI, whom everyone recognizes as a leading quality games producer. SSI's credentials as one of the finest creators of computer games, and their proven product line allows us to combine strengths to produce the best possible fantasy role-playing and action computer games." _____________________________________ Xx FLASH HELP Common Questions and Answers about FLASH terminal program _____________________________________ <1> I have a touch tone line. How do I tell FLASH to dial using touch tone? Answer: Go to the menu-bar and select DIAL DIRECTORY from the EDIT section. Click on the button that says 'ALTER SETTINGS' and change the Prefix to ATDT. Then hit return to exit the dialog and select SAVE from the FILE section. When the File Selection dialog box appears, click on "Configuration" and save the configuration as the default name FLASH.CNF. This makes sure that the dialer prefix will stay as ATDT the next time FLASH is run. <2> I'm trying to upload a message to CompuServe using Ascii upload but the text appears scrambled and there are missing characters. Answer: Change the ASCII upload setting to set METERING on. If you are using the SIG editor that gives you line numbers, then set PROMPTING on and enter ':' as the prompt character. <3> All of a sudden the cursor is moving on the screen, but I can't see any text being displayed. What's happened and what can I do to fix it? Answer: Line noise has resulted in FLASH being sent an escape sequence that has changed the text color to the white. The same error can cause text and background colors to become reversed. If you are using a color monitor then you may see strange combinations of text and background color e.g. red text on a black background. The solution is to use the MODE command to reset the terminal emulation mode. Press on ALT-M and hit enter. This will reset the colors to their default values while leaving the terminal emulation type unchanged. <4> While uploading or downloading a file using Xmodem I see error messages on the bottom line of the screen. Does this mean the file transfer was bad? Answer: Xmodem is very good at recovering from errors due to line noise and it's quite normal to see occasional error messages such as Checksum error or Sector number error. If a fatal error occurs, FLASH will always put a message on the bottom of the screen which includes the phrase 'Xmodem Aborted'. In addition, the other computer will usually realise that a fatal error occurred and also display an error message. FLASH will typically try at least ten times to send/recieve each block of the file before giving up. <5> How do I edit the FLASH DO files? Answer: Simple! Just load them into the FLASH capture buffer and edit them in place then save them back to disk. To embed control codes in a DO file, simply hold down the control key and press the appropriate key, e.g. control-C shows up as an arrow facing right. To load a file into the FLASH capture buffer, select LOAD from the FILE heading of the menu bar and select CAPTURE from the dialog box that appears. To save the entire capture buffer, select SAVE from the FILE heading of the menu bar and click on the CAPTURE box. You can save just a part of the capture buffer by marking out a block and saving it. The block commands are all under the BLOCK heading of the menu bar. If you want to load in a DO file for editing without clearing out all the other text in the capture buffer, select MERGE from the FILE heading of the menu bar and then select the filename to merge into the buffer. You can then edit that file and, after marking it as a block, save it back to disk using the SAVE BLOCK option under the BLOCK heading of the menu bar. BRODERBUND, UNISON DROP LAWSUIT (June 22) Broderbund Software and Unison World said today they have settled their legal dispute over the similarities of their respective graphics programs, The Print Shop and PrintMaster. In a joint statement this week, the two publishers said, "Whatever our differences have been in the past with respect to this lawsuit, we both feel our time, effort and money would be better spent in developing and marketing new and better software than in expensive, protracted litigation." Broderbund and its affiliate, Pixellite Software, filed a US District Court suit in May 1985 alleging that Unison World's PrintMaster infringed the copyright of their Print Shop program. FCC ATTORNEY EXPLAINS RATIONALE BEHIND CONTROVERSIAL PROPOSAL The Federal Communications Commission recently proposed to eliminate the exemption from interstate access charges enjoyed by commercial online database services since 1983. Such a move, according to FCC attorney Ruth Milkman and co-author of the proposal, has been considered by the agency for several years. She told Online Today that when the charges were first assessed in 1983, it was felt that "enhanced service providers" (such as CompuServe) would suffer from the enormous increase in user fees that would result. Consequently, the FCC decided to gradually implement the policy over a period of years. If this proposal passes, it will take effect Jan. 1, 1988. Milkman said the charges are assessed to those companies that use the local telephone exchange for interstate purposes. "It's a way of making the people who use the local exchange and incur the cost pay for it," she explained. She added that the direct financial effect on individual users is difficult to determine, since the cost will vary in different parts of the country depending on the cost of the local telephone exchange. According to Milkman, the FCC said it was concerned that the charges currently paid by enhanced service providers did not contribute sufficiently to the cost of the enhanced access facilities they use in offering services to the public. Concerns about rate shock might justify a temporary, but not a permanent, exemption from access charges. _____________________________________ Xx ZMAG NEW PRODUCT ANNOUNCEMENT _____________________________________ GOOD NEWS COMPUSERVE USERS! --------------------------- INTERLINK ST is now shipping! INTERLINK is the most advanced yet easy to use terminal package for your ATARI ST. "INTERLINK ST is an outstanding telecommunications program for the Atari ST and my personal choice for ease of use and speed." - Dave Groves Sysop Compuserve's ATARI Forums "INTERLINK ST has been my terminal program of choice for several months note and I don't even have the final version yet." - ST-LOG April 1987 With features such as: * MINI BBS collects messages and uploads/downloads files * Run programs from inside INTERLINK ST * Loadable transfer and emulation protocols * GEM Based * Full disk commands * Advanced auto dialer * Super Recorder/Playback lets you handle those repetitive chores, like getting those same stock quotes every day * Clip Board * Custom translation tables * 48 line display option on monochrome * Full continuous status display * Type-ahead buffer lets you enter and edit a line before sending it (great for chats) * Online help gives you a quick reminder when you need it * Buffer window with powerful entry and edit capabilities, works like a word processor * Connect Chimes with true carrier timer gently remind you of your connect duration every fifteen minutes * 20 Macro keys * Built-in password protection and encryption for your logon data and macro keys * Supports baud rates 300, 600, 1200, 2400, 4800, 9600, and 19200 * Word wrap * RS-232 spooling * And much more....... Come and join the revolution step up to INTERLINK ST. Retail price: $39.95 Act now until July 30th 1987 and we will give you $15 dollars off INTERLINK ST when you send in your old commercial brand terminal program. Toll Free 800-826-0130 in Florida 813-923-8774 INTERSECT Software Corp. 3951 Sawyer Road Suite 108 Sarasota, Fl 33583 _____________________________________ Xx 30 Secrets of ATARI Part 1 _____________________________________ 1. Nolan Bushnell, Atari's founding father, originally named the company Syzygy (the sun, moon, and earth in total eclipse). He renamed it to Atari because another company already owned the name Syzygy. 2. Bushnell is generally believed to be the author of Pong, Atari's first game. Actually, Magnavox released the Odyssey 100, the first home video game system, which included a game remarkably similar to Pong, several months before Pong's debut in the arcades in 1972. Years later, Bushnell admitted in court that he had seen an Odyssey prototype on display earlier in 1972. The Odyssey 100 was designed by Ralph Baer. 3. Bally/Midway rejected Bushnell's Pong when he demonstrated the game in its Chicago offices in 1972. Bushnell went back to California and started Atari. 4. Given a choice between Mappy and Pole Position, two arcade creations by the Japanese firm Namco, Bally/Midway amazingly opted for Mappy. Atari had to settle for Pole Position, which went on to become the biggest game of 1983. 5. Gravitar was one of Atari's worst-selling arcade games. So they took the game out of the cabinets and converted them all to Black Widow. 6. Mike Hally designed Gravitar. He recently redeemed himself as the project leader for Atari's spectacular Star Wars game. 7. Rick Mauer never programmed another game for Atari after he did Space Invaders for the VCS. He is said to have earned only $11,000 for a game that grossed more than $100 million. 8. Todd Fry, on the other hand, has collected close to $1 million in royalties for his widely criticized VCS Pac-Man. 9. The man for bringing Pac-Man home to Atari- Joe Robbins, former president of coin-op- was severely reprimanded by the chairman of the board Ray Kassar for making the deal with Namco without consulting him. It seems Robbins was in Japan negotiating a legal matter with Namco at the time, and Namco demanded that Atari buy the home rights to Pac-Man as part of the settlement. Pac-Man had yet to take off, but when it did, Robbin's gutsy decision paid off as Pac-Man went on to become the company's best-selling cartridge ever. 10. The man for bringing E.T. to Atari? None other than Warner Communications chairman, Steve Ross. So convinced was he that E.T. possessed video game star quality, Ross paid Steven Spielberg an enormous sum (did I hear $21 million?) for the rights to the little extraterrestrial bugger. Designer Howie Warshaw spun the game out in four months, only three million cartridges were sold and Atari began to announce million dollar losses. E.T. is now selling for as little as $5 in some stores. Next week 11-20... _____________________________________ Xx ZMAG PRODUCT REVIEW _____________________________________ By:Steve Godun Bop'n Wrestle Mindscape, Inc. PO Box 1167 Northbrook, IL 60065 Sug. Retail Price: $29.95 Many of Mindscape's games (such as Infiltrator, High Roller, and Balance of Power) are or were among the top 10 programs in Billboard's listings, but they were only available for the Apple and Commodore computers, leaving the large Atari 8-bit field longing for some attention. The people at Mindscape FINALLY opened their eyes and say this vast amount of Atari 8-bit computers and decided to convert their best selling titles. "Good!" Atari owners cried. I almost thought that Mindscape would start a trend that other software companies would follow. If BOP'N WRESTLE is the start of this trend, then pray that the other companies improve on it. Drastically. Put simply, BOP'N WRESTLE is one of the worst programs I've ever seen for the 8-bit Atari. Not since the days of CASTLE WOLFENSTEIN have I seen such slow animation, awkward control setups, and poor use of color, graphics and sound. I have seen BASIC wrestling games that are better than this (if the BASIC ones were compiled, they would be better than this attempt). One look at the game will tell you that BOP'N WRESTLE is a direct (I'm talking DIRECT) translation from its Apple parent. Sure, the sound was spruced up a bit (and ONLY a bit) for the Atari, but the graphics and colors are almost identical to the Apple version. The controls (joystick or keyboard) are extremely complicated, and sometimes you'll move the stick the right way but nothing will happen on-screen. Also, the opponents you face are (naturally) faster and more agile than you could ever pray to be, so don't expect to get very far until you've played it for a few hours straight (not that you'd WANT to). A little more fluid animation would have done wonders for the game, as would some more colors and sharper detail. Several times I have gotten confused as to which on-screen player was me and which was the computer. True, there are distinct traits that each wrestler has (one looks like Hillbilly Jim, another one resembles a punk rocker - complete with spiked purple hair), but quite often (like right after getting into a clinch or after performing a move) the two guys "mix" and looks like a speckled blob until one of 'em gets up. Controling the man with the joystick isn't that easy. Simple left, right, up, and down is fine (of course, diaginal moves are "too hard" and weren't put in the game). The problem arises when it's time to apply a hold or move on your opponent. There is no set direction for applying any move - it depends in the direction your man is facing. For example, if you just slammed your opponent into the mat and you are facing right, a simple elbow drop would be accomplished by facing your downed opponent, pressing the button, and pushing up on the joystick. Now, let's say you have the same situation except that your wrestler is facing downward ("facing" you, so to speak). If you wanted to do a elbow drop now, you would have to press the button and push the joystick to the RIGHT. This can get EXTREMELY confusing at times. I also like making a small reference card that I can stand up when I'm playing so I don't forget a function or move. With this game, I can't do that because there isn't a set direction for any given move. One more minus to BOP'N WRESTLE; For reasons that God only knows, the program takes up both sides of a diskette and takes around 3-5 minutes to load. This is too long for me, especially since this game doesn't even show an effort on Mindscape's part. There are a FEW pluses to this game that I should mention. First, there IS a two-player option available. Second, it seems that the list price of $29.95 is being cut drastically by a few mail order places to around $15 -$20. Third, if you can handle the controls, there is a variety of moves available to you. Among them are the very popular suplex, pile driver, head-but, airplane spin, elbow drop, the not-so-legal superfly, and the slingshot. I haven't been able to find any of the more popular moves such as the face rake, sleeper hold, or even a standard punch! The simplest moves available are a pseudo-punch (looks more like clobbering the guy over the head with your arm), shin kick, and the very pleasant knee-in-the-groin. Kicking your opponent when he's down is also very possible (not to mention very effective). Overall, I think Mindscape should have held back on the release of BOP'N WRESTLE until the program was improved (or maybe finished?). It is DEFINATELY not worth $29.95, or even $20. $15...maybe. There is one good result of this program. It's so bad that the people won't even WANT a pirated copy. Mindscape, if you want your future Atari conversions to work, PLEASE don't rush it. _____________________________________ Xx UPGRADES and EXPANSIONS _____________________________________ New, improved and better than ever. by D.F. Scott This month, we'll focus on upgrades and expansions to every Atari computer currently "out in the field." It appears that, by 1987, if you own an Atari -- from a 400 on up to a 1040ST -- there will be an Atari -made expansion available for it. New operating systems, new graphics chips and new monitors are to be expected. Among our sources this month are: John Skruch Manager, Atari's 8-bit product line; Larry Samuels, Director of Sales Marty Taucher, Public Relations of Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Washington. Other sources wish to remain unnamed. Once again, this portion of the Status report gives primarily the Atari 8-bit story. For the total picture, please see the ST section on page 45ST. At the heart of the XE is an eight -year-old mother board design, in a market that demands faster, brighter, bigger machines. The first attempt to "modernize" the 8-bits, the 1200XL, failed to work -- and failed to sell. Once the final versions of the XL were completed, they still retained "incompatibility" problems with the original 400/800s. I can recall no previous attempt to modernize any 8-bit computer which has resulted in a perfect track record in the software compatibility category. Forever inscribed in the annals of incommunicability with their predecessors are the Apple IIe; the Tandy 4D (formerly a TRS-80); and (in large, bold letters) the Commodore 128. Modernization randomly casts some unfortunate programs into the realm of future uselessness. Third-party software producers do not wish to be held captive, waiting for their star programs to be declared useless at the whim of a computer's manufacturer. Atari's 8-bit development is at an extremely crucial phase. Several software companies are shifting their concentration over to the ST, and others, not ready for the arrival of 16-bit prominence, are shifting their concentration away from Atari. So, in considering ways to make good their investment in the 8-bit line, Atari had to discuss something more than a mere facelift. In order to win back 8-bit software producers' support, the corporation could not redesign the XE. Atari has come to a compromise. It feels the best way to expand the XE is externally. A study of external expansion methods resulted in the corporation's asking itself, "Why not provide an expansion to every 8-bit computer in the field?" Surprise, 400/800/XL owners, the 80-column expansion unit is for you, too. The 80-column box, as yet unnamed, is planned to plug into the joystick port on all 8-bit units--most likely port 2. The SIO (serial input/output) port is thus saved for daisy-chaining through the disk drives. The mother board is left untouched, installation costs are wiped out, and you don't need an 850 interface! All that's required to sell it is a package, a salesman, a good monitor and the usual 90-day manufacturer's warranty. What will this expansion unit do? Here's what we know: the box connects the micro to a composite monitor, monochrome or color. General output for graphics and all alphanumerics printed directly to screen memory, besides buffered output through an input/output control block, will still appear in 40-column mode. Only text sent through the control block (IOCB) E:, number 0 -- called the screen editor -- will be converted to 80-column. At first thought, this might be a disappointment to some who expected an instantaneous improvement in output. Consider, though, the resulting calamity if all text were converted, so that all output flooded just the left half of the screen. Nearly all the 8-bit software currently available is geared toward a 40-column screen; there are a few pieces that offer 60-column emulation. How many programs can you name that use the screen editor IOCB instead of memory-mapped output? Not even AtariWriter Plus uses E:. Because of this little inconvenience, Atari plans to revise AtariWriter Plus yet again, to a sort of "Double-Plus" version, becoming the first company to capitalize on the new display. What hasn't been disclosed is whether or not doubling x-axis resolution will have the expansion box providing a new, ST-competitive graphics mode for 8-bits. Such a mode, if feasible, may work like graphics 9-11 does on the GTIA chip, representing a pixel by a letter. If there's an expansion graphics chip in the box (which I'll call the E-box after the E: IOCB), it could receive ATASCII text delivered to it by IOCB 0 (since that's all an IOCB handles) and, after being toggled by a "delimeter" or control character like reverse-%, go to "graphics 12," and convert the datum following the reverse-% to a graphics pixel with a representative color or hue value. Having created a graphics -11-like screen that acts like a 640- column by 200-line text output screen and with the main computer still under the impression it's operating the screen editor, the data would be output to the monitor in pixel form, positioned by tabs, spaces, line feeds, or the POSITION statement in Atari BASIC. Again, Atari has not confirmed that a new graphics mode will be made available, but it hasn't denied the possibility of one, when asked. A four-color 640x400 8-bit screen would have to have 32K of memory, most likely in the "E-box." The graphics speed would be dependent upon how fast the screen editor wants to work. To provide the mandatory power for a new graphics mode, the E-box would need to be a half-computer itself. It has a projected price of $79.95, which should be plenty for half a computer. So "graphics 12" is not out of the question. It would compel 8-bit software producers to treat the XE as a new machine entirely. Perhaps this will generate some new interest in the machine; on the other hand, it might make obsolete the existing software base, and thus reduce the amount of current production. There's still a bit of shaky ground here. If Atari were considering an overall consolidation of the computer line, in operation as well as in appearance, it might consider a graphically-oriented DOS, similar in appearance to GEM on the ST. One report is that Optimized Systems Software is redeveloping its ADOS text-driven system for use with the 3.5-inch format. Statements from Atari contradict this, claiming it is developing its own system, but the company is keeping its mouth curiously shut as to what this new DOS should contain and how it will operate. It hasn't denied, though, the possibility of the system's being a graphic one. Assuming such a system were released, it could not feasibly be implemented as an operating environment, as is ST GEM. Programs could not be run in a "windows" environment unless the environment were part of the program itself. But an alternate operating system called GEOS for the Commodore 64 shows that a point-and-click, "desktop" operating environment is feasible -- and good-looking -- for 6502-based machines, even if it doesn't speed up such machines. File-access and storage capacity in the Ataris would most certainly improve, and the current ST mouse can already plug into an 8-bit unit. If the old AtariWriter could fit into an 8K ROM cartridge, certainly a super enhanced version with drop-down menus, string search-and-replace and cut-and-paste could fit into 64K, with plenty of space left over for text, especially on the 130XE. What some people would spend thousands of dollars for when purchasing a Macintosh, they may be able to get at around $400.00, with color and disk speed as a bonus. The E-box and the 351 may tempt some current Atari owners to extract their units from closets, where many 8-bits rest in limbo. There was a time when it was difficult to find a purpose for a home computer. We found out it couldn't walk the dog, hand the kids a diploma, or balance the budget -- though it could balance one's checkbook. In eight years, we've been able to clearly define absolute purposes for owning a home computer, and word processing is near the top of Atari's list -- though game- playing, as Leonard Tramiel has said, is "what most people use them for." Ataris certainly aren't deficient at game-playing, but in word-processing, limited disk storage capacity and that 40-column screen are drawbacks to efficient applications. So, certainly, the company is making the right diagnosis and applying the proper solutions. For the Christmas season, the XEs will be in a more competitive stance against such machines as the Laser 128, the low- cost Apple IIc-clone now sold in major department stores. One important note: Atari no longer has plans to build a monitor (at one time called XC 1411) for the 8-bit line. Anybody wanting a composite monitor to attach to his E-box will have to look to other sources. The 8-bit product line manager, John Skruch, tells us his division has more important business at hand than to take some other manufacturer's monitor and conceive a fancy box for it. For the ST, programs like Flash! and ST-Talk should work with the SX, though, since it will operate in a totally different manner for the XE than the XM 301 and its predecessors, Atari will have to come up with a new piece of terminal software -- for both 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch disk formats. For the experienced 8-bit modem user, it will have to compare with 1030 Express. Following up from last month: Sales and Marketing Director Larry Samuels tells us XE advertising for TV is in production now, with plans currently to buy only into local air time, not expensive national network time. Author's Biography: D.F. Scott is an artist, writer, educator and programmer living in Oklahoma City. He is currently engaged in the study of quantum physics, computing and other ways in which elementary particles interact with each other. Otherwise, he fills infinite pieces of paper. This article ctsy of the HELP BBS. _____________________________________ ZMAGAZINE ISSUE 59 June 29, 1987 Please contribute (c)1987 Ron Kovacs _____________________________________
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