Christmas tidings cheer those micro Scrooges
Plummeting hardware prices are a phenomenon of the micro market. Your Computer checked out just how cheaply you could buy a home computer this Christmas. All prices include VAT.
The Texas TI-99/4 is an extreme example. In 1980 it cost £750 – today it can be obtained for £150 under a cash-back scheme. Apart from its 16-bit processor and typewriter keyboard, the Texas has much in common with the Atari 400: both have 16K, three-tone sound, 16 colours, sprite graphics and plug-in software. The 400 is now £200. By shopping around you could find a 3.5K Vic-20 for less than £140 rather than £200 earlier in the year. Even Mettoy’s 32K, 9-colour Dragon 32 costs £180 from some stores, instead of the £200 official price. The 16K Colour Genie is still £200.
Multitech’s MPF II Apple impersonator costs £270 for 54K. Also chiming in at 64K is the £350 Commodore 64 although delivery before Christmas could not be guaranteed. For £225 Lynx which has 48K and will be capable of running CP/M will also be available in numbers in the new year as will the £100 16K Oric, one of the first machines to break the £100 colour and sound barrier. Sanyo’s PHC-25 20K Spectrum basher is unlikely to be in the stores until February, while the Spectrum itself is still good value at £125 for 16K or £175 for 48K.
If you still see the world in black and white, Jupiter’s monochrome Ace runs fast as a purpose-built Forth machine for £90, and of course the ZX-81 now costs £50 made-up or £40 as a kit for a truly basic approach to programming.
Love on a hot ZX-81
Love on a ZX-81 sounds quite uncomfortable, but this love is an adventure game with a difference for machines with the 16K RAM pack. It is written by women for women, Remsoft, the distributors, maintain it will take men a while to get the hang of it.
The scene is set at a country house in Devon where you encounter Tom, your lifelong heart-throb. The game proceeds on the basis of your emotional response to people and situations. The authors say they have written Love for people who are more interested in playing than winning. It is available at £5.95, post paid from Remsoft, George St, Brighton.
Cunning Lynx avoids mail-order snares
You will not have to wait much longer for the Lynx. Sales Director Riva Gould is confident that at least 1,000 computer enthusiasts will wake up on Christmas morning to find Camputers’ new £225 machine in their stocking! This is just as well because Dick Greenwood, Camputers’ General Director describes the Lynx as “a modern-day train set plus the Encyclopaedia Brittanica”. Just the thing for Christmas.
So far Camputers has resisted the temptation to sell the machine by mail order, partly because of the bad reputation that computer mail order has for late deliveries. The Lynx will go on sale in selected High Street stores later this month. In the spring Camputers will make available disc drives and CP/M for owners who want to upgrade their machines so that they can run packages like VisiCalc. Greenwood envisages owners building up to a complete system of computer, printer, disc drive, light pen, modem, and software for around £1,000 all told.
Rather than using a Microsoft Basic, Camputers used a custom-built language by Davis Jansons. Jansons modestly describes his creation as “maybe not the best in the world” and points out its shortcomings. “It does not scroll and it has no string arrays.” On the other hand Davis Jansons is confident that the ease with which his language can be adapted to the needs of particular users, the machine-code monitor, and what he describes as “maths overkill” makes the Basic more useful than on any comparable machine. He is also working on an extended Basic and a Forth, which will be available for the Lynx from the Spring.
Now Forth speakers will be able to consult the Oric in their own tongure
Oric expects to break the £100 colour and sound barrier this month by delivering 1,000 16K machines before Santa gets his boots on. Demand has greatly exceeded Oric Products’ expectations.
Plans to sell 50,000 units in the first year have been redrafted after receiving orders for 30,000 in the first two months.
Cynics might expect this to produce Sinclair-style delivery delays but Steven Mountford, Oric’s UK sales manager says “We are going to be very careful not to oversell”.
Prospective buyers will be encouraged by Oric’s latest language packages, Forth and Extended Basic. Forth will be offered free on cassette with every 48K Oric. It loads into RAM and takes up around 10K.
The Extended Basic comes in a ROM chip which will replace the existing Basic. It will be launched in January together with the modem and the free telesoftware service and will cost £34.50.
Peter Halford who has written the new Basic says that it is at least as powerful as BBC Basic. Like David Simons who has written Simons Basic for the Commodore 64, he has included all the commands found in other Basics plus some extra features such as a built-in assembler and disassembler. Full information from Oric Products International, Cosworth Park, London Road, Ascot.
Wait for it – here comes the Microdrive
The good news is that Spectrum delays are shrinking to reasonable limits, the bad news is that now you will have to wait even longer for the Microdrive. Despite repeated announcements that the Microdrive and RS-232 board for the Spectrum would be available by the end of this year, they are now unlikely to be launched before February 1983. The arrival of the first Spectrum Prestel adaptor of Spring is now not expected until the middle of 1983.
This news may confirm the view of some people that Sinclair Research operate on a different time scale from the rest of us. In Sinclair Time 28 days can embrace a period stretching front one to three or even four months.
Sinclair has recently been rapped on the knuckles by the Advertising Standards Authority for consistently failing to deliver Spectrums within the advertised 28-day limit. The ASA was inundated with an unprecedented number of letters complaining about delays.
Artic has cracked it
Richard turner of Artic gives a wry smile if you try to make him give away the secret of Krakit – the Toronto based £10,000 competition which has caught the imagination of Sinclair computer riddlers in Britain and America.
The puzzle consists of 12 riddles, each of which contains the name of a country, a date, and a city. Richard Turner gives an example of how the riddles work.
“Look up ‘Tour’. When was it first seen? No rhyme for hour but a rhyme for dance.” The rhyme for dance is France, the ‘Tour’ is the Eiffel Tower in Paris and it was first seen when it was constructed – in 1889.
At £10.00 a copy, whoever wins, Richard Turner of Artic – which is distributing Krakit – is not going to lose.
Sharp sends PC-1251 to front line but keeps MZ-700 in reserve
Sharp plans to sell 250,000 a year of the new MZ-700 home computer Launched this month in Japan. Sharp intends selling the MZ-700 worldwide but no date has been set for the 64K RAM colour computer’s British launch yet. The price is unlikely to be as low as the £180 quoted in Japan where an optional colour plotter/printer costs £100.
Meanwhile in Britain Sharp is launching a new range of pocket computers distinguished by an optional integrated printer and microcassette recorder. The PC-1251 features an 8-bit CMOS CPU, 4K RAM and extended Basic for around £80. What makes the PC-1251 more interesting than most pocket computers though is the CE-125 printer and microcassette recorder which transforms it into a low-power low-cost rival to the Epson portable computer. The whole unit is only 8in. wide, 6in. deep and 1in. high.
First glimpse of Acorn’s Electron – the 32k £150 Spectrum rival
Acorn’s eagerly awaited Electron has joined the select band of micro-computers which are already late before they are launched.
Until last month Acorn was still confident that the 32K Spectrum basher with full BBC graphics capabilities would be on sale before Christmas. Now the familiar ULA problems which have haunted Acorn in the past are again holding up production of the £150 Electron.
Acorn hopes to launch the machine early in the new year but if it becomes necessary to update the specification – for instance the single channel sound capability or the relatively slow processor, further delays cannot be ruled out. The cream-coloured machine has a real typewriter keyboard and measures 13in. wide, 6in. deep and 2in. high.
ZX Printer for 6502s
Now 6502-based computers will be able to run the low-cost ZX Printer with Microtanic’s new interface board. The board is suitable for machines such as the Vic-20, the Atom and the BBC Micro.
The £29.95 board is available now, and an interface for 6809-based machines like the Dragon 32 will be released shortly. Further details from Microtanic Software, Dulwich, London.
New ROMs for old is a common cry in computing. The Aszmic chip replaces the ZX-81/80’s Basic ROM inside the case. Comprocsys claims it turns the ZX-81 into an Assembly Language Program Station. As well as a Z-80 assembler it supplies many other features, including an extensive screen editor, file handling system, and 255 by 144 graphics resolution.
Capital Computers, Comprocsys’ agent in this country, is developing a board which will take both the Aszmic and Basic ROMs and allow switching with a comprehensive manual from Capital Computers, Park St, St Albans.
Chart-topping software makes games hit parade
As the software industry becomes more like the music business – complete with album covers for cassettes, Your Computer publishes its first Top 10, in no particular order based on sales from shops and manufacturers all over Britain.
Top of the list for the ZX-81 are Psion’s Flight Simulation, JK Greye’s 3D Defender and Monster Maze, Trader from Pixel, and Campbell System’s Gulp 2. Adven¬ture games are steady sellers, in particular those from Artic and Phips. Former high-flier Mazogs from Bug-byte is said to be slipping down while DJL’s Frogger is tipped for a place in next month’s top five.
In the Spectrum range chart leaders are Bug-Byte’s Spectral Invaders, Silversoft’s Orbiter and the Quicksilva games, Meteor Storm and Space Invader. New entry, Escape from New Generation Software looks promising. Also selling well are Chromasoft’s Adventure 1 and Startrek from Abersoft.
Top of the Vic-20 stakes were Vic Panic, Cosmiads and Another Vic in the Wall from Bug-Byte, and Bonzo and Amok from Audiogenic. Also selling well was Commodore’s Blitz.
Dragon software is thin on the ground at the moment although Dragon’s own programs, Ghost Attack and Beserk are moving up the charts. On the BBC front Acornsoft’s programs are still the most popular especially Snapper, Planetoids and Monsters. Defender is taking over from Pac-Man as Atari’s topper seller.
Stay with us next month for a new top 20 survey.