From Computer Support
I have to admit that this is a
review of a product that I have not personally tried but others
who have used it have raved over it and urged me to do a review.
Why haven't I tried it? Well as far as hardware goes I am a complete
novice and on my 800XL at least, it requires the desoldering of
a chip and the resoldering of the XOS chip. That, believe me, is
no job for a complete novice! Don't be put off from reading on though
because if you want one Computer Support will fit it for you.
At first sight an 80-column pack
would seem to be of interest only to dedicated word-processors but
behind the product title lies a whole host of changes to the XL/XE
Operating System which you might well wish to consider. First though
that 80 column mode.
You are not stuck with 80 columns.
What the chip does is give you an 80 column option which is enabled
by holding the SELECT key on power-up, otherwise the machine defaults
to normal 40 column mode. In order to ensure the maximum readability
the screen is forced to black and white in 80 column mode and other
standards (in both modes) include a faster keyboard response, a
properly centred screen and the cursor redefined as an underline.
All editing facilities remain the same but the character set has
been redefined to include that elusive £ sign in lieu of the backslash.
It would probably have been better to redefine the hash (#) as this
is the ASCII standard for a £ sign on most printers, and put the
hash in place of the backslash. Maybe they will do this on a later
revision. So far, excellent changes to make the machine much more
professional as far as word-processing is concerned.
Most software packages that use
the recognised screen and editor handlers will work fine but some
that have short cuts to the OS may not work. Computer Support have
been working on a number of patches to these and can probably advise
whether your word processor will work or get it to work.
Let's go back to 40 column mode.
Here you will get a default screen of green with white characters
and a number of other changes. Perhaps most important is compatibility
with the old Revision B OS which means that virtually all your software
will now run without the need for a Translator. Now, that is probably
of great interest to cassette users, who up to now have had to miss
out, and cassette owners will find another bonus. The cassette load
and save has been adjusted to 820 baud so that all programs will
save and load some 40% faster and they will be still be compatible
with other machines. If you are into commercial games most of which
boot without BASIC you will be pleased to find that the use of the
OPTION key has been reversed so there is no need to hold it down
to boot software.
Programmers will benefit by using
CONTROL and TAB to stop/start scrolling of listings allowing one
finger control and having full error messages displayed (and buzzed!).
No more hunting for manuals. And programmers will also find many
other items of interest for several features of the OS can be controlled
Other changes include the halving
of printer timeout and the echoing of joystick ports 3 & 4 from
the old OS to ports 1 & 2 allowing programs that use these ports
to run on the XL/XE.
What sort of support can you expect
from Computer Support having forked out £69.95? Well firstly they
offer a full year guarantee on all products and secondly will provide
you with an updated ROM, whenever amendments are made, for a fee
of £6 which will include the latest instructions. As far as updates
go, there is a spare 3K on the chip and Computer Support invite
your suggestions for its use. If there is some feature that you
think is missing or you think could be improved, tell them and you
may well find it on a subsequent revision. The people there are
certainly knowledgeable and will try to ensure that you get the
best from the product.
To sum up then, a lot of useful
features are hidden behind what appears to be a straight 80 column
screen handler. If you are confident with electronics or are lucky
enough to have an early 800XL with socketed chips you should have
no problems in fitting the XOS yourself but if you have any doubts
you can send your machine to Computer Support and have it fitted.
This will push up the price by a further £15 but a repair will cost
a lot more.
If you would like to get a look
at the XOS before buying and have a User Group nearby ask the Secretary
to get in touch with John Lawson at Computer Support and he will
probably arrange to give a demonstration.