Readers Write

 

Issue 26

Mar/Apr 87

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POWER WITH THE PRICE?

Dear Les,

I am somewhat disappointed with the price of software for the ST computers. I believe that software suppliers may well jeopardise the growth and health of the ST computers. In many cases the prices charged are simply too high. One of the main reasons for people buying the ST computers is their remarkable price but you cannot have 'Power without the Price' if the software is ridiculously costly.

If things don't change, I believe we could well witness the slow strangling of the ST computers just as we witnessed the same thing happening to the 8 bit computers. That was a terrible shame. If software suppliers were not so greedy for immediate high profit margins and went for a slower and greater penetration of the market, the Atari 8 bit computers would be where they have long deserved to be - at the very top of the mass market for quality home computers. Everyone would be happy then.

M. Jackson

London

I agree that the prices are high for ST software and would like to see them come down to more sensible levels but the argument is quite complex. The major problem is that there are simply not enough ST's around in the U.K. to bring prices down to the level of most 8 bit software. Many 8 bit programs (not necessarily Atari) sell in tens of thousands but one major ST publisher who spent over a year developing a game has set a target of 2000 units at maximum. The product sells at 35 so you might think that 70,000 is a lot of money but the company will see less than half of that, maybe 25,000 at most. If they have four or five programmers and all the usual overheads there is not much profit left for future development, and remember it might take 18 months to reach that 2000 target. This is just one example, although maybe not typical. Other smaller, part time, companies could produce software more cheaply but they are often the ones who fail to advertise and distribute effectively and so end up with even less to live on. Like I said the situation is complex and will not change until there are a lot more ST's around.

 

DON'T MAKE US BLUSH!

Dear PAGE 6,

Congratulations. I think it has to be said once again. PAGE 6 really is the best magazine I have ever seen. I started my subscription about a year ago and I am still very happy with it. Since there are no magazines for Atari published in Switzerland I appreciate the PAGE 6 magazine very much. I've changed to a disk subscription and although it is great to receive the programs on disk at the same time as the magazine, I would like to remark on something. The title screen with the plane is very well done but the sound is a bit disturbing, at least to my ears!. Maybe you could have a look at it? Apart from the noise, the disk is a great pleasure each time. Together with the magazine it gives me the only chance to take part in the world of Atari. Thank you, and don't stop!

Marco D'Alessandro

Zurich, Switzerland

Thanks for the kind remarks. See elsewhere in this issue for a contest to find a new title program for the disk. Let's hope the winning title is a bit quieter!

 

PAGE 6 NOT UP TO SCRATCH!

Dear Sir,

I am a 100% Atari enthusiast. I purchased my 800 at the premium price plus all supporting hardware. Over the last four years I have slowly gained an insight into the system mostly through the American magazines and publications. The English publications just do not match the technical standard and seem to be more concerned with boosting sales of software. For instance DOS PLUS from Analog is a superb program and worth the price of the magazine.

Now the reason for this letter is the subtle promoting of the ST from all the UK media and the total lack of either the ST or the 800 series in the shops where we originally purchased them, also the price of software and add-ons to achieve a satisfactory system. In answer to your poll, I will not buy the ST and would like to see a magazine devoted to writing programs, not buying them, and to fully explore the potential we already have 'cheaply'.

V. Wood
Burnham on Crouch

Is he talking about us? I think that PAGE 6 has published some of the very best programs for the Atari to have been seen in this country and many which are better than a lot in the American magazines, but then I would, wouldn't I? And I seem to recall one or two articles on programming, don't you? I will report on the flood of letters supporting Mr. Wood in the next issue

 

FOOTBALL FANATIC

Dear PAGE 6,

I wonder if you could help me. I own a 520STM and single sided disk drive and I would like to put together a system that will enable me to make a record of the games my favourite football team have taken part in. This would involve all types of games and should include such facts as competition, venue, season, opposition, score and scorers.

What type of database software will I need? Will it be possible to output the results from the database into a graph program like K-Graph? I would also like to know if I will need any further hardware, given that the database should have possibly 8,000 matches over all competitions. So what would I need? More RAM? Two double sided drives? Hard disk? I would consider any of these if it is needed.

Peter Prendergast

Ibrox, Glasgow

They certainly take their football seriously, these Scots. A hard disk just to record your teams results?? Seriously though, you might just need a hard disk if you want 8000 records especially if they contain a lot of fields. Almost any database will do what you want and most can output files to be used for graphing but you should avoid those databases which are fully memory resident as they will not hold that amount of information. Best get something like Dbase II, or a clone, which is totally flexible although you will need to learn how to program it. I use H & D Base (sadly no longer available) and purchased it because it was flexible enough to combine databases together over several disks. This means that you can start out with a single sided drive and several disks, with perhaps five years results on each, and then upgrade to 2 double sided drives and, with some fancy programming, use two separate disks as one combined database, with a total of 20 years results to each database. Later, as your database (and your finance!) grows you can go onto a hard disk and combine everything into one with very little effort.

It is difficult to give precise advice without discussing the exact requirements (don't ask, I don't have time!) but anyone thinking about a very large database should check the software carefully. If it is memory resident or restricts the database size to just one disk, it will not do what you want. Think ahead, maybe hard disks will really come down in price. What would you do if you had spent a year typing in data only to discover that you can't transfer, and combine, it all into one database?

 

NOT IMPRESSED WITH THE XMM801

Dear Les,

After reading the review of the XMM801 printer in issue 25 I felt I just had to write. I purchased one of these printers a while ago and at the time I was assured that it was totally Epson compatible. I got it home and quickly booted up Print Shop using the Epson driver and expected to see a welcome message printed. Instead the printer just started printing a load of rubbish and feeding a lot of paper. We went through all of the printer drivers and they all produced the same result. Many other programs that work with Epson printers did not work. The XMM801 is NOT fully Epson compatible.

In addition, and with respect to Rob Anthony, the printer does not support NLQ. Just because a printer supports double strike does not mean it is NLQ. NLQ is made up of the printhead first printing part of the character in outline and then returning to overlay the dots to complete the character.

I returned the printer and got a refund and have since heard that the XMM801 has been withdrawn from sale. Maybe it was not as good as made out and was just overpriced?

Andrew Banner

London

One company's NLQ is another's double strike and the same goes for Epson compatibility. Although dozens of manufacturers claim Epson compatibility what they often mean is that they use the same control characters as Epson to achieve similar results. Many manufacturers overlook the graphics side and this is where the 'Epson compatibles' often fall down. Caution with any printer is the answer although I still think that the XMM801 was good value. Does anyone know of another printer for 175 that does not need an interface for the Atari, especially one that is totally Epson compatible?

I understand that the XMM801 has indeed been withdrawn but I heard a rumour that it was because Atari had discovered another cache of 1029's that they want to get rid of!

 

THAT OLD POUND SIGN AGAIN

Dear Les,

In the First Steps column of Issue 25 you printed a tip from Mr J.E. Robinson about printing the sign using Atariwriter and the 1027 printer. The problem with typing the five CONTROL-O codes as printed is that the sign is automatically followed by a space. It is, however, possible to print a number straight after the sign and it is quite simple. All you need to do is to type a zero before the 24 after the last CTRL-O and follow it immediately (no spaces) with the value. Thus to get 50 you type: CTRL-O 27 CTRL-O 23 CTRL-O 08 CTRL-O 27 CTRL-O 02450

Don't forget that the CTRL-O is the letter O and the others are numbers.

There is still one problem though. When using the sign in this way, Atariwriter fails to count it as a character. If you are justifying or using the full 80 column width this leads to some odd effects. Justifying with less than 80 characters gives a longer line and if the line is already 80 characters long, the last character spills over to the following line. Locally redefining the line length solves the problem but is tedious. Do any readers know of a way round this problem?

Chris Read

Milton Keynes

 

HACKER PROBLEM SOLVED

Dear Les,

In reply to Paul Cole's letter in issue 25 concerning Hacker, I believe that when the game is completed the headlines are sent to a printer, at least on the disk version.

I have not yet completed Hacker but gained the above information by using a sector editor to look at the disk. It is quite possible that when Paul completed the game the program was sending information to a printer and crashed because there wasn't one.

John Fallon

Birmingham

Several other readers wrote with the same comment so it may well be the answer. If so, what an incredibly bad piece of professional programming not to trap for a non-existent printer! Perhaps all these 'big company' programmers are making so much money that they have lost touch with the end user and assume that everyone has a printer. After all they are only a couple of hundred pounds aren't they!!

 

THANKS COMPUMART

Dear Sir,

I must write to express my thanks to one of your regular advertisers, Compumart. I purchased a disk drive from them from them in January 1986 and just before the Xmas holiday, almost a year later, the drive failed. I took it to my local computer shop for preliminary examination to be told it was not worth repairing. That was the morning of 22nd December so I thought it was goodbye to computing until well into the New Year, however I phoned Compumart to tell them and check the procedure under the, nearly elapsed, guarantee.

They were very helpful and said if I was prepared to send a cheque for 5 for Securicor delivery and return my old unit they would send me a new one to arrive next day before they closed down for Christmas. The new unit arrived at 11.00 a.m. on the following day before they could possibly have received my cheque, let alone the old unit!

I thought I would let you know as it was through PAGE 6 that I knew about this firm and maybe you could give them a mention they certainly deserve.

William Hadley

Studley, Warks

Alright we give in! Every other magazine has printed a letter saying how good Compumart are so we might as well join in! Seriously though, that is what you call good service. If the Post Office were half as efficient Compumart probably wouldn't even have had to charge you for the delivery!

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