David Fox & Mitchell Waite.
Published by McGraw Hill
About 18 months ago BYTE magazine published a demo for the Atari
called Waterfall and I was so impressed I searched immediately for the
book from which it was taken. The book had not yet been published so I
waited and waited. Now at last Computer Animation Primer by David Fox
and Mitchell Waite has been published and it was well worth the wait.
Computer Animation Primer is a general
look at the use of computers for animation but has the added bonus
that the machine chosen to implement Computer Animation for the home
user is the Atari. A glance at the facilities offered by the dedicated
mainframes and other home computers shows why. The Atari is the only
home computer that comes anywhere near to emulating the big ones. The
author David Fox has an impressive background in animation and is a
member of the Computer Games Project at Lucasfilm Ltd and was project
leader for one of their first games for the Atari - Rescue on
The book is expensive at £19.95 but
then so are a great deal of non-computer books nowadays but it is 500
pages long and contains plenty of hard information and routines that
could advance your programming further than any other book you can
find. The first part of the book, up to page 151, contains an overview
of computer animation in general from the first steps up to the making
of TRON and STAR WARS with good insights into how various effects are
achieved. All different types of hardware and software are fully
discussed before moving on to the possibility of animation on Personal
Computers. Here the reason for the choice of the Atari as the subject
of the second half of the book becomes apparent. Hardware features of
Personal Computers are discussed. Hardware scrolling is said to be a
rare feature found only on the more sophisticated computers. Colour
registers are only just beginning to appear. Vertical Blank Interrupts
are another rare feature as are Display List Interrupts. All of these
have been a feature of the Atari from the very beginning. No wonder
David Fox chooses it as the model for Home Computer animation!
From pages 153 onwards the book is
devoted to Atari with each of the special features fully explored.
Beginning with character sets it adds fascinating information to
programming examples which guide you through each of the Atari's
special features. Throughout the book are `black box' routines which
are machine language routines that you can use in your own programs
without understanding the programming behind them. Just a few POKEs to
certain locations will give you control over Player Missiles, fine
scrolling, animation and more. In depth information, not previously
easily available, is included such as the programming and data for the
classic Atari demo of a running horse. If you have not seen this then
type it in straight away, it really is impressive.
Animation through colour registers
comes next, and this is where the Waterfall demo comes in, before
going on to Player Missile Graphics with 'black-box' routines for full
Player control and animation. Each feature is illustrated at the end
of a chapter with examples of commercial programs which use the
particular feature discussed so that you have a good idea of what can
Fine scrolling comes next before the
book builds up into `The Great Movie Cartoon' which is quite simply
the most stunning demo available from a listing that I have seen
anywhere. It combines all of the features that have been been
discussed into one incredible demonstration. An urban landscape
scrolls by in the background. Trees in the middle distance scroll by
at a different rate whilst in the foreground trucks and cars zoom by
from left or right. Suddenly a human figure appears and walks across
in the foreground of the scene! All of this can be controlled from the
keyboard and can easily be adapted for a joystick. More importantly
all of the information needed to construct this scene, and similar
programs of your own, is there in the listing and in the `black box'
routines which you put to your own use.
The book is illustrated throughout with
black and white photographs which are reproduced as a set of sixteen
full colour pages towards the end of the book. There is a fair amount
of white space as the text is set across only two thirds of the page
but the book is larger than the normal paperback being 9¼" by
7¼". It is well produced and, as a welcome change for an
American book, is extremely well written in an adult fashion.
Eighteen months is a long time to wait
for a book. £19.95 is a lot of money to pay. Is it worth it?
Unreservedly, yes on both counts. It is a superb book which many Atari
owners will overlook for Atari is not mentioned in the title and it
may well be hard to find. If you can find it, do so.
COMPUTE!'s SECOND BOOK OF MACHINE
by Richard Mansfield
One of the easiest to understand books for beginners to machine
language is COMPUTE!'s Machine Language For Beginners which provides
an excellent starting point for those who are proficient in BASIC. A
problem when learning any new language is how to take the fundementals
you have learned and put them into applications. This is precisely
what COMPUTE's Second Book of Machine Language attempts to teach.
The book sets about explaining step by
step how to create a long and complex program in machine language.
Rather than choose a game or a business program which many users will
not be interested in, the author has hit upon the master stroke of
showing how to write a full Assembler which can then be used to write
other programs. So, even when the book is finished, you will have a
program which you can continue to use with all the concepts and
practices you have learned.
The program is built up through the
book stage by stage with full explanations of each stage. Every line
in the program is explained, all the subroutines are picked apart and
explained and all major routines are covered in depth. Starting with
Equates and Definitions, it goes on to explain Data Base Management,
I/O Management and Number Conversions, Input and Formatted Output,
Data, Messages, Variables and more. The full source code of the
Assembler is included and you will end up with probably the most
comprehensively annotated machine code program available. More than
that you will end up with a useful tool equivalent to a commercial
assembler which may cost you over twice the price of the book
The full 6502 Instruction Set is
included as are notes on modifying the Assembler. Appendices explain
how to use the program to assemble other programs, again on a step by
step basis, and include the complete object code and a library of
COMPUTE's Second Book of Machine
Language is unique in its approach and should allow the novice machine
code programmer to break away from the theory and begin writing
substantial programs of his own. The book covers a number of 6502
based machines but all the routines are translated for the Atari. An
additional advantage is that the reader should get a good insight into
how to translate programs from other machines.
STARTED WITH THE ATARI 600XL
Peter Goode. Phoenix Publishing Associates.
Including 600XL in the title is an unfortunate choice, for the 600XL
has almost disappeared without trace. Still the 800XL uses the same
Operating System and Basic so is this book a good one for a new XL
if you just want to get started it will probably do but if, having
started, you want to go further you may well regret its purchase. It
starts with very simple use of BASIC such as printing to the screen
and using variables before going into Graphics and Sound. Graphics are
covered in half a dozen or so pages of simple PLOT and DRAWTO before
the heading 'ADVANCED GRAPHICS' suddenly appears. Advanced Graphics
are said to require the use of machine code which is simply not true.
The chapter says 'These advanced graphics facilities, often called
Player Missile graphics are used extensively with machine code in THE
600XL PROGRAM BOOK. From which the following is an example'. There
then follows a program which contains no machine code whatsoever and
no Player Missile graphics!
dear! To be fair, other simpler Basic programming is covered later in
the book but there is a tendency to introduce program listings for
explanation which contain many concepts which a beginner might find
hard to grasp.
book will no doubt get you started but in which direction it will lead
you I am not sure. £5.95 is not a bad price at today's costs but be
warned that you will certainly need to buy other books once you have
Other books received for review...
ADVENTURES on the Atari 48K
by Peter Gerrard.
Publishing. 246pp. £6.95
adapted from books for other micros, this would seem to be an ideal
introduction to Adventuring on the Atari. Two complete adventure
listings are included as well as lots of help for you to write your
MICRO ENQUIRER - ATARI XL
by Christopher Bidmead and Benjamin
Communications Ltd. 183 pp. £8.95
large format book on micro-computing in general with specific sections
inserted in the text for the Atari. An ideal introduction for someone
new to computing giving a far wider general understanding than a book
dedicated to a particular machine.
ATARI XL HANDBOOK
by Lupton & Robinson.
Communications Ltd. 245 pp. £5.95
book to take you through the XL from setting up to writing reasonably
complex programs. Several appendices.
More detailed reviews of some of these
books will appear in future issues.