Save programs, save pounds
Gordon Horsington weights the pros and cons of using teletext
REGULAR readers will have seen the special offer for Acorn Teletext
adapters in recent editions of The Micro User and hopefully many
will have taken advantage of the very competitive price and bought
If you are one of the three million or so people in Britain
who already have access to teletext with your TV set you may have
asked yourself if it was worth buying the adapter just to have
teletext on your monitor as well as on your TV.
The answer is yes. The adapter will give you access to the telesoftware
service that ordinary TV teletext viewers can look at but never
Those using MicroLink, Prestel and bulletin boards will already
know about telesoftware, and may well have used their modems to
download some of the many files available on these services.
The telesoftware service available via the telephone network
has the disadvantage that even the free software has hidden costs
such as telephone connection charges and the software has to be
indirectly paid for.
For example, The Micro User monthly listings can be downloaded
from MicroLink for just the connection charge, but if you want
to download all the listings it can cost almost as much as buying
the listings cassette.
The telesoftware available from BBC Ceefax has the advantage
of costing you absolutely nothing as long as you have a TV licence
and a good outdoor TV aerial. And the quality of software provided
by the BBC is always of the very highest professional standard.
Of course telesoftware is not the answer to everyone's software
shortage problems, and will not in its present form replace the
computer dealer's software shelf.
You are unlikely to be able to download Elite or Thrust, but
you will be able to choose some very good games, utilities, teletext
interactive software, tutorials, teaching and educational programme
If you have bought an Acorn adapter, connecting it to your computer
is quite easy. Following the clear instructions in the User Guide,
you must switch off all the hardware, connect the 34-way IDC socket
on the adapter lead to the 1 MHz bus, fit either the Teletext
Filing System rom (TFS) or the Advanced Teletext System rom (ATS)
into an empty rom socket on the computer board, plug the adapter
into the mains, and switch everything on.
Surprisingly the 1 MHz bus connection on the Acorn adapter doesn't
conform to Acorn's own standard for 1 MHz bus connections.
Acorn has specified that a 34-way output header plug connector
should be provided so that the 1 MHz bus connections can "feed
through" the unit so that more devices, such as Winchester
discs or music synthesisers, can be connected. The output header
is not fitted to the Acorn adapter.
The first job the novice teletext user has to do is to tune
in the adapter. Although it only needs to be tuned once, this
can take ages with the Acorn system and can lead you to believe
that a perfectly good adapter does not work.
Read the Teletext User Guide carefully and take particular note
of the instruction to turn the tuning controls very slowly. Anything
other than very, very slowly can lead to the use of strong language
and little else. Having mastered the tuning controls, the time
will eventually come when you can start to use the adapter.
The ease of using any hardware depends entirely on the quality
of the software used to control it. This is true for the teletext
adapter, and the ATS software is much easier to use than the TFS.
When you use the ATS to download tele-software on a BBC Micro
with OS 1.20 you should type *FX5 to disable the printer before
accessing teletext. This is because the MOS (not the ATS) has
a bug that can cause the computer to hang up when the telesoftware
catalogue is displayed.
Back in the bad old days before the ATS became available, downloading
software with the TFS was not a particularly enjoyable experience.
It was necessary to load a software patch from disc for every
file and keep notes of load and execute addresses and file sizes
taken from the teletext pages.
Things have improved a little for the TFS user, but the new
ATS has done away with all the old TFS drudgery.
When you are ready to download software, make sure the function
key strip is available and type *TELETEXT and press Return. That
is the only command you need to remember unless you write your
own teletext interactive software.
Your computer will enter the teletext terminal mode and allow
you to use the Micro as an ordinary teletext receiver.
Most adapter facilities are controlled with the red function
keys. To download software with the ATS first select BBC2 by pressing
Shift+f2, then press f5 and wait for the catalogue to download.
When it is displayed select the file you want with the cursor
keys and press Return.
The software will download and automatically save to disc. It
is really so simple that anyone who can read the catalogue can
Software comes from a number of sources, including some - but
not all -of the listings printed in The Micro User.
Typing in the listing of the game Tipaka from the February 1986
edition of The Micro User must have been a nightmare for any intrepid
key basher who could add new problems with every mistyped command.
Telesoftware users could download this and many other Micro
User programs free of charge in less than the time it takes to
post a cheque for the monthly listings disk.
Teletext interactive software has been, and will continue to
be, broadcast by the BBC. All the information you need to write
your own interactive software is included in the Teletext User
This type of software, as its name suggests, can interact with
the information available on teletext pages. You can write or
use software to manage your shares using the Stock Exchange pages
from teletext, or predict the football results using teletext
football information or print out any teletext page.
Software to perform these and many other interactive tasks has
been broadcast, and tutorials on writing the software are due
to be transmitted during 1987.
The ATS will also give you access to the new fastext system
which stores pages in memory for "instant" display.
In fact teletext on the BBC Micro is even more versatile than
fastext because it can be controlled with interactive software
using, for example, keywords to search the teletext pages.
Channel 4 is starting to set up a tele-software service. It
is still in its infancy and, at the time of writing, it is of
marginal interest to BBC users.
The only BBC Micro program broadcast to date on Channel 4 has
been a test program which failed to download giving endless "bad
data" messages in the process.
Channel 4 does not yet support the BBC catalogue standard, and
you need to write your own interactive software to attempt to
download it with the ATS. This is not difficult for an experienced
programmer, but it is not yet a very rewarding exercise.
In the future Channel 4 may adopt the same high standards set
by the BBC telesoftware service. If it does, owning or having
access to a teletext adapter will be a must for every BBC Micro
Predicting the future is very difficult, and we may yet see
the equivalent of closed user groups within the tele-software
service. Legislation has already allowed broadcasters to charge
for the teletext service they provide, and this may well result
in extra licence fees or special rented decoders for tele-software
At the moment and for the foreseeable future, the BBC provides
a first class, free telesoftware service to all TV licence holders.
If you want to expand your software library without spending your
hard earned money every week, or if you want teletext or fastext
without buying a new television set, then the teletext adapter
with the ATS is certainly worth owning.
The Micro User offer for the adapter represents exceptionally
good value for money. With the ATS you have one of the best hardware
bargains of the year.
Software is currently transmitted for a period of one week.
Downloading can take place from Friday evening to the following
Thursday evening. As the updating takes place on a Friday, we
do not advise attempting to download software between 9am and
7pm on Fridays. The program details given are provisional.
May 1 to 7
EvDump An event driven code screen-to-printer dump, enabling
screens to be printed from a running program.
SD A single-density Mode 7 screen-to-printer dump, Choose
between white or black background, (Epson MX80 compatible).
DD A slower, but clearer, double-density Mode 7 printer
T/OSB16 Part 16 of our BBC assembler and machine code guide.
This course leads you through the workings of the inbuilt BBC
Micro 6502 assembler in a series of around 26 parts.
T/ATS05 Programming using the ATS rom. Part 5 of our series
explaining the techniques of producing Ceefax-interactive Basic
programs. This module examines the teletext page-linking system,
and provides routines to interpret the link settings on any teletext
MapDat, Fall, Rome Control the Roman Empire! In this game
you must maintain the Empire by controlling your troops.
Learner Add power and flexibility to your word processor
by teaching it special key sequences. (The Micro User, September
May 8 to 14
Autoload An automatic program down-loader (using ATS).
Select which files you would like to download. The system will
capture and save your chosen files without further intervention.
NLQpmt, NLQinfo, NLQchrs Earlier Epson printers do not
include an NLQ (Near Letter Quality) font. This suite of programs
provides an NLQ facility on the Epson MX range and on other printers
with a dot-addressable printing mode.
T/OSB17,B/OSB17 Osbit's machine code programming series,
Domino2 Play dominoes against your computer.
A complete learning package based on the effect of colour subtraction.
May 15 to 21
MCWL This provides the means to compare quotations from
various companies for minimum cost whole life insurance. The estimated
long term results are displayed on screen in graphic form.
T/OSB18,B/OSB18 Osbit's machine-code programming series,
T/ATS06 Interactive programming guide, part 6. This module
shows you how to download software without using the broadcast
VidiEd The ultimate Mode7 teletext screencreator/editor.
This is the same software as used by the BBC to prepare their
entire Ceefax magazine. Several support packages will be available
for the VidiEd software in the future.
GRead A series of procedures and functions to add to your
own Basic programs, helping with the handling of disc-based random
DisASS1,DisAss7 With these programs you will
be able to handle all 6502 and CMOS 6502 instructions. (The Micro
User, January 1987).
May 22 to 28
T/OSB19,B/OSB19 Osbit's machine code programming series,
DRV/SRC,DRV/OBJ A View printer driver utility providing
features such as underlining for the early Epson MX80s which do
not have this feature as standard.
FAdd, FDel, FSrch More routines for dealing with disc-based
Folio A financial Ceefax-interactive program which allows
you to build a portfolio of shares, either real or imaginary,
and keeps a track of your investments by frequent access to the
Ceefax City pages. It will find the actual value of shares, offering
the opportunity to buy or sell any of the 160 or so equities listed.
Arranged in the form of a game, it also offers valuable facilities
for the serious investor.
Select Sideways ram software allowing
SellInfo simple selection of the required version of Basic.
Some of the extra commands available include: *HIBASIC (to activate
the 6502 second-processor version), *LOBASIC (to select BASIC2),
and *OLDBASIC (to select BASIC1 if present).
can be fun with this short but effective multiplication tables
tester. (The Micro User. December 1986)
May 29 to June 4
T/OSB20,B/OSB20 Osbit's machine code programming course,
T/ATS07,B/ATS07 Interactive programming guide, part 7.
This module looks at sub-page numbering procedures, and how to
determine the sub-page reference of the captured page,
FPrint,FBal,Fqsort Further procedures assisting with disc-based
random access files.
Accounts A program to help with the financial organisation
of clubs and societies. Originally written for use with church
accounts, it could be modified to suit most purposes.
Sun By selecting any part of the world, the time of sunrise
and sunset in the region can be calculated for any day throughout
Viewpre A versatile screen drive for View which lets
you preview a whole page at a time, complete with highlights.
(The Micro User, September 1986).
NEXT and EDITORIAL FEATURES DURING MAY
Miles Potwell will try his hand at on-line banking. Does it actually
In Paper Round, Keith Hazetton will browse through the computer
press - commercial and amateur - and offer advice to hopeful fanzine
Richard Hewison will do his best to extricate a few viewers
from tight corners in Adventure SOS, and look at Professional
Adventure Writer, the latest utility from Gilsoft.
Outsider, the Ceefax mole in Prestel, will get the lowdown on
the promised keyword search facility, and index by any other name...?
Plus news for the micro world, answers to viewers' computing
problems, and reviews of the latest software.
Next news and features are on BBC2 701, renews on BBC2 702.
Both are updated every Saturday.
May sees a batch of Ceefax specials on its editorial pages -
two outside broadcasts plus an election. The climax of the Embassy
World Snooker Championship will come live to teletext viewers
from The Crucible in Sheffield, with the final taking place on
May 4. Less than a week later the London
Marathon will also be serviced by live Ceefax updating from
the event's base.
Both OBs will involve BBC Micros based at competition headquarters
with Ceefax journalists providing scores and placings before any
And on May 7 the Ceefax election team will bring teletext viewers
a complete guide to the results as they come in from the local
elections throughout England and Wales.
A special through-the-night magazine will bring the state of
the parties, gains and losses, individual council compositions
and reactions from top politicians.