Unlocking programs costs firm £65,000
FURIOUS that the magazine Personal Computer World published
details of how to break locked programs, Acornsoft took legal
action, forcing the publishers to settle out of court for £65,000.
Said Editor Jane Bird: "One feels a bit sad about it, but
the situation was that it could have been a long battle and we
would have lost the issue".
Acornsoft had demanded that the offending issue be removed from
the bookstalls and took out an injunction claiming that the publishers
were "inviting others to infringe Acornsoft's copyright".
Despite their surrender, PCW feel that they were right in publishing
the details since this allowed disc users to transfer their programs
Now that it has become public knowledge could we publish the
details, having courageously restrained ourselves in the past,
we asked the Acorn spokesman.
"Yes, if you want. We'll add the money we get from you
to the coffers -we're using it to find a new way of locking programs",
PEOPLE who have bought Acornsoft programs on tape now have the
opportunity to put them onto disc - legally.
Acorn has launched a service which will transfer the program
from tape to disc.
All the customer has to do is to send the cassette to Acornsoft
which will copy the program to disc.
The charge will be half the price of the disc version of that
The address to send the cassettes to is Acornsoft, c/o Vector
Marketing, Denington Industrial Estate, Wellingborough, Northants
Three inch discs are rolling in
THREE inch discs seem to have come of age with the announcement
that a leading producer of disc based software is to market its
products on the smaller discs.
Clares Micro Supplies of Cheshire, publishers of The Key and
Replica, has joined forces with AMS of Warrington and plans to
offer the whole of its range on three inch discs.
Said Dave Clare: "We see a great future for the three inch
drives, particularly in the educational field".
* * *
THE pre-Christmas BBC Micro User Show was such an overwhelming
success that many exhibitors have already booked for the next
It will be held at the New Horticultural Hall, Westminster,
from March 29 to April 1.
Full report on December's show starts overleaf.
A BBC Micro network user group is being started at Bedford College
of Higher Education.
Anyone interested in more information should contact Mike Taylor
at The Computer Centre, Bedford College of Higher Education, (Mander)
Cauldwell Street, Bedford
* * *
LATEST arrival at Little Green School, Rickmansworth, is a fully
programmable robot controlled by a BBC Micro.
* * *
EDUCATIONAL software from Golem is now available on 40 track
single sided disc, as well as in cassette form for the Electron.
Already widely acclaimed in educational circles, the new formats
should ensure an even wider distribution.
DEMAND IS UP FOR THE BBC MODEL A
REPORTS from dealers that Acorn has stepped up production of
Model A BBC Micros owing to a component shortage were discounted
by a spokesman.
"We have increased production of Models As, but this is
solely due to increased demand from dealers", he said.
Acorn does admit, however, that it has been restricting the
supply to Model As.
Apparently dealers had realised they could make a better profit
by ordering Model As with upgrade kits than by ordering the Model
New range of Acorn books
RATHER than publish directly through Acornsoft, Acorn has launched
a range of books in conjunction with Penguin, the paperback publishers.
First in the range are two books for the Electron, "The
Acorn Guide to the Electron" and "Games and Other Programs
for the Acorn Electron".
The former contains much information about add-ons and second
processors for the Electron.
Several more titles are planned such as Jonathan Griffiths'
"How to Write Arcade Games", a rewrite of the excellent
book, "Creative Assembler", which was to be published
Peter Killworth's "How to Write Adventure Games" will
also be part of the new series.
Whizz kid Janet, 5, scares off politicians
ALL three main political parties pulled out of a trial by computer
after the news leaked out they would be competing against a five-year-old
electronic whizz kid.
The contest designed to prove who can best run the country's
economy was scheduled to take place at the official opening of
the BBC Micro User Show recently.
However, it was learned at the last minute that the Tories,
Labour and Liberals had all got cold feet and would not be turning
up at the Westminster Exhibition Centre in the Royal Horticultural
Only the SDP was in fact prepared to send along a representative,
Lord Perry, a former member of the party.
But once informed that the big three would not be there, he
also backed out, if somewhat more gracefully.
This left pretty, five-year-old Janet McKnight, the daughter
of a London college lecturer, to demonstrate her computer and
political skills alone at the launch of the four day event.
The format of the contest was to have been Simon Hessel's game
-Great Britain Limited -which allows each player to become at
one and the same time Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer.
After making top level decisions on the economy over a five
year period -the computer assesses the likelihood of the player
being re-elected for another term in government.
"We had had discussions with the parties for several weeks
over whom they would be sending along", commented Mike Bibby,
Features Editor of The Micro User, the show's organisers.
"And we were led to believe there would be a representative
from each. But what we hadn't told them was that for a bit of
fun they would be pitting their wits against a child.
"Once the news leaked out, they obviously didn't want to
end up with egg on their faces if the youngster topped the poll.
But she still went ahead to demonstrate how effectively a child
can run the country".
"The situation proved what a lot of people have suspected
for a long time: even the smallest child can teach our political
masters a thing or two ..."
Said Janet McKnight: "I don't really want to be bothered
with running the country. I'd rather play Snapper".
Show celebrity Janet McKnight was in great demand from the media
on opening day, culminating in a visit to broadcasting house to
be interviewed by Radio One DJ Mark Page.
SANDY Dow, former sales manager for Acorn, chose the December
show for the launch of his firm's new products.
Already well respected for its lightpen, RH Electronics has
moved into the software field with fourteen titles for the BBC
They remain, however, very much a hardware-orientated company,
providing both a Euro-card expansion system for the BBC Micro
and the Interbeeb, a peripheral that allows the BBC Micro to control
the outside world.
EXIT THOSE BLACKBOARDS
ONE of the highlights of the show was the Electronic Classroom,
and it created the most interest among educationalists.
Both pupils and teachers were able to experience how, despite
the total removal of blackboard and chalk from the classroom environment,
the BBC Micro is able to form part of a structured educational
Star performer was the UTAC video-controlled unit, a pseudo-network
for the BBC Micro, offering the ability to monitor and interact
with each pupil far more cheaply than with standard methods.
Keyboard Training demonstrated the capabilities of the system
with their TechniTouch package - a program designed to teach keyboard
familiarity using colour coding.
Such was the popularity of the classroom that it is scheduled
to be a regular feature of future shows, the next of which will
be held, again at the New Horticultural Hall, from March 29 to
Walk-in forum was great success
GATHERING place for the BBC Micro addict was the walk-in forum,
the general public's chance to interrogate The Micro User experts.
Almost every aspect of BBC Micro lore was covered in a series
of talks that were as entertaining as they were informative, ranging
from machine code for the beginner to advanced interfacing.
Said one appreciative member of the audience: "It's the
first time I've felt really comfortable asking questions after
"I felt the speakers were there to share what they'd discovered
about the micro with their fellow explorers rather than just display
their superior knowledge".
Another enthusiast commented: "It was nice to hear people
speak who obviously enjoyed their
micro as much as I do -and admitted to making the same silly
mistakes". Highpoint of the forum was the Any Questions session
where it became less of a lecture and more of a discussion between
BBC Micro freaks, some of whom just happened to be standing on
The forum also gave people the opportunity to meet Micro User
writers in the flesh, and in some cases put them firmly in their
"Are you Mike Cook?" asked one fan. "Your articles
make you seem much taller".
Zoom in with Bit Stick
MAIN focal point on the Acorn stand was the amazing Acorn Bit
Stik. It was surrounded by fascinated crowds on each day of the
The reason wasn't hard to see. Even expert users who have become
accustomed to the BBC Micro's graphics were excited by this remarkable
The Bit Stik resembles an up-market joystick. Yet it is at the
heart of a highly sophisticated computer aided drawing package.
It allows the user to create high-resolution graphics simply
and relatively cheaply.
The software provided encourages the user to "dither"
colours, permitting multi-coloured shading of screen areas.
Perhaps the most striking feature is its ability to zoom in
on pictures. This means that sections of the drawing can be enlarged
or reduced at will.
The package, which should be available by the end of March,
will cost £350, including the Bit Stik itself and its ROM
Although it needs the 6502 second processor and dual 80 track
drives to enable it to run, the system should be a cost-effective
introduction to CAD for many small businesses.
• Also displayed on the stand was Acorn's Prestel Adapter. Looking
very much like the Teletext Adapter, it should sell for £90.
Secret of the black box
ONE of the Micro User experts was intrigued when he received
a request for technical help from the Economatics stand. Some
outside force appeared to be interfering with the equipment.
The Microvitec colour monitor was displaying a near perfect
colour spectrum (no, not a Sinclair). There were regular graduations
of colour bands ranging from red at the top of the screen to blue
at the bottom.
But the display should, in fact, have been completely blue.
Had alien invaders finally landed? Or was some more mundane
terrestrial force really at work?
The solution to the problem proved to be remarkably simple.
On the top of the monitor was a harmless-looking black box which
turned out to be a loud speaker. The removal of the offending
object restored the display to normal.
What happened was that the magnet in the speaker was bending
the electron beams to produce this unusual effect.
While on this occasion the result was nothing more than a nuisance,
the people at Economatics are now wondering if they are on the
verge of discovering a new art form. . .
SECOND PROCESSOR A BIG DRAW
ATTRACTING a great amount of interest was the Z80A second processor
for the BBC Micro displayed on the Watford Electronics stand.
At £299, this must be seen as a serious rival to the official,
still to be released, Acorn product.
Watford's second processor is in fact a totally stand-alone
computer and thus can be used independently of the BBC Micro.
As such it features a Z80A running at 4mHz with 64k of RAM,
with the possibility of adding another 64k onboard.
The unit contains its own disc interface capable of dealing
with 40/80 track discs, single or double density.
This interface shares the drives with the BBC Micro. It can
even operate without a disc interface inside the BBC Micro.
Supporting all the OSBYTE, screen and sound facilities, the
system has fully licensed CP/M 2.2 - which opens up huge amounts
of ready-to-run software to the BBC Micro.
Watford have done this by taking a standard industry product
designed to interface to an RS232 computer terminal and marrying
it to software that makes the BBC Micro emulate such a terminal.
The result is an "instant" second processor for the
BBC Micro which is capable of considerable expansion. Boards developed
for the original system already include an IEEE interface, extra
RAM, real time clock and prototype boards.
Scheduled for release in the very near future, the unit comes
complete with power supply in a standard half-height drive case.
* * *
PUBLIC response certainly proved that Commotion had chosen the
right name for their company.
The area around their stand was a constant traffic jam — and
all because of the Microrobotics' Beasty.
The Beasty is an interface providing a simple means of driving
servos, the precision geared electric motors that aero-modellers
use to control their models.
As the accompanying literature puts it, a servo "allows
you to twist, turn, push, pull, lift, lower, open and close almost
No wonder that Beasty, with its power to control four servos
from the BBC Micro, has been heartily welcomed by robotics fans
as a low-cost introduction to the subject.
At Micro User we were so impressed that we've made it both the
subject and prize of this month's competition, as you'll see if
you turn to Page 55.
Graphic upgrade for Beeb
ROM-based software took a great leap forward at the December
Micro User Show in London.
Computer Concepts, the people who produce the Wordwise word
processor chip, have produced a Graphic Extension ROM.
This -adds 30 new commands to the BBC Micro, allowing users
to take full advantage of its graphics capabilities. Sprites and
Turtle graphics are available, as is the 16 colour, 80 by 256
resolution Mode 8.
Bradford-based Pace Disc Systems chose the show to display two
new pieces of ROM-based software, Toolstar and Commstar.
Toolstar is a toolkit utility aimed at reducing program development
time. It allows manipulation of Basic programs and machine memory,
aiming at giving the user the "commands that the OS forgot".
The second ROM is Commstar, which promises to give the BBC Micro
an "intelligent communications facility".
This allows communication with other computers and access to
Prestel and other databases via a suitable modem.
New add-on boosts BBC micro by up to 20k
HARDWARE add-ons were a major part of the BBC Micro User Show,
and none attracted more interest than the 20k RAM upgrade from
The Aries-620, as it is known, allows you to gain an extra 20k
of memory by intercepting the official Acorn calls to the screen
and switching them to its own on-board memory.
This ensures that the BBC Micro's RAM, normally tied up with
screen memory, is free for Basic programs - an increase of up
to 20k in program size. One minor drawback is that programs that
directly address the screen, bypassing the official Acorn calls,
can't take advantage of this extra memory, although the system
does allow you to use such programs.
Despite this, Cambridge Computer Consultants, who produce the
board, are convinced that the package will have large sales on
the more serious side of the market since it remedies one of the
BBC Micro's most serious shortcomings, lack of memory.
For instance, with Aries B-20, View users can edit files of
up to 25k in Mode 0, a four-fold increase. In Mode 7 programs
the user can access 47k of memory, giving the BBC Micro a potential
that several software houses are already designing programs to
take advantage of.
Games galore on show
ALLIGATA Software chose the BBC Micro User Show to launch a
new range of games for the BBC Micro.
The new titles include Eagle Empire, Neanderthal Man and Dam-busters.
At the same time they have released Bugblaster. Lunar Rescue
and Fruit Machine for the Electron.
Other new offerings from the Sheffield-based firm include three
home/ business utilities for the BBC Model B.
Flexibase is a database, the oddly-named Alli-gatacalc a simplified
accounting package and Scribe II a word processor system.
Barry Wood's Tailpiece
DID anyone see those poor girls on the Acorn stand at our London
Show? They were gorgeous. But why dress them in those outfits?
Only Acorn could do such a thing — take a fantastic product,
then put it in the wrong package ...
* * *
OUR beloved features editor chose the London show to unveil
to the world the fact that he has a twin brother.
Denying that this was his version of a second
processor, he claimed that he'd been playing with a disc copier
and something had gone wrong.
* * *
"IT'S not fair. You reviewed our program and we've brought
out another one since. The one we sent you was version 1.2. We've
now brought out version 1.3, and that sometimes works, so your
review is all wrong."
So muttered a software producer about the all too accurate review
of his product.
Our renowned editor took it in his stride.
"Don't worry," he replied, "that was the 1.2
version of our review."
* * *
SPOTTED at the show — a tee-shirt stating: "Electron Users
make it last twice as long ..."
* * *
YOU won't believe it, but it's really true. One structured programming
freak has actually blown himself a Basic ROM that produces "Syntax
Error" when you use a GOTO or GOSUB!
* * *
ACTUALLY, the ultimate blow in the "Structured Programming"
debate was dealt when our omniscient editor demanded that one
of our writers rewrite a program containing the dreaded GOTOs
and GOSUBs. This the miscreant did, replacing the offens-ive statements
with PROCgoto and PROCgosub. We feel that honour has been satisfied.
* * *
ONE of our artists is a Greenham Common veteran. On being told
that "those things at the bottom of the screen" in Alien
Invasion were silos, she replied: "Well, why aren't there
women dancing on them?"
* * *
OVERHEARD at the show's technical advice stand: "I've just
bought an Electron."
"Oh, you're the one," chorused the crowd in unison.