News

Volume 2

Number 2

April 1984

Acorn reject hi-tech 'smuggling' report

ACORN Computers has issued a categorical denial concerning claims that the company has been unwittingly caught up in hi-tech smuggling which could mean the end for the BBC Micro.

The report, which made headline news in a trade newspaper and sent shock waves through the industry, has been written off by company officials as "completely erroneous".

At the headquarters of Acorn International, Bob Bayham and his team were dumbfounded to read allegations that the arrival of BBC Micros in Hungary had put the future of the machine in jeopardy.

The newspaper article insisted that Acorn's supply of processor and memory chips from America was in danger of being cut off if the "illegal exports" continued.

It based this claim on the fact that the BBC Micro contains the NS6502 processor and various memory chips which the Reagan administration - according to the writer - doesn't want to fall into Russian hands.

"The whole story couldn't have been more incorrect", an Acorn spokesman told The Micro User.

"We have double checked and there has certainly been no smuggling from any of the sources named.

"Nor for that matter have we been threatened by the American customs officials, as was stated. The truth is that they haven't even been in touch with us".

The spokesman admitted there was a possibility that some BBC Micros may have reached Hungary - "probably through contra deals with software houses" - but he ridiculed the suggestion that the Russians would be able to take advantage of the technology involved.

"If nothing else, the Russians are quite capable of making their own chips", he said.

"And apart from the most advanced chips, which are uncopiable by design, most of the others are already sold in video games form.

"The next step would be to stop selling automobiles to the Eastern block in case the generals drove up to the front line in them".

Norman Tebbitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, jumped into the controversy about sales of British computers to Eastern Europe recently.

Accusing the Americans of being oversensitive about the issue, he said: "While you can go down the road and buy a BBC Micro or, if you have not got the money, can break into almost any school in the UK and pinch one - and then put it in your briefcase and walk out through Heathrow - the chances of being able to stop an Acorn computer going amiss are pretty thin".

A SHOW TO SET PULSES RACING

If you get over-excited by looking at all the goodies on display at the latest Electron and BBC Micro User Show, you'll be able to check exactly how much they have sent your pulse racing.

One of the attractions at the show will be a novel Heartbeat Measuring Centre.

Visitors will be able to test their pulse rate using the latest offering from Mike Cook's Beeb Bodybuilding Course (see Page 118).

This second London show organised by The Micro User and Electron User is being held from Thursday to Sunday, March 29 to April 1.

It is taking place at the same venue as the highly-successful show last December - the New Horticultural Hall in Greycoat Street, London SW1.

This is only a short walk from Victoria Station. The show opens at 10am on each day and closes at 6pm, except on Sunday when doors close at 4pm.

So much good business was done by exhibitors at the December show that there will be even more stands this time.

The BBC's own tele-software service will be making its own appearance at the show.

20 mbytes for BBC Micro

UNICORNS are no longer mythical beasts, at least in the world of micro computers.

Now Torch Computers has produced its own Unicorn. Only it's not an animal, it's a hardware add-on for the BBC Micro.

The Unicorn consists of a 68000 processor, a Z80 processor, 256k of extra RAM, a 400k floppy disc and a 20mbyte hard disc.

The unit attaches to the BBC Micro via the tube, the 1MHz bus and the disc interface.

The 68000 processor allows the micro to run Unix (hence the name, formed from Unix +Acorn).

The Z80 chip supports CP/N, the microcomputer version of CP/M, which allows access to a wide range of professional software packages.

Now ITV goes BBC

NOW that the commercial TV companies have decided not to market their own ITV computer, some are to start producing educational software for the BBC Micro.

The BBC machine is now so widespread in schools that the ITV companies have had to swallow their pride.

The Central and Yorkshire TV companies are expected to be first in the field with educational programmes based on the BBC Micro, followed by Thames TV and Granada.

New ROMs on show

THE March Show has been chosen by Computer Concepts to unveil two of their latest ROMs.

The first is the long awaited - and badly needed compiler for BBC Basic.

The compiler is totally comprehensive in that it will accept all BBC Basic statements capable of being compiled.

Real time and interpreted statements such as RENUMBER and EVAL, which cannot be compiled, are the only BBC Basic features omitted.

The second ROM consists of a large number of utilities to supplement BBC Basic, including search and replace, single key entry, merge and intelligent compacting, unpacking and renumber routines.

Beeb is becoming language machine

AFTER carving out a niche in general education, the BBC Micro is now rapidly becoming a language teaching machine.

Following the success of the intriguingly named The French Mistress, Kosmos have introduced two companion programs The German Master and The Spanish Tutor.

The programs consist of a tuition control program which enables specific lessons to be read from the cassette.

These pre-recorded lessons cover a range of vocabulary subjects, complete phrases and lists of verbs fully conjugated in five tenses.

Once loaded into the micro, simple keyboard commands allow the lesson to be used in a variety of learning modes. including a test mode.

New lessons, at any level of grammar or vocabulary, can be created by the teacher or pupil. These can be stored on disc or cassette for later use.

A rival product comes from Acornsoft with the release of their Linkword language series. The series uses a radically new system of language teaching which, it is claimed, can cut learning time by as much as 70 per cent.

In field trials the new method allowed a basic grammar and vocabulary of 400 words - the contents of a single program - to be learnt in around 12 hours, as opposed to 40 hours with traditional systems.

Star attraction

ONE of the star attractions of the latest Electron and BBC Micro User Show will be the new, expanded technical advice stand.

"The stand attracted so much interest at the last show that we've had to increase it, both in terms of staff and sheer size, to cope with demand", said Mike Bibby, features editor of The Micro User.

Free Micro User hint sheets will be given away to visitors to the stand.

Commented Mike: "We receive a large number of queries on certain problem areas such as downloading. These hint sheets provide easy to understand answers".

For more specialised queries the whole team of Micro User writers and experts will be on hand.

"It's hard work for our team but it's also extremely enjoyable meeting our readers", said Mike Bibby.

Why Cylon Attack took off

SIX months after its launch, sales of A&F's Cylon Attack have suddenly soared - a departure from normal market trends.

Speaking from their new Rochdale headquarters, managing director Mike FitzGerald told The Micro User why.

"We'd like to think people had just realised how good the game is", he said. "In fact it's because the £200 competition to find the highest score closes at the end of March. People who have achieved high scores with pirated copies have been buying legal ones in order to obtain the entry form.

"It just goes to show how widespread piracy is. Something has really got to be done about it".

A&F are determined to take a strong stand against illegal copiers.

"It's crazy", continued Mike. "These bright school kids who are ripping off software are exactly the people who should be working for us in a year or two's time.

"As it is, they'll destroy the industry and there'll be no jobs for them.

"It's got to be stopped, and at A&F we mean business. For instance, we've budgeted £100,000 next year solely for legal action against pirates".

Meanwhile, the infighting among software houses over "cover versions" of successful games continues. Atari has just circulated rival firms with a list of its copyright titles, threaten ing legal action against imitators.

Atari is to release BBC Micro versions of Ms. Pac-man, Pole Position and Dig Dug.

BBC MEANS BEANS

MAKING a success of selling baked beans in the future may all be down to the BBC Micro.

It is likely that in the next few years your up and coming supermarket manager will have been partly trained on a BBC machine.

This is all due to the experts at the Department of Management Sciences at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

They have developed a simulation program on the BBC Micro to assist in the training of supermarket management.

Known as Supertrain, it provides a realistic method for competitive trading between supermarkets in a medium sized conurbation.

Compete

In the program as many as five supermarkets, each represented by a team of three or more management trainees, effectively compete for a week's trade.

All stores start off on an equal basis. Teams make a variety of decisions reflecting their store's policy on markups, special offers, advertising and stock replenishment.

Naturally, the one effectively selling the most goods is the winner.

But the program also calls for contestants to satisfy the needs of the customers and the supermarket staff.

"We have piloted it extensively both inside and outside UMIST", Dr J.M. Freeman, lecturer in management sciences, told The Micro User.

"The feedback has been very positive".

Basic II coming back

THOSE of you who want to buy a BBC Micro but are a bit worried by the fact that some of the latest models from Acorn have incorporated the original Basic I chip can rest easy.

An Acorn spokesman recently told Micro User than all micros being shipped would in future have the Basic If chip.

They still maintain, however, that Basic II is not the specification chip, just an enhancement.

More TV software from BBC

LATEST innovation to come from the BBC Telesoftware Service is Club 707, a club page featuring programs sent in by the general public.

Updated fortnightly, the first offering is a turtle graphics program from Australia.

The BBC has taken a policy decision to provide more cash for the service, which might explain the sweatshirts Club 707 will send to successful contributors.

New policies include linking software with broadcast programs.

Radio Thin King - a primary learning series -is the first to have software broadcast for it.

Future plans include transmitting the software for the BBC Computer Literacy series, Computers in Control.

ROM DATABASE FROM GEMINI

THE first ROM based database for the BBC Micro, called DataGem. is about to be released by Gemini.

The 28k program - claimed to be the most comprehensive database ever for the BBC Micro - is supplied in the form of two ROMs on a carrier board.

This contains a protection which Gemini maintains will eliminate piracy.

Dale Hubbard. Gemini's managing director, told The Micro User: "Life has been made extremely difficult forsoftware thieves with our design.

"We expect to set a standard of protection which other software houses will strive to achieve".

Designed for disc based systems, DataGem will support files of more than three quarters of a megabyte, with more than 5,000 records allowed for each file.

Records are restricted to a maximum of 6,143 bytes, divided into a maximum of 62 fields.

The package supports a nine level hierarchical search system which includes all possible logical relations between any number of fields.

While the company is reluctant to announce firm dates for release, DataGem could well be in the dealers' shops this month.

PROGRAMS AID HANDICAPPED

TWO new programs to enhance the life of the physically handicapped have been produced by Mr J.M. Leonard of Litchfield.

The first, Autotype, allows even a severely handicapped person to use the BBC Micro to produce high quality output on a printer.

It operates through a single switch system - the space bar or an external device such as a heat, blow or pressure switch.

Using this method, symbols, letters and whole words can be selected and used as in a word processor.

Each disc carries a vocabulary of common words, and these can be edited, either from the keyboard or using the single-switch method.

The resulting output can be stored on disc and output via a printer when required.

The second program consists of a suite of four games Draughts, Fox and Geese, Line-of-Four and Noughts and Crosses.

As in Autotype, the games operate through a single switch input for each player.

The aim is to allow a severely handicapped person to play board games inaccessible in their normal form.

When both players are handicapped, they use separate controls. A non-handicapped person can also use the keyboard.

BASIC COURSE

JIM Notman, a regular contributor to The Micro User, is to present a Basic course for the BBC Micro at the University of Manchester's Department of Extra-Mural Studies from June 1 to 3.

'Trannie' comes into its own

THE humble transistor radio is rapidly becoming one of the more important peripherals for the BBC Micro.

More and more software is being broadcast over the airwaves.

Already the BBC have had their successful micro magazine program, The Chip Shop, running a takeaway service.

This consists of playing software over the BBC network late at night.

Enthusiasts record the programs from their radios and then load them into their micros, using decoding software supplied by the BBC.

But it's not just the BBC that is broadcasting micro programs over the air.

Radio West have been doing it for the past year with their Datarama micro show. And their programs don't need special software to run them once they've been recorded.

So successful has been Radio West's enterprise that commercial radio stations in Wiltshire and Cardiff have said they are to start broadcasting Datarama.

And more stations in other parts of the country are planning to do the same.

Acorn's Profits on up and up

DESPITE a world-wide shortage of chips and a heavy investment in the US market. Acorn's profits continue to rise.

In the six months up to January 1, the company's profits were £5.21 million as compared to £2.04 million in the same period the previous year.

The figures hide the fact that the profits were diminished by a £2.5 million start-up investment in the US market.

Acorn is confident that the American venture will pay great dividends, however, and expects the operation to start showing profits by June.

One interesting offshoot of the US excursion is Acorn's establishment of a new research centre in Silicon Valley.

They expect this to result in marketable products within the next few months.

With orders at record levels and continuing export expansion - including the setting up of local assembly plants, for example in India - Acorn sees its future as secure.

In fact, according to an Acorn spokesman, the current chip "famine" could well act in Acorn's favour, inhibiting as it does the launch of rival machines.

BBC Micro to be major dyslexia teaching tool

THE BBC Micro is all set to become a major teaching tool for children who suffer from dyslexia word blindness.

Vision Charity - an organisation set up by the video industry to help visually handicapped youngsters - has donated one to the Dyslexia Institute national headquarters in Staines.

At the official presentation, Olympic swimmer Duncan Goodhew - one of Britain's best known dyslexics - received the computer on the Institute's behalf.

It will be used initially as a simple teaching aid to develop reading, writing and spelling techniques. However they are convinced it will soon play an even more important role.

A spokesman explained: "Dyslexic children react very positively to information on screen, and at a later stage in their education could become very skilled in the use of computers.

"It is planned that this new one will eventually become an important thinking tool for our students as they progress towards higher language skills, requiring them to process, store and retrieve information".

Taking stock

IF you like to play the stock market there is now a software package for you. It won't stop you going bankrupt, but it'll help you to do it in an orderly way.

The package costs £15 from Fairhurst International and runs on a BBC model B.

It comes on a floppy disc, with a demonstration folio to experiment with and a user manual.

The "Sharewise" portfolio valuation program holds the purchase and sales details of a portfolio of investments.

New purchases of shares may be added, sales made, dividends notified and the latest prices held.

The details are held on disc and after being read in by the computer can be displayed in three ways - by a single security, a category of securities or the whole portfolio.

Output can be directed to a printer and a page-numbered printout produced.

TOPS IN BBC MARKETPLACE

THE Micro User is showing would-be rivals a clean pair of heels and that's official.

Provisional audited ABC circulation figures for July to December 1983 just released reveal average monthly sales of 53,626.

This makes The Micro User the undisputed leader serving the BBC Micro marketplace.

Trailing in second place is Acorn User, now taken over by newly formed Redwood Publishing, set up by Acorn boss Chris Curry.

A Redwood spokesman was quoted in the February issue of The Publisher as saying: "We would be very pleased to see an ABC of 50,000 within the first year of our operations".

It's self service

FRUSTRATED at the fact that BBC Micros with free Econet interfaces were available but there was no File Server software for them, St. Albans School Computer unit decided to write their own.

The result is Mini-Server, a program which gives micros on a BBC network shared access to discs and printers.

Appendices to the guide that comes with MiniServer describe how to complete the hardware of a network on a low-cost basis.

Lightpen moves into education

THREE new educational programes designed to make full use of their lightpen have been released by Datapen Microtechnology.

The first, Teletext Display Creator, allows the busy programmer to quickly create displays in colour graphics and text in his own programs.

In Britain - the first in a series of geographical tests a map of Britain is drawn on the screen.

The user is then quizzed on a series of locations and gives his answers by using the lightpen. The program is easily adapted to incorporate new data.

Beebpen is a comprehensive colour drawing program. It allows the user to create high resolution pictures.

Its features include freehand painting, use of all plot commands, on screen text, and circles.

Cursor co-ordinates allow accurate drawing and three cursors can be in use at one time.

..and navigation

THE most complete and realistic navigational simulation exercise available for the BBC Micro is claimed for Night Landfall, just released by Offshore Instruments.

The program, developed by Geoff Gordon, is based on a night passage between Dartmouth and Guernsey.

Offshore maintain that whatever his level of experience and expertise he will gain invaluable and concentrated practice to back up his sailing