Random Rumours (& Truths?)
by S. Monger
I could hardly believe it when I was asked for another contribution so quickly.
What could I find to write about so soon after my last load of rubbish? Well, I
suppose a reasonable start would be talk about things that have NOT arrived.
Where are they now?
For example, the Sinclair Microdrive! Yes, it’s only 15 months(ish) since it was
first announced, and I only mention it here because I know of one certain
individual who intends to try and interface one to their 80-BUS machine. Could
be interesting, and somewhat cheaper than a Winchester. Which reminds me! (Note
the subtle way of changing topic – very clever!) In a long, long lost price list
from Nascom (or should that be Lucas Logic, or even Lucas/Nascom? – I get
confused so easily) I seem to remember a line that said something like “5MB
Winchester Disk Drive – price to be advised”, and at about the same time there
was a Nas-Net leaflet with “optional hard disk” mentioned – where has that got
to? And how about Gemini, their last catalogue mentioned “GM818 Serial Board” –
no sign of it yet. And nor is there any sign of IO Research’s Pluto Pallette,
Frame Grabber or IO-Net boards. What are these people all so busy doing that
they can’t produce these almost forgotten (but not by me!) ‘products’?
What are they doing instead?
Lucas must be putting all their current effort into the Lucas LX range. What is
that? Well, remember the ‘Conspiracy’ that I mentioned two issues ago – that’s
to do with the LX. The original idea was to take a Quantum 2000 case and put a
Nascom 2, AVC, MAP RAM board and Gemini GM829 FDC/SASI board inside it. It was
first shown at Which? in January, but I don’t think that it has been sighted
since. Interesting developments afoot?
And Gemini? Well they have launched one or two new things in recent months.
There is the GM839 prototyping board at £12.50. Made of fibre-glass, and laid
out for high density packing, it’s ideal for that washing machine and central
heating controller! Then there’s their GM833 RAM-DISK board. (It seems they
managed to resist the temptation to call it a Virtual Disk board, because of the
possible abbreviation of the latter!) This board provides 512K bytes of RAM,
port-mapped in such a way as to allow very easy interface software, using the
otherwise little-used Z80 INIR and OTIR instructions. Apparently a DIL switch on
board allows upto 8 Megabytes of the things. Fancy a dose? Then there’s the
Gemini Multi-Net (briefly described last issue) and a permutation on the Galaxy
called “M-F-B”. And what does that stand for? Multi-Format-BIOS of course. A
Galaxy is supplied, fitted with (or surrounded by) drives of different TPI
(tracks per inch), an optional Winchester, and an optional 8″ drive. M-F-B links
it all together, and allows easy transfer of software between almost all
soft-sectored 5.25″ and 8″ formats. “Superbrain to Xerox? – No problem. IBM to
Osborne? – One moment sir.” They are obviously looking at Software houses as
their market for the M-F-B, and I am sure that there is little point in printing
a price here. (Actually, I don’t know it, but I don’t want to admit to that.)
And finally, IO Research. Well, to be quite honest I have heard very little
about what they are upto. I understand that sales of PLUTO are pretty good,
mainly to non-80-BUS computer owners, who also have to buy special interfaces.
Why don’t these people buy a REAL microcomputer, which this board would plug
straight into? Some people have no idea!