80-Bus News


September–October 1983, Volume 2, Issue 5

Page 9 of 67

The Belctra Manual

The Belectra Manual is a scanty 6.5 pages long, and covers the essential information about the HSA-88B and its use of the Am9511. Two and a half pages of it are taken up by an example assembly language program which computes the squares of 16-bit integers between 0-255. This has been included as a demonstration of the speed of the Am9511A, and they also suggest that you can use it as test program to verify that the board works. For the major programming information on the Am9511A, the manual points you at the Am9511A data (also supplied).

There is just over a page on using the HSA-88B with a high level Language. This covers, in a general way, all points I could think of, but I would just like to quote one sentence from it. “Assuming a reasonably experienced assembly language programmer, the above procedure is not difficult.” (My highlighting.) I would guess the truth of the ‘not difficult’ in that statement will depend to a large degree on the compiler/​Interpreter the programmer decides to tackle.

However the presentation of the manual is poor for a product costing £250+. It has been printed out on a dot-matrix printer, (not a crime in itself), but it is one of those typefaces with no descenders. Also it has the appearance of the ‘bog standard’ output. Most reasonable matrix printers these days offer an emphasised mode of printing, which, though slower, does offer a higher quality of output. As the manual is relatively short, it could even have been typed on the office typewriter.

The Am9511A Data Sheet

This is the one essential document for anyone who wants to use the HSA-88B, but is not interested in Hisoft Pascal. It gives you an outline of how the processor works, and a detailed breakdown of the instruction set. In fact I started this review with just the board and an AMD data book. Hisoft Pascal and the Belectra manual came later.

Hisoft Pascal

I don’t intend this to be a review of Hisoft Pascal – I leave that to users like Dr Dark [3] – but I include here a few passing comments. (See also the following section on support.)

The supplied manual is for Hisoft Pascal version 4D. I assume that Hisoft Pascal 5, (supplied on the disc), is identical to 4, except with a small change in the run-time routines. I could find no “version differences” addendum sheet, although the Belectra manual refers to HP5 as having “various additional features” over HP4.

I have two comments to make on the manual: two small points that irritated me out of all proportion. The first is a subjective complaint (almost ‘nit picking’), that I can’t satisfactorily explain. The manual has been printed on a dot-matrix printer with a very acceptable typeface, and I have no objection to that, but I found parts of it very fatiguing to read. I suppose it is more the resultant small variation in quality from letter to letter that occurs in places in the manual that I find fatiguing, rather than anything else. It may be the copying process that has highlighted this, rather than the printer itself.

My second complaint is to do with the formatting of the manual. The

Page 9 of 67