DOCTOR DARK’S DIARY–EPISODE 21.
This looks as if it will be a short article, judging by the notes I have
made, which are also short. The plain fact of the matter is that I have been
wickedly neglecting the trusty Marvin for another computer! Actually, several
computers, some of which are quite large, while one of them is a Spectrum. The
non-Spectrum computers belong to British Telecom. Well guessed, it’s a not
very obscure reference to Prestel.
For the benefit of anyone from another planet who may be reading this,
Prestel is a mighty collection of databases you can access by phone, if you
have the right gear to do it. At present, Marvin is not the right gear at all.
I hope that one day he will be, however, even though the technical people at
Micronet thought I was joking when I rang them up to ask about the chance of
connecting a Nascom. All it will need is a suitable modem and the easy bit,
some software (a joke). The modems available at the moment are quite good, but
I think I can wait long enough to be able to get a very good one for less
money. The Miracle one, with autodial and auto-answer, costs about #200 by the
time you have added VAT and the like. Once it has a bit more in the way of
competition, perhaps the prices will slide down. Then I will be able to flog
the Spectrum and VIX 5000 modem I am using, and put Marvin to work as a
Prestel terminal, as well as all his other uses.
The ability to store frequently read Prestel pages on disc, so that they
can be read without piling up telephone call charge units would be nice, as
would the clarity of the Pluto display, compared with the blur of a Spectrum!
Now that you know I am on Pretzel, you know how to send messages to me without
all the expense of buying postage stamps. Incidentally, for those of you
wondering if you should subscribe to Micronet 800, I can honestly say that
they are hopelessly slow to update their pages, so much so that they make
Micropower magazine look regular (it is, it just happens to be an annual!) by
comparison. The letters to the editor, which Micronet say is updated “at least
twice a week” have now stayed the same for in excess of three weeks. The main
thing the “micro-news” reporters write about is what it is like to be a micro-news
reporter, what they ate at the Sinclair QL’s launch, what they drank at
the Microfair, and so on. They are nearly as bad as yours truly...
Mention of the possibility of a price slide for modems has reminded me of
another thing that should have slid, but has not- The price of 4164’s seems to
“be very stable, which is not good news, as I have a nice new 256K RAM board
with 32 empty sockets. The terrible world shortage of silicon must be to
blame! Joking aside, the shortage of RAMs and TTL is getting to be a real
pain. My new board has 33 sockets empty, actually, as Maplin have let me down.
I tried to buy a 74LS32 from them, a simple enough request, you might think.
But no! The message from their computer was “code D”, which on translation
seems to mean “we haven’t got them, and we don’t know when we will get them,
and we bet you can’t get them anywhere else before we get them”. I also got
the impression that they didn’t much care, either. Maybe one of the other
-firms will come up with the goodies... (Generous readers with spare 74LS32’s,
please don’t send them! I have just spotted one I can pinch from a board I am
not using at present!)
Spectrum Tape Format Conversions.
I have been sent a couple of interesting programs to do with this. Dr MD
Hendry sent a machine code program to run on the Spectrum, which makes it dump
to tape in Nas-Sys tape format at 300 Baud. Very crafty, and I think I
suggested he should send it in for possible publication. Dennis McLaren sent
in a Nascom machine code program that reads Spectrum tapes, dumping the result