80-Bus News


November–December 1984, Volume 3, Issue 6

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Letters to the Editor

Nascoms, Polydos, Graphics & Forth

The recent arrival of 80-BUS News (July-August 1984) and some of its comments both served to remind me that a letter to the Editor was overdue on at least two counts: I have yet to confess to being a Nascom/POLYDOS user and have also failed to submit a completed Questionnaire.

I am not quite sure why I chose POLYDOS other than that I needed (wanted) to replace tape storage with disks and that, since I have no business use for my Nascom, POLYDOS seemed friendly, had a nice editor, an adequate assembler and some useful extensions to ROM-BASIC in the bundle. (It is also easy to convert POLYDOS files to P-system files.) However, like Mr Webber of Lewisham, I wanted something other than BASIC as a language. This was not simply because I wanted to replace BASIC with a structured and/or compiled language but also because, when one’s Nascom memory map has POLYDOS, POLYDOS-— BASIC, ROM-BASIC, NAS-SYS and the Nascom AVC G32 code in it, there is precious little room for any BASIC code. The SET-CHAIN command of POLYDOS-BASIC helps but it struck me that something altogether more compact was required for nontrivial graphics programs. I have tackled this problem on two fronts: adapating Hi-Soft PASCAL and installing a home-brew FORTH.

Again like Mr Webber, I found that, even when armed with the Alteration Guide, adapting a tape version of Hi-Soft PASCAL to disks was far from straight-forward. Nevertheless, with the expenditure of more time that I care to recall, it has been accomplished to some extent. The modified version handles Hi-Soft 128 byte record files for the tokenised source code and will convert files output by the POLYDOS editor to this form. (I have yet to write the de-tokenising program but that is surely trivial.) As for data files, I have implemented three primitives OPEN, CLOSE and BLKIO which, with the PASCAL routines GETC(har) and PUTC(har), enable me to read text files. Naturally, using BLKIO one could read numeric data in binary form but I don’t usually want to. To drive my Nascom AVC, I have set up a number of types, especially COLOUR(!), and routines, such as LINE, to drive the G32 code. It all works but even now there is a space problem in that I cannot develop graphics programs of any size interactively. My last program, which designs MAT-arrays for the AVC on.a grid, was compiled as two lines of code each of which was an include statement!

FORTH, like APL, fascinates me because of its extensibility and, unlike APL, ease of implementation. I put up the first version using R G Loeliger’s book "Threaded Interpretive Languages". (This was reviewed in 80-BUS News a little while ago and is the only computing book I have thumbed to scruffiness.) Doing this was hard work on a tape Nascom before getting the ZEAP assembler, and then POLYDOS. Version 2.0 is nearly complete but the luxury of disk-based screens means that I can tinker forever with, for example, the ASSEMBLER or EDITOR. Like PASCAL this is used to drive the AVC but in a style more reminiscent of LOGO and TURTLES.

More generally on the AVC, I have started to think about driving it directly rather than through G32. This is not to gain more speed on the standard geometrical constructs but for SCROLLING, PANNING and sprites. The first two are easily done for the whole screen using the MC6845’s own commands though not, I suspect, in the middle of a FILL sequence if one wants to use the edges to make the picture appear continuous. For similar windows the Z80 command LDIR would have to be flogged to death. Sprites should just be a matter of copying blocks onto the AVC memory.

At the moment, I have a problem with the system’s memory on which I would be grateful for help. I have RAM socketed on the N2 at D800H-DFFFH and the

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