February/March 1980, Issue 6

Page 2 of 38


Word processors !!!! Two words which are becoming as rapidly devalued amongst computing circles as the words ‘High Fidelity’ are already amongst the audiophiles. Now its not our purpose to bandy definitions, but when definitions become meaningless, then their use ought to be actively discouraged. All this comes to mind, as, at a recent exhibition the words ‘Word Processor’ seemed to be thrown about with such abandon that any potential customer could only have been confused by the multiplicity (or lack of) specifications which were on display. We saw one beastie which for a modest one hundred and fifty pounds had just about as much in its 4k as half the new Nascom 2K Naspen at about one fifth the price; and they had the cheek to call it a ‘Word Processor’!

Which brings us to the subject of Naspen. We have made passing mention of this before, and the results may be seen in parts of this, and the last two newsletters. We have been priviledged to have been loaned preproduction samples to play with, and to say the least we are impressed. And it is not generalized into a ‘Word Processor’, but is much more specifically a ‘Text Editing and Formatting’ package and a pretty superior one at that. Now that Naspen Is becoming available, it is perhaps time to talk about it a bit, and tell you what it is, and what it does.

Naspen is a program supplied in 2 2708 EPROMs for use with expanded Nascom 1 or 2. There are two versions, VS.1 for Nas-sys monitors and VT.1 for Nasbug T4, it is not suitable for Nasbug T2 and B-Bug. It is really intended for use with 16K of RAM, but at a push 8K can be used, provided the pointer to top of RAM is altered accordingly. Naspen {is aimed at people who would want to enter text into their Nascom, and then print it (or just save it on tape for reference). Its main uses would be in the preparation of documents, drafts (including INMC newsletters), repetetive letters, price lists etc. In other words small business applications where editing and correction of printed text would show the benefit of automation.

Because Naspen was designed to be used by inexperienced operators, all the commands are direct acting, and single character only, for instance, in writing a tape, there is no need to tell Naspen where to write from and to, and then enter the line. The W command acts directly, and automatically starts writing to tape two seconds after ‘w’ has been typed. A major feature is the repeat keyboard which repeats characters at a rate determined by the operator. In the Insert and Append modes the text being written is always displayed, whilst in the edit mode the text may be moved around at will. It is best to imagine the screen as being a window onto the text buffer, and the window is allowed to move over the text buffer. There are no problems with lines longer than 48 characters as the lines simply wrap round the screen (a little disconcerting at first, but after an hour or so, no longer a problem).

The documentation supplied with Naspen is thorough and detailed and again written with the inexperienced operator in mind. We understand that the documentation was tried out on a typist who had never touched a Nascom in her life, and then re-written in the light of her mistakes. We found it accurate if a little clinical in style. The demonstration examples stopped rather abruptly. All the commands were

Page 2 of 38