Volume 1, Number 1 – August 1981

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by Viktor

This series of articles aims to take the proud owner of a newly-assembled, up and running Nascom from the intial stages of diplomatically negotiated half-hours away from gardening and decorating to the point at which you spend every evening and most weekends to the accompaniment of “you think more of that machine than of me!”. In the case of the single person the machine meets with less direct opposition and the time to total obsession is much shorter.

When you start using the computer everything is a mystery. Facts which you need to know are hidden deep within a manual which has been written by someone who is thouroughly familiar with all aspects of computing and who has forgotten the depth of ignorance of the tyro. So here is an introduction to the Nascom 2 written by someone who is still learning. I hope that I can bring the manuals to life and ease the path for other beginners.

The keyboard and screen

When you switch on the computer, the screen is empty apart from a message at the top left with a short flashing line underneath it. The ‘Message’ is the name of the operating system – the set of instruction within the machine which tells it how to communicate with the outside world. There have been several different operating systems for Nascoms; the first used with the Nascom 2 was Nas-Sys 1, and the latest is Nas-Sys 3. If you go along to a computer club you will find that these boring ‘commercials’ have been replaced by much more enterprising expressions, from “Now what!” to phrases which are quite unprintable. The operating system is often referred to as the monitor, which is unfortunate, as the same term is used for the display device (also known as a CRT or VDU – it sounds much more scientific than TV).

The flashing line is the cursor – it is there to tell you where anything you type on the keyboard will appear on the screen. The cursor can be moved about the screen with the cursor control keys – the four keys on either side of the space bar. If you move the cursor and then type a letter, this letter will replace the cursor, which will move to the next available space. if you move the cursor over letters that you have already typed, you will notice that it does not erase these letters – it is a ‘non-destructive’ cursor. You can erase text one character at a time with the “backspace” key if you hold down the shift key and then press “enter” (also referred to as the “new line” or “return” key) you can remove the whole line that the cursor is currently on, while shift/​backspace clears the whole screen. You can open up a space in a line of text by positioning the cursor with the control keys until it is under the first letter to be moved and then typing shift/​cursor right. The whole line to the right of the initial position moves to the right, and letters can then be inserted as required. Similarly, shift/​cursor left can be used to delete characters, the line to the right of the deletion point moving to the left. In fact, the Nas-sys full-screen editing facilities are excellent, and put many other copmputers to shame.

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