Scor­pio News


January–March 1987 – Volume 1. Issue 1.

Page 6 of 63

As you can see from the earlier paragraphs, I was a ‘bit miffed’ at the turn of events last May, since then I haven’t had the time to worry about such things, I’ve been too busy learning and revising my opinions. That doesn’t mean I’ve deserted my trusty Nascom/​Gemini/​DH machine at home, but it does mean that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time investigating the performance (or in most instances, the lack of) of various IBM micros and their clones. Because that’s what sells (in quantity) whilst Geminis don’t (in quantity).

The recent experience with other machines has also opened my eyes to the good points and failings of the more popular competition, but even more so to the lost opportunities and ostrich like behaviour of many UK companies to adapt to the wind of change, however unsavioury that wind might be. Unfortunately the architecture philosophy of the IBM type machine is with us, and with us for a good many years to come; despite, I suspect, that IBM have only recently realized what a can of worms they have let loose on the world; and despite the fact that following that path could well turn out to be a dead end. None the lees, it took someone like IBM to establish some sort of standard, in disk formats, in screen addressing modes, in operating system behaviour, in software portability, et al. And that can’t be a bad thing from the user’s point of view however much you might disagree with the standards set.

And so to lost opportunities, many entrepreneurial types are importing Taiwanese and Hong Kong made IBM clone cards. They are making money (perhaps not as much as they would like, because there are too many of them) by satisfying an increasing business market demand. Not to much for the main computer cards but for bus cards. Mow many small UK manufacturers have always been clever at designing cards for existing systems, yet I can only name one UK designed and built card for the IBM, the I/O Research Pennant graphics card (a sort of different shaped Super Pluto card), there my be more, but I don’ know of them. Almost all the imported cards are cheap copies of already established and obsolete American designs, and yet no new cards seem to be forthcoming. Here’s a hint to Gemini, the GM870 modem card is a beaut, it’s well behaved, and it’s understandable. Come on John (Marshall – MD of Gemini), get a hacksaw to it, change it’s shape, code convert the Gemini modem software and sell it cheap!!! It doesn’t have to be Hayes compatible (nice if it were) but no-one out there is selling a half decent plug-in modem card for the IBM and the market must be enormous. Commit to making enough of them and you could happily tell it cheap enough. Alright, so my suggesting to John to make IBM cards isn’ going to help us 8-bit Gemini type directly, but in the long term it could.

For instance, Gemini promised an 8088 or 8086 or 80186 ‘IBM compatible’ adaptor card for the Gemini kit, that is, it’s got to run MS-DOS properly. This is no great secret and the idea has been rattling about for a couple of years or more. Where is it? I’m not talking about the Costgold card, I don’t know them, and I’ve never seen a review which convinces me of its worth. Now if Gemini had made that card a couple of years ago. I, and I am sure many others, would have bought it then, if the price had been half reasonable. Instead I’m faced with the prospect of forking up a couple of grand for an IBM AT clone (the only IBM offering which approaches the speed I’ve taken as being normal for the last three or four years) because the software I write for work has to be ‘IBM compatible’ these days. True I’ve got IBM machines at work, but if I want to write things over the weekend I have to lug one of these home with me and they certainly don’t qualify at portable machines. Well not unless you have particular liking for wearing truss.

What I’m saying is that I have been forced into a position where IBM is beautiful (well not to much beautiful as tolerable) and I’m sure I’m not alone I’would far rather convert my existing kit into a Nascom/​Gemini/​DH/​IBM hybrid than to invest in new kit. Such a conversion might be difficult but by no means impossible, and at least I would know what made it tick. (That’s an indictment of IBM’s documentation, where quantity is everything but quality and information is nonexistent.) Come on John, it’s almost too late, I’ve got to buy this machine by February, and I’d far rather give my hard earned loot to someone I’m charitable enough to think cares, than to some inscrutable chinese represented in this country by a bunch of know-nothing box pedlars.

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