Scor­pio News


July–September 1987 – Volume 1. Issue 3.

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Doctor Dark’s Diary – Episode 26

Gempen, alias GM519/520/521

This article, and the last one, come to you courtesy of Gempen, which is a version of Diskpen specially adapted to make use of those features of the Gemini GM812 IVC video board that make it so much better than a Nascom 1 display, for instance. It also works rather well with a GM832 SVC, and I find it ideal for writing these articles.

It isn’t WordStar. I’m glad. WordStar is very powerful, and very expensive too. Gempen is sensible priced, and is easy to learn to use. It does all the text formatting that I need for these articles, namely word wrapping and padding lines out to the right length (right justification), using very simple commands. It doesn’t do footnotes, or cope with 32 Megabyte files. Still, you don’t want me to write 32 Megabytes, do you? [Ed. – Yod do, and you’re fired.]

The manual is written in the kind of English real people understand, and is fairly short. I was interested to note that not only does it tell you how to extend the program to do fancy printing with a suitable printer, but there is also a very clear explanation of how to get your text back if you accidentally exit from the program without saving. I bet the Wordstar manual doesn’t do that.

I could list all the commands the program uses, but it would be a waste of space. It does all the obvious things like inputting, deleting, search and replace, read from disk, that you would expect, with commands that almost all use the most obvious single letter of the alphabet. Why do control K Q, when you can do a nice simple Q? If you need a simple effective text editor, buy this one.

Hisoft C – is it all wet?

Sorry about the heading, I tried to resist the temptation, but failed. There seems to be a habit among the authors of C books and manuals to include odd headings and quotes from Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snak”, or poems that mention the sea. These people have corrupted me. It can’t have been the BASIC, Mr Dijkstra, I haven’t touched any in ages…

Anyway, Hisoft C++, it says here, is an extremely fast C compiler for CP/M-80 machines, and is also available for those machines in plastic cases imported by that nice Mr Sugar. I had no idea that people who bought those were likely to want to write programs on them, let alone in C, but let it pass. C++ is supplied complete with the excellent program editor that I mentioned in the last episode, so that is is easy to create ant edit your source code, with no risk of getting it word-wrapped by accident. (An aside on editors. A friend of mine has told me about the latest trend, the folding editor. (Don’t panic, Paul! I’ talking about text editors.) One of these is supplied by Inmos, with their Occam development system, apparently. It seems the “paper” in this editor can be “folded” so that you can have several parts of the file on screen at once. Much better than having to scroll up and down to refer to other part of the code, I would imagine. And not as ugly as all these awful windowing systems, either, even if they are able to do the same trick, which I doubt. Hurry up and write one, somebody. Preferably Hisoft.)

The compiler runs fast, as is usual. I found using a certain other firm’s compiler on the office Sirius was almost an overnight batch job, but this one doesn’t mess about. On the other hand, zthe poor Sirius does have to spend an awful lot of its time changing the speed of its disk drives. Random access flies are catered for by C++, and the manual describes itself as “large and comprehensive”, with “numerous easy worked examples of C and a complete guide to the language.” This, I think, is optimistic. The manual is excellent, but trying to learn a language from the manual is not the best way of doing it. Does anyone remember the Nascom BASIC manual? So I read some books…

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