Scor­pio News


July–September 1987 – Volume 1. Issue 3.

Page 48 of 67

Scorpio Systems Goes “Compatible”

by P.A. Greenhalgh

Bad to Good

If, a couple of years ago, you had said that at some future date I would be looking at buying an “IBM” you would have received a fairly abusive reply. When IBM first introduced the PC there were, in my opinion, a number of major shortcomings. They were expensive, PC-DOS was fairly ropey, the video left a lot to be desired, there was little software around, and they were very slow. At that particular stage I was using a Gemini Galaxy system with Winchester and RAM-DISK, mainly for WordStar work, and this combination was vastly faster than WordStar on the PC, the software apparently being a “straight-forward” code conversion from CP/M / 8080 to PC-DOS / 8088.

But, by paving the very name IBM, this monstrosity almost overnight became a standard. Subsequently developments have raced ahead, with sore powerful, faster processors; many improvements to the Operating System; a vast reduction in prices; faster, better and more colourful displays; and huge quantities of very good software.

Why Change ?

There were a number of reasons for deciding to buy an “IBM”, but there was one major one:

Here at Scorpio Systems, as well as producing this glorious publication, a lot of time is spent producing technical documentation. A laser printer is used to produce master copy. This printer is capable of very many fancy tricks, and incorporates a large number of different fonts, its most attractive being certain proportional ones. But WordStar does not understand the concept of proportional fonts, and that lines of equal length can contain considerably different numbers of letters. Take the words lilly and mummy for example, and you can quickly appreciate that in a proportional font, where each letter has its own width rather than a fixed width for all letters, the former word occupies a much shorter line length then the latter.

So WordStar can not be sensibly used to take full advantage of the laser’s facilities, and it therefore currently tends to be used, in effect, as a very high speed high quality daisy-wheel, with the advantage of there being various fixed-spacing fonts available for various applications. (For example, a fairly small font is used for Scorpio News in order to get as much information as possible into a limited number of pages, whilst still maintaining good legibility. It can go MUCH smaller!)

Having a printer that is as capable as this one, but being so restricted in the number of features that can be used, must be akin to owning 2 Lambourghini Countach (capable of c. 180mph) and living in Jersey (maximum speed limit 40mph). There doesn’t appear to be any CP/M-80 software around to use it to its full, but under MS-DOS there are various programs, particularly Xerox Ventura Publisher, which are capable of some pretty (sic) amazing things.

What To Buy ?

Anyway, having decided that it was time to go ‘compatible’, the big question was with what? When you start to look around the IBM / Clone market piece it all very quickly becomes very confusing. 8088, 8086, 8186, 80286, 4.77KHz, 6MHz, 8MHz, 10MHz, 12MHz, 0 wait states, 1 wait state, slow seek, fast seek, 10MB, 20MB, 30MB, 320K, 360K, 720K, 1.2MB, MS-DOS, PC-DOS, 3.5″, 5.25″, MDA, CGA, EGA, PGA, Hercules ..... these are among the different things that are thrown at you. And that was BEFORE Personal System 2, 80386, and 0S/2 started to get in on the act too!

I decided that the best policy was to adopt a “maximum bangs per optimum bucks” philosophy, i.e. to go for the best possible specification prior to prices starting to go through the ceiling. On this basis it very soon became apparent

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