Ao Rode bog Я



22-28 May 1986 Vol 5 No 21

Spectrum clones to be imported?

| © Spectrum compatible ma- MCI, the company which be- Brazilian Micro Digital Spec- Although MCI was, until the chines may be about to be came the leading export dis- trum compatible machine, but crash, purely involved in ex- brought into the UK. tributor of Sinclair products im- the company would not com- port of Sinclair products, а

Ф Sinclair export distributor mediately prior to Amstrad's ment specifically on this spokesman would neither con-

MCI won't comment, but prom- Sinclair deal, is currently matter. continued on page 4 >

ises an announcement soon. searching for stocks of Sinclair machines. It is thought MCI

Full details below and inside || could be about to import the


THE SPECTRUM Word processing Spectrum 128 specific software : а cuers: 1210 Exclusive review - Bobby MENGE (20) Bearing from The Edge і

(18) PRESS тив

Review - see page 16


® Amstrad succeeds in selling off surplus Spectrum stocks

Shogun and Dan Dare games on the way








as | GARGOYLE GAMES LTD., 74 KING STREET, DUDLEY, WEST MIDLANDS DY2 8QB Telephone: (Sales) 0384 238777 (General) 0384 237222

.0 س -

12 Laser Genius

The latest bumper package from Ocean 10. Laser Genius com- prises an assembler, monitor and interactive debugger. Peter Worlock waxes lyrical

GAMES > 16 Time Bandit

Part adventure, part arcade, part spoof on a number of genres Microdeal's Time Bandit for the Atari ST plus colour monitor

22 Amstrad

Print characters of any size on your screen

26 QL

Continuing our maze program - you've had the theory, now here's the practice

REGULARS > 4 News Desk 8 Letters, Puzzle 24, 25 Readers’ Survey

If you missed it last week, here's a

War Chistian Worcs ter nc оа Festis ador Joli Cock Producten adir Гутов Constable барбекен «бб Ch Jenkins Supplements designer Barbora ‘Advertisement and Promotions manager Simon Langston



10Thor—the'new' QL?

CST unveiled a new micro based on the QL at the recent ZX Microfair. John Lettice takes a detailed look at Thor, and gives his verdict

Psion Finance Pack

Software for the Organiser Il John Cook puts his accounts in order with the Finance Pack

Special Supplement The Spectrum

In this week's pull-out supplement: i ZX Microfair show report

iv Word processing Tasword 3, Last Word and The Writer: all highly ac- claimed on the Spectrum

vi The future for Spectrum owners x Spectrum 128 games round-up

xiv Exclusive preview: Bobby Bearing from The Edge

14 Reviews

19 Arcade Action

20 Adventure Corner 21 Adventure Helpline

28 Spectrum

Friendly data entry use this routine with your database

29 Commodore 128

Keep a good account of yourself on the C128


32 Bytes & Pieces 35 Peek and Poke

second chance. Fill in our survey, and help War on Want at the same time

36 Communications More answers to queries from David Wallin's postbag

‘executive Jon Beales Editorial secretary Annmarie O Dwyer Administration Geraldine.

Classified director Jenny Ireland.

Published by Sunshine

graphics Services Lid, 4 Roger Street, London

reunion, London SWS. Tel 1-274 BOI, Telex 261643. ©) Sunshine Publications Lid

‘send your only copy. publish,

8-14 MAY 1986

Publictioni Ltg, 12:13 Litle Newport Street London ИСӘН TPP. Tel 1:497 4843 Telex 208275 ура Greenaway Harrison, Sutton Road, Southend-on-sea, Essex.

МСТ, Printed by '

44 New Releases 46 Charts, Hackers

Advertisement executive David Osen ‘Smyth Managing editor Peter Worlock Publishing

Publishers ا‎ by SM Dis-

Popular Computing Weekly. Tel: 01-437 4343.

cannot Weekly cannot accept programs work.

although we will always try our best to make sure |

should not be more than 2000 words long. The articles, any: ould becriginal i! О te few nl copyright copy programs sito ther maga; zines and submit them here so please do not be tempted. We

your programs so please do not бугай ior any amus in programs ме


Amstrad offloads its 48K Spectrum stocks overseas

AMSTRAD has succeeded in selling its surplus stocks of Sinclair machines lo export house PST. The stocks in- volved are thought to be 20,000 QLs, 17,000 48K Spectrums and 14,000 16K Spectrums, leaving Amstrad with only the Spec- trum Plus and the Spectrum 128 for sala in the UK

PST is said to have paid £2.6m for the 51,000 machines this averages out at £50 рег unit, but considering the rela- live unsaleabilily of the 16K and 48K Spectrums in this country the unit price of these must have been much less. It is, in any event, а condition of the deal with Amstrad that PST sells the machines outside the UK.

Allhough the deal leaves Amstrad free to maintain the price of the Plus and 128 pend- ing the launch of the Amstrad


The Plus - now minus a stable-mate

version of the Spectrum in Sep- tember, it does nothing to help Sinclair dealers here, who have been experiencing supply


problems with Sinclair chines and with Sinclair pub- lished software.

"Alan Sugar has built up a lot of enmity for himself," said one dealer, who didn't wish to be named. "| want to buy QL software, but I'm told the per- son he's sold it to has been instructed to sell out of the

UK." This makes it difficult tor smaller dealers to get hold of machines particularly QLs and well nigh impossible for them to obtain any of the solt- ware that was published by Sinclair.

Some of the soltware houses involved in Sinclair publishing deals are now sorting out a return to solo publishing, but it's still likely to be a month ог зо belore the supply situation is sorted out.

Repairs to Sinclair machines. are also a problem, as Amstrad is insisting that users take faulty Sinclairs back to the original dealer, and is then charging dealers for the re- pairs done. This is likely to discourage dealers trom re- turning machines for repair, and will, therefore, make it more difficult for customers to have faults corrected.

Tape levy slammed

THE Government's plans for a 10 per cent levy on the retail price of blank audio tapes has come under fire from the tape manufacturers and less pre- dictably = the software industry.

Guild of Software Houses (GOSH) chairman Mike Meek said he couldn'! comment in his GOSH capacity until after a meeting on the subject later

this month, but said that he personally opposed the levy "It's almost a licence to copy - апа | wouldn't like such а Il- cence to exist for the software trade," he said.

The levy is intended to take a share ol the sales revenue of the tape manufacturers and give it to the music and soft- ware companies, but a large slice of this revenue will go on

administration fees, and as the software industry is much smaller than the music indus- try, Meek's fear is that little or no money will come through.

His alternative proposal is 10 attack piracy at source, rather than give people a licence to copy. “Software piracy is very definitely against the law, and we should therefore be prose- cuting the pirates."


+ continued trom page 1

lirm nor deny suggestions that it was about to reverse the process and bring machines back into the UK, He did say, however, that an announce- ment was due in the next few weeks.

The new distributor arrange- ments at Amstrad have meant that а number of companies previously involved with Sin- clair have been left out in the cold (see separate story). This

clones imported?

has fuelled speculation that some of them will be involved in the production of Spectrum compatible machines along the lines of Micro Digital's. Al- though a surge of compatibles would follow in the tradition of the IBM PC, which spawned a host of imitators, a Spectrum compatible begs a number of questions that don't apply to the PC.

Disc-based machines like the PC can be compatible with

опе another because their on- board BIOS is relatively small, and the operating system can be licensed from software houses such as Microsoft. The Spectrum, however needs to have full-blown operating sys- tem on board, and the original is now owned by Amstrad.

In addition much Spectrum software uses Rom calls, and it would be difficult to get it to work on a compatible without infringing Amstrad's copyright.

CST's Thor

Second QL mark two

TONY Tebby's rival to the Thor (see review page 10) now ex- ists in prototype form, although it is far from being a saleable QL mark 2.

Tebby has completed a cir- cuit board design which will operate with QL Rom chips, but the machine still awaits key- board, disc and various inter- faces. The machine is intended for Autumn launch at £499, but further development of the 68000 system depends on fur- ther finance for the project.

Meanwhile, it appears that а third ‘Son of QL’ machine is being mooted by QL add-on supplier Sandy.


22-28 MAY 1986

фот зн

Is Sinclair's Loki fated to stay in Limbo?

THE Loki Super Spectrum games machine under devel- ортеп! at Sinclair Research immediately prior to Amstrad's purchase of the rights to Sin- clair machines stands little if any chance of seeing the light of day.

The Loki was intended to have 128K of Ram, and would use a souped-up version of the 280 processor running at 7MHz plus two custom chips and dual ported Ram (allowing two things to access it at once) in order to speed it up. The inten- tion was to produce the ma- chine as a £200 version of the amiga, and the blueprint is now in Amstrad's hands. However, it is thought that the project was not very advanced at Sinclair.

According to one Amstrad insider, however, Amstrad has. по intention of doing anything with the machine, and the sums involved in producing the

Loki would be too great for anyone but Amstrad even if Amstrad's agreement could be obtained - to produce it.

The problems involved are based on the twin custom chips. and the wealth of ИО connec- tions, which consist of practi- cally anything you'd ever want ona micro.

The custom chips require a heavy financial commitment in terms of development, while the МО рогів, if they can be included for £200 at all, would require massive sales.

"It could work, but it would have required Sinclair to put in а lot of investment”, says Spectrum expert Andy Pennell He feels that the custom chips and dual ported Ram would allow the machine to run fast despite the relatively slow рго- cessor, but suggests that the complexity of the project would probably have meant Sinclair killing it in the end anyway.

Shogun's to show, but Dan still suffers delays

IF you thought that the Shogun and Dan Dare games were just а figment о! Virgin's imagina- tion, think again.

The two long-awaited titles are now nearing completion and Shogun, at least, is sched- uled for release at the end of this month.

Shogun will be available for Amstrad and Commodore ma- chines and involves you, as any one of a number of charac- ters, gathering loyal followers in order to become shogun of ancient Japan. The game will cost £9.95 on cassette, £12.95 ‘on Commodore disc and £14.95 оп Amstrad disc.

Dan Dare is being pro- grammed on Spectrum, Com- modore and Amstrad ma- chines, but Virgin has not decided on a release date yet, and may hold it back until the

22:28 MAY 1986

autumn. On the Spectrum, Dan Dare will be a graphically so- phisticated arcade game, on the Commodore, а 'no-text’ ad- venture, with the Amstrad ver- sion offering more in the way of a mainstream arcade adven- tures.

Kuma produces a guide to the ST

KVMA Computers has pro- duced its first book on the Atari GT. The Atari ST Explored, by John Braga. Topics covered include Gem, TOS, the ST's BIOS and Logo. А guide to 68000 assembly code is also included, along with details of system variables.

There are also chapters link- ing the machine to peripherals. The book is available now. price £8.95.

The MTX 500 - due for rescue?

Memotech rescue plan due to be finalised this week

AN announcement on the fu- ture of Memolech was expect- ed as Popular Compuling Weekly went to press.

The company is currently in liquidation, but Geoff Boyd, опе of Memolech's original founders, has formed a new company, Memotech Compul- ers, with a view to continuing production of the company's MTX series of machines.

A spokesman for the new

company said that, pending a meeting to be held this week,

he couldnt confirm what Boyd's plans меге, but Memotech Computers is

thought to be negotiating the purchase о! "Memolech's assets.

In addition to the MTX series of microcomputers these will probably include the new Memotech machine currently under development.

A graphic ols 64 may join the 128.

Commodore grabs De luxe packs from Ariolasoft

COMMODORE ha: Electronic Arts’ Deluxe range of programs lor the Amiga from Ariolasoft, and is to offer them


bundled with the Amiga. Ariolasoft announced the re- lease of Deluxe Video, Paint and Print in this country at the end of March, belore the Amiga was even launched here. Commodore, however, seems to have outbid the company.

“The contract with Electronic Arts allows them the option of doing OEM products over a certain amount”, said ап Ariolasoft spokeswoman, “and the Deluxe products fall into this category." Ariolasolt wi

however, continue to sell Elec- tronic Arts' entertainment software.

Commodore UK's acting general manager Chris Kaday wouldn't confirm the bundling deal, but said there would be an announcement shortly. He also refused to comment on suggestions that the repack- aged Commodore 64 (see Pop- ular Computing Weekly, 15-21 May 1986) would include a Rom-based version of Berke- ley Software's Geos graphic operating system. "I can't deny we're looking at options”, he said, "and there may well be future developments to the system."


Product News

Prospero produces Pascal and

Fortran for ST series

TWO MORE language imple- mentations have been an- nounced for the Atari ST range ©! 68000 processor-based mi- crocomputers. Prospero Soft- ware has launched Pro Pascal and Pro-Fortran-77, both com- piled ANSI-standard versions. Both languages offer full

support for GEM and ST graph- ics, allowing programmers to te stand-alone applica- tions conforming to the GEM standard. Both are priced at £148.

Details from Prospero Soft- ware, 190 Castlenav, London SW13 9DH (01-741

Tasman gets set for PCW word processing package

TASMAN SOFTWARE is to launch a РСМІВ256 and 512 ver- sion of its Tasword word pro- cessing program at next



31 May

Dragon Computer Show Ossett Town Най, Yorkshire Detalls: Hardware and software support for the Dragon.

Organiser: John Penn, 04203 5970.


30-12 June.

Comdex International in Europe

Nice, France

Details: Business exhibition covering ‘computers, printers, peripherals and soltware. Trade only.

Organiser: interface Group, 01-734 7282.

13-45 June.

The Amstrad Computer Show

Novotel, London

month's Amstrad show. The new version will be called Tasword 8000, will have a 90 х 32 character screen and Two

Details: Hardware, software and peripherals for Amstrad micros. Price: £3 adults, £2 children, £1 discount for advance sales.

Organiser: Database Publications, 061-

456 8363.

24-26 June

Computer '86

Mex Exhibition Centre, Manchester Details: Business and industry

computer shaw, formerly known as the

Northern Computer Show.

Price: Free entry by business. registration. Organiser: Reed Exhibitions, 01-643 8040.


16:18 July

PC User Show

Olympia, London

Details: Hardware and software for IBM machines and their compatibles. Organiser: EMAP, 01-608 1161

fonts. and will sell for £24.95.

Details from Tasman Soft- ware, Springfield House, Hyde Terrace, Leeds LS2 9LN (0532 438301)

Hisoft C's niche for new compiler

HISOFT has released HiSoft C 13, a new version of its Spec- trum C compiler. Version 1.3 is smaller, allowing larger pro- grams to be compiled, and runs around 25 per cent faster than the previous version. It also includes a code optimiser which makes compiled pro- grams smaller and faster, and has more Unix System 3 library functions added. These allow Spectrum C programs to be ported across to other ma- chines running HiSoft compil- ers fairly easily

Details from HiSoft, 180 High Street North, Dunstable, Beds LU6 ТАТ (0582 696421),

MicroPro gives Astron business support

BUSINESS software publisher MicroPro is launching Super- Script, its word processing package for the Commodore 64 and 128, on Astron Rom card in July.

The company will be selling the credit card sized Astron card together with manual and an adaptor Іо plug into the micro's ИО port for under £100. Upgrades will be available for existing SuperScript users, Details from MicroPro UK, Haygarth House, 28-31 High St, London SWi9 5BY (01 879 1122)

Seven Stars launches NLQ printer driver

QUALITAS is a printer driver utility from Seven Stars that allows Tasword to print in near letter quality (NLQ) on printers compatible with the Epson RXBO.

Five fonts are supplied, and these can be redesigned using the font editor supplied in the packages, allowing foreign a centing or even non-Roman al- phabels to be designed.

The package uses two passes of the printhead with quadruple density graphics plus micro linefeeds to achieve мо.

The Tasword 2 version is out now, price £7.95, while the Tasword 3 model will be avail- able in June, price £8.95.

Details from Seven Stars Publishing, 34 Squirrel Rise, Marlow, Bucks SL7 3PN.

24-27 Ji

Acorn User Exhibition Barbican Centre, London

Details: Hardware, software and peripherals for the Electron, BBC micro and Master machines. Trade only 10am-1pm on 24 July.

Price: £3 adults, £2 chidren, £1 discount for advance sales. Organizer: Ecitionscheme, 01-349 4667.


3-7 September Personal Computer World Show

Olympia, London

Detail: Software and hardware for home, educational and business ‘computer users.

Price: £2.

Organiser: Montbuld, 01-487 5831.

13-14 September Commodore Horizons Show UMIST, Manchester


Detalis: Commodore hardware, software and peripherals.

Price: £3 adults, £2 children, £1 discount for advance booking. Organiser: Database Publications, 061- 456 8383.

26-28 September

Electron and BBC Micro User Show

Details: Software, hardware and peripherals for the Electron, BBC micro and Master machines.

Price: £3 adults, £2 children, £1 discount for advance booking. ‘Organiser: Database Publications, 061-


22:28 MAY 1985


Jointhenow famous CLIFF HANGER in pursuit of that sharp shootin varmint. This multiscreened arcade game is available for the Commodore 64 and NOW for the Spectrum 48/128

Name Address

Spectrum 48/128 Cassette] Commodore 64 Cassette O

Both versions of Cliff Hanger cost £795. Please make cheques and postal orders to Virgin Games Limited and post to the address below. Please do not post money.

Virgin Games Ltd, 2/4 Vernon Yard, 119 Portobello Road, London W11 2DX

An interest

hank you for the nice re-

views of our products in your 8 May issue, Education Supplement. It is very pleasing to see the popular computer press taking an interest in edu- cational software.

David Atherton Software Manager BBC Publications.

Unfair criticism

ince | started the согте- spondence | concerning bugs in Atari ST Basic, perhaps. | might be allowed to reply to Mr Rosenvold's delence ol the machine (Letters, Bth May).

Although not disputing that the Atari Basic is so badly flawed as to be unusable, Mr Rosenvold says that criticism їз ‘fundamentally wrong’ be- cause the machine can run ‘better languages such as Pas- cal or Forth. If Mr Rosenvold prefers these he is entitled to his view, but most purchasers will expect to be able to use the ‘powerful’ Basic supplied with the Atari. Fancy buying a new car, only to find that it doesn't work because of incurable faults with its ‘powerful’ petrol engine, and that you are ех- pected lo go out and buy à diesel engine!

Mr Возепуо is most fortu- nate in getting the right answer every time when running Mr Hewsons's program; | get the wrong one more often than not, and Atari have told me that the bug which causes this is

present in every machine. The criticism of Mr Hewson's pro- gramming style is both unfair, and misplaced. Untair because the form was probably only adopted as the simplest means of demonstrating the fault, and misplaced because the use of string variables is not only per- missible but indeed, with ran- dom file handling, the only method possible.

David Loverseed Bramhall Stockport

Delayed service

pectrum owners are not

the only ones having trou- ble with repair delays. My five month old CPC 464 recently went to be repaired under guarantee, and came back sev- en weeks and three days later.

That's not good enough A spin dryer costing around a quarter as much again was repaired under guarantee the next day, and it didn’t have to be carted miles.

The sooner the industry gets some form of service contract going (as with domestic items), the better.

FELane Wootton Bassett Wilts

Ultimate Basic

have two points to make fol- lowing articles and letters in

your magazine.

1. If Jack Tramiel intends push-

ing his ST machines into the

A difference

C an | bring to the attention ої your readers a new computer user group - but one with a difference.

The Spectrum Unem- ployed User Group is for Spectrum owners who are currently unemployed. Mem- bership is free and in ad tion to help with computer problems (and in dealing with the DHSS), we publish a monthly tape-based maga- zine containing games and utility programs.

The only cost is postage for the magazine and 5p to cover the production costs. Please not that membership is open only to the unem- ployed. И members find a job, we throw them out. Anyone interested should write to the address below.

M Sleight Spectrum Unemployed User Group

109 The Avenue


Doncaster DNS OPS

Sounds like a good idea, but why only Spectrum owners? There must be plenty of oth- er computer owners in the same position.

educational market, he must lirst rewrite a new Basic, He should learn a lesson from the IS Basic on the Enterprise com- puter, which is widely regard- ed as the ultimate Basic amongst reviewers. His Basic contains little of the features needed to make a good struc- tured program with good use of the machine's flexibility. Enter- prise has.

2. | was amazed when | read the editors reply to A D Ponting's letter in issue Мо 19. It says “we cannot print arti- cles for which we have no copy". 1 recently had a pro- gram sent back from your re- Viewer with a letter saying, "Гуе been hanging on to this to see if there'd be any demand for Enterprise listings alas

nol" copy.

Can | assure the computer industry that a demand does exist in greater numbers than you would expect. Also I'd like other computer manufacturers to learn from Enterprise in how to treat and give service to their customers

Proof that you do receive

Chris Moore Dartmouth Devon

User group

am starting a user group for Electron owners, and would be grateful if you could publish my full address so that poten- tial members can contact me. While based in Cheshire, 1 would welcome enquires from

Puzzle No 209

Take a piece of card and cut out two circles, one slightly larger than the other. Now draw equally spaced radii to divide. the discs into one hundred sectors. Using a fastener through the centres of both discs, fasten the smaller disc on top of the larger so that it can rotate freely.

Each of the sectors on the smaller disc should be numbered from '00' to '99' in sequence in a clockwise direction. Simi- larly, the larger disc should also be num- bered, but in an anticlockwise direction.

The diagram shows a part of such an arrangement. А! any given setting the discs will display 100 numbers. For exam- ple, those shown in the diagram are 9803, 9902, 0001, 0199, 0298, 0397, etc. By rotat- ing the smaller disc to each of the 100 positions, different sequences of numbers will be generated.

At what position should the disc be set in order to produce the maximum number of primes? For your answer please state which number on the outer disc should be adjacent to the '00' on the inner disc, and state the number ol prime so obtained.

(Note that the value 1 is considered prime in this puzzle.)

Solution to Puzzle 204

In carrying out the operation as described, the most primes are produced when the

top card is 91. In this case 24 out of the 100 numbers will be prime.

The program tests each of the 100 possi- bilities which result with the different start positions in the pack. Each successive total is summed and is tested to determine it itis prime in the subroutine (lines 500 to 560). As each prime is encountered the array variable whose subscript corre- sponds to the start value of the pack, is incremented by one.

At the end of execution of the program, the array is scanned to determine the number of primes oblainable with each run-through of the pack.

Winner of Puzzle No 204

The winner is Martin Fisher of Marston Moreteyne, Beds, who will receive £10. Rules

The closing date for Puzzle No 209 is 17 June.


22-28 MAY 1986

anywhere, as the group will Бе postal. There are no fees, the idea being to encourage con- tact and help between mem- bers. | will probably produce а cheap but informative newslet- ler to which members will contribute.

Finally, could | ask that enquirers enclose a stamped

addressed envelope for a reply. Michael O'Donnell 5 Worthington Close Runcorn Cheshire WA7 20G Still waiting

1 K Sanders of Worcs and D

Scott of Hawick think they've got problems with their Spec- trums now that Alan Sugar has taken over, then mine beats the lot.

Last January | ordered а new casing for my 464. | sent my postal order for the amount agreed and waited... and waited. | have rung them sev- eral times and variously been told that it's on its way, that it’s


“out of stock, that a shipment was expected, it mighl be on the next shipment.

| have now written to them and I am still waiting.

P Clarke Sneinton Nottingham

Strange excuses

‘ome strange excuses have

been put forward for com- puter design faults, but that offered by Kristian Rosenvold in respect of the problem with the Atari ST Basic is only provided so that you will buy the machine, you aren't ex- pected to actually use it- must be the most outrageous уе!

Norway has perhaps been Singled out for special versions of the Atari, because І have run Mr Howson's program on all the 520s | could find on dealers shelves, and they all give the wrong answer on the second and subsequent iterations.

Mr Rosenvold is however quite right that string variables take longer to process; with the wholly numeric version of the

Don't wait for the ad. THE SNOW QUEEN is available n

'So Thor, Odin and Loki aren't mam- bers of Abba after all!

program listed below the Alari is much faster at getting the wrong answer. However it is still very slow further checks with a counting loop added showed that the Amstrad PCW ran ten times as fast (and got the right answer),

10 еы а 20 а- 999999909995 =a

advertising isan exact yet

THE SNOW QUEEN An unusually intriguing illustrated text adventure

30 open"O",1."test" printift

acclose. 40 open'i*,I."lest'inputfl, aiclose 50 print ab P Cuthbert Cambridge

It would be unfair to dealers

if everyone went round trying

display models to see what

answer the Atari comes up with it gives minus 8192

Star letters

very week Popular Com- E Weekly offers prize for Star letters. The most intelligent, pertinent, helpful, or simply interesting item in our postbag each week will win the writer a free y: LI supply of exclusive Popular Computing Weekly binders. Here is your chance to clear up that pile of old Populars under the bed and file them neatly, so get writing today. Send your thoughts to Let- ters, Popular Computing Week- ly, 12-13 Little Newport Street, London WC2H 7РР.

Dulux. Disabuse her nicely would you?


22-28 MAY 1986


Thor god of thunder?

John Lettice takes a close look at CST's Thor micro, based on QL technology, and eval-

uates its chances of success

umours of the death of the QL were, R it would seem, greatly exaggerated.

A few weeks back, even as Alan ‘Sugar was knocking the machine firmly оп the head, work on its successor was in progress.

Son of QL, produced by Stevenage- based QL add-on manufacturer CST, now exists in prototype, and is scheduled for launch at the Personal Computer World show, in September.

The machine is the Thor, and it will be available in two basic versions, one sport- ing a single 720K floppy and costing £550, and the second equipped with one floppy and one 20Mb hard disc lor £1,300. The casing of the machines has been subject to a radical redesign, and now houses a wealth of 1/0 slots along with the original QL circuit board. Microdrives are conspic- uous by their absence.

The Thor is actually the QL mark two the machine that has been subject to Sinclair's on-off plans for the О successor.

This project was repeatedly cancelled and re-adopled in the year prior to Sin- clair's sale to Amstrad, but while ils future wilh Sinclair was never certain, CST, to which Sinclair had subcontracted the de- velopment work, continued work on the machine that was to become the Thor.

Thor is essentially a radical repackag- ing of the QL. It consists of a compact steel box housing main circuit board, Ram ex- pansion to 640K, ports for the QL's stan-

Inside the Thor = the circuit board

dard МО plus Centronics and mouse ports. Production machines will also sport four Rom slots internally.

The disc drives and interfaces are housed in the front right hand side of the box - the whole shebang is decidedly full up and crowded, but the QL's expansion bus has been re-routed round to the back and really serious expandaholics will be able to buy an expansion box to plug into it from CST.

New keyboard

The keyboard is one of the more inter- esting points about the current prototype. Sinclair's wobbly Scandinavian designed keys have been thrown out of the window (CST's neighbours will be complaining about the mess in the back garden if the Thor really takes off) and have been re- placed by one compatible with the IBM РС AT

The layout of this differs from the OL layout, but most of the IBM-specilic keys have been wired in, and the rest will be dealt with on the production machines. These will include IBM's Print Screen key, which will actually have a screen dump routine patched into it rather than simply dumping the characters from the screen, as it does on IBM machines.

The feel of the keyboard is streets ahead of the standard Sinclair feel, and although | personally didn't teel it matched the classi- est of IBM compatibles it's still good, and

at this level feel is largely a matter of taste

Because the Thor is still essentially a QL there should be no problem with running software - provided it's on a 3) inch disc, that is.

David Oliver of CST says he's been looking at the Microdrive transfer prob- lem, and proposes to operate some kind of data transfer facilily for users who are upgrading their machines.

Program software is a little trickier firstly because it may be protected and secondly because copying it from microdrive to disc is illegal, but CST will be asking software houses for some kind of blanket permission to transfer programs, and the incentive should be there

The company has some ammunition that should help it secure this permission, in the shape of "water marking’ of machines.

This will be analogous to a 'dongle' in many respects. Each machine will have its own individual code number which will be transferred to applications sollware discs before the application can be used

Individual disc programs can therefore only be used by the machine they were installed for - or to be more precise, one machine in 256 and there's therefore no need for further copy protection. Users can therefore lake as many backup copies as they like, because they'll only work on