Spectrum Software Scene 2 Issue 40 Contents QL Hardware Scene

QL Software Scene


THE QL Pascal Development Kit is a package of which Metacomco can be justly proud. Not only does it conform closely to the ISO-standard so dearly beloved by the business community and schools but also it provides facilities not commonly available on microcomputers.

Until recently software companies would not approach the standard. The reasons given were that

any such compiler would need to be based on a mini-computer and that microcomputers just did not have enough memory to accomodate a full implementation.

Metacomco has proved them wrong. Its package contains a ROM on which is included part of the operating system firmware, two microdrive cartridges which contain the runtime editor and compiler, and an excellent and comprehensive Reference Guide.

Sinclair User Classic

The ROM is effectively a dongle - software protection - device which must be in the ROM slot if the compiler is to run correctly. On power-up its effects are felt straight away when a 'welcome' message is displayed. The firmware can be checked, to see if it is in working order, by typing ROM. If 'BAD ROM' is displayed you may have to send the package back to Metacomco.

The Runtime Editor is the same as that which is used in the Metacomco Assembler, BCPL and Lisp packages. It is a full-screen ASCII file editor which can be used separately, if required, for any Basic or machine code listing. The program uses 20K RAM and needs a further 8K for workspace.

The one-pass compiler allows the production of a source listing file or a code file. If neither option is chosen the program simply checks the syntax of the source which you have created using the editor.

As well as implementing the ISO standard the compiler will allow the addition of a series of ISO extensions.

Those include procedures to allow internal files to access named files, a command which produces a similar effect to that of TRAP in 68000 machine code and a set of routines to deal with QL graphics.

An INCLUDE extension can also be called allowing a user program to call other files or programs. In that way a library of commonly used routines could be built up and used by your programs.

Although the package is not intended for complete beginners the manual accompanying it gives enough information about Pascal for anyone who has knowledge of a high level language, such as Basic, to get started. The package provides a complete Pascal environment and is the most comprehensive and comprehensible on the market.

The price may seem extortionate but similar packages on other micros and minis can cost ten or twenty times as much. The Metacomco package should make other manufacturers sit back and think.

Publisher Metacomco Price £89.95
John Gilbert


IF YOU do not buy EVA the author has threatened that he'll send his pet Ninja around to convince you.


He assures us that you will CHEER as you blast the invaders to tatters, QUAIL at the horrendous price of rivets for your gun, CHURN away at the space bar to fire and SHRIEK to the low budget sound effects.

The whole production is a thinly disguised version of Ultimate's Jetpac but with the added difficulty of having to get your fingers around the cursor control keys and the space bar.

In this game you have to put together a teleport, which consists of six segments. As each section appears at the top of the screen you must guide it around the platform obstacles to the two red-blocked areas at the bottom. Your space suit generates a magnetic field which draws the part to you. Just click the segment into place and a bleep sounds.

Play is not that easy though as there are the usual red fireballs with which you must contend. Just blast them with your rivet gun.

When you have put the transporter together, retaining at least one of four meagre lives, you will be transported to the next screen which has more of the same. If you run out of lives you have to start again or maybe you would like to treat a friend to a thrill and go for the two-player option.

The game, which has the one saving grace of good flicker-free sprites, is little more than a load of cobbled concepts from Spectrum programs. By a fluke it is one of the first QL games on the market but, looking at it, you will see that that posed not problem.

If you have £10 to give away or are anxious to get software - any software - for your machine then buy EVA; if not, don't. Now excuse me while I deal with that Ninja ...

Publisher Westway, Lancashire Price £10.95
John Gilbert

Cartridge Doctor

HAVE YOUR microdrives got the floppies? Had any data recovery problems lately? What you need is Cartridge Doctor.

The package, which includes five routines, will clone files, recover data which has become lost or scrambled and, if you know a bit about the internal workings of the QL, recover files which you have deleted from a cartridge directory.

The Autoclone facility can be used to back-up programs or copy complete cartridges. Unfortunately it is not a rapid copier, and can take three or four minutes to clone, but it will copy almost anything and recover files which have been accidentally deleted. It will allow you to scan a cartridge to identify 'bad' files.

File Patch can be put into operation when a bad file is found. It loads a file block into memory and displays it on the screen in ASCII format. You can then use a cursor to correct any corruption of the block which may show up. For instance, you may load in a Basic program which has become corrupted. You find that the first line has been changed from 10 PRINT "HELLO" to AS?NT "HELLO". All you have to do is use the cursor to correct the errors and re-save the program.

Badly damaged files, and those without headers, can be treated using the Salvage section of the package. All you need to do is to create a new file of similar length to the one which has been damaged, patch the original offending blocks, and read them out to the file which you have just created. In that way you can find a damaged file and repair it without having to refer to its name on the header, which may be damaged.

The package is easy to use and a must for any of you out there who keep losing files - there can't be that many, surely. Just remember that Cartridge Doctor kills 99 percent of floppy bugs dead!

Publisher Talent Price £21.95
John Gilbert

QL Caverns

ENTER the world of Willy on the QL, or someone who looks like him. Sinclair Research has given him the name BJ and he's been captured by aliens who have forced him into a mine to collect 395 diamonds.

Caverns is in the classic platform game mould except for three differences. The first provides BJ with a jetpack. It can be used to hover in caverns with dangerous blue walls which would be the death of our hero. BJ can bend down and walk through narrow tunnels. He can also bounce to the upper levels of the caverns using handily placed trampolines.

Lives are easy to lose so heart-shaped lives are scattered around waiting to be collected. Most are carefully guarded by aliens with which you may collide if you jump too high, so don't be too ambitious.

Although there seem to be, oh, dozens of caves within Caverns, when you've seen five you've more of less seen them all. Movement is achieved with the cursor keys; we tried a joystick with the game but could not stop BJ from jumping.

If QL Caverns is going to be the standard of games from Sinclair then I wish it had kept its promise, and its intentions, not to launch any games. That was more than a year ago, though, and a lot can change in that time.

Publisher Sinclair Research Price £10.95
John Gilbert

QL Agenda

IF QL Agenda is an example of what new company Q-Soft is doing then the future does not bode well.

The utility combines a diary with a calendar for any month of any year. After you have waited three minutes for the diary to load you are asked to enter the current year, date and time. A calendar is then computed and the first two months are displayed at the right of the screen.

At the top of the display the current options are shown. The Design function can be used to change baud rate, toggle printer output and sound and set the alarm. You can also load in a file of data or create a new agenda.

Each year requires one microdrive cartridge to store data and the package contains a utility to back-up data as well as the master program. That seems extravagant for one program when you can store at least three or four massive documents on one cartridge using Quill.

Once you have created an agenda you can enter your appointments for a specific year and month using a window at the left of the screen. It displays lines numbered from one to 15 and you use those index numbers to set something on a line.

Each line can contain 28 characters. If you type more, then part of your note is truncated. The other major problem is that you cannot edit the agenda to insert appointments between other entries.

Unfortunately that makes the package's prime use as a time-sequenced appointments file obsolete.

It would be quicker and easier to use a desk diary. It might also prove less expensive - unless you want to try and convince Inland Revenue that your QL is a tax loss.

Publisher Q-Soft, Hertfordshire Price £19.95
John Gilbert

Spectrum Software Scene 2 Issue 40 Contents QL Hardware Scene

Sinclair User
July 1985