Adventure Helpline Issue 47 Contents QLink


Which means business, Spectrum or QL?

EVER SINCE its launch the Spectrum has never been considered as a business computer. Yet it is still being used by a considerable number of companies, including some very large ones.

QL at work - can the Spectrum compete?

It was hoped that the QL would be taken much more seriously. Various factors, including all the old familiar problems with delays and reliability, consigned it initially to a limbo acknowledged as a powerful machine using tomorrow's technology, resisted for serious use. When many of the problems were finally sorted out the QL was already being caught up and surpassed by the market.

A reduction in price, together with the improved quality, has changed the picture and many companies are reconsidering it as a possibility for their needs. With the QL moving into the Spectrum market, does the Spectrum still have a role to play in business, or should it now be seen purely as an entry level games machine?

For many people a business computer should have one disc drive - preferably two, at least 64K of memory, output to a monitor and a range of other output ports. In addition, it should use either the CP/M or MSDOS operating systems.

Neither the Spectrum or QL have all those features. The Spectrum has 48K of memory, output to TV, tape storage and no other output ports, while the QL includes 128K, two microdrives for fast storage and output to TV or monitor. A suite of very good programs word processing, spreadsheet, database and business graphics is bundled with the QL. That suite alone is worth the £199 price.

Should you want to speed up saving and loading by adding microdrives to your Spectrum, it is going to cost a further £120 for the interface and two microdrives. Of course, disc drives are available for both the Spectrum and QL but adding one will cost about £200. On the face of it, it would seem impossible for there to be any life left in the Spectrum for business use.

However, all that assumes that your computer will be used for a range of programs throughout the working day. It makes no assumptions about dedicating a-computer to a single task. Word processors are dedicated computers and there are perhaps more of those than any other type of computer. The use of dedicated computers is likely to be one of the few growth areas for computers.

There are several factors which make the Spectrum suitable in this area. A major factor is obviously going to be the cost of the whole system and, while it may be more expensive to buy a Spectrum with twin microdrives than a QL, the Spectrum Plus is still £70 cheaper: If you can find an old rubber keyboard model the saving could be £140.

The cost of software is another factor. The best programs retain many of the features of programs written especially for business computers while being about one tenth of the cost. Using a television to display results means that a further £30 or £40 can be saved.

The Spectrum is a small, robust machine which has a little footprint - it takes up little desk space. It can stay switched on all day and stands up to considerable wear and tear. Saving and loading from cassette tape is, admittedly, slow and tedious. However cassette tape is probably the safest medium for storing data.

All those features combine to make the Spectrum highly suitable as the basis of a cheap dedicated system - such as for stock control, where it needs to be turned on first thing in the morning and will be left running all day.

The Spectrum will continue to be used where it has already made its mark and a reduction in price could renew interest at the time of writing Asda is selling the Spectrum Plus for £70. It may also be that as a generation of young gameplayers grow up either they, or their parents, will start using their old forgotten Spectrums in business. Undoubtedly, the Spectrum is not dead where the business market is concerned.

Mike Wright

Numbers at work

THIS IS another in the Brainpower series published by Collins Soft. The motto of the series is 'Application through Learning' and each title has an introduction to the basics of a manual which also doubles as a text book, a teaching program and an applications program.

The teaching module is some 180K long and spread over seven programs. It is designed to develop those numeracy skills most often used in day-today business.

Each section is followed by a test. At the start you are asked to decide whether you want to set a pass rate, if so it must be achieved before you can proceed to the next section. One option of the teaching program is a calculator which can be displayed and used on the screen; it seems rather pointless, since it is either not available when you need it, particularly during the tests, or you are moved on to another example after using it.

Though Numbers at Work is targeted for use in business, and not school, the teaching module resembles the sort of programs which gate educational computing a bad name. The overall impression is not helped by a Backpage prompt which seems almost impossible to get rid of, and a Finish option which simply freezes the screen, leaving the user to reset manually.

The applications program provides an easy way of using the techniques learnt earlier. Options offered include Discount Margin Mark-up & VAT, Salary & PAYE, Commission & Brokerage, and Interest. Each option displays a one screen chart on which you can enter numbers. Once enough numbers have been entered the remaining entries are calculated automatically. A hard copy of the chart can be printed. Changing tax and allowance rates affect some calculations and white the program is set up for rates following the 1984 budget they can be changed. Unfortunately, the program cannot be saved with the new rates and you must enter them every time the program is loaded.

In summary, the teaching package is uninteresting, and the loading time for the applications package is likely to deter people from using it. This is the most disappointing of the Brainpower series, especially in dealing with a topic which, arguably, needs to be made much more lively and interesting.

Publisher Collins Soft Price £14.95
Memory 48K
Mike Wright

Adventure Helpline Issue 47 Contents QLink

Sinclair User
February 1986