Gremlin Issue 47 Contents Top 30


Mag is strictly for the kids?

Issue 41 (Roland Rat cover)

I BELIEVE that my subscription expires this month. I have taken the magazine for about three years but I wish to give it up.

I'm afraid that Sinclair User has degenerated in many ways - for example, editorial remarks to letter writers seem often childish in the extreme. I appreciate that the magazine is aimed mainly at the younger generation but I think an approach at about the 12-year-old level is a little too low.

Most of your output seems to be devoted to games and very little to encourage youngsters on the real use of the computer. Some of my young friends have commented to me on this.

Some articles on machine code have been good but most of what you produce, I think you must have to agree, is devoted to games, mainly arcade type. I appreciate that most new owners just play games. I would have hoped, though, that your magazine would try to educate a little.

Sorry, I cannot be more constructive but with a computer in every school, I believe, I should have thought that there was scope for more real computing than your magazine offers.

I know you can't please everybody as I am one of the 'older' generation, but I am so sorry to see so many kids just waste hours on trivial games and having their parents ask me what they should do. I'm not an expert, I can't teach them.

David Williams,
MSc, PhD, CBiol, FIBiol

We can't please everybody, though we do try to cover all aspects of Sinclair computers. Games coverage has increased recently, partly because there are more games players out there, and partly because business and education software has diminished - we can only review what we receive.

Nevertheless, we continue to offer programming help with Andrew Hewson's regular column, and this issue sees an expanded hardware section. Neither have we forgotten the QL - even if everyone else has.

As for educating readers on the 'real use of the computer', is a magazine the best place for this when, as you point out, there is at least one computer in every school?

Going broke in Classic style
Sinclair User Classic

HOW MANY of your readers have £48.48 to spend each month? Because that is how much, on average, it would cost to purchase each tape to which your reviewers give five stars each month.

If one exercised a little more self control and bought only games awarded Classic status, it would 'only' cost £22.77 a month, on average. So why do you not limit the use of Classics to maybe one arcade game and one adventure each month or, failing that, introduce a 'game of the month' which would be awarded to one game which all the reviewers agreed to be truly worthy of the title?

James Tovey

I think this is a bit silly. No-one is saying that you should buy everything which is awarded five stars or a Classic, any more than you should see all films which receive Oscars. In January's issue, the Spectrum Forth Converter was awarded a Classic, but I doubt whether many arcade fanatics bought it. Such ratings are only a guide to purchase. We leave it up to you to decide to buy it or not.

We're getting there

I THINK all of your reviewers are very accurate in their judgement of games. I have recently bought four of your Classics and three of your five star reviewed games and all of them have been great.

Richard Milligan

PS. Gremlin's Xmas Bash poster is brilliant and it will not be removed from my wall until he gives us a newer one.

PPS. Please could you print the Top 30 of one of your reviewers as I would value his or her opinion.

Three cheers for Transform

I OWN a Spectrum Plus with Interface 1, microdrive, and a Brother M1009 printer.

I recently decided to buy a ZX Lprint III printer interface and sent off a cheque and coupon to Transform Ltd. I settled down to wait the usual 28-day mail order period and was pleasantly surprised to find the item delivered four days later.

What about the interface? It's up and running, and simplicity to use. I had a slight problem altering the control codes in Tasword 2, but a quick phone call to Transform supplied the answer. The results are excellent. Response to customers is what successful marketing is all about. Well done Transform.

A quick plug here for the Spectrum Plus keyboard. I have read some reviews which are critical of the keyboard when comparing it to more expensive professional keyboards. I have been touch-typing for many years, so it is hardly surprising that Tasword 2 is my most frequently-used program. The Plus upgrade kit is superb value for money and is all I need for accurate typing.

As the tenuous 128K is reputed to fit inside the Plus keyboard, I look forward to the day of the 128K upgrade kit. That must be a viable proposition.

Jack Bradshaw

A question of wizardry?

EXCUSE my curiosity, but I would like to ask those wizards of computerland just how they manage to come up with those infamous codes which endow you with such powers as infinite lives. Is it simply a question of POKEing around in the right places, or is there more programming knowledge to it?

I would like to hear from anyone - but especially potential pen-friends - who wishes to give his or her response to this question.

Ray Spiteri

Blast gets the thumbs down

LIKE your correspondent, Patrick Norris - December SU - I too was incensed by Marcus Jeffery's review of Blast.

I ordered a copy of Blast as soon as it was advertised and found that the first program would not compile anything. An up-dated version received shortly afterwards wouldn't either, so I sent OCS a program which they compiled with version 2.0.

It is true that I can compile with this program, but my running times are only seconds quicker than Basic. Whatever happened to their claim for a 40x increase in speed, which I note has been dropped from their advert these days?

As one of the earlier purchasers of Blast, OCS invited my comments. Against my better judgement I tried to make them constructive and wrote that I hoped they would reprint the manual, forwarding copies to existing users. OCS confirmed that the manual would be revised and reprinted. To date, I have not received my updated copy.

Marcus Jeffery's reply to Patrick Norris states that customers would receive updates as they became available. That is certainly not true in my case. I have heard nothing from OCS for nearly six months.

J P Heritage

Spectrum dunce

I'M SO GLAD you printed the letter from Patrick Norris concerning the Blast compiler. I have had similar trouble, and was beginning to think I must be the Spectrum Dunce.

Three versions of the program have been returned to OCS as unworkable, the last one in July. Since then I have heard nothing, in spite of a letter asking for my money back.

The advertising gives the impression that Blast will compile any program in seconds. In fact, for anything over 3K - which they call a 'large' program - the tape-to-tape method is necessary and takes at least half an hour of tedious and laborious tape changing - and then it doesn't work.

Only when you have bought Blast can you read in the instructions that for 'large' programs you really need a microdrive. I have no intention of buying one in order to use this already expensive program.

As a serious user I am very disappointed with Blast - and £25 poorer.

N G Strong

Once more we approached OCS with your complaints, and they apologised about the poor treatment which some customers have received, though saying that these were exceptional cases. Recent versions of Blast do not, apparently, contain the bugs of earlier copies, and the manual has just been reprinted. We would like to hear from readers who have been satisfied with Blast, so that we can present the other side of the issue.

Compiler does the biz

WITH REGARD TO the controversy over the merits of the various new Spectrum compilers to hit the market, I would like to add my contribution as one who has been using a Softek floating point compiler for some time.

There are three vital points:

  1. A compiler should do everything its publisher claims it will do. My Softek compiler has never failed to compile my programs.
  2. If you are serious enough to want to use a compiler then you will want a floating point compiler.
  3. I cannot see how you can give any credit to compilers with a success rate of less than 100 per cent. If the Softek compiler is representative of all their software then heaven help the rest of the graphic design packages now that The Artist is on the market.

In short - Blast your Mcoder - get yourself a Softek FP Compiler. I must point out that I have no connection with Softek other than as a very satisfied customer.

S D Turton

Clumsy Colin splats for the last time

WHOOPS! Whee! Splosh! Whizz! Splat! Yes, it's Action Biker and what an amazing game it is!

Kindly disregard the last sentence.

My next door neighbour, a small, innocent, 10-year-old boy, went out one day with his life savings. In the local department store he found games beyond his wildest dreams! At last, all the games he'd only heard of! However, his money restricted him to the budget games, where he found ... Action Biker!

He examined the inlay, there were some pretty neat screen shots. It looked exciting, and the title flashy. He delved into the darkest regions of his pockets for the £1.99 required.

With his Speccy on the blink - now suffering the Sinclair Repair Service Blues - he came round to my humble establishment to see the program he had acquired. After a boring seven minutes of loading the game presented us with joystick selection. After finally deciding that 'Curser' meant 'Cursor' we asked for keyboard controls. The game jerkily scrolled into life. Then we saw what the Sinclair User reviewers saw ...

Aarrgghh! Who are those wallies that say it's good? The game does not even use Sprite Graphics. We can't get in the houses and what are those mysterious rectangular objects we find in the road? What does the message "Time to wake up colin" mean? Is it merely an attack of bad grammar?

Warning: Action Biker - (although it lacks action) - can seriously damage your wealth.

Philip Bond, Sean Murray

I don't like to say I told you so. Perhaps we'd better give ol' Clumsy Colin a rest now from the letters pages. After all, there are other turkeys out there. Nominations, anyone?

Gordo should expand


WHY DOES 'Britain's Best Selling Computer Magazine' have what amounts to the worst adventure section of all the known major competitors?

I know for a fact, a fair number of people who are forced to buy Computer & Video Games every month so that they have the benefit of real adventure help and in-depth reviews.

With more Spectrums being sold than any other model, the chance to catch thousands of new readers may be lost if you don't change your adventure format. The number of adventure and arcade-adventure games being launched on the software buying public is phenomenal. It is my view, and a view shared by others, that this type of software will prove to be by far the most lucrative in the next 12-18 months. So don't delay, jump on the gravy train today!

I don't like knocking people, but Gordo Greatbelly's adventure helpline is an interesting read, but it doesn't really give enough adventure hints per column inch! Richard Price gives fair and constructive reviews, but they are a little abrupt and don't really give you any real atmosphere. What your magazine needs is a larger adventure section with better adventure hints and tips, or you will lose readers and miss the chance to gain many more.

Paul Wakeling

PS. Don't let Keith Campbell and Derek Brewster grab all the adventure glory. It's time to change before it's too late.

I asked Richard to answer this one but he was so furious that he's gone off with Gordo to drown his sorrows. In his absence, I'll draw your attention to this month's adventure reviews, which are not exactly abrupt. And we'll try to give Gordo some extra inches, as it were ...

Spanish pirates

I AM not surprised to see that Spain has been chosen for the launch of the new 128K machine. There seems to be a huge Sinclair market there. On three visits to Spain this year, I saw Sinclair magazines and software everywhere. There are newspaper kiosks everywhere in Spanish towns, and from these and small shops I have bought four different magazines, all apparently flourishing.

What did surprise me was the scale of blatant software piracy! In the same newsagents I counted over half a dozen cassette-based 'magazines' priced between £2-£6. I bought one which was quite simply a cassette of programs - nothing outstanding, but some fair programs. I also gave way to temptation and bought the infamous Infopress publication which you have mentioned.

On this cassette I got at least half a dozen known pieces of software. A utility program, announced as a great new discovery, turned out to be two Supercode III routines strung together in a Basic program. Titles on other cassettes gave me the impression that they too were straight copies of well-known software. Illustrations on some cassettes appeared to have been lifted straight from commercial software hits or from software ads. In Britain for example, the frogman from Blood and Guts was very prominent on one cassette mag. The only work which seems to go into those cassettes is translating any text into Spanish and adding a short instructions program before the main one on the cassette.

Why should it be normal to be faced with a pack of half a dozen copies of recent hits in a small newsagents in a little town off the beaten track in the mountains? The price of normal software is not much higher than in Britain, so that can't be the reason. There seem to be only a couple of native software houses - why aren't there more, as the market seems to be such a big one? I saw no sign of legal budget software houses. Strange.

Many of the pirated programs I have seen in Spain are either older games which no longer sell in Britain, or are second-rate games: maybe the publishers don't think it's worthwhile trying to do anything about it. Still, there does seem to be some hope, and the original programmers may some day soon be able to take advantage of this huge potential market.

J B Paton

Gremlin Issue 47 Contents Top 30

Sinclair User
February 1986