Newsworthy happenings in the ST world.
Without a doubt, MichTrons GFA BASIC is becoming for ST programmers
what Turbo Pascal is for the PC world. (In Germany, the f in GFA is in
lowercase, standing for fur-for, in English.) Every few months, it
seems, Mark Brutell of MichTron Customer Service introduces another
GFA-supporting product. Now it has introduced its first "toolkit"
manufactured outside of Germany: GFA BASIC Companion, by John B. Holder
of Marathon Computer Press.
The package includes: a simple-form resource
construction set, for the creation of *.RSC files which define
custom-design input boxes, and help screens; a GEM routine library so
that BASIC programs may utilize AES/VDI subroutines and GEMDOS calls;
and a complete multiscreen BASIC tutorial. At first glance, the package
appears well thought out and easy to execute. We'll give you a full
review in ST Log soon. //
The laST well hear of NeXT
A report in a weekly computer newspaper rumored that Atari management
was negotiating with Steve jobs, former Apple Computer Chairman and
current CEO of NeXT, Inc., to reach an agreement making Atari a
licensed manufacturer of NeXT's new 68030-based RISC workstations.
Shiraz Shivji, speaking on behalf of Atari,
categorically denied any deals were even being considered between Atari
and NeXT, saying that between the two companies "there is nothing."
Shivji added that he felt Jack Tramiel, Steve Jobs and H. Ross
Perot-NeXT's financial backer, former GM vice president and noted
philanthropistare "three men of different lines." //
Yet another do-everything
Timeworks has released Partner ST,
which includes the familiar calculator, alarm clock, address book, memo
pad and TOS utility features. To save a lot of space, let's focus on
Partner's original features.
There's a 60,000-word thesaurus, independent of any
spelling checker; an expense account manager for keeping track of your
ever-increasing credit card debt; a table of vital statistics like
metric conversion equivalents, mileage between cities, and commonly
used toll-free numbers; an expanded printer control panel for setting
specific type styles; and a Breakout-type game window. The calculator
is specially equipped for financial calculations, like interest and
loan amortization, and can operate in standard or reverse polish
notation, like an HP-15.
The primary deficiency in most doeverything
accessory packages is the amount of memory they consume. After you've
made your ST capable of doing everything, it seems you have no space
left to do anything else. Timeworks may have conquered this deficiency,
perhaps borrowing a cue from our own Charles F. "Desk Manager" Johnson.
At boot-up, Partner's configuration screen pops up, so that you can
load into the system only those features you need for that particular
session. If you're going to be churning out C source code, for
instance, you certainly don't need a thesaurus taking up space. As for
the Breakout game, you'll proabably need that continually. The RAM
normally occupied by those functions you don't want, is thus freed.
The list price is a sensible $69.95. //
Life in a memory residence.
The memory-resident space in my computer is becoming rather crowded
these days, and is in dire need of a landlord.
Over the hill, though, I hear the march of yet one
more potential tenant for my accessory apartments: MaxPak, by a company
called Softwerx in Murray, Utah. At first glance, one will notice it
contains much of the standard fare of utilities: RAMdisk, printer
spooler, clock with alarm, calculator.
The differences are these: it lets you configure
macro keys to perform mathematical calculations on the fly. You can
print out any text file any time, in the manner it was
formatted-boldface, italic, proportional-with varying page sizes so
perforations will be skipped. The calculator can send a result as input
to a program. A 1st Word-like character table is available, and a
"screen saver" timed monitor disconnection switch is also included.
The major difference in this package is that these
accessories are non-GEM, so they may be accessible via macro keys while
running non-GEM programs such as Micro EMACS, Zoomracks and Neo-Chrome.
Whether you'd need macro keys or a calculator from within Neo-Chrome is
entirely your affair. Suggested retail price is $49.95. //
If only it were produced in
Our game pick of the month is Terrorpods,
which was plucked out of a 1950s sci-fi scenario, but designed by one
of the 1980's leading interactive computer art groups, Psygnosis. Some
of you will remember that I considered Deep Space, a previous Psygnosis
product, to be slow. I'm very pleased to announce that Terrorpods is
The game is set on a lunar mining colony-on some
other moon-which is under attack by a swarm of terrorpods. These are
machines with heads like Spy vs. Spy characters and bodies that are a
cross between Beetle Bailey and a burnt Terminator. Your job is to save
the various installations from impending oblivion, and to rebuild those
which have already lost an argument to a terrorpod.
These installations, however, are not noted for
their gratitude; and although you need their fuel and minerals so you
can rescue them later, you still have to barter, beg and plead with
them. The feeling somewhat resembles running a corner jewelry stand
during the Bombing of London. Your main vehicle-from which you have a
firstperson perspective of the impending carnage-burns fuel more like a
freightliner than a Ford Escort.
The sound is well digitized; your torpedoes give a
rousing shriek rather than a boring beep. Psygnosis's animative skills
are improving with each new game. I have a feeling if Deep Space were
produced today, it would be a much better game. //
In the program Music Studio, thirty second notes are the shortest notes
there are. So, for that matter, are these:
Electronic Arts has finally released Marble Madness. And Mindscape-not
Atari as once expected-has released Gauntlet,
and will be releasing Paperboy,
for the ST. These three games are ports from the coin-op editions of
the same name produced by Atari Games Co.-now the American subsidiary
of Namco, the creator of Pac-Man, Galaga, and Pole Position.
Regent Software's graphic database The Informer is now available
nationwide, listing for $99.95. In this base, data is tabulated in
spreadsheet form and reported in a user-defined graphic format...
Bantam Books, publisher of the slick, well typeset series of reference
guides for Amigas and Apple II computers, is now releasing similarly
stylish guides for the ST. Its first entry is Atari ST Application
Programming by Lawrence J. Pollock and Eric J. T. Weber of
Diatech Publications. The price is $24.95.
By the time you read this, Origin Systems should
have released Ultima V, the
latest in Lord British's series of adventures through the Dark Ages in
search of inspiration, truth and cash. Ultima's new publisher-barring
any legal complications-will be Broderbund ... Hybrid Arts has publicly
released MIDI Maze, the
favorite game of Atari conventions and Neil Harris. Included in the
final version for public consumption are a player-vs.-computer mode (no
MIDI cables required here), and mazes which are editable with an ASCII
Those are the notes
for this month, a virtual concerto of facts and ideas,
interlaced with interludes of entertainment. I'll see you on Delphi. //