Classic Computer Magazine Archive A.N.A.L.O.G. ISSUE 78 / NOVEMBER 1989 / PAGE 36


by Arthur Leyenberger

It seems like a long time since I sat here at the keyboard letting my thoughts flow through my fingers and into the computer. Actually, it hasn't been that long, just a week. But having been overseas for the past week, I feel like a portion of my life somehow got misplaced.
    You see, I have just returned from the Philippines. It was a good trip from a business standpoint. And personally, it was interesting to see another culture and meet people who are both different and yet the same as myself. But 20 hours of flight time (not counting the multi-hour layovers) and crossing the international date line twice can leave a fellow tuckered out, not to mention confused about what day it is.
    I brought a laptop computer with me to get some work done on the plane and in the hotel. No, not the Atari ST laptop; it isn't out yet. Anyway, after about three hours, the laptop's batteries gave up the ghost, leaving me to find some way to entertain myself for the remainder of the journey to Manila. No problem. After a couple of movies, several issues of Time and Newsweek (read cover to cover), some Heinekens and about 14 pounds of honey-roasted peanuts, I finally arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
    By this time I felt fuzzy, needed a shower and was having difficulty keeping my eyelids in the raised position. I then had a long wait to get my luggage, during which I imagined all kinds of horrors, such as being stranded in a foreign land with no clean underwear. The luggage arrived and I eventually made it through the heat, humidity and traffic - congested streets of Manila to the hotel.
    Wanting to charge the laptop when I arrived at my room, I asked the hotel receptionist what AC voltage was used in Manila. She politely told me that 220 volts at 50 hertz was the standard. Great, I thought. I've lugged a 15-pound boat anchor halfway around the world and won't be able to use it. She then told me that the hotel would be happy to supply me with a transformer if I needed one.
    When the bellman brought the transformer to my room, I immediately hooked it up. I had the laptop up and running in no time. The transformer itself must have weighed almost 20 pounds. It was enclosed in a large brown wooden box that had obviously seen better days. In fact, it looked like something out of a 1950s-style    science - fiction    movie. Nonetheless, it worked fine during my stay at the hotel.
    Two and a half days later I found myself again on a plane heading west, back to New Jersey. I also discovered that security is much tighter at foreign airports compared to domestic ones. At both Narita Airport in Tokyo and Aquino Airport in Manila, I had to pass through several security checkpoints before entering the gate area. These included the security procedures customary in the United States, as well as being frisked by a security officer and having to be checked by another guard with a hand-held metal detector. My carry-on bags were also carefully inspected and I was asked to turn on the laptop computer.
    All the people I met in Manila were friendly and polite. In addition to their native Filipino language, most of the residents also speak English. The standard of living there is much lower than what we are used to in the United States. Most of us don't realize how much we have to be thankful for until we see how other people live in another part of the world.
    Well, it's now Sunday afternoon. It is raining in this part of New Jersey and Kraftwerk is playing on the CD player. I'm tired, but glad to be home.


Déjá Vu

    In April 1985 I started writing The End User column in ANALOG Computing. For the second half of 1986, I covered both the 8-bit and ST computers. When ST-LOG became a separate monthly magazine in January 1987, I began writing the ST User column in that magazine. For about the last three years, The End User has focused on the Atari 8-bit computers and computing in general, while ST User has focused (understandably) on the Atari ST hardware, peripherals and software.
    Now ST-LOG and ANALOG have been combined. Once again, The End User will cover both the 8-bit and ST computers and the software that is available for them. In addition, I will still keep you abreast of what is happening in the computer industry as a whole-and especially the Atari community.
    I will continue to bring you news, information, application tips, short reviews of useful or significant products and whatever else seems of interest to me or you. My goal is to continue to make this column a place where you can find information on how to get the best from your Atari computer (whichever one you have), regardless of how experienced you are or how much equipment you have.
    As always, I welcome your input on what I have discussed or what you would like to see covered in the coming months. You can contact me electronically on DELPHI (ARTL) or CompuServe (71266,46). Other correspondence (U.S. mail) should be sent to: The End User, ANALOG Computing, P.O. Box 1413-M.O., Manchester, CT 06040-1413. If you would like a reply, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.


    There is a rather good computer show on television that I try to catch whenever I can. It's called Computer Chronicles and in New Jersey is broadcast (irregularly) on public station WNYC out of New York City. The program is hosted by Gary Kildall and Stewart Cheifet and usually contains news, information and short reviews concerning computers and software. Imagine my surprise when, on a recent show, the entire half hour was devoted to the Atari ST.
    This particular show consisted of four segments in which ST software and applications were demonstrated. Naturally, the MIDI interface was discussed. In this segment, Passport Design's Mastertrack Pro software was shown being used by a university music studio. The ST and this particular software were described as new tools that have revolutionized music education.
    Next, Cyber Paint was demonstrated by its author, Jim Kent. Jim stated that he chose the ST as the platform for his software because of its color capabilities and fast 68000 processor. When asked to compare the ST to the Amiga, Jim also said that the ST was more reliable, had similar color capabilities and was cheaper.
    A local Berkeley computer store specialist, Vince De Felippo, then described and demonstrated the Spectre 128 Macintosh emulator. Vince demonstrated several Mac applications, including HyperCard, and stated that these programs run about 20% faster on the ST. Vince also mentioned PC Ditto, which can run MS-DOS programs.
    The following segment featured the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco. Here, the ST is used to help dolphins and seals communicate with humans. Marine researcher Eric Carlson said he writes GFA BASIC programs that allow the ST to control the experiments with these marine mammals. Eric also stated that he likes the sound-generating and graphics capabilities of the computer.
    The final segment featured demonstrations of Calamus and DynaCADD. Using a Mega 4 with a Moniterm Monitor, 30-megabyte hard disk and SLM804 laser printer, president of ISD Marketing Nathan Potechin demonstrated Calamus. He described it as an entry-level yet professional desktop-publishing program with over 350 features. He showed how it is truly a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) program by holding the printed output of his demo next to the screen.
    When asked to compare DynaCADD to the industry standard, AutoCADD, Potechin said that it has a better interface, runs faster and would be equivalent to some future version of AutoCADD. Gary Kildall wrapped up the show by saying that the above-mentioned $3,995 system was less than you might pay for a laser printer alone.
    Although many ST users would not find much new information presented in this show, it is heartening to see the ST getting some widespread exposure. In the absence (so far) of any major national advertising by Atari, this kind of media coverage may help spread the good word about the Atari ST.
    As they say, check your local listings for time and availability of Computer Chronicles. Chances are it will be aired by your local Public Broadcasting System (PBS) station. Atari computers are rarely mentioned, but viewing the show is a good way to keep up with what's happening in the computer industry.

Hand-Held Wonder

    I generally use WordPerfect for word processing on my ST. As you probably know, it is a powerful program that has just about any feature you'd want. That includes a spelling checker and a thesaurus. However, I usually edit my articles and columns from a hard-copy output after a piece is written.
    Being away from the computer, I obviously cannot take advantage of WordPerfect's features. Still, I often need to check the spelling of a particular word or rephrase a sentence. In addition, I typically need to find another word that has just the right nuance or a subtle variation in meaning. So I decided to get a pocket spelling checker and thesaurus.
    There are a number of hand-held spelling checkers currently on the market from a variety of vendors. Some have more features than others and they range in price from about $50 to over $300. I looked at a number of them and settled on one that I thought was particularly good. It is the WordFinder 220, made by SelecTronics of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
    The six-ounce WordFinder has a tiny QWERTY keyboard and measures 4.9" x 3 " x 0.8 ." It has a one-line, 20-character LCD display, contains a 100,000-word spelling dictionary and a 220,000-word thesaurus. It can also help you with jumble-type games, crossword puzzles and Scrabble.
    One problem with using a traditional dictionary to check the correct spelling of a word is that you first must have a pretty good guess at how the word is spelled in order to find it. This problem is avoided with the WordFinder because it allows you to enter words phonetically. For example, you could type "crockodial", and it will respond with the correct spelling, "crocodile." To check the spelling of any word, you just type it in and press the "spell" key.
    If the WordFinder can't determine exactly what you typed, it will display its best guess and a flashing Right-arrow on the screen. The arrow tells you that WordFinder has other alternatives for your word. If its first attempt was wrong, you can then scroll through these other words until you find the correct spelling of your original word. Sometimes the WordFinder simply cannot recognize the word you typed because either it is so misspelled (occasionally) or is just not in its memory (infrequently). When this happens, the screen displays "unknown."
    The synonym function works quickly and intuitively and almost makes the task of finding alternate words fun. To find a synonym, you just press the "synon" key after you enter the word. At that point, the WordFinder will display its first synonym. However, when you type in a word, the WordFinder has no way of knowing which of the many possible meanings a word can have. Fortunately, it has an elegant solution to this.
    For example, say I wanted to find a synonym for "tease." Wordfinder's first synonym is "seductress," which it displays on the screen. Also displayed are a Downarrow and Right-arrow indicator. "Seductress" is considered a "concept" word. Other words with similar meaning can be viewed by pressing the right-arrow key. In this example, "temptress," "coquette," "harlot," "vamp," etc., are words that are related to one particular meaning of "tease."
    Pressing the down-arrow key reveals "mock," "sneer," "toy," and "annoy"additional concept words that represent other possible meanings for "tease." When each of these concept words is displayed, you can scroll through various synonyms with that central meaning. For example, I was originally looking for a word to describe "making fun of someone." But I wanted a word that had a little softer implication. Pointing to "mock," some of my alternatives were "joke," "needle" and "rib." "Rib" was just the word I wanted.
    The synonym function can also be used to determine the meaning of a word. This is done just by reviewing the concept words that the WordFinder finds for a particular word. You can even find synonyms for synonyms. Proper names, cities, states, countries and corporate names are also included, complete with capitalization.
    Microlytics developed the linguistic technology that allows a 9:1 word compression ratio for storing several megabytes of information on the single 256K memory chip used in the WordFinder. SelecTronics sells the WordFinder 220, under license from Microlytics, for $99. If you are interested, SelecTronics can be reached at 701 Decatur Avenue North, Building 204, Minneapolis, MN 55427. Their phone number is (612) 545-6823.

    Arthur Leyenberger is a freelance writer who lives in beautiful New Jersey. He can be reached on CompuServe at 71266,46 or on DELPHI as ARTL.