IBM Personal Computing
Donald B. Trivette
Titling Your Vacation
Most of us vacation at comfortable places like the beach or the mountains, but my neighbors Don and Judy Getz prefer the extraordinarily uncomfortable. One year they spent a month at the Khyber Pass in northern Pakistan; last year they took a boat-bus-train trip up the Amazon and through rural Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru. Just 21 fun-filled days, they say, sleeping on hard beds, drinking bottled water, and coping with South American railway schedules.
When you go to Cochabamba and Cotabambas, you've got to take slides and movies (documentary evidence) to show the folks back home what a grand time you've had. And once you've returned, it's useful to title the slides so that six months from now, you can tell Cochabamba from Cotabambas. That's why Don called and wanted to know if I had a computer program that would produce professional-looking titles he could photograph directly from the computer screen. I thought I had several programs that would do just that.
The Missing Mouse
The first program that came to mind was ColorPaint for the PCjr. You've probably seen the results of this program in the advertisements for the Junior. Remember the pair of blue and white butterfly fishes swimming in a video aquarium around a red treasure chest filled with gold doubloons? ColorPaint produces stunning color graphics.
Unfortunately, ColorPaint requires a mouse controller, and I don't have a mouse yet, so we couldn't use my new ColorPaint to make titles.
The next program I pulled off the shelf was PC Paintbrush. Although PC Paintbrush, like ColorPaint, is really meant for making drawings, it too has a text feature. According to the manual, there are six fonts (type styles): Roman, Sans Serif, Greek, Script, Old English, and Computer. The fonts can be displayed in a variety of colors, sizes, and manners. For example, the Roman font can be displayed in red 30-point bold italic. If that isn't exactly what you had in mind, how about lightly outlined blue letters (blue-Roman-light-outline on the menu)? The combinations are almost endless.
PC Paintbrush runs on the PC and the PCjr and uses either a mouse or a joystick. Since I do have a joystick on the PCjr, PC Paintbrush seemed just the thing.
But no. PC Paintbrush needs 192K of memory and my PCjr has only 128K; my PC has 320K, but no joystick. I briefly considered plugging the PCjr joystick into the PC, but that won't, work because my PC doesn't have a game controller board. (And even if it did, IBM made the joystick plugs incompatible.)
Labeling A Lost City
Next I tried DR Draw by Digital Research. Luckily, DR Draw requires neither a mouse nor a joystick; you can use a mouse if you have it, but the program will also run on a mouseless PC. It won't run on a PCjr, but there is a PCjr version called Jr Draw.
DR Draw employs menus throughout, and best of all, it is written so well that you don't have to read the manual to use it. That's my kind of program. The first menu that popped up said:
CRE REC EDIT SAVE DIR OUTP EXIT
We pressed keys until discovering that the TAB key highlights different selections, and that the space bar actually picks a selection. Since we wanted to create a new screen, we picked CRE. The next menu was equally descriptive:
ADD CHNG SEL MOVE COPY UNDL DEL
We highlighted ADD and pressed the space bar. That brought forth:
TEXT POLY CIRC ARC LINE MRKR BAR
Of course, text is what we wanted for titles. We entered Machu Picchu for the first title and positioned it on the screen, but the font wasn't anything spectacular. It really didn't do justice to this lost fortress-city of the Incas.
After exploring the menus, we discovered that CHNG (yep, CHANGE) leads to submenus to change the style, view, scale, layout, and color of text. By manipulating the location and scale, we were able to get the title sized just right. With a few presses of the Tab key and space bar, Machu Picchu took on a professional look.
Not Enough Colors
A few titles later, we experimented with adding some graphic elements to the picture. First a big yellow sun, then a few squiggly red lines for seagulls. Nothing elaborate. By combining stock geometric shapes, we tried adding rippling waves and fluffy clouds. However, four circles do not a cloud make. Not only were the results less than realistic, but the process was slow on a mouseless computer.
Still, in all we made a dozen title screens and saved them on disk to be recalled and photographed later.
Unfortunately, there's a serious hardware limitation when using a graphics program on the IBM PC. The standard IBM color/graphics adapter supports a maximum of three colors in graphics mode, so our title slides were limited to red, green, and' yellow. (For owners of more advanced hardware, DR Draw has software and instructions to install non-IBM graphics adapters, printers, and plotters.) The PCjr has a more sophisticated built-in color/graphics adapter that displays a rainbow of 16 colors.
I have one other graphics program on my shelf: DR Graph. It's similar to DR Draw and is even easier to use for making all kinds of graphs and charts. Without reading the manual, you can draw pie charts, exploded pie charts, and bar graphs just by filling in blanks on the screen. It doesn't have any freehand sketching or picture-making capabilities, but there is a quick and simple way to format several different graphs on one screen.
Sometimes I wonder what these programs could do if I did read the manuals.
1299 Fourth Street
San Rafael, CA 94901
DR Draw and DR Graph
Digital Research, Inc.
60 Garden Court
Monterey, CA 93942