The pictures produced by the color digitizers for the ST seem to pale in comparison with those produced on the Amiga. The primary difference seems to be the number of colors. The maximum number of colors the ST can produce on the low-resolution color screen is 16 from a palette of 512. The Amiga can produce 32 colors in its normal mode, and a staggering 4096 in Hold and Modify mode. The human eye perceives a much higher resolution than is actually present when there are a large number of colors.
Fortunately, someone forgot to tell Boris Tsikanovsky about the ST's limitations. Tsikanovsky is the author of a new paint package called Spectrum 512. Spectrum includes all the normal drawing tools you'd expect plus some extras. Primary among the extras is the ability to use the entire 512-color palette at once. Pictures done in Spectrum look snectacular and have an apparent resolution far greater than 320 X 200. Digitized Amiga HAM pictures, translated to Atari format, look very good. Suddenly, the world of color is wide open to ST enthusiasts.
Trio Engineering recently announced Digispec, software which allows the popular ComputerEyes digitizer to capture 512-color images. These images can then be modified with Spectrum 512. Artists will no doubt enjoy using Spectrum to draw on the digitized backgrounds produced with the Digispec software.
Spectrum 512 ($69.95), The Catalog, 544 Second St., San Francisco, CA 94107; (800) 234-7001
Digispec ($39.85), Trio Engineering, P.O. Box 332, Swampscott, MA 01907
For ProgrammersProgramming languages available for the ST get better and better. Personal Pascal from OSS is available in version 2, with a GEM-based editor that's even faster than the original. Bill Wilkinson of OSS is understandably smug about this. According to Mr. Wilkinson, the method is clever but not too complicated. Commercial developers would do well to make their products scroll as fast.
Tackle Box, a monumental companion product to Personal Pascal, consists of 900 pages of documentation on how to use Personal Pascal with GEMDOS, BIOS, XBIOS, AES, and VDI. The libraries included let you use simulated C calls with Pascal, and they provide a host of custom routines to aid you in your programming.
Fast BASIC is now available on disk. The bugs have been cleaned up, and technical support is available at a U.S. phone number. Support is from Eidersoft, and they seem to be taking this outstanding product very seriously. The language is structured and the command set is the largest on any language I've seen. There are commands for virtually every VDI and AES function. The editor is icon based and easy to use, plus it allows you to edit ten files at once.
Michtron has released GFA Companion for its well-received GFA BASIC. The primary purpose of GFA Companion is to allow the nonprogrammer to generate pseudo-dialog boxes for obtaining input and presenting output. The product's packaging claims that it does Dialog Boxes, but it doesn't. Also, since you aren't allowed to give any program-containing code generated by the product to people who don't own the GFA Companion (it's copy-protected), the code is of limited use.
Michtron has also released a book for intermediate programmers using GFA BASIC. The GFA BASIC Book was written by Frank Ostrowski, the designer of GFA BASIC. This book contains a lot of useful information, although it tends to be highly technical in spots and repeats a lot of the GEM information in the lastest GFA manual.
True BASIC was released for the ST as well. This language shows its mainframe roots in its ability to include external libraries (some very powerful ones are available from True Basic) and its ability to become a really huge language if you use all the extensions. There's also a GEM programmer's toolkit so you can use menus, windows, alert boxes, and dialog boxes in your programs. True BASIC external subroutine calls are used to generate the GEM functions, effectively insulating the user from the nuts and bolts of programming in GEM.
Personal Pascal ($74.95), Optimized Systems Software, 1221B Kentwood Ave., San Jose, CA 95129; (408) 446-3451
Tackle Box ($79.95), SRM Enterprises, P.O. Box 40, U.S.A.S.A. Colorado 80840; (415) 894-6183
Fast BASIC ($89.95), Eidersoft U.S.A., P.O. Box 288, Burgettstown, PA 15021; (412) 947-3739
GFA Companion ($49.95), Michtron, 576 Telegraph, Pontiac, Michigan 48053; (313) 334-5700
True BASIC ($99.95), True BASIC, 39 South Main St., Hanover, NH 03755; (603) 643-3882
Speaking 1-2-3If you did your taxes by hand this year, you might want to automate the process next year with a Lotus 1-2-3 template. There are two ST spreadsheets that can read 1-2-3 files, although one of them, VIP Professional, can only read version lA files. Though 1-2-3 version lA has been off the market for several years, there is still no upgrade that will let VIP read 1-2-3 version-2 files. Logistix, from Progressive Peripherals, does read version 2 files, but it isn't as easy to use as VIP.
There are quite a few programs and desk accessories that don't run properly with VIP. For example, it locks up if you load it after booting with GDOS. Since GDOS is necessary if you want to use the growing number of programs that feature high-quality printed output, you may find that you must frequently reboot your system to use VIP.
VIP Professional ($249.95), ISD Marketing, 2651 John St., Unit 3, Markham Industrial Park, Markham, Ontario, Canada L3R 6G4; (416) 479-1880
Logistix ($149.98), Progressive Peripherals, 464 Kalamath St., Denver, CO 80204; (303) 825-4144
If you aren't locked into 1-2-3 compatibility (such as it is), there are some very easy to-use and inexpensive spreadsheets out there: EZCALC version 1.33 from Royal Software and A-CALC Prime from The Catalog. Both of these feature full GEM interfaces and scroll much faster than the sluggish VIP. EZCALC even allows you to attach notes to any cell, so you can actually document expenses/income and state your assumptions. It certainly can't hurt to be more organized and able to document everything.
A-Calc Prime ($59.95), The Catalog
EZ-CALC ($69.95), Royal Software, 1748 W. 18th Suite D, Eugene, OR, 97402; (503) 683-5361
- David Plotkin