Fast Basic: beyond TRS-80 Basic. (book reviews) Stephen B. Gray.
A fascinating book published by John Wiley & sons that shows you how to write Basic programs that run much faster than in standard TRS-80 Basic is Fast Basic: Beyond TRS-80 Basic, by George A. Gratzer with Thomas G. Gratzer, in paperback for $14.95.
You learn how to write faster Basic two ways. The first uses PEEKs and POKEs "to gain control over TRS-80 Basic. With a few PEEKs and POKEs, you can send to the printer what is displayed on the screen, merge Basic programs in a cassette system ..."
The second method is called Fast Basic, which accesses ROM routines directly: "By learning how to use fewer than 20 machine-language instructions and the names of about 60 ROM routines, we can write our enhancements" to overcome some of the shortcomings of TRS-80 Basic.
After two chapters on binary, there are three on PEEKing and POKEing, one on important Basic tables (array variables, string space, and so on), and another n devices (keyboard, cassettes, and so on). Two chapters on Z80 instructions are followed by five on Fast Basic, including loops and strings, converting simple Basic to machine language, and so on.
If you need extra help, an optional $19.95 Model I or III disk (or I/III cassette) contains binary/hex tutorials, some tables, a disassembler, and programs to search and modify memory.
Get this book if you are interested in a systematized method for using the ROM routines as spelled out in books such as IJG's famous Microsoft Basic Decoded & Other Mysteries for the TRS-80, by James Farvour (reviewed June 1982, p. 234).
The Gratzer book is highly recommended for ROMniks and for anyone interested in faster and more efficient Basic. Color Scripsit
Word processing on a Color Computer is fast and easy with Radio Shack's $39.95 plug-in Color Scripsit Program Pak. You type your letters, themes and reports onto the screen, then edit without the muss and fuss of retyping or correction fluids (Figure 2). When you are ready, you print a perfect text.
The 43-page manual goes into just enough detail to show how to use Color Scripsit, but not so much that you get lost in complicated detail. The manual uses color to show exactly what you see on the screen.
The first menus offers six selections:
1 CLEAR MEMORY
2 EDIT TEXT
3 SAVE ON TAPE
4 LOAD FROM TAPE
6 CHANGE STANDARDS
(SELECT 1-6) Edit Text
To start writing a new document, clear the memory by pressing 1 at the Main Menu. The computer asks if you really want to erase the text stored in memory, just in case you pressed 1 by mistake. If you do, press ENTER.
Then press 2, and you get a red screen with a yellow status line at the bottom of the screen: MEM=15134 Line=032 001-032
The MEM item tells you how much room you have in memory to store text; this is a 16K machine. The number decreases as you type, so you know at all times how much memory is left.
The LINE items tells you how wide the lines are. It is set at 32, but you can change it to any number from 32 to 132, depending on the paper and printer you use. The last set of numbers shows which columns on your document are visible on the screen.
Not shown above is an indicator at the end of the status line that shows whether you are in lowercase or uppercase mode.
Not shown above is an indicator at the end of the status line that shows whether you are in lowercase or uppercase mode.
When you type a character, a flashing yellow square cursor moves one space to the right, to show where you are on the screen. If a word won't fit at the end of a line, the entire word will "wraparound" and move to the start of the next line.
The screen can display up to 15 lines. When you reach the end of the fourteenth line, the text scrolls up, and you can't see the first line. It is still in memory, though, and you can look at it any time by pressing SHIFT/up-arrow, which moves the cursor to the start of the text and thus shows the first line.
Color Scripsit has 23 functions that make typing and editing text quite simple. You can set tabs, just like on a typewriter, for indenting or for creating columns. You can align text to the left or to the right, or center lines.
You can move the cursor around by using the four arrow keys to make changes, such as delete text (a character or a word at a time) or insert new text in the middle of old text.
You can work with blocks of text: a sentence, paragraph, or group of paragraphs. You can delete, insert, move, and copy these blocks.
With the global search and replace function, you can search for a string of characters (letters, numbers, or symbols) and then change that string to something else. You can change strings one at a time, or all of them at once.
Color Scripsit finds words in your document that might be hyphenated and thus reduces the amount of blank space at the end of lines.
If you print long documents, you may want to make them look more professional by adding headings (at the top of pages) and footers (at the bottom). You type headings and footers only once, but they are printed on every page. Save On Tape
You can save text on cassette tape, using file names so you can later load the file you want.
Color Scripsit can be used with Color Basic programs. Save the Basic data files or programs in ASCII, and you can call them up from Scripsit. Or you can write Basic programs with Color Scripsit, and call them up from Basic. Changing Standards
Press 6 at the Main Menu to change any of the default values used by Color Scripsit, which sets text width at 32, lines per page at 6, the first page number at 1, print spacing at 1, margin width at 0, and so on. Color Scripsit Summary
The last two pages of the manual provide a quick-reference summary of all the functions, most of which are provided by the SHIFT, BREAK, and arrow keys, alone or in various combinations with numbers 0 to 9.
Color Scripsit is easy to use, and the only problem is that the text isn't as easy to read on the screen as on the black-and-white TRS-80 screens. Only capital which makes things a little easier, because lowercase letters on the Color Computer are even harder to read. To differentiate, capital letters are yellow on a red background; this can be reversed by pressing BREAK and 2.
In the $49.95 disk version of Color Scripsit, lowercase letters can be displayed on the screen, if you wish. You can also do "background printing," i.e., print one document while working on another. Quickpro + Plus 2
Several "automatic program writers" are available to help you write programs faster and neater. One of the best for the TRS-80 I/III/4 and II (and IBM PC) is Quikpro + Plus 2 from ICR FutureSoft.
ICR FutureSoft calls Quickpro + Plus 2 a "File Maintenance/Data entry Program Generator," which makes it sound quite complicated to use. Not at all. Quickpro + Plus 2 lets you write programs as though you were using a simple word processor, without having to know a single thing about Basic or any other language. It is menu-driven, for maximum user-friendliness.
Get into Basic, ask for Quickmenu, and you get the five choices shown in Figure 3. Quikpro Filing Program Generator
You start with the first item, with which you design your screen and create a Basic program (but without having to use Basic) to handle files, manipulate data, calculate and accumulate fields.
On the left side of the screen is a vertical row of letters, A through N, to identify 14 lines. You select the letter of the line you want to work with, and enter the literal data: names, titles, field names, and so on. Some will be followed by input fields, which you identify with the = sign.
The program then asks which field will be the primary key, so you can later locate the record. The next question is: which fields are numbers only? You can specify the fields in which you want numberic data only, to help prevent errors at data-entry time.
When you are asked if there are any calculation fields, you indicate which ones, and the calculations involved. For example, F#(1)/10+F#(3) means "divide Field 1 by 10, then add Field 3."
The program asks you to enter Field Comments for each field you created on the screen; these appear in the Program Listing that Quikpro will create.
You can edit or change anything at almost any time. Quikpro Automatic Instruction Manual
The second item on the main menu prints an instruction manual for a program you created with the Program Generator. The manual isn't just a couple of general paragraphs, but a real manual, seven pages long, complete with a table of contents, printed to center neatly on 8-1/2" x 11" paper.
(1) Quikpro Filing Program Generator
(2) Quikpro automatic instructions
(3) Quikprint Report Generator
(4) Quikindex - Utility to Index File
(5) End Program
Most of the manual is boilerplate, of course, and is the same in all manuals created with Quikpro + Plus 2. There are general sections on Using Your New Program, First Time Use, Adding Records, Getting Records, Deleting Records, Updating or Changing Records, and Ending Program.
However, the manual includes two items unique to your program: "the form of your record...displayed on your computer screen," and a printout of all the record fields for your program, including description, length, and type.
The manual, intended for first-time users, is as extensive as some for smaller items are hardware or software. This would be ideal for organizations that develop many file programs and need quick documentation. Quikprint Report Program Generator The third main-menu items creates a separate Basic program that prints a report according to a format you design. You can eliminate any fields for the report, enter headings for those retained, enter a title, specify the width of the report and the number of lines printed on a page, total fields, and even print a worksheet. Quikindex File Indexing Utility
The Quikindex utility program makes you data accessible. You enter the name of the file you want to index, the start and end positions of the key, and the length of the file record, and the utility then locates the information.
The manual notes that Quikindex is provided only for making other files compatible with programs written with Quickpro + Plus 2, and is not required for normal Quikpro operations. Quikform And Quiksort
Quikpro + Plus 2, and update of the previous version, consists of a new Program Generator, an upgrade module with Quikform and Quiksort, and a new user's manual. The update is $45, plus $2.50 shipping and handling, for those who have the original version.
Quikform is a Free Form Reporting option that lets you create letters and various custom forms and labels, and even print checks.
Quiksort provides high-speed sorting that lets you do alphabetic or numerical sorting and is included automatically in the programs you create.
Quikpro + Plus 2 also provide graphics for enhancing the display, relational reporting (lets your newly created report programs do record selection), merge data (lets you insert data from your files into the forms you design, such as for form letters), 130-column printing, accessing a record from any field, and specifying how many copies of a report to print.
Quikpro + Plus 2 is $149, plus $4.50 for shipping and handling, from ICR FutureSoft. A free Quickline newsletter is mailed to all registered owners; it contains tips on using the products, announcements of new products, and so on.
Quikpro + Plus 2 isn't for everybody; it is not much use for games or such. But it is highly useful in many areas of business (customer filing, library catalogs, quotations, marketing data, and so on), education (student records, tuition data, lab data, tenure records, and so on), and home and hobby uses (club rosters, property records, articles indexes, auto records, crop yields, investments, an so on). Datagraphics
If any reader has information on the Datagraphics Mini-Instruction Course, I would appreciate hearing about it. The course was mentioned in the December 1980 new products column (p. 172). The item said that "Volume I, Curves, is the first in a series of projects on graphics application programming techniques for the 16K Level II or 4K Level I TRS-80. $19.95."
The address: Datagraphics, Box 566, Union Station, Endicott, NY 13760. I wrote several times, asking for a review copy, but received no answer. Short Program 46: Power-Up Greeting
From Houston, TX, Bill Fronek sends a program (Listing 1) he calls Power-Up Greeting, and writes: "I think you will find the 'effects' kind of interesting. The program prints a short message on the screen. Lines 700-730 scroll the message up, off the screen, and line 740 repeats the program. Therefore, lines 700-740 can be deleted."
The original program has been narrowed to fit this column. If you delete lines 700-730, you also must remove the GOTO 700 in line 130.
Line 110 puts the display into double-width characters. Lines 200-680 create the letters of a message on the screen with what looks like spinning asterisks, but which are actually fast sequences of different characters that create the illusion of something spinning.
When 9999 is reached at the end of the DATA line, line 130 substitutes a blinking letter O for one of the asterisks in the message; the first FOR/NEXT loop controls how many times the O blinks, while the second two loops control the speed of the blinking. After 30 blinks, the program jumps to line 700, which, with lines 710-730, moves the message up 20 spaces, off the screen (with a slight pause at each space, controlled by the loop in line 720), and then line 740 cause the whole thing to repeat.
If you don't like the message, you can change it, but that is not so easy.
Review Grade: A