IBM images. (column) Susan Glinert-Cole.
Although I write this with a glass of iced coffee resting dewily beside the computer, by the time these words see the inside of a magazine, the iced coffee will have been transformed into a defrosting turkey. I realize that poultry is not a featured peripheral of most computers; in my case, however, it serves to remind me that it needs to be cooked. Without its constant presence, Thanksgiving might well become a feast of Dr. Pepper and Fritos.
We are fast approaching the Christmas season, and withal the problem of what to buy everyone in the household such that it can be played with--preferably on an IBM. This philosophy is designed to please everyone concerned, especially me. I recall one unmemorable Christmas morning, when I was presented with three flannel night-gowns, an umbrella, a wind-up crab (slightly broken from having been diddled with by the giver) and a pair of practical, furry slippers. Everyone else was having a grand time playing with their little gizmos.
I ask you, how do you play with an umbrella? Therefore, this month we will look at some software guaranteed to keep this from happenng to you. Give your computer a Christmas present. Big Top And Master Miners
Funtastic, the software house which has been responsible for turning my hand into a joystick claw, has two new games on the market: Big Top and Master Miners. Both uphold the addictive tradition of Cosmic Crusaders and Snack Attack and are among the best arcade games available for the PC. They are both copy-protected and require 64K and the color graphics adapter.
Master Miners bears a resemblance to Crossfire, if you are familiar with that game. The game transforms the lowliest computer user into an asteroid miner first class. The object of the game is to maneuver around the asteroid belt and mine the gems which appear around the display.
Points for a successful catch are given only after you have returned to home base and dropped off the payload. The situation is complicated by various nefarious occupants of the asteriod belt, such as the exceedingly greedy Commie Claim Jumpers, which beetle around the maze, swipe jewelry, and spirit it off to the Commie starbase (Vladivostok?).
Your ship comes equipped with a supply of torpedos, with which you can vanquish all the little beasties around you. Master Miners has two-player mode, which can be used from the keyboard, or, if yours is the Complete Computer, dual joysticks can be employed. The biggest problem with this mode is, that instead of rounding up diamonds and assaulting the aliens, the players around here end up shooting each other instead. This game may initiate many nasty arguments concerning strategy and fair play.
Big Top is unique, very funny, and, like all the other Funtastic games, full of excellent graphics. Wendell the acrobat must be guided around a circus ring with the keyboard or joystick to collect all the pink hats in the vicinity. He must go up and down ladders, swing from ropes, and slide down poles while avoiding local problems, like clowns, knives, and beach balls.
Wendell can jump, duck, and fall a short distance, but considerable dexterity and timing are needed to do these maneuvers effectively. When all the hats are collected, a ladder appears. Climbing the ladder puts Wendell in the next ring. I have seen only three levels of rings; the documentation claims there are more.
Points are awarded for accumulating hats, prizes, and weights; the faster a round is completed, the more bonus points are awarded. This game is harder than it looks.
If thinking is one of your habits, this set of games will let you indulge to only a mild degree. The package consists of four games on one disk, Checkers, Elusion, Battleship, and Reversi. The disk is not copy-protected and requires 64K and a color graphics adapter card. All the games are colorful and cheery, and because they are not difficult to beat, they are ideal for children. None of these implementations are particularly challenging to anyone with a little experience with strategy games.
The checkers game is called Checkers for Beginners. It does have two levels of play, beginning-beginner and beginner. After you have made a move, a prompt announces that the computer is thinking. The prompt changes color during this activity and is accompanied by little beeping noises to give you a feel for how hard the PC is working its silicon synapses.
When it has discovered a move, a light bulb appears (with appropriate auditory accompaniment). Generally this fanfare is followed by a move, but sometimes the computer discovers that the move it found wasn't so hot, so it returns to its colorful and noisy thinking mode.
I haven't played checkers in years, but this game was easy to beat. It was rather pathetic, waiting for it to finish making like a rainbow and a friendly, low-key French horn, knowing it was doomed to a triple jump.
Elusion is a game created just for the PC. It is played on a square board and the object is to make the last move. It takes about three games to dope out a consistent winning strategy, but the game board is cute.
Battleship comes up with a really clever graphic display, complete with an anchor chain and an air raid siren noise that is uncomfortably realistic. The game itself is standard Battleship, played on a grid. You must guess where your opponent's ships are located and then shoot to kill.
The game can be played in three different modes: you try to sink the computer's navy, you and the computer try to sink each other's ships, or you and a friend can battle it out. The graphics on this one are very well done. Those of you with a lugubrious turn of mind will enjoy this rendition of an old favorite.
Reversi, a.k.a. Othello, can be a very challenging game to play when a good algorithm has been used in planning the computer strategy. The game is played on an eight by eight board. The object of the game is to take as many squares as possible by capturing the opponent's markers.
This is done by playing a piece in such a way that you enclose markers of the other player. You must capture a piece on each move.
This version of Reversi is very slow and can always be won. I have two other versions of the game, both of which are fast and mean. If Reversi, or Othello, is a game you enjoy, I recommend the version in the Friendly Ware Introductory Set from FriendlySoft. 101 Monochrome Mazes
This game (also from IBM) will run only on the monochrome display, also. I don't have one at home, and am therefore constrained to playing it at the office. The designers should have realized the implications of the sound effects...it is embarrassingly apparent to everyone in the office when you are not doing charts, graphs, or word processing.
Some of the noise can be toggled off with one of the game options, but there is always a little background of obvious beepings when you are not doing too well. These beepings will draw your boss into the office to find out what you are doing. Your boss will probably not find this game as entertaining as you will.
The graphics for Monochrome Mazes are done as well as could be expected, given the limitations of a monochrome display. Safe areas are in dark green, walls are light green, and the pools of water are black. You select the maze number, speed of the marker, full sound option, and scoring method (timed or point value).
Each level of difficulty has 10 mazes; maze 101 is on a level of its own. Scoring is a combination of maze level, marker speed, and time of completion. If you fall into a pool, survival points are awarded, depending on how far the marker went before drowning.
The low numbered mazes are pretty easy, but don't be fooled into thinking that they are all this way. As you progress up the levels, new hazards appear: invisible walls, trap doors, and pools of water where the marker has just been (which makes returning from a blind alley impossible). The game has no joystick option and is played with the numeric keypad only. A few of these games are a good refresher in the middle of a long day at the office. Is There Life After Zork?
Infocom continues to produce classy, complex text adventure games, one of which is almost guaranteed to drive the most seasoned adventurer nuts. Starcross, a science fiction adventure, is reviewed in the 1983 Creative Computing Software Buyer's Guide.
Suspended, another game with a sci-fi theme, is reviewed in the September, 1983 Creative Computing. See these issues foir detailed descriptions of these excellent games.
Deadline is more down-to-earth (sorry about that) than Starcross and Suspended. The packaging is marvelous, being the documentary evidence folder (complete with lab reports, interview excerpts, and a package of Ebullion--the presumed cause of death) for the late lamented Marshall Robner. You are the detective responsible for investigating this possible homicide case by interviewing the family, snooping in closets, and ultimately making the (correct) arrest.
The neat thing about this game is that it happens in real time; you have 12 hours to solve the mystery and all the events which take place are happening around you in a realistic fashion. People are moving about out of your purview, just as they do in real life. This is in contrast to other adventure games wehre nothing happens unless you cause it to. Infocom says this is a first in a series of detective adventures. This one will keep you busy for a long time.
All these Infocom games allow one back-up copy to be made and require at least 48K memory. If you have a 512K adapter board in your computer, you may have to return the software to Infocom for a patch, as some copies do not load if more than 64K is signaled from the motherboard. If your games refuse to load and the family is screaming around you, set the switches on the system board to 64K. This is a pain, but better than having your spouse gnawing on your ankle. High Tech Fingerpaint
Many of the drawing packages designed for the computer leave much to be desired in terms of speed and flexibility. Creative Graphics, by Accupipe, is a well designed and reasonaby fast program which is very easy to use. It is also easy to crash if you are not careful to follow the directions.
The packaging is elegant; it consists of an understated dark blue binder about a half an inch larger than the IBM note-books, a printed template for the function keys and an excellent presentation of the capabilities of the program. Half of the manual is a 29-minute tutorial to get you started, and the remainder gives more detailed coveragde of the individual commands.
The program will dump your picture to an IBM or Epson with Graftrax or an IDS Prism or Microprism printer. The review copy required 64K of memory, DOS 1.1 and, of course, a color graphics adapter card. It is also copy-protected.
The program is well designed from a human interface point of view. All commands are chosen with the function keys and sub-menus which appear to give clear directions for further choices. When the program is invoked, a screen appears with a cursor in the center, a drawing mode toggle, and a current drawing color indicator.
By pressing the function keys, the drawing color and palette may be changed. Different drawing modes may also be selected; freehand line drawing (up, down, right, and left only), and an automatic function which will produce boxes, circles, ellipses, or diagonal lines with a few well-placed keystrokes. During the drawing process, the Paint function key will fill in an area with a selected color.
Any square area of the display may be designated for flipping, rotating, moving, or copying. Moving and copying are very fast; flipping and rotating are tiresomely slow. Text may be placed anywhere in the drawing by whacking another function key.
The drawing may be saved in two ways: as "symbols" or as part of a slide show. The slide show may be designated to run in an automatic or manual mode when creating the show.
You are cautioned that touching the keyboard while the program is in the process of manipulating your drawing may have unexpected results. They weren't kidding. Sit on your hands or nibble on some tasty snack--do not touch the keyboard while the computer is at work. Pits And Stones
A favorite pastime of the Neanderthal, this game has been updated from the original treetrunk with prune pit peripherals to your local computer video. It is played on a board with fourteen holes (pits). One large pit on each side is the home base for each player. The object of the game is to move stones from one depression to another, trying to capture your opponent's stones and maneuver them into your home pit.
The game begins with the same number of stones in each pit, and the difficulty level rises quickly with the number of starting stones. This is a very colorful game, and the action is reasonably rapid--no computer mumbling "I'm thinking" in this game. There is an incredible amount of noise, raucous tuneplaying, and other sound effectis; children seem to like this but adults immediately lunge for the DEL key, which turns off the racket.
The simple levels are easy enough for kids, but adults will have a hard time with the upper levels. The graphics are very good, if you like smiley faces: the disk has a five year/50,000 game warranty, and is not copy-protected. It can be played on any type of monitor, and will make a pleasant change from 101 Monochrome Mazes. It is available from Orion Software. Clutter
This is another game which can be played on a monochrome or color monitor, and it is a delightful one. The general idea is to deflect a photonic ghost hunter, in the form of a little square, into a ghost, thereby vanquishing same and gaining points. The deflection is done by placing mirrors (slashes) in the way of the hunter.
Once a mirror has been placed, it remains there forever. This is not a problem in the beginning, but after a few minutes the display is full of the little things, and the hunter is caroming all over the place. Every time a ghost gets hit, a black hole appears to replace it. These don't go away either, and if your hunter falls in one, its good-bye photonic ghost chaser.
There are three levels of difficulty, the easiest of which has a gigantic ghost that is almost impossible to miss. This game is unusual in several respects. First, it is one of the few games whose sound effects are so charming that I don't turn them off. Second, the game comes with five preprinted labels for your backups. Third, it is written in uncompiled Basic, and yet the action is fast and fun. Starside Engineering has a very pleasant attitude towards copy-protection, and their low-key explanation is a nice change from the usual page of legal intimidations. For The P-System
Another book on the p-System arrived in my office this month and it is destined to be the classic on this operating system. Personal Computing with the UCSD p-System, written by Mark Overgaard and Stand Stringfellow and published by Prentice-Hall, is by far the best exposition on the p-System I have ever seen.
It is written in an entertaining and coherent fashion, and addresses almost every facet of the formidable number of commands and utilities available. a tutorial is provided for getting started which is mostly an introduction to the filer, editor, and compiler.
The remainder of the book is a detailed reference text (although it still reads very well) and has numerous appendices which finally explain some of the mysterious error messages that appear every so often (or more often than prefrred, actually). There is also specific informationalon the IBM p-System, as well as on the Osborne Executive and un-Executive version.
It is an outstanding and comprehensive book for anyone using this operating system--beginner or otherwise. Stocking Stuffers
Siechert and Wood, Inc. offer a beautifully designed set of tabs for DOS and Basic manuals; they are available for all the DOS variants and their respective Basics. I have only seen the set for DOS 1.1, which consists of 16 tab cards, eight each for DOS and Basic, printed on heavy card stock with sturdy plastic tabs. They made excellent use of each insert, which lists all sorts of handy summaries of command sets and instructions. Althoug fairly expensive at $9.95, they are a timesaver.
Preprinted tiny labels for function keys, or any other part of the IBM you want to name, are available for 25 cents apiece from David Thusty. You must enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope and specify what you want on the label. The order is mailed the same day it is received. Mircrosoft Goes to Hollywood
This is a test. See if you can fill in the blanks below. Hollywood Microsoft Jaws 1.0 ---1.0 Jaws 1.05 ---1.05 Jaws 1.1 ---1.1 Jaws 2.0 ---2.0 Jaws 3.0 ---3.0 Son of Jaw Son of---
If the bookshelf you reserve for operating system manuals runneth over, you probably had no trouble with this little quiz. By early fall, Microsoft plans to release version 3.0 of the metamorphic MS-DOS.
Version 3.0 will be multi-tasking, that is to say you will be able to switch back and forth between SurlyCalc and Gaactic Geraniums without exiting to the operating system and reloading a program.
It is also rumored to be upwardly compatible wth Xenix, Microsoft's version of Unix, such that programs which run under 3.0 will also run under Xenix. The Xenix environment is, among other things, a multi-user operating system and is presently available for the Apple Lisa and a few other 68000-based computers. It is so large (8 Mb, to be precise) that I understand it will be sold in chunks so you may decide which pieces of Xenix are most appropriate for your system. It seems that we have been toiling up this upwardly-compatible-with-Xenix mountain ever since DOS 1.0 appeared on the shelves. I wish they would hurry up and get it over with.
It is still unknown whether IBM intends to release 3.0 under its imprimatur, but Microsoft is taking the view that there are so many 8086/8088 clones around that the time has come to give them software support. A new department has emerged at Microsoft with the title of Independent Vendor Support. The intent is to work with those vendors who wish to adapt MS-DOS and its supporting software to their machines.
Microsoft is also now in the business of selling their generic MS-DOS language compilers directly to the end user. When I visited Microsoft in July, Fortran Ver. 3.10, Pascal ver. 3.11, Lisp ver. 4.0, Basic, Business Basic, Cobol, and C were all being shipped in cleverly designed plexiglass boxes.
This is a fantastic idea (the compilers, not the boxes) for a couple of reasons. First, Microsoft, because it is smaller and less ponderous than IBM, could theoretically fix problems (read: bugs) in a more timely and responsive fashion than is now customary.
The problem of updates was brought to our attention rather abruptly when we discovered that our local IBM Pascal Compiler refused to operate under DOS 2.0. Howe to remedy this little situation was discovered in an obscure appendix in the DOS manual. By providing real end-user support for these types of problems, Microsoft will be performing an act of public mercy.
Secondly, an IBM user will now have a wider choice of language compilers. For a long time, if IBM chose not to release a language for the PC, users did without. Since Microsoft compilers are now available in software stores, they can be purchased by anyone.
The drawback of this generic software is that it is not customized for the IBM (or any other machine for that matter). So, while a program written for one machine will be transportable to another, no advantage will be taken of the spiffy little features of each computer.
The Lisp compiler (version IV) will have routines for customization, but this language is not Microsoft's own, (they bought it elsewhere), and I don't know if the customization program was added on by Microsoft. I hope that all of their compilers will incorporate some configurator; this will eliminate a lot of resistance to generic software.
I had a chance to try the new Multi-Tool Word package, complete with mouse, while I was out there. The mouse requires a bit too much coordination for my taste; it is far easier to hit a key than aim a little plastic rodent by rolling it around on a desk top. The device will be swell for daredevil pilot types with clearn desk tops, however.
The word processor itself has 65 different type fonts built into it. The formatting capabilities of the program will present the text on the screen in the chose type face, which is nifty to see. It obviously won't do you any good to select Times Roman type, if the printer won't handle it.
I now have a Compuserve number (71056,727) and will check EMAIL messages on a weekly basis. You can also leave a message with the MUSUS SIG, if you are a member. MUSUS serves members of USUS, the p-System users group.
The membership fee entitles a member to receive newsletters, access the MUSUS software library and exchange war stories with other members. Information on USUS and MUSUS is available from: The Secretary USUS P.O. Box 1148 La Jolla, CA 92038. Firms Mentioned In This Column IBM Personal Computer Sales and Service P.O. Box 1328-C Boca Raton, FL 33432 Funtastic 5-12 Wilde Ave. Drexel Hill, PA 19026 (215) 622-5716 Siechert and Wood Technical Publications 133 West Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91105 David E. Tlusty N1757 Robin Rd. Medford, WI 54451 (715) 748-4558 Infocom 55 Wheeler St. Cambridge, MA 02138 Accupipe Corporation 222 West Lancaster Ave. Paoli, PA 19301 (215) 296-7376 Orion Software P.O. Box 2488, Dept. 283 Auburn, AL 36831 (800) 821-8088 Starside Engineering P.O. Box 8306 Rochester, NY 14618 (716) 461-1027 Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632 Microsoft 10700 Northup Way Bellevue, WA 98004 FriendlySoft 213 Peeblebrook Arlington, TX 76014