Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 9, NO. 3 / MARCH 1983 / PAGE 81

Word processing on the Apple with WordStar and Diablo. Jerry Mar.

Word Processing On The Apple With WordStar and Diablo

When you use your Apple for word processing, do you find you are becoming increasingly frustrated by the limitations of your "simple' 40-column Apple word processing program? If so, at one time or another you have probably considered upgrading your Apple for serious word processing--specifically, by adding an 80-column card, a letter quality printer, and a professional word processing program.

This is exactly what I went through. At the time, I had been using Apple Computer's lower case adapter and a Paymar's lower case adapter and a Trendcom 200 printer for my word processing. Despite the many limitations of that combintion (40-column display, words split across lines, and hard to read thermal paper outputs), I found I was using my Apple for word processing more and more often. In fact, word processing had become the main application for my Apple, exceeding even VisiCalc. I found my use of it for composing draft--copies of reports, memoranda, and letters saved me time and improved my writing. The ease with which text could be altered and modified on the computer made it easy for me to experiment with words--far easier than if I had used pencil and paper.

These gains in personal productivity spurred me to think how much greater my productivity would be with a professional word processing system. It was at that time I decided to turn my Apple into a "professional quality' word processing system.

I decided my upgraded system would consist of a Diablo 630 printer, a Videx Videoterm 80-column display, and MicroPro's WordStar word processing program.

I chose the Diablo 630 because of its flexibility in handling both plastic and metal daisy wheel print wheels, and because it was the most established (i.e., been on the market for the longest time) of the second generation daisy wheel printers (lower cost printers using more electronics and fewer mechanics). I chose the Videx 80-column card because of its relatively cool operation (it uses low power CMOS integrated circuits), its use of a 7 X 9 character matrix (its characters seem more readable than the other cards I had looked at), and because (at the time of my purchase) it was one of two 80-column cards directly supported in the installation procedures included with WordStar.

Although WordStar requires a Z80 SoftCard to be added to the Apple (to enable it to run CP/M programs), I chose it because of its reputation as the Cadillac of microcomputer word processing programs and because the final printout format (including page breaks) is continuously visible as text is entered.

Many of you may be considering such an upgrade, so let me describe what I went through to make it work. Let me say at the outset that my final system works very well, but getting there was anything but straightforward. In making such a combination work, one is faced with making five semi-independent computer systems (the Apple 6502, the SoftCard Z80, the controller on the Apple printer serial interface card, the keyboard/character processor in the 80-column card, and the 8085 microprocessor in the printer) work together. The whole process took several months of effort. I took many blind paths, nade lots of mistakes, and spent more money than I needed to. Fortunately, you can learn from my experience and avoid my pitfalls.

What Not To Do

Because of my existing Applewriter text files and the considerable expense of the upgrade, I decided to do the upgrade in several stages. Since the most limiting feature of the Applewriter/Trendcom combination was its inability to generate letter quality reports, the first stage of my upgrade was to add a Diablo 630 daisy wheel printer to use with my existing Applewriter program. As you will later see, this was a mistake.

An RS-232C serial interface is needed to connect such printers to the Apple. Following the recommendations in my Applewriter manual, I purchased the Apple High Speed Serial Card for this purpose.

Now it turns out that Diablo 630 receive-only printers (printers without a typewriter keyboard) come in three versions. There is the bottom of the line version (Model R110, also called the OEM model) with aminimal three-button control panel. There is the middle version (Model R102, often referred to as the standard model) with a seven-button control panel and a full complement of warning indicators. Finally, there is the full-featured version (Model R104, which is the standard version upgraded with the W/P or Communications Option) with an eight-button control panel, built-in word processing commands and non-volatile memory (settings are retained even after power is shut off).

After some experimentation, I found my Apple/Applewriter/High Speed Serial Card combination would operate properly only with the full-featured Model R104 Diablo 630. Thinking that extra features would ensure compatibility with later word processing upgrades, I chose the R104 Diablo 630. With Applewriter, this combination worked superbly--however, as you will later see, it did not work well with WordStar.

I completed my upgrade when MicroPro released version 3.0 of WordStar for the Apple. In addition to buying that version of WordStar, I purchased the Videx 80-column card and the MicroSoft Z80 SoftCard. Since my old 9 Sanyo monitor was barely up to resolving 80 columns of characters, I also ended up purchasing a 12 NEC green screen monitor. Because WordStar (and most CP/M programs) are designed to be used with two-drive systems, I also added a second disk drive to my system.

Eager to make use of my new word processing capability, I proceeded directly to the installation of the program on my system. In WordStar this is done by running a special program called INSTALL. COM, which presents a menu-driven series of questions to the user. The selections chosen by the user configure the interface of the program to the hardware. Everything went smoothly until I reached the section on installing the printer.

In version 3.0 of WordStar, the Printer Selection menu includes a line for the Diablo 630. After I had selected that line, a message appeared telling me to select the ETX/ACK protocol in the next menu. The next installation menu was entitled Communications Protocol, and sure enough one of its selections was called ETX/ACK protocol. Obediantly, I made that choice. $This menu was followed by the Driver menu which included such cryptic selections as CP/M List Device (LST:), CP/M primary Console Device (TTY:), Port Driver (direct I/O to 8-bit prots), and User-installed driver subroutines. After several readings of the manual I concluded that Port Driver was the correct choice, hoping that I was finished with this multiple-choice game.

My hopes were dashed when the program presented the first of the Port Driver selections: I/O and Memory Mapped. Rushing back to the WordStar manual, I looked in vain for some clue as to the correct selection. Finding none there, I searched for a hint in my Apple manuals. Somewhat hesitantly, I concluded that Memory Mapped was the correct choice.

That choice led immediately to the following series of questions: What is the Output address in hex? What is the Output Status address in hex? What is the Input address in hex? And What is the Input Status address in hex? These were followed by: What are the Output Port Bits for your printer? and What are the Input Status Port Bits for your printer? At this point I knew I was licked and immediately sought help. In an escalating fashion, I went to my dealer, Diablo customer service, and MicroPro customer service.

I'll spare you the gory details. Let me just say that I got different solutions from each source, and that none of the solutions using the Port Driver selection worked. On reporting my lack of success, the majority of my sources told me that I should then specify: the Teletypelike selection in the Printer Menu, None Required selection in the Protocol Menu, and CP/M list device (LST:) selection in the Driver Menu. However, they warned me that this arrangement did not allow handshaking (i.e., would not allow the printer and computer to communicate both ways) so that I would not be able to send characters to my printer at rates greater than 300 baud.

The last arrangement did work, and worked at 1200 baud. However, desirable word processing print features like bold-face and micro-justification (the WordStar approximation of proportional spacing) could not be used with that selection. I found these features were usable when the Diablo 630 selection was chosen in place of Teletype in the Printer Menu, however this installation had one problem.

With this installation, the program would not print properly in the singlepage mode (this is where the printer stops after each page so that a new sheet of paper can be inserted.) The first page would print out perfectly, but after the paper change, succeeding pages were printed without any left margin. This happened at both 300 baud and 1200 baud.

After many more phone calls I was told that I should use California Computing's CCS7710A interface card instead of the Apple High Speed Serial Card. I tried that card and found I had exactly the same problem, except this time I did run into problems when printing at 1200 baud. It appears that the Apple Serial Card pauses after groups of characters are transmitted. This slows data transmission sufficiently to enable the printer to keep up with the data. With the CCS7710A card, characters are transmitted in a more continuous stream and the printer is unable to keep up with the data.

The main problem turned out to be the printer. When I used a standard (Model R 102) Diablo 630 in place of the full-featured Model R104, the singlepage problem disappeared. Thus my error was in buying the printer to run Applewriter first, since the combination needed to operate WordStar was different. None of my information sources, including people at Diablo, had suggested that this could cause problems.

What To Do

Having described what didn't work, let me tell you what did. As I indicated in the last section, the standard version Diablo 630 printer worked for me. As for a serial interface card, the CCS7710A card worked best. WordStar printing was significantly faster with the CCS7710A card than with the Apple High Speed card, however additional connector rewiring (described below) is needed to use it. The Videx 80-column card worked fine, especially after I made the shift-key modification (connecting a wire from the shift key to pin 4 of the game connector).

In order to use the CCS7710A card at 1200 baud, it must be made to hand-shake with the printer. To do this, the following changes must be made. Pins 4 and 20 must be crossed (not shorted) on the printer cable, so that connector-pin 20 on the CCS7710A card goes to connector pin 4 of the Diablo and connector pin 20 on the CCS7710A to connector pin 4 of the Diablo. This can be done by rewiring one of the connectors on the cables (not the card or the printer).

In addition, pins 5 and 6 on the internal "A60' jumper-block inside the Diablo printer must be shorted. This jumper-block is located on the top edge of the HPRO5 card inside the printer. To get at this block you must first remove the outer case and the internal shield cage surrounding the card. If you have difficulties with these changes, have your dealer do them for you.

Before beginning the installation of WordStar, you should use your CP/M utility disk to rename the WordStar file WSU COM to WS COM. If you do the renaming after installation (as suggested in the installation instructions I received with my copy of WordStar) you will not be able to run a program from the NoFile Menu, which means you will not be able to check the amount of empty disk space while in WordStar.

As for the WordStar printer installation, the following worked for me. In the Printer Menu, choose Diablo 1610/1620 instead of Diablo 630. If the Diablo 630 selection works for you, you can also use that. However, when I selected that in my version of the program I lost the last line (usually the page number) when printing in the single-page mode. In the Communications Protocol Menu, select None required, and in the Driver Menu, select CP/M List device (LST:).

This should make your Apple a functioning WordStar system. However, since WordStar makes multiple uses of many of the standard keyboard keys (via CTRL key combinations), I have found labeling the keys to be very helpful. WordStar comes with stick-on key labels.

The one other modification I would recommend for your Apple is the addition of a cooling fan. The addition of the 80-column card and the Z80 SoftCard increases the power dissipation in the Apple enough to raise the internal temperature significantly. Perhaps it was merely a coincidence, but within a few months after my WordStar upgrade I had two separate incidents of component failure before adding a fan (the only failure in two years) and none since adding a fan. Based on an approximate measurement of internal temperatures, the fan reduced the inside case temperature from approximately 100~ F to 80~ F.

How Well Does It Work And Was It Worth It?

With the combination described above, WordStar operates very competently on the Apple II. All of the WordStar features (such as underlining, microjustification, boldface, and tabbing) are usable. The ability to see exactly how my text will be printed as I enter it has been exceedingly useful. I can easily tailor my text and tables for the best appearance on a page. The productivity improvements I had hoped for with this upgrade were fully realized. Both the speed of my writing and the appearance of my final documents have improved greatly.

However, the system is by no means perfect. There are several annoying features, most of them related to the limitations of the Apple keyboard. For one, symbols like square and curly brackets are missing, as is a tab key. The lack of programmable function keys is also a negative. Such keys would have been useful for simplifying frequently used multiple-keystroke commands.

A particularly annoying feature is the delay between commands and screen response. Cursor moves in response to tabbing seem to take an inordinate amount of time. As a result, when moving across multiple tabs, it is extremely easy to overshoot the desired position. Likewise, when deleting by continuous backspacing (using the REPT key), the cursor continues to delete characters several seconds after the finger is removed from the backspace key. The column and line numbers also have trouble keeping up with autorepeating movements.

The autorepeating function often requires three keys to be depressed simultaneously (e.g., CTRL, E and REPT keys must be held down at the same time to move the cursor up continuously, an operation that can be done on some computer systems with one key).

One last keyboard annoyance related to the use of the ESC key is the upper/lower-case shift-lock (at least when using the shift-key mod). Since many of the WordStar commands also end with a depression of the ESC key, inadvertent shifts often occur which must be unlocked with an extra depression of the key. Some of the above keyboard deficiencies can probably be corrected by adding the Videx Keyboard Enhancer, but I did not try that combination.

The other area that could have been nicer is the video display. Screen scrolling, particularly downward scrolling, occurs jerkily (the screen updates long after the key is depressed). This seems to be a result of the relatively long time needed to rewrite the screen (close to three seconds when scrolling downward). Screen highlighting is also not available with the hardware combination. Had this feature been available, the WordStar display on the Apple would have been easier to read--especially when mixing soft and hard hyphens, and performing block operations.

On the plus side, despite the lack of special keys, the crisp action of the Apple keyboard makes it quite comfortable to use for word processing. In addition, what keys there are are placed in logical locations (more so than in several other computers with more keys). Although the video display lacks features, it is very clear and easy to read. As a consequence, one can learn to live quite comfortably with the above deficiencies.

An important word processing plus is the fast printing when using the CCS7710A card. With this card, WordStar prints faster on the Apple than it does on many other CP/M computer systems using the Diablo 630.

An added bonus from the upgrade was the enhancement of the other applications of my Apple system. Basic-80, supplied with the Z80 SoftCard, is a significant upgrade from AppleSoft Basic. The second disk drive had made it much easier for me to back up my disk, and greatly improved my use of Pascal. The 80-column display makes it much easier to do programming (in Basic and Pascal).

The total cost of my upgrade counting the additional disk drive and monitor, but not counting the Diablo 630, was approximately $2000. The Diablo 630 adds another $2500.

So was it worth it? If one is starting out fresh (with no Apple), this approach to WordStar is more expensive than several alternatives that are probably better suited to word processing. However, if you already have an Apple with one or more disk drives and lots of application software, then this is an attractive way of obtaining professional quality word processing while enhancing the general capabilities of your Apple.

Diablo Systems, 24500 Industrial Blvd., Hayward, CA 94545.