Model Stationby Robert Dewitt
MODEL WORD PROCESSING STATION--The ATARI 800 with 48K RAM, the Full View 80-Column Board by Bit3, LJK's 'Letter Perfect" Word-Processing Program (80-column cartridge version), Amber Screen Monitor by Amdek, and the Daisywriter letter-quality printer from Computers International. Percom double-density disk driues were also used, although in single-density mode.
Word processing is replacing typing in many modern offices. Other word-oriented workers are beginning to use it too. People who own computers are turning to word processing for professional and personal writing chores, so every brand of computer seems to offer it to some degree. ATARI is no exception, and several of the word-processing programs available for it were surveyed in ANTIC #1.
Still, word processing on the ATARI has not been one of this machine's strongest features. The worst problem was the 40-column screen format. This only gives the writer about half of the line width of the normal printed page. One solution used the 40-column by 24-line screen as a "window" on a much wider and longer "page" held in memory, across which the window is moved. This is barely tolerable for a person who composes or formats while writing. Another approach "wrapped" the composition approximately at column 40. This allows the writer to see all of the most recent 24 lines of writing, but gives no sense of formatting. Other problems included the fuzziness of the typical TV screen when producing text, and the glare from the full-color display.
THE MODEL SYSTEMSome recent developments have greatly improved the performance of the ATARI computers as word-processing machines. Even the 400 is coming within the pale by virtue of memory expanders and add-on keyboards (see Product Reviews this issue). ANTIC decided to assemble a number of products into a model word- processing system for the ATARI. The products gathered here comprise perhaps the least-expensive, most nearly professional, word-processing system on the market. The hardware described here gives the user 80 columns of type on an amber-screen monitor. The software, and daisywheel printer produce letterquality documents suitable for professional use.
THE COMPUTERWe used the standard ATARI 800 computer with 48K RAM. It isn't necessary to have that much memory, but the more memory you have, the more of your document you can access without resorting to disk. The minimum RAM required for the word-processor program itself is 24K. If you do not expand memory in this setup, you must leave the last RAM slot of the 800 open for the Bit3 80-column board. In our system we achieved 48K RAM by using a 16K Atari RAM board and a 32K expansion board from Intec Peripherals, Inc. ($90).
FUEL-VIEW 80 BOARDBit3 Computer Corp.
8120 Penn Avenue South, Suite 548
Minneapolis, MN 55431
While we have the cover off the computer, let's discuss the 80-column board. This item was the key to making this system work. The board plugs into the last RAM slot and has cables that extend out the back of the ATARI case. One plug goes to the monitor, and the other to the monitor jack of the computer. The card will not work with a regular TV set. It requires a monochromatic monitor.This board generates an 80-column-per-line display, twice the normal number. All the standard ATARI text and graphics modes are still available, under keyboard or program control. The board keeps its own display memory, therefore there is no minimum ATARI memory requirement. The board may be used without a disk drive (though not in this setup) and will work with a BASIC cartridge or Microsoft BASIC. The displayed characters are contained in an 8 x 10 dot- matrix cell. These characters are easy to read and make word processing an easier task. The manual with this product provides information-necessary to use the board with a wide variety of software. The only wordprocessing program currently compatible with this 80column format is LJK's Letter Perfect.
LETTER PERFECTLJK Enterprises, Inc.
P.O. Box 10827
St. Louis, MO 63129
$149.95 ($199 for cartridge)
This company produced the first word-processing program available for the ATARI, and now has brought out an improved version available in cartridge and disk. The program comes in both 80-column and40-columnversions. An important addition to Letter Perfect is its ability to use any printer. This is done with a special editor that allows you to enter the printer's control-code table. Letter Perfect also permits using special control characters in the text stream, but which will not print out. This program is compatible with the Data Perfect program, also from LJK. Used together, information from the data base can be inserted into text stream, as, for example, addresses into a form letter. Letter Perfect requires 16K RAM.
DAISYWRITER PRINTERComputers International
3540 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
This new printer has so many features it is the most flexible printer available for the ATARI. It boasts an interchangeable daisywheel so that many type faces can be used. Most importantly, this printer can emulate many different printers, including the ATARI 825. Built into every Daisywriter is a 16K buffer. This allows the word processor to dump data faster, reducing the time the operator must wait before using the program again. Paper handling is straightforward and works well. This printer handles single-sheet paper, or fan-fold, using the optional tractor feed. The controls are flexible and easy to access. Lines per page, pitch, line spacing, line feed and top-of-form controls are all available on the front panel. A special ATARI cable is available at extra cost. The printer can also be purchased with a. 48K buffer. The printer can emulate Qume, NEC, ATARI 825, and Diablo. About the only problem with this printer is that with all the built-in flexibility, it takes a little extra study to get maximum advantage from it.
2420 E. Oakton St.
Arlington Hts., IL 60005
The Full-View 80 board will only work with a monochromatic video monitor. A color monitor, or a monocromatic TV will not suffice. A monitor is different from a TV receiver in that it has no RF tuner, and can't receive any signals over the air. Signals must be delivered by wires connecting the monitor with the signal source (in this case the computer). Monitors are much less susceptible to interference, so they have a clearer, more stable image. Moriochromatic monitors have only one color. White, green and amber have been used recently, and amber seems to be easiest on the eyes. Our model station uses the Amdek 300-A (amber screen). Controls are limited to brightness, contrast, vertical and horizontal alignment. This monitor has no speaker, so users forfeit the familiar sounds of reading and writing to disk or cassette, and the "clicks" representing keystrokes. The monitor screen is textured to reduce glare.
These products, used together, comprise a system for word processing that approaches the capabilities of "dedicated" systems costing much more. We used the system to write this, and several other articles for this issue of ANTIC, and are finding it essentially satisfactory. As with any computer situation, it has its limitations and idiosym cracies, but we think it will function just fine.
Cassette owners are not entirely out in the cold when it comes to word processing. ACCU/WRITE is a cassette-based word processor requiring 16K and an Epson printer. A Centronics version is in development. ACCU / WRITE can format lines up to 80 characters long, and can create multiple-page documents with each page saved to tape. ANTIC expects to review this product in depth in a future issue.
P DPH Inc, Suite 705,
1700 Stumph Blvd.
Gretna, LA 70053
Price $ 20.00