Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 4, NO. 10 / FEBRUARY 1986


ST reviews

Hippopotamus Software, Inc.
985 University Avenue, Suite 12
Los Gatos, CA 95030
(408) 395-3190

Reviewed by Gil Merciez

"Good Afternoon, today is May 29, 1985. On this day in 1736: Patrick Henry orator and statesman, was born...

Thus begins an entertaining and absorbing journey into the Hippo Computer Almanac. Packed onto one small 31/2 inch ST disk are more facts, figures and trivial oddities than even your Aunt Betty claims to know.

Hippo Computer Almanac is not as all-encompassing as its 1,000-page pulp counterparts found on newstands and in bookstores. But its ease of use and variety of subjects make it a delight to use. It is the type of progratn that was never possible on the 8-bit Atari with its smaller disk capacity.

Using the kind of artificial intelligence techniques popularized by today's adventure games, requesting information from the Hippo Almanac is a snap. Type your question in plain English, and out pops the answer. What is the population of Egypt? 47,684,160.

Straying beyond the capabilities of Hippo Almanac's vocabulary parser or knowledge database produces appropilate responses such as "That doesn't make sense to me," or "I don't know."

Occasionally Hippo Alamanac will get confused about what you are trying to ask. Requesting the number of calories in a piece of bread not only produces the caloric content of 9 different types of bread, but also of bread pudding and raw-cut asparagus pieces.

Strange responses, however are half the fun. It was a great mental exercise just trying to figure out how Hippo Almanac arrived at some of its answers.

Hippo Almanac knows about all the States of the Union, countries of the world, and most major cities in regards to size, population and location. It can tell you key information about the planets of the solar system.

In the trivia department, you can find out who won the Nobel Prize for any year in any category. The identities of Academy Award winners in the four major categories are yours for the asking. Find out what important (or not so important) event happened on any day over the past 2,000 years. Learn how to say "hello" and other basic words in 34 languages.

Sports buffs can delight in statistics on past Super Bowls, World Series basketball, or Olympic (summer and winter) championships.

Written documentation for the program is minimal because help is available either from the pull down Options Menu or by typing HELP from the keyboard. Using a series of nested menus, Hippo Computer Almanac provides all the documentation that is necessary within the program.

Many questions given Hippo Almanac require knowledge of the current time, date, or geographical location. For example, you may want to know how far it is to Paris, or what time it is in Moscow.

When the program is booted you are prompted to update your location to the city nearest to where you live. Failure to do this will place you in Los Gatos, CA, home of Hippopotamus Software.

One feature that I found lacking was the spelling dictionary. It contains only some 275 words, hardly enough to be useful.

Response time for answers varied depending on how much skipping between categories you do. Due to the fast access of the ST drives, however, it was always quite acceptable.

A nice feature of Hippo Almanac is its expandability. Using the Remember and Forget commands, you can add or delete any information that you desire. The program will key to any word that you have entered for later retrieval. Add birthdays, telephone numbers, addresses, or any thing you want to save for posterity.

However, as the program is copy protected, I always feel a bit uneasy writing to a disk that I can't back up. Hopefully Hippopotamus will reconsider their copy protection policy to allow some way to back up the disk.

Hippo Computer Almanac is a unique application for the Atari ST and can provide hours of enjoyment exploring its secrets, either by yourself or in a group setting. You might even learn something.

576 S. Telegraph
Pontiac, MI 48053
(313) 334-5700

Reviewed by Brad Kershaw

Soft Spool is a useful printer buffer program for people who expect to do a lot of writing or spreadsheet work on the ST. You can print long, multi-page documents and while your printer is merrily printing away, you may continue with your program – or switch over to a game.

If you are a professional writer or business person, this program is a must. You can avoid wasting precious time standing around waiting for the printer to finish. Soft Spool shows off the real capabilities of the Atari 520ST.

To operate Soft Spool, click on SPOOLTOS from the GEM desktop. The program will automatically determine how much memory is available for the print spooler. This is partly limited by how many desk accessories you have active. A standard 520ST with no accessories will give you 110K of available spooler RAM. You may also choose how much memory you want to allocate to the spooler in 1K blocks.

Once you have indicated the amount of memory, you can run a program or print documents as you normally would. I took a 9K document and told the computer to print it 10 times. My printer jumped into action. I then played a game, formatted a disk and wrote a letter. And my printer never stopped.

Although the computer was switching between two tasks – playing the game, printing the document, playing the game, etc. – there was no noticeable speed reduction of either task.

There were also no detectable incompatabilities. I could find no program that interfered with the spooler and the Soft Spool caused no problems with programs I ran.

Should you want to halt the printing of a long document, all you have to do is rerun the program. It will tell you that there is a document being printed and ask if you wish to cancel it. Say yes, and the printing will stop immediately.

Soft Spool is invaluable. Now, you can now use a letter-quality or a slow dot-matrix printer and still have time left over to get some work (or play) done.

Mark of the Unicorn, Inc.
222 Third Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
(617) 576-2760

Reviewed by Charles Jackson

PC/InterComm is Mark of the Unicorn's deluxe, feature-laden, "no-holds barred", top-of-the-line tele-communications program. This menu-driven program offers a spectacular array of bells and whistles. But, at $124, you'll be paying a pretty steep price to ring those bells or blow those whistles.

PC/InterComm can emulate either a VT100 or a VT52 terminal. It supports more than a dozen transmission speeds (from 50 to 19,200 baud) and includes many commonly-used file transfer protocols such as Modem7(XMODEM), Kermit, "Raw" and ASCII-mode.

For quick and easy dialing, PC/InterComm includes a single-number phone directory, accessible through the Modem Control sub-menu. You can set PC/InterComm to dial this number as soon as you boot the program.

You may also redefine the ten function and shift-function keys to hold twenty more phone numbers, but this is an undocumented feature. For example, you could redefine the [Fl key with the string: ATDT9564281. Once defined, press [Fl] and [RETURN] to dial the number.

PC/InterComm is packed with many important features normally found in expensive modem programs. These niceties include a margin bell which can either be turned on or off, two types of cursors (blinking or non-blinking), selectable screen colors (black or white), optional word-wrap and the ability to select which RS-232 serial I/O port to be used. (As of this writing, the Atari 520ST comes with only one such port, labeled Modem.)

In all, PC/InterComm offers nine sub-menus and more than four dozen different menu selections. Eleven of these functions may also be accessed directly with the [Alternate] key and a letter key.

PC/InterComm comes with 135 pages of comprehensive, indexed documentation. Each menu option is carefully explained, and the appendices include a ten-page troubleshooting guide, a technical description of an RS-232 interface, ASCII and control code charts, schematics for constructing a null-modem cable (necessary for transferring files between computers without a modem) and a fifteen-word glossary.

The program is so friendly, though, that this impressive documentation is usually unnecessary. Just press [HELP] to jump to the program's main menu. Should you need help with any of the menu options, press the [?] key for an instant, onscreen explanation of that option.

Let's try a sample session. We'll use PC/InterComm to log onto an ST BBS, download a file, and return to the desktop.

From the GEM desktop, double-click on IC.PRG. After the program begins, press HELP to get to the main menu.

Step through the nine sub-menus and configure your terminal. You'll want to set such items as baud rate parity, screen color (black or white), and the phone number to dial. Once you're satisfied with the configuration, you should save it to disk with menu option 7 (Other Functions), sub-choice 4 (Save Setup). You may save as many terminal configurations as your disk will hold.

If you have a Hayes-compatible modem, you can dial the phone from option 6 (Modem Control), sub-choice 1 (Dial Phone). Otherwise, you can use standard ATD commands to dial the phone. Use one of these methods to dial the BBS.

Log onto the BBS, and find the Files For Downloading section. Select a file for downloading by XMODEM protocol and tell the BBS system to begin sending.

Press the [HELP] key to obtain PC/InterComm's main menu, and select item 5 (File Functions), sub-choice 2 (Receive A File). Then, type in a destination filename and press [RETURN] to begin the transfer.

When you're through transferring files, exit from the BBS and press the [UNDO] key to return to the GEM Desktop.

PC/InterComm is compatible with CompuServe, Delphi, many mainframe systems, and virtually any ST BBS. But, for all its extras, PC/InterComm is not particularly useful when porting files to and from 8-bit Ataris or for downloading and uploading files to an 8-bit BBS.

The problem lies with the relative slowness of disk drives for the 8-bit computers. Even when PC/InterComm's variable I/O delay rates are set to their maximum values, PC/InterComm will "time out" and abort the transfer while waiting for the 8-bit drive to catch up. Owing to the sluggishness of these drives, it's nearly impossible to port large files to and from conventional 8-bit systems with PC/InterComm.

Overall, PC/lnterComm is an excellent product that may be missing its market. At $124, the package offers high quality and comes in an attractive IBM-box-and-binder, but its unique features are likely to be considered unnecessary by most ST owners.

With the popularity of XMODEM protocol on the ST, Kermit protocol isn't really needed to port files between Ataris. Furthermore, PC/InterComm's insufficient delay rates make it practically impossible to transfer long files to or from 8-bit systems.

Finally, superior implementations of XMODEM protocol can easily be found on ST programs selling for one-tenth the price of PC/InterComm.


576 South Telegraph
Pontiac, MI 48053
(313) 334-5700

Reviewed by Eric Clausen

Flip Side ($34.95) and Mudpies ($39.95) are two of the first games available for the Atari ST. One of them I liked a lot...


Flip Side is an ST version of the familiar Othello game. Refreshingly, this implementation makes full use of the mouse and the drop-down GEM windows for controlling virtually every portion df the game.

From the "Players" drop-down, you can select One Player, Two Players, No Players (machine plays both sides), Select White or Black, White Moves First, Black Moves First or Random Moves First (for machine playing both sides).

Within the "Options" drop-down, you may select Suggest Move, Show Possible Moves, Switch Pieces, Edit Board, New Board and Quit. These should be self explanatory to anyone famillar with board game simulations.

Skill levels from 1 to 6 are also available – and the response time of the computer is quick, even at the hardest level.

An interesting feature is that you can, at any move, change the skill level to High, go to Suggest Move and find out what to do, then change the skill level to low before making your move. The computer will then take its move at a lower level. Beginners will benefit from using this feature as a tutorial. (Some might call it cheating!)

A timed move function is also provided. Your move must be made within the pre-set time (up to 9:59) or you will forfeit your turn. Default time is set at 2:00. When this option is invoked, you will see a countdown timer, reminding you of your remaining time.

Flipside plays a formidable game. It beat me most of the time, at the lowest skill levels. And I've been playing Othello for several years.


The setting for MUDPIES is a circus where your character is a mischievious little devil throwing deadly mudpies at the clowns and killing them. You actually get points for doing this. Naturally, the clowns don't like your little diversion and are out to get you. They throw things back at you, which you must dodge – or die.

In keeping with this light, carnival atmosphere, your character must also eat junk food in order to sustain his mud-slinging energy. He must pick up just enough – but not too much of these goodies to keep him going on his never-ending quest for higher levels of slinging.

Each screen is thoughtfully littered with little boxes of fries, shakes and hamburgers. The programmers have made excellent use of the 320x200 ST graphics to show us the "Golden Arches" on the fries. Yum.

The plot here is basically that you play until you die, meanwhile progressing through as many rooms as possible, gathering as many points as possible.

Visually, the game is interesting. And the music entertainingly relates to the theme, but it takes no advantage of the ST's wave-form envelopes and, frankly, sounds worse than many 8-bit Atari games.

You may play a one or two player game – using mice or standard Atari joysticks. But, unless you're interested in a very short game, use joysticks. Mouse control of the character is imprecise and extremely difficult.

Very young children should find the color and the clowns in Mudpies fascinating. Unless their coordination is above average, however, they might quickly become frustrated playing the game. Older children and adults will probably have no interest in the game to begin with.

Mudpies essentially takes no advantage of the power of the ST. In fact, were it released for the 8-bit Atari, I'd be disappointed. It looks very much like a game designed for an 8-bit that was quickly transfered to the 68000 machine to reach a software-starved market.

Based upon MichTron's other release, Flipside, however, we should be encouraged. That is entertainment which makes use of the computer's unique abilities while offering variety and clean graphics. I look forward to seeing more software from MichTron.

New Products

Spinnaker Software is releasing many of their most popular software titles for the ST. Treasure Island and The Wizard of Oz will be two from their Windham Classics. Under the Telarium line will be Fahrenheit 451, Perry Mason, Amazon, Dragonworld, and Nine Princes in Amber. All of the preceeding titles are graphic adventures with a suggested retail price of $44.95. Spinnaker also announced two ST educational products: Homework Helper Math Problems and Homework Helper Word Problems ($49.95 each).

Spinnaker Software, One Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02139. (617)494-1200. PRESS.

Optimized Systems Software throws their quality hat into the ST ring with Personal DiskKit ($39.95), which lets you examine, repair and modify ST disks. The program will be completely integrated in the GEM Desktop environment and O.S.S. is including the full source code plus documentation on the disk! O.S. S. will also be supplying the ST with a range of languages beginning with Personal Pascal ($89.95). This will include compiler, editor, linker, libraries and, no doubt, O.S.S.'s famous customer support.

Optimized Systems Software, 1221B Kentwood Avenue, San Jose, CA 95129. (408) 446-3099. PRESS.

Yet more software is flowing from the electronic cornucopia of Hippopotamus Software. Their latest releases are: HippoSimple ($49.95), an easy-to-use home database; HippoBackgammon ($39.95), multi-level tournament Backgammon with full-color animated graphics; and HippoArt I ($39.95), a collection of over 30 color "click-art" pictures which can be edited and combined for creative montages.

Hippopotamus Software, Inc., 985 University Avenue, Suite 12, Los Gatos, CA 95030. (408) 395-3190. BETA & FINAL.

Activision will adapt its new illustrated text adventure, Borrowed Time ($49.94) for the ST. This is Activision's entry into the hard-boiled private-eye field. They are also releasing ST versions of their popular Hacker ($44.95) and Mindshadow (no price at press time).

Activision, Inc., 2350 Bayshore Frontage Road, Mountain View, CA 94043. (415) 960-0410. PRESS.

For those interested in serious business applications, Oxxi is offering a relational database called db One ($99.95), which includes mailing list, labeling, checkbook setup, inventory, and more. Oxxi is also releasing WordWhiz ($59), described as a quick and efficient word processing program with simultaneous access to more than one document.

Oxxi, Inc., 3428 Falcon Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90807. (800) 453-4900. PRESS.

Regent Word ($49.95), according to Regent Software, is the "first full function word processor for the Atari ST." Features include complete function key use, print preview showing underline, bold, and elongated text, and a text telecommunications mode to download documents.

Regent Software, 7131 Owensmouth, Suite 45A, Canoga Park, CA 91303. (818) 883-0951. FINAL.

Mirage Concepts announced Atari ST Toolbox–Volume One ($39.95), which will include five separate programs: a disk sector editor, memory editor, fast formatter and copier, file recovery program, and directory printer.

Mirage Concepts, 4055 W. Shaw Avenue, #108, Fresno, CA 93711. (209) 227-8369. PRESS.

Electro Calender ($39.95) will organize your life. You can display or print a picture of any month from 1776 to 3001. Additional features include a message scan and appointment search to simplify your future.

Soft Logik Corp., 4129 Old Baumgartner, St. Louis, MO 63129: (314) 894-8608. PRESS.

And now you can get on-line with ST-Term ($39.95), the data communications program from Comnet Systems. This smart terminal emulator includes such features as a connect timer/billing calculator, twenty definable macros, 400-entry phone directory, AMODEM, Kermit and more.

Comnet Systems, 7348 Green Oak Ter race, Lanham, MD 20706. (301) 552-2517. FINAL.

FinalWord ($145) is a top-of-the-line word processor from Mark of the Unicorn which features split-screen editing, footnoting, table of contents and index entries, and automatic back-up.

Mark of the Unicorn, 222 Third Street, Cambridge, MA 02142. (617) 576-2760. PRESS.

New ST product notices are compiled from information provided by the products' manufacturers. Antic assumes no responsibihty for the accuracy of these notices or the performance of the product. Each mention is followed by a code word indicating that, at press time, Antic had seen a FINAL marketable version, near-final BETA, earlier ALPHA, incomplete DEMO, or PRESS release.