Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 5, NO. 7 / NOVEMBER 1986

Product Reviews

E+E DataComm
1230 Oakmead Parkway, #310
Sunnyvale, CA 94080
(408) 732-1181

Reviewed by Thomas Mosteller

The Avatex 1200 modem delivers substantial Hayes compatibility and reliable 1200 baud operation at unbelievable discount prices-$89 from some mail order companies, even $79 in some mass purchases by users groups.

ST owners can hook up their Avatex 1200s with a double-sided 25-pin cable from the local computer store. We 8-bit types need an RS-232 serial cable that connects to the Atari 850 interface or to lCD's P:R: Connection (reviewed in the October, 1986 Antic).

Avantex 1200 ModemSince the store-bought 8-bit cables run about $40 (when you can find them), I decided to make my own. If anybody knows why Atari chose to use a 9-pin RS-232 connector I'd sure like to know! The Radio Shack parts require some fairly close soldering.

Once the cabling to the computer is finished, just plug the Avatex to the phone line and power outlet, and set the DIP switches. A fixed 6-foot cable from the modem then goes into your phone. If you do not have a modular plug or a desk phone, adapters will be necessary (another trip to Radio Shack!).

After the whole system is connected, you can turn on the phone by using the data/voice switch on the modem. I found it more convenient to run a modular plug splitter from the wall jack and an extender cable to the modem. The line from the modem to the phone is then unnecessary.

Upon powering up, the power and modem LED lights are illuminated. TR (terminal ready) will light when your communications software activates the Data Terminal Ready (DTR) signal on the RS-232 interface. When the modem is Receiving or Sending Data the RD and SD lights will light. If the unit is operating at 1200 baud, the High Speed (HS) LED will light also. In normal operation, these LEDs are easily ignored, but they can be helpful in figuring out what's going on when the unit won't work.

The Avatex operates with a subset of the Hayes commands such as: ATDT to tone-dial a number, ATDP to pulse-dial, ATO and ATA to force the unit into originate or answer modes, ATAD to disable auto answer and ATAA to reenable it, and the handy ATZ to reset the modem for those times when you're really hung up.

However, since the Avatex only has a subset of the Hayes commands, some commands are missing. The average user won't miss most of the unavailable commands-except for ATH (hangup). The unit can't hang up in response to a software command. Avatex says that the only way to hang up is to toggle the DTR line-which is generally not accepted by commercial software.

Therefore you cannot use the Avatex to run a bulletin board with most available BBS software. (We do hear that Avatex boards have been run successfully with BBS Express!- reviewed in this issue- and the Antic Catalog's Bulletin Board Construction Set.-ANTIC ED) When you're sitting in front of your computer it's easy enough to hang up. Usually the system you're using will hang up for you, or you can toggle the data/voice button to disconnect the line. But if you're not there, how will you press the button?

Actually, I suspect that there might be a fairly simple software patch to drop the DTR line at the proper time. After all, we Atari types are a resourceful lot. Didn't we successfully use the MPP/Supra modem which plugs into the joystick port? I think this is a comparatively small challenge.

I could find only one minor glitch in the operation of the modem. When I was pulse dialing, my TV screen was plagued with dashes caused by interference from the unit's internal relay. The operation of the unit was not affected, but it just looked bad while the unit was dialing.

My overall impression of the Avatex 1200 is very positive. It operates as well as much more expensive units I've used, and it has never done anything that the manual said it shouldn t

Ezuse Software
2850 Enea Way
Antioch, CA 94509
(415) 754-6026
$9.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman

Ever hear of a bouncy, colorful, musical real estate quiz? How about a perky multiple-choice biology exam? Ezuse Software's Quizmaster Construction Set can provide either one, as well as a whole range. of quiz possibilities, from riddle-guessing games to foreign language tests to Trivial Pursuit game questions. You decide on the subject and type in the questions and answers.

Quizmaster Construction Set was written for those who just want to create quiz games and/or legitimate multiple-choice tests for their own practice or for students. Any number of questions can be prepared, limited only by available memory. To keep you on your toes, the questions are displayed randomly-a good device for the careless student who memorizes the answers in a particular order instead of studying the material itself.

It's not enough
just to know the
answer. You have
to know it right

The opening screen plays Mozart at you, cutting off abruptly when you press [START]. This is a nice touch, but an entire 2 1/2-minute piece is programmed into the game. It's lovely, but no doubt it takes up memory that could have been devoted to more questions. The Minute Waltz might have made more sense.

Pressing [START] gives you a choice of two modes, Editor and Game. The Editor mode is for entering questions, at upto 120 characters each, and four answers per question, at up to 60 characters each. Entering and editng questions and answers is a quick, simple process. And the number of the right answer can also be changed.

You can use the joystick to play the game itself, but it's probably easier to use the keyboard. Once a question and answers are displayed, a 60-second timer counts down from 500. Pressing the correct answer number gives you the amount of points still remaining on the timer display. You get nothing for a wrong answer, but you do have the option of having the right answer displayed. If your answer is correct, you'll hear four notes and see a stick figure jump up and down.

While this might be a fun game for a younger child (at least for a while), it is probably more valuable when used for legitimate school-type quizzes. And if you prepare your own self-testing quizzes, you'll start learning merely by preparing the questions.

One feature I'd like added to the program would be to place the answers in random order within the questions. This would ensure that memorizing answer numbers is not enough.

Quizmaster is a generally good program, useful for all kinds of multiple-choice testing and guessing games, and it saves the hassle of writing flash-cards. An element of pressure is provided by the timer, so it's not enough just to know the answer. You have to know it right away to do well.

Broderbund Software
17 Paul Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 479-1185
$49.95, 64K disk

Reviewed by Michael Lasky

Print Shop Companion is an add-on program that makes Broderbund's best-selling Print Shop software even more versatile and useful. You can create your own monthly or weekly calendars, design your own borders, fonts and creatures. You can enhance existing graphics and fonts with the powerful Graphic Editor + -and then you can fill them in with a choice of 17 cross-hatch patterns.

The Companion accepts input from joysticks and touch tablets as well as the keyboard. A fail-safe Undo command lets you step back if you don't like the last artwork you've created. Instructions are remarkably clear both in the 36-page instruction book and in onscreen cues.

ANTIC MAGAZINECompanion offers scrolling capability when editing a screen, a [CONTROL] lock which lets you stay in a continuous draw or erase mode, mirror pattern, row and column guideline inserts to aid designs, horizontal and vertical flipping (handy for creative T-shirt appliques), a Negative command for transforming black to white and vice versa, plus lines, rays, boxes and ovals. With Companion you can now insert text in a graphic design, something Print Shop users were clamoring for.

Because Companion requires the original Print Shop program and doesn't support Atari systems with more than one disk drive, be prepared to perform frequent disk swafrping. In fact, with another disk for saving your designs, you'll have to juggle three disks and keep flipping the program disks over. This is not only annoying and confusing, but it also severely slows down the entire editing and printing process.

The actual printing takes considerably longer than on machines with larger memory. The Atari version computes page layouts by printing the top and bottom of the page individually. That being said, however, I have little else but praise for this well-designed program.

Companion even includes code to help improve the quality of onscreen images from the original Print Shop program. Don't like the available fonts, borders or graphics offered on any Print Shop Library disks? With Companion you compose your own and save them. The Tile Magic utility lets you freeze 11 moving patterns and then easily edit them to your needs with Graphic Editor +.

The Creature Maker utility offers some 1,000 possible combinations of predesigned animals and characters from hobos and outlaws to elephants and mice. You can, for example, put an elephant head on a clown body.

With the Calendar Maker you can print out a monthly or weekly calendar for any year from 1753 to 1999, and then add graphic decorations and fill in dates with events for your own personalized datebook.

Still sorely missed on any of the Atari disks, however, are lower-case letters which match the available fonts. Print Shop Companion has an individual set of lower-case letters. But they don't correspond to the other typefaces, so their use is extremely limited.

The supplied typefaces, borders and graphic designs on the Companion disk are displayed only on a separate reference card and not, surprisingly, in the reference manual. Thus you would be wise to photocopy the card and place the copy in the manual in case you misplace the reference card. Without it, using any of the Printshop functions would be like trying to drive a car blindfolded.

Because of memory restrictions, the Atari version of the Printshop Companion is missing several features found on the IBM and Apple versions. Also, Broderbund has copy-protected the Atari version, offering a backup copy for $10, while the IBM version, for one, allows users to make a free backup.

But despite its limitations, the Print Shop Companion, like its predecessor, is a major printing utility package with boundaries that are set only by the limits of the user's creativity

20833 Stevens Creek Boulevard
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 446-5757
$29.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman

If you like baseball simulations, you'll probably be intrigued by the unusual 3-D viewpoints in Accolade's joystick-controlled HardBall. Could you pass up that center-field camera shot of the pitcher-batter confrontation, or the little overhead view of the diamond with runners on base? Perhaps-if you really wanted statistics, playability and, especially, realism. Graphics is HardBall's strength. Realism isn't.

Hardball screenWithout doubt, the game's best feature is its interesting 3-D perspective from three views-the screen you see depends on the location of the ball. True, the perspective is a bit strange in that outfielders appear to be much farther away than they actually are. But otherwise the game is visually enticing.

That center-field camera shot shows the pitcher, batter, catcher and umpire, and is a nice touch. When the ball is in play, the view is from behind home plate, showing whichever side of the field the ball is in.

In HardBall, you use the joystick for everything, from choosing lineups to selecting batters' guesses at pitch locations. First you choose your team, select between home team or visitors, and decide whether or not to use the designated hitter rule.

As for the quality of the gameplay itself, it is questionable at best. In real baseball, and indeed in most simulations, once a team has made three outs, it's time for the other team to bat. Yet in HardBall the defense tries to retire runners even after the third out is recorded. For example, if you have the bases loaded with two outs and your batter strikes out, try advancing your baserunners. Chances are good that you'll see six outs before the other team bats.

The computer doesn't play an intelligent game. Among other things, it habitually sends in relief pitchers at no logical juncture in a game-such as when the starter has a two-hit shutout in the fourth inning.

Still, the computer is a formidable opponent because it doesn't need joysticks to move its fielders, swing bats or choose pitches. A ground ball hit to the computer's second baseman will be fielded and immediately thrown to first base, but you must use the joystick to maneuver your second baseman toward the ball and choose where to throw it. This process takes far longer than a real infielder takes.

Directing an outfielder toward the ball is a challenge because the ball gets up higher than the screen can show and the shadow is the only reference point. The cursor arrows or commands using one or two keys would be preferable to using the joystick, and it would equalize the game a bit.

Baseball simulations, computer or otherwise, usually supply rosters or team sheets for current or past major league teams-World Series winners, All-Star teams, dream teams. Some games allow you to enter information for your own teams, such as a local high school or even a Little League team. But HardBall only has two fictitious teams, the All-Stars and the Champs, with no appreciable background information on those players aside from current statistics.

HardBall comes across more like an ambitious arcade game than a full-fledged computer baseball simulation.