Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 5, NO. 8 / DECEMBER 1986


ST Reviews

Abacus Software
P.O. Box 7219, Dept. A9
Grand Rapids, MI 49510
(616) 241-5510
($14.95 optional disk)


Reviewed by David Plotkin

The Atari ST BASIC Training Guide is a first-class text for ST BASIC users. It is clear, thorough, well-written and remarkably free of errors and typos. It doesn't address some advanced features of ST BASIC, but does a good job on the subjects covered.

The first chapter leads you step by step through the process of creating a program, beginning with fundamentals such as the concepts of programs and algorithms. It continues with flowcharts, documentation, introduction to bits and bytes, and the hexadecimal system.

Successive chapters explain how to use various ST BASIC commands. The sections are short and easy to digest, just right for the beginner. Each chapter includes sample programs which adequately illustrate the concepts being explained. At various points in the chapter there are problems to test your understanding of the material. (Don't worry, the answers are in back.)

The Guide progresses from easier commands such as arithmetic and random numbers to more advanced commands such as IF/THEN, FOR! NEXT, GOSUB and GOTO. Good sections cover multi-dimensional arrays, disk files, sound and graphics, and using GEM VDI and AES commands for special effects. A good reference section lists the ST BASIC commands alphabetically, along with numerous examples.

This book does not go into great depth about the commands. Details of file structure and use of sequential and random files are not explained, and no mention of the complex WAVE command is made. The concept of partially RESTOREing data is also ignored.

The one serious error I spotted is in the reference section. Under the explanation of the NEW command, it says that the program still remains in memory after the NEW command is invoked. The novice who believes this is in for quite a nasty surprise, because NEW completely erases the program from memory.

I like ST BASIC Training Guide. It does a good job of introducing the user to ST BASIC programming fundamentals. It also provides a valuable reference section for the more advanced user.

BigFoot Systems
2708 E. Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 722-9515


Reviewed by Patrick Bass

The eSTe Clock by BigFoot Systems gives the ST a real-time clock with a five-year lithium battery backup. Plug the gray eSTe Clock cartridge into the cartridge port on the left side of your computer and copy the CLK.ACC file onto your start-up disk. The correct time and date will now be displayed on the desktop whenever you boot your ST.

Our eSTe Clock Cartridge came with the correct time and date already programmed in. To actually set the time yourself, a small program called SETCLK.PRG is provided. Double-clicking on this icon allows you to set the date or time independently of each other. The best part is having all your files correctly time/date-stamped when written. There won't be any more confusion over which file was written last.

The eSTe Clock Cartridge has two built-in EPROM sockets, so you can insert and run your own pre-programmed EPROM chips. (Otto Baade, who runs BigFoot Systems, says he can also supply blank, pre-etched, drilled, and socketed ST cartridge boards which accept and utilize up to four 2732, 2764, or 27128 EPROMS. Price for these boards runs $15 each in quantities up to 999.)

I like anything that works without me needing to read the directions. The eSTe Clock fills the bill and keeps good time too. When we used it with Flash!-which demands use of the clock while running-the correct time was automatically reset when we returned to the desktop. My only wish-list feature would be a cartridge slot built into the eSTe, so that I could use other cartridges without losing my eSTe Clock.

Sorry, but I somehow feel compelled to write this: It's my personal opinion that the eSTe is the beSTe ST plug-in clock yet.

Action Software
69 Clementina Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 974-6638


Reviewed by Sol Guber

Action Pak consists of four utility programs that make labels for 3 1/2-inch disks, print banners, emulate a typewriter and convert SynFile + data for the ST

The menu-driven disk labeler lets you print the directory of the disk in drive A, B or C, using normal, italic or bold print and sorting the files alphabetically. You can rename the disk, change the border around the label, or just print the directory in 80-column format. Included with the package are 50 disk labels to get you started.

The banner program lets you print banners of up to four lines with as many as 72 characters each or send them to a disk file. For one-line banners the characters are about 64 asterisks high. On four-line banners, the size decreases to 16 asterisks. The disk contains four different fonts. The provided letters are slightly chunky and unattractive. But more fonts can be generated from Batteries Included's DEGAS or loaded from other sources.

Make labels or
banners, emulate
a typewriter and
convert SynFile+

The typewriter desktop accessory sends information directly to your printer. Just load the program and start typing. When you press [RETURN], that line is sent to the printer as shown, along with a line feed. You can delete characters before they are printed. This program can be used to address envelopes, fill out forms or write memos from within a program. It can also be used to send special characters to a printer to modify the printing.

The SynFile + converter lets you make ST conversions of files generated on Atari 8-bit computers with Broderbund's SynFile+ database. The six programs supported are Hippo-Simple, Zoomracks, dBMAN, H&D Base, dbOne and dbMaster. To use the program, either connect your ST to an 8-bit machine via null modem cable, or upload and download the files to and from a bulletin board.

The SynFile converter is easy to use and has many prompts to help you. As it runs it gives information about the file and the record count, and displays a running total of the records processed. Once the records have been converted to ST format, some massaging of the data may be needed to have them work properly.

All four programs are easy to learn, not copy-protected and have good documentation.

Hybrid Arts
11920 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(213) 826-3777


Reviewed by Chris Many

During the past three or four years, programs called sequencers have been the bridge between computers and synthesizers. These programs emulate computerized player-pianos, but can control a whole orchestra of synthesized sounds. EZ Track ST is a simple but sophisticated home-market sequencer from Hybrid Arts, who manufacture the 8-bit MIDImate system reviewed in Antic, June 1985.

It should be noted immediately that EZ Track does not access the Atari's internal sound chips at all. Playing music requires an external MIDI synthesizer, such as the Casio CZ-101 (approximately $300) or one of Yamaha's inexpensive new models. MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is basically an electronics standard, such as serial and parallel computer interface standards. MIDI lets two or more synthesizers and computers "talk" to each other, translating musical notation into bits and bytes.

EZ Track is easy to use. Just connect your synthesizer to the MIDI In and MIDI Out ports on the back of the ST, click the start button, play a few notes and click the store button- you've recorded your first bit of music. Move to another track and add a bass line, click, click. Add a lead line on a third track, click, click. Three-part harmony in minutes. It's that easy.

To correct mistakes, just redo the tracks until you're satisfied. EZ Track's forward, record and pause controls and time counter all function identically to those on your home cassette recorder. In fact, the whole program operates much like a multi-track tape recorder-except that it records musical information digitally

With 20 recording tracks available, the possibilities seem almost endless. You can record up to 28,000 notes on a 520ST, and an amazing 63,000 on a 1040ST. Included in this program are several advanced features usually found only on high-end professional sequencers. A technique called quantizing lets you automatically smooth the timing of awkwardly-played notes, correct to the nearest 32nd-note.

For example, if you are playing a pattern of eighth notes and you want each note to fall precisely on the beat, it's easy to correct any minor fingering errors. You can copy music from one track to another and even combine tracks with no loss of musical clarity.

Tempo adjustment also helps makes recording easier. Playing The Flight of the Bumblebee at full speed is no mean feat, so just slow down the tempo to where it's comfortable for you. When you speed up the playback, you'll sound like a virtuoso.

Operates like
a multi-track
tape recorder-
but it records

You can also assign any track a MIDI channel-up to 16 are available. For example, if you have a synthesizer playing an electric piano sound, then everything that comes out of EZ Track will sound like an electric piano. But if you tune one track to MIDI channel 1, (electric piano) and tune another track (bass) to channel 2, then tune one synthesizer (electric piano) to channel 1 and your second synthesizer (bass) to channel 2, you'll get two distinct sounds.

Yes, it gets expensive this way, so some companies make synthesizers that can play more than one sound at the same time. Casio's CZ-101 is probably the most affordable example.

All functions are readily acessible through the mouse or the ST keyboard. Normal disk access and file manipulation are available from within the program.

My only disappointment with EZ Track is the lack of cut-and-paste. Most simple 8-bit home music programs include this feature, which makes composition much easier. However, according to Hybrid Arts, this and many other features will be included on the upcoming MIDItrack ST and MIDItrack ST Professional.

Right now, EZ Track ST is the best sequencer available for the ST-an excellent, simple program. It brings a number of advanced features to the amateur musician and bridges the gap between high-tech music and an affordable, well-presented home program.