Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 5, NO. 9 / JANUARY 1987

Product Reviews

1001 Medical Park Drive SE.
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
(616) 957-3036
$34.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Charles Jackson

Blazing Paddles, a popular drawing program for the Apple II, is now available for your Atari. It uses Graphics 7 1/2 (ANTIC Mode E), to create four-color medium resolution picture files that are compatible with Micro-Painter. Overall, I found this software enjoyable to use and powerful enough to produce impressive results.

Blazing Paddles screenBlazing Paddles uses a friendly icon-driven menu similar to those used by KoalaPad and Atari Touch Tablet software. However, Blazing Paddles has quite a few more features than either of these packages-such as multiple text modes.

With Blazing Paddles, you can add titles and captions to your images. The program supports normal text (a la Graphics 0), double-width text (Graphics 1) and double-width, double-height text (Graphics 2). The letters may be drawn in uppercase or lowercase, in any of the four available colors, or in any pattern. You can also use any of your own custom character sets.

For detailed work, the Blazing Paddles Zoom function is one of the easiest to learn and use. This function divides the screen into two horizontal windows. The top window shows your unmagnified picture along with a movable 10 x 16 pixel frame. The frame's contents fill the bottom half of the screen. Here, you may edit your picture a pixel at a time.

Computer artists wishing to "soften" the lines of their pictures will appreciate the random Spray Paint function. This option turns your brush into a spray can, shooting a fine, randomly-textured mist of electronic "paint" over your picture.

Despite the software's name, you may draw with either a joystick, a KoalaPad, or a set of paddle controllers. However, Blazing Paddles will not work with the Atari Touch Tablet. We were also unable to use any of our light pens with this software, despite the package's claims that light pens are supported. We contacted Baudville's programmers, but did not receive a response as this issue went to press.

Blazing Paddles comes on a double-sided disk with the Commodore 64 version on one side. The 24-page manual is specific to the Commodore version, but Baudville also includes a six-page insert describing the differences in the Atari version. If you never used a drawing program before, you should read both sets of instructions.

Blazing Paddles still has a few rough edges, though. For example, you must go to a separate menu screen to change pen colors, and all your picture filenames must have a .PIC extender.

If you have pictures created with other drawing programs, you can use the Rapid Graphics Converter (Antic, November 1985) to convert your pictures into the proper format. In this case, you should convert your picture into Micro-Painter format, and make sure to give it a filename that ends with PIC.

Xetec Inc.
2804 Arnold Road
Salina, KS 67401
(913) 827-0685

Reviewed by Kevin Peck

Graphix AT, the first Atari release from a company known mainly for Commodore products, is a "smart" interface box that enables your printer to produce hard copies of Atari special characters-even inverse-exactly as they appear on screen.

Now you don't have to LIST programs to disk, LOAD and RUN special lister software, wait for the printout, then LOAD your original program and start debugging with printout in hand. Instead, you just type LIST "P:" right from BASIC. The printout is faster than any of my lister programs, because the Graphix AT has its own microprocessor with supporting ROM that contains the Atari character set in printer format.

Printing Atari characters requires converting screen characters to printer characters. Most lister programs do this while each character is sent to the printer. The Graphix AT uses the printer's graphics mode. But the 6502 in the Atari doesn't do a screen-to-printer character conversion. Therefore the computer can send the listed program to the printer at full speed. The interface sends regular characters straight through, and special symbols take up less than 10% of the average printout.

The Graphix AT is great for fast draft-quality listings, but if you want well-defined characters, you'll have to keep using your software listers. The AT's only listing mode is draft quality. Normal alphanumeric characters are given slightly different shapes in inverse video. Inverse lower-case letters lack descenders.

The interface won't print the [ESC] character-because [ESC] is used with a second key to control some options while in the Graphix mode. Granted, the [ESC] symbol rarely shows up in program listings, but when it does, you want it in the printout, and you'll need your lister programs for that.

But I'm not complaining too loudly. The print speed is well worth the slightly less readable output and the possibility of missing [ESC] characters.

Graphix AT's Transparent mode sends special characters straight through to the printer. Use it with your word processor, Print Shop, your lister program or any other program that expects a "normal" printer interface attached to your printer.

1200XL owners can use the Graphix AT, but will have to cut a wire and solder a trace. You'll need a printer that supplies 5 volts at 50mA on pin 18 to power the interface. This power output is standard for Centronics parallel connectors on printers.

I would recommend the Graphix AT interface for programmers and non-programmers alike, even with the small problems mentioned. The handy listing feature is hard to live without after you're used to it. The interface is competitively priced and compatible with all the software I tested.

Epyx Inc.
600 Galveston Drive
Redwood City, CA 94063
(415) 366-0606

Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman

500XJ Joystick
The Epyx 500XJ joystick seems like the first joystick actually designed to fit into the hand that holds it. Specifically, the 500XJ is designed for left hands. Your left index finger rests comfortably on the fire button. Your left thumb and middle finger fit into grooves while the other fingers wrap naturally around the base. The right hand has nothing to do except move the stick.

When you move the stick, switches click to let you know you've done so. The shaft is molded around solid steel. The fire button, which clicks when pressed, is perfectly angled for your trigger finger. In short, the Epyx 500XJ is an unusual, ergononic and efficient product. And it even comes with a five-year, 10 million-shot warranty.

We at Antic were eager to try out the 500XJ and, by and large, we've all enjoyed it. It does seem to respond better than our other joysticks (most of which, however, have been beaten to a pulp while working on programs and reviews).

However, if you're the type who likes to leave the joystick on the table and keep one hand free, forget it. You must hold the 500XJ. Also, not everyone is right-handed-and the 500XJ is not particularly comfortable for lefties who wish to hold the unit in their right hands while working the stick with their left hands.

But the 500XJ is generally a good product-for right-handers, at least. The sturdiness and comfortable fit are definitely impressive, and the warranty is hard to beat.

Miles Computing Inc.
21018 Osborne Street, Building 5
Canoga Park, CA 91304
(818) 341-1411
Requires 32K, two disk drives,

Reviewed by Stephen Roquemore

Miles Payroll Accounting System for small businesses can handle 50 employees per data disk. It maintains cumulative totals for each employee and has comprehensive reporting and check-writing capabilities. A special report feature produces all the data required to create W-2 forms at the end of the year. The system is completely menu-driven and easy to learn and use.

(Miles Payroll software has been available for several years, but was not actively marketed for much of the time. Antic never seems to have previously reviewed this product in detail. -ANTIC ED) -

Written in Atari BASIC, the Miles Payroll system should also run under BASIC XL/XE successfully. But it does not take advantage of the extra RAM in a 130XE or an 800XL.

Miles Payroll tracks eight kinds of earnings and includes federal, state, and city withholding taxes, FICA, SDI (for California users), group insurance and three user-defined deduction categories, one of which sets up deductions for tax-sheltered retirement plans. Miles also lets you maintain federal and state unemployment insurance, and allows 10 user-defined workman's compensation categories.

You can change federal, state and city tax data easily at year-end because the tax information is set up in tables. A thorough section in the manual leads you through this process.

The excellent manual comes in a three-ring binder containing plastic sleeves holding the Company Set-up, master and data disks. The data disk can (and should) be duplicated and put in a safe place. The other two are copy-protected. Backup disks and check-printing forms are available from Miles Computing for a nominal fee.

The manual includes a tutorial to help set up your basic company parameters, which include type of pay periods, categories of earnings and deductions, tax setups and other necessary data. Appendices cover setting up the system in mid-year, handling period-ending processing, printing W-2 forms and maintaining more than 50 employees.

Tracks 8 kinds of
earnings and
gives you 15
different reports

Other chapters deal with updating employee data, editing totals, entering time card data and the 15 reports available from the system. Specialized reports include group insurance, workers compensation, quarterly IRS data, pay history mailing labels, W-2 data and time card entries.

Company Set-up took a lot less time to do than to read about. You don't need to set up each item on the menu. If you don't use workman's compensation, for example, you can skip that section entirely.

After inventing some tax table data, I returned to the main menu and started adding employees. The clear instructions in the manual and the colorful screens made this a breeze. Changing employee data was just as easy. You're asked which item to change, then which employee to change. You're shown the current data and asked to enter the new data. Both processes let you change your mind.

"User-friendly" really applies to this system. When adding or changing employee data, you can input pay history information-very useful if you're setting up in mid-year. Entering transactions for the employees was also a piece of cake. Changing employee status to and from "terminated" was easy. It allows retention of employee data until completion of year-end and W-2 Form processing. You can also delete employee records from the data disk.

In the time card entry section you can enter employee hours for each earnings category activated in Company Set-up. For each salaried employee's paycheck you must manually compute an hourly pay rate in Company Set-up based on information in the manual. Salaried employees are then handled the same as hourly employees. You can also edit existing entries before recording data.

File editing was easy too. Its primary use is to add data when setting up in mid-year-you must be very careful to enter accurate data here or else your entire database will be compromised. You can also alter totals if they have been wrongly updated by the pay period report.

The check printing section allows for "manual" check printing, where you enter the payroll figures as prompted, with a chance to review and correct entries. Then the check is printed for you on command. A check template option is provided so you can correctly align checks in your printer. Any printer will work, since no special control codes are used.

This quality and comprehensiveness of Miles Payroll software is very impressive. I highly recommend this product to any small business manager who needs an excellent, easy, comprehensive payroll system. Miles Payroll, combined with a good general accounting package and a good inventory system, is all that a small business would need for proper financial management.