Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 6, NO. 6 / OCTOBER 1987

Product Reviews

1001 Medical Park Drive S.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
(616) 957-3036
$24.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Jim Pierson-Perry

Hunched over my Atari keyboard, I stared at the screen, my faithful six-string in hand. Staring back in smug innocence was a graphic rendering of various ways to produce a D minor chord up and down the fretboard. Even the guitar strings seemed amused as I tried to assume the finger-position for yet another attempt at this vicious series of inversions. Did Chuck Berry really start this way?

That pitiful scene was caused by working with Guitar Wizard, an innovative self-instruction program for mastering guitar chords and scales. At its most basic, this program is a computerized chord-fingering book. But it goes far beyond that to include scale guides and suggestions for improvisational playing, as well as delving deep into alternate string tunings. You can also print the current chord/scale on Epson, Star/Gemini, or Okidata printers.

Guitar Wizard has a convenient menu-driven user interface that is well error-trapped. The chord and scale fingerings appear on a large, easy-to-follow fretboard graphic. The chord/scale fretboard positions can show note name, interval, or fingering. The main screen options are Chord Wizard, Scale Wizard, Fretboard Wizard and Improvisation Wizard.

Chord Wizard displays the fingerings for chords built on any chromatic root at each of nine positions on the fretboard. An overwhelming range of chords is available, from simple majors up to such esoteric modes as 7sus4 and 9/6. There are 32 chord types, along with more than 12 roots and nine positions, totaling 3,456 variations.

Scale Wizard shows the fingering for 19 different scales built on any chromatic root at any of nine positions on the fretboard—another 2,052 variations. Available scales range from majors and minors to the Greek scales and Blues.

The above choices assume you're using a six-string guitar with standard tuning. If you're adventurous, a special option is available which presents chord/scale fingerings for non-standard tunings. Fretboard Wizard lets you create any tuning and find either a chord or scale. The computer shows all fretboard variations you can pick from. This is a very powerful feature for advanced study that is seldom described in standard guitar theory books.

Improvisation Wizard helps you select notes that would blend with harmonizing chords the rest of a band might play. An obvious use is to help develop solos to go with a background chord progression. Pick a root note and chord—the program then displays a list of appropriate scales.

Overall, I like this program both for personal use and for its potential as a home study tool for a guitar course. However, there's no sound with the instruction, just the fretboard fingering graphics. It would be nice to have the option of listening to the sound of a chord or scale that's on display.

Is this program for everyone? If your only interest is holding a C major fuzztone for a heavy metal riff, you can probably get by without it. But if you're actually interested in learning how to play and are willing to put in the practice hours, Guitar Wizard will help. Guitar instructors also should seriously consider using this software for homework or advanced theory lessons.

Artworx Software Co., Inc.
1844 Penfield Road
Penfield, NY 14526
(716) 385-6120
$24.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Heidi Brumbaugh

"Imagine yourself having a drunken argument about whether trout is spelt with FOUR L's."

"Huh?" I said. But when the question "What is the English word for FORELLE?" popped up on the screen a few minutes later, I knew at once that the answer was "trout." Using images that link foreign words to acoustically similar English words is a technique called imagery.

I'd heard about this method, but as a veteran of language study I'd never used it—and was highly skeptical. However, having memorized 20 animal names and their genders after 10 minutes with the German version of Gruneberg's Linkword Language Series, I was completely converted. It was so satisfying to learn so quickly that I had to tear myself from the computer when it was time to stop.

The Linkword series is also available in French, Italian and Spanish. Promised soon are Russian, Portuguese and Greek versions. Words are introduced one at a time, with the computer giving the English word, foreign equivalent, phonetic spelling and quick image to keep in mind for each. As with the trout example, the images are often bizarre but usually effective. After 10 words, the program quizzes you. Then you use the same technique to learn the genders, and take another quiz.

Far from being a simple vocabulary program, Linkword also teaches the beginning elements of grammar. These sections were less impressive, however. The program introduces grammar in a "this means that" manner, rather than fully explaining concepts such as verb conjugation and noun declension. For example, the program tells you that the German word for are is sind, except when using the informal form of you, in which case it's bist. Mainstream foreign language texts almost always teach these verbs with a table of the pronouns and their corresponding verb forms.

The course covers such topics as dining out and going to the doctor, and teaches vocabulary ranging from clothes and furniture to business and travel. Parts of speech such as verbs and adjectives are interspersed, as is the grammar, throughout the 10 lessons.

At the end of each lesson, you must translate complete sentences. These exercises increase in complexity as you learn more grammar. The sentences incorporate words from previous lessons, thus reinforcing your vocabulary.

The program comes with an audio cassette featuring a native speaker pronouncing the words you've just learned. The audio section is optional, but I found it a very good supplement.

My main complaints with the program concern the drills. The sentence translations at the end of each lesson were good practice, but at times I thought there should have been more of them. You can't repeat these drills without going through the entire lesson again.

The main problem, however, is that the program doesn't keep track of the words you miss. Even though words from previous lessons are repeated throughout, there is no way to add special emphasis on trouble spots. You also can't add your own vocabulary words, which makes it impossible for educators to customize lessons.

Because the program is easy to use, the short manual tells you only what you need to know to begin. The manual also has a complete glossary of the words in the course and even includes a short section on helping your child learn a language. However, the contents of the lessons aren't fully indexed, For example, if you want to go back and repeat the lesson on telling time, the manual doesn't tell you that it's buried in the restaurant section.

The program is geared toward home use, and constant interaction with the computer makes it more active than the book-and-cassette home language courses available. Although I thought the grammar lessons weren't very well presented, the speed with which vocabulary can be memorized made up for it. The package boasts that you will learn a vocabulary of 400 words in 10 hours—and if you're serious about learning a foreign language, don't balk at the claim. With Gruneberg's Linkword method and a little dedication, you'll be ready that European vacation for in no time.

Computer Software Services
P.O. Box 17660
Rochester, NY 14617
For XL/XE (except 1200XL)
Ultra Menu/DOS: $29.95
Ultra-Speed: $49.95

Reviewed by Charles Cherry

Ultra-Speed, a replacement operating system chip for XL/XE computers, is designed to work with most 8-bit disk drive modifications to provide high-speed disk access with virtually all software.

Your keyboard speed is doubled—a real blessing for many programs. You now have all 40 screen columns to work with, and the colors have been changed slightly for more contrast. The [OPTION] key must now be held down for BASIC while booting. Pressing [HELP] and [RESET] produces a true coldstart—the same as turning the computer off and back on. This is invaluable with expanded memory because it doesn't erase the RAMdisk.

The chip has a piggyback socket and switch soldered to it, which lets you switch between the normal operating system and Ultra-Speed. To install the Ultra-Speed chip, you pull out the Atari operating system chip, plug in the Ultra-Speed and plug the operating system chip into the piggyback socket. The switch reaches to the back of the computer, where you drill a hole and mount it. (Take care to protect these fragile parts from static electricity and physical damage. And of course, opening up the case of your Atari voids the warranty.)

If your Atari's operating system chip happens to be soldered in place, the procedure becomes much harder. Desoldering the operating system chip is not a trivial operation. Overheating any of the 28 pins will destroy the chip, and overheating the traces on the circuit board can also damage it. Fortunately, C.S.S. will install the chip for you for free—and within 24 hours. I strongly recommend taking advantage of this service.

Of course, there are always problems when you change an operating system. Some programs may not work with the Ultra-Speed. For example, the international character set has been deleted to make room for the Ultra-Speed handlers, and programs that use international characters won't work.

Ultra-Speed generally requires that disks must be formatted with the Ultra-Speed chip itself, meaning that you can't speed up the loading of protected disks although you may be able to speed up data disks.

Now that I have Ultra-Speed, I wonder how I got along without it. If you have a modified disk drive (especially if you also have a large RAMdisk), Ultra-Speed is a necessity. Even if you don't have any souped-up hardware, Ultra-Speed is useful. The enhancements may seem minor, but they greatly increase the pleasure of computing with the 8-bit Atari.

Ultra Menu/DOS provides easy access to many DOS functions. However, it has a curiously unfinished feel. It doesn't stay in memory while you run a program, so you must reboot it constantly. It's smart enough to know the difference between BASIC and machine language programs, but it crashes if it tries to load a text file as a BASIC program. It supports only four drives and no RAMdisk, but is compatible with many machine language programs.

Ultra Menu is at its best when copying files. You don't need to type the filename, just pick it from the directory. You can have auto-formatting and multiple copies, and you can copy between single-density and double-density. The DUP DISK command does a complete sector copy.

But even the copy utility is limited. There's no way to specify several files to copy, not even with wild cards (though you can specify all the files on a disk).

Ultra Menu's copy protection scheme is so bizarre that I can't let it pass without comment. The disk must have its write-protect tab removed in order to run, which is just inviting trouble.

The program does not support high-speed transfers on modified drives, so you can't use it with the excellent Ultra-Speed operating system, which does. Still, Ultra-Menu/DOS has the makings of a useful product and I hope C.S.S. will develop it more fully.