Smootb Talker, Superbase Personal
Superbase Personal, Version 1.026 is a fully relational database manager that's very powerful, but it's still easy to learn and use. This high-quality British import has a well designed GEM interface that makes the normally complex relational capabilities a piece of cake to set up and use.
The manual was written for PC users operating under GEM, but it has a section for ST users explaining the differences. You really must read the manual thoroughly, but it's very clear, with excellent layout and tutorials. By the time you finish the manual, you'll be well-prepared to use Superbase.
Superbase runs in high resolution or medium resolution. The menu bar on the main screen controls your basic choices. DESK lets you access your desk accessories. The PROJECT menu contains all selections needed for working with files and their indexes, as well as report formats (called "Query" by the British authors). The RECORD menu lets you add, change and delete records within open files.
The PROCESS menu covers all main processing requirements including search, sort, report, update, print, delete, import and export. The SET menu contains several options for modifying Superbase operations such as printing to screen or printer and setting paging, control number and date formats.
You can examine your data in three views. Record View simply displays one record at a time on your screen, one field per line. Form View also displays your records one at a time, but in the screen format you choose very similar to Broderbund's SynFile + on the 8-bit Atari. Table View displays your records in columns, much like a spreadsheet.
The SYSTEM menu lets you set up printer options, get a directory list, change directories, display the status of system files or open files, list a text file, or reorganize a database file.
At the bottom of the main screen is the Control Panel, set like a VCR with buttons for Pause, Stop, Fast Forward and Rewind, as well as Select Current, First or Last Record. Another button lets you specify a key to look up, and the Filter Button lets you set up complex search and selection logic.
Another powerful feature is the External File System, which lets you keep a database containing ASCII text files and graphics images from popular programs such as NEOchrome and DEGAS.
In one affordable package, Superbase combines the ease of using a simple, non-relational database along with the power of a genuine relational database. I heartily recommend this program to everyone from the beginner to the business user.-- STEPHEN ROQUEMORE
(Superbase is the ST database software most-used by the editors of Antic and START. -ANTIC ED)
$149.95, color or monochrome. Progressive Peripherals & Software, 464 Kalamath Street, Denver, CO 80204. (303) 825-4144.
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My first experience with software that produces computer speech was S.A.M. (no longer available) for the Atari 8-bit machines. S.A.M. produced decent speech. But it pushed the 6502 microprocessor to its limits, so graphics had to be turned off to preserve sound quality. Smooth Talker produces speech on your Atari ST. It's strictly for fun because the speech produced cannot be used in your own programs.
Smooth Talker starts up with a rudimentary text-editing window where you type any text you want the program to say. The editor lets you highlight text and use Cut, Paste and Copy. However, the arrow keys are disabled, as is key repeat, which makes editing far more work than it should be. Furthermore, the key repeat is not re-enabled when you quit the program, so you can't use key repeat again unless you reboot. A non-GEM set of menus lets you load and save files created with the editor. Other options will speak all the text, only the highlighted section, each word as it is typed in or each letter as you type it in.
After text has been entered, you can adjust pitch, tone, volume, speed and male or female gender. These options can be entered directly into the text using a special notation, or you can bring up a window and use the mouse pointer to click on the appropriate buttons to make your choices. By highlighting a particular section of text, the settings can be applied to just that section. Thus, there can be multiple settings within the text, simulating several different voices. A whole coordinated conversation can be set up.
Smooth Talker has an excellent English-to-Phonetics converter. Phonetics uses a special notation to indicate how a word will sound and the best-sounding speech programs require that phonemes (building-blocks of speech) be entered instead of English text. Phonetics, while not especially difficult, must be learned and experimented with, so most casual users won't bother. Smooth Talker lets you enter standard English text, including numbers and abbreviations (Dr., Mr., etc.), and converts this text to speech surprisingly well.
Punctuation is used to indicate inflection. You can enter phonemes if you want to, and the manual includes a brief section on English phonemes. You can also call up a phonetics window on the screen, and see what your text looks like converted to phonemes.
Smooth Talker supports multiple dictionaries. If a word is mispronounced, (such as chihuahua, which comes out sounding like "chihew-a-hew-a") you can enter the spelling in the dictionary and then enter how the word is supposed to be pronounced. This can be done in phonetics (CHAXwAAwAA) or in deliberately misspelled english (Chi wa wa). From then on, whenever the word is encountered, your pronunciation will override the built-in rules. This feature permits you to build up a dictionary of abbreviations, since you can redefine pronounciation of abbreviations.
The proof of the pudding is obviously how good the speech sounds. It is certainly easy to tell that a computer is talking, but careful adjustment of the parameters (especially volume and pitch) provides speech which is clear and easy to understand. The 68000 microprocessor is still near its limits-moving the mouse pointer steals enough of its capacity to seriously impair the quality of the speech produced.
Overall, Smooth Talker is fun to play with, but not very useful. The shortcomings of the editor are annoying, especially since the program does not seem to be able to load anything but its own files. (I tried 1st Word files, but they didn't work.) But if what you want to do is wow your friends with the "talking computer," then Smooth Talker should fill the bill very nicely. - DAVID PLOTKIN
$49.95, color or monochrome. (First Byte) Marketed by Electronic Arts, 1820 Gateway Drive, San Mateo, CA 94404. (415) 571-7991.
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