CURSOR: Issues 23 Through 28
Marlene R. Pratto
The Code Works is no longer publishing its cassette magazine for PET, CURSOR, but the back issues reviewed below are still available. ($5.95 each or $4.95 for orders of 12 or more.)
If your school is fortunate enough to own and use PET/CBM microcomputers, you can build your software library with programs from CURSOR. CURSOR, a cassette magazine, is published by Ron Jeffries of Code Works in Goleta, California.
Programs on CURSOR cost less than one dollar each, but are worth much more. I have classified CURSOR programs from issues 23–28 for children from kindergarten to eighth grade. In addition to five general classifications, I have added a sixth classification, TL, for Tools. Tools are those CURSOR programs which enable a user to program more effectively and with less effort (for example, X-REF) or to do other work more efficiently than without a program (Repair).
These tool programs may be used in a school setting. X-REF provides a cross-reference of variables used in a program, and RE-NUM renumbers the lines in a BASIC program.
One kind of "tool" program can also be used in schools to aid teachers, media specialists, and administrators in their work. In addition, students may use these tools to learn more about current and potential uses of computers. These programs enable the students to "do work" rather than to gain skills to be used later or to learn a body of knowledge. The children will learn skills and gain knowledge, but in a context different from the drill and simulation programs frequently used with children.
The Repair program mentioned previously can be used as a library checkout system. The program forms a file of items to be repaired. A record for a customer consists of a tag, name, amount, and location. A school media center could use the program to keep track of the books checked out to various rooms or units within the school. The tag would be the call number of the book; the name, the title of the book; the amount, the due date, such as 12.3 for December 3; and the location, the room number or unit. The program could also be used for checking out books to individuals, depending on the call number to identify the book and using the name as the name of the borrower.
The program is flexible, menu driven, and easy to use, and could be used by children in the media center. What a nice way to introduce children to the variety of uses of a computer.
The Mail program from CURSOR 25 is quite valuable. Mail creates and maintains a file of names for generating mailing labels. Letting children think of other ways to use the Mail program will help them learn new uses for other computer programs. One great advantage of CURSOR programs is that they are not protected; we can list them, change them, or make them into new programs when we or the children want to or are able to.
Several of these programs are usable by two persons at the same time. Among these is "Mwhiz!". A mathematical statement is printed on the screen. Each person tries to determine if the statement is true or false and then to press the appropriate button before the other person. This certainly makes learning mathematics enjoyable.
Maxit is a clever and challenging game which can be played against the PET to learn some skills and strategy (hence the DT classification below) before playing with another person. Other two-person programs are Ambush! and Tank!.
One program, Safe!, can be played by sight-handicapped children. The program simulates cracking a safe–the child listens to the clicks as he turns the knob by pressing the number pad. The game does use graphics, but the player does not have to look at what is on the screen to "crack the safe."
Enigma should send many children on a search for information about coding and decoding in World War II. Using and learning about Enigma is fascinating.
Strictly speaking, Printsit requires a printer so that children may print the pictures they have made on the screen. However, the program can be enjoyed whether or not the pictures can be saved.
Some of the CURSOR games can be played at several levels. Younger children can start playing at the lowest level, and as they build up playing skills they can move to higher levels. Older children can start at higher levels. Frequently, the highest level in a game is a real challenge to even the best computer users. Multiple levels allow many children in a school to use the same programs. This provides for discussion among the different age levels and for a pleasant learning atmosphere.
One of the most congenial programs from these CURSOR issues is Miser, an adventure game. Miser was played continuously for two months at Erwin Open School, where it was the topic of both intense and casual conversations. Children exchanged information about what was hidden where. They used a thesaurus to look up alternative words when they could not make the computer take action. Some people think that personal computers will lead to fewer human conversations, but this program resulted in much conversation and cooperation.
Classification Of CURSOR Programs Issues 23 To 28
LEVEL PROGRAM ISSUE CLASSIFICATION K-2 LAWN! 26 HE PS FF PRINTSIT 24 HE PS FF RESCUE! 25 HE PS 3-4 All of the above BLASTO! 28 PS FF DEFEND! 24 HE PS EMAZE! 27 HE PS FLAGS! 28 DT FF MISER! 27 PS MWHIZ! 23 DT PS RACER! 24 HE PS SAFE! 26 HE PS FF TANK! 26 PS VOZ 28 LS 5-6 All of the above AMBUSH! 23 LS PS ENIGMA 23 DT LS PS MAXIT 25 DT LS PS PROCHAR 27 PS TL RE-NUM 24 PS TL RECIPE 23 PS TL SKEET! 28 HE PS FF 7-8 All of the above ATTACK! 27 PS DUEL! 27 LS PS G-WORD 24 LS PS MAIL 25 TL ORRERY 23 DT RAM 26 LS REPAIR 25 PS TL STOP! 28 LS PS X-REF 25 DT PS TL Teachers and aids TEST 26 TL
Codes For Classifications
HE hand and eye coordination
LS logical skills
FF fun and familiarity with the PET
DT drill and tutor
PS problem solving
Perhaps adventure style games have benefits beyond the social involvement and program solving. Because Miser and other adventure games have a restricted set of words that they understand, the player may know what to do, but not how to make the computer do it. This is similar to learning a programming language. The potential programmer may know what he/she wants the computer to do, but he/she must learn the words of the programming language used. Each computer language is a small subset of the language that humans know.
One of the programs, Test, will help teachers in grading. This program is nicely designed and even has its own example data to demonstrate what it does.
Our school here continues to find CURSOR an excellent resource for its PET microcomputers. The children have maintained their interest in computing over the past two and one-half years, and the newer children are quick to make friends with the PETs.
The Code Works
Goleta, CA 93116