TRS-80 strings; a printer and other new products for Radio Shack computers. Stephen B. Gray.
As the speedometer of our Tandy Special reaches the 65 mark, we see on the superhighway ahead of us the TRS-80 viceo cassettes, SCM's Ultrasonic Messenger III electronic typewriter/printer, the Add-A-Voice program from H.I.B, and another short program that creates twinkling stars. TRS-80 Video Cassettes
At you local Radio Shack Computer Center or Computer Department, you many have noticed, over in a corner near a TV set, a VHS video cassette player and a dozen video cassettes. Perhaps you've even looked at the titles: Scripsit Seminar, Accounting Software Seminar, VisiCalc Software Seminar, A Day in the Life of the Model 100, Agristar, Profile Plus, Legal Software SEminar, Multiplan, etc. Each is 10 to 20 minutes long.
These aren't tutorials; they're commercials covering the basic features of the products. These sales tools are played at the Radio Shack seminars offered on various software packages to help encourage the attendees to buy the product. They're also used occasionally by Computer Center personnel to familiarize themselves with various products (for such people there are also special tapes on selling techniques).
The tapes are professionally made and resemble top-flight extended TV commercials. They all have the same beginning: a long introduction that discusses Radio Shack, "The largest chain of retail stores in the world," the Computer Center concept, the TRS-80, etc. Then the tape examines the main features of the software package.
The tapes usually blend mini-dramas with show-and-tell. "The Scripsit Difference" tape, for example, shows a harassed secretary whose boss wants a complicated report revised (and re-revised) by noon. We see brief segments of this continuing saga between descriptiongs of Scripsit features, showing (with close-ups) how they look on the screen; what kind of documents can be created with Scripsit; how to prepare a document, make corrections, move or delete phrases or sentences; do a global search and replace; use spelling checkers, hyphenation and page numbering; handle printing formats: use Scripsit with accounting and other packages; etc.
Several Scripsit users give testimonials. Several TRS-80 models are described, including the II, 16, 4, and 12, and also Superscripsit. Some prices are given.
The tape ends with the boss promising his secretary that if she retypes the report just one more time, he'll look into Radio Shack's TRS-80 and Scripsit.
These tapes are in every Radio Shack Computer Center and in some Computer Departments. They are excellent sales tools, designed to show the basics of how the product works, its advantages, what it runs on, and how much it costs. If you attend a software seminar, you may have a chance to see one of these fine commercials. SCM Ultrasonic III Typewriter/Printer
The print mechanism used in the Smith-Corona L-1000 daisywheel printer, reviewed here in the previous issue, is also used in several SCM electronic typewriters.
The SCM Ultrasonic III Messenger (Figure 1) is a portable (22-pound) model that doubles as a computer printer and offers electronic fetures such as full-line memory correction, triple pitch selection (10, 12, 15 cpi), and automatic underlining and centering. Combined with its optional Messenger Module, the typewriter becomes a letter quality daiswheel computer printer. The typewriter has a suggested list price of $635 (it is available in New York for under $440); the Messenger Module is $170 (available for less than $150). Typewriter
To use the SCM Ultrasonic III as a typewriter, just slide the pitch selector to the setting appropriate for the printwheel used, insert paper, and start typing.
The three pitches are pica (10 characters per inch), elite (12 cpi), and micro (15 cpi). A different look can be achieved by using a 12-pitch printwheel at 10 pitch ("to provide an exceptionally attractive open styling," as a brochure puts it) or a 15-pitch printwheel in 10-or 12-pitch settings.
All L-1000 printwheels fit the typewriter, and vice versa, since the print mechanism is the same in both, with one difference: the typewriter has an error-correction tape.
Several printwheels are available for each pitch; at least two are designed to be used at either 10 or 12 cpi. The one for computer use is the ASCII Tempo 10/12 wheel, which includes characters not found on the other wheels (Figure 2).
Tempo 10 is a 10-cpi non-ASCII printwheel with characters a little different from the ASCII Tempo 10/12. REgency 10 is a modern version of standard pica.
Printwheels are easily changed. Just remove the ribbon cassette, move the print hammer back from the printwheel, pull the printwheel off its spindle, and reverse the process with another printwheel. All this can be easily done in less than 15 seconds. Ribbons
All three of the ribbons designed for the L-1000 printer can be used on the Ultrasonic III typewriter: reusable fabric (nylon) ribbon and one-time multistrike and single-strike mylar film ribbons.
In addition, the SCM electronic typewriters use Lift-Rite film ribbons, which have a different chemical formulation than the mylar printer ribbons. Lift-Rite prints characters that can be lifted right off the paper with Lift-Rite correction tape.
The Ultrasonic III has a memory that holds a full line of characters and will automatically correct any or all of them. To backspace and erase (lift off) characters simultaneously, just press the CORRECT key all the way down, and hold it until all the wrong ones have been deleted. Then type in the correct characters. Preset Mode
When the typewriter is first turned on, a PRESET light turns on at the top left of the keyboard. This indicates that the margins and tabs are pre-defined, at settings that depend on which pitch has been selected.
For example, at 10 pitch the left margin is at 12, the first tab at 17 (standard paragraph indent), second tab at 42 (center of the writing line), third tab at 52 (signature position), and right margin at 72. At 15 pitch those settings are 18, 25, 63, 78 and 108.
All these settings are easily changed using the LEFT MARGIN, RIGHT MARGIN, TAB CLEAR, TAB SET, AND MARGIN RELEASE keys. Change any setting, and the PROGRAMMED light turns on instead of the PRESET light, to let you know which mode you are in.
As an electronic typewriter, the SCM Ultrasonic Messenger is fine; I've been using it for several months and like it very much. However, I'd like to see several changes in a future model:
* When you turn the power off, the typewriter returns to the preset margins and tabs. If TV sets can remember the previous station setting while turned off, hwy couldn't an electronic typewriter? That way, you wouldn't have to keep reprogramming margins and tabs to often-used settings every time the machine is turned on.
* The margin release seems to be mechanical; that is, it doesn't release unless you press the key when the printhead is exactly at the end of the line. I'd like the key to release the margin no matter where the printhead is, so when you're typing and get the end-of-line beep (five spaces before the end of the line), you can hit the MARGIN RELEASE key and keep on going. As it is, you have to wait until you're at the end of the line for the key to be effective. Enhanced Typewriter Features
Most electronic typewriters offer features not found on standard electric models. The Ultrasonic has a nice variety of such enhancements, activated by pressing the CODE key and a number key from 1 to 0.
Auto Return returns the carrier to the left margin at the end of each typed line.
Auto Center centers text between the margins currently in use.
Auto Underscore underlines words but not the spaces are underlined on Code 6.
Tab Center centers typed text over a particular tab stop.
Decimal Tab allows you to do statistical typing; all numbers are aligned on their decimal points.
Flush Right aligns text evenly to the left of a particular tab stop. Printer
If you have an SCM Ultrasonic typewriter, it can be upgraded to be used as a printer like the Messenger model. Either way, you need the Messenger Module between your computer and the typewriter. Although the L-1000 prints in both directions, the typewriter is unidirectional.
The SCM Messenger Module (Figure 3) measures 1.8 X 6 X 8.8 inches and weights 2.5 pounds. It has both RS-232C serial and Centronics-compatible parallerl interfaces; the serial interface has both hardware and software handshake protocols. You'll need an interface cable; I use the parallel 26-1401 cable with the Model I/III/4.
Press the CODE key and letter P, and the typewriter goes into printer mode. The left and right margins are set to their extreme positions, and all tabs are cleared; margins and tabs are now under computer control, as is pitch.
Controls that were operated from the keyboard in typewriter mode are set from Basic CHR$ statements in printer mode using the same software codes as the L-1000 printer. For example, setting pitch via software requires three CHR$ codes: CHR$(27) for ESC, CHR$(31) for setting pitch, and CHR$(12 or 10 or 8) for pitches 10, 12 or 15 cpi, respectively.
By using CODE-P again while in printer mode, you can get back into typewriter mode whenever you need to insert text manually, such as a name and address on a form letter.
Inside the Messenger Module are the same 14 DIP switches as in the L-1000 printer, to control features such as character length, parity, baud rate, and whether or not a carrieage return is to be accompanied by an automatic linefeed. For the TRS-80, all you need do is turn on that last one, or else the paper will never space up.
By the way, the "Ulrasonic" in the name isn't just there because it sound futuristic. The typewriter actually operates by sending high-pitched sounds from the keyboard to the print mechanism, thus eliminating all mechanical and electronic linkages between the two. This simplifies design and manufacture. Ultrasonic III Lookalikes
The SCM Ultrasonic III Messenger typewriter was designed to be sold by office equipment and typewriter dealers. Two similar typewriters, with almost the same features and slightly varying prices, are also offered, tailored to specific markets. The Citation III is designed for department stores and the Memory Correct III for mass merchandisers and catalog houses. Both are available in Messenger models; add the optional Messenger Module to either and you have a computer printer.
As an example, the Citation III Messenger is $24 less (in suggested retail price) than the Ultrasonic III Messenger; it lacks automatic underlining and several tab features (Tab Center, Decimal Tab, Flush Right) found in the latter. Changes I'd Like to See
There are several printer-type things I'd like to see changed for the Ultrasonic IV, or whatever the next model will be called:
* Put rollers on the paper bail, as on the L-1000; without them, in printer mode, the paper can get all messed up.
* Include information regarding which line at the top of page the printing will start on. As it is, much paper can be wasted figuring this out.
Even without these changes, the SCM Ultrasonic III Messenger is an excellent typewriter and a fine printer; both provide printing you'll be proud of. Add-A-Voice
Add-A-Voice is a machine language utility from H.I.B. that lets you add voice output to any Basic program for a TRS-80 Color Computer with 16K or more of memory (Extended Basic is not required).
Human speech was used to create 25 words, which were digitally recorded and then written on tape, for reading into memory. This lets you create voice output at any time in the program, using any combination of the stored words. Only two simple commands are needed to select and generate a spoken word from your TV speaker.
Two sets of words are provided to be used one set at a time. The Game Set has 13 words: win, lose, I, you, go, hit, got, me, stop, help, missed, oh, heh, (laugh). The Quiz Set has 12 words: you, yes, no, good, sorry, are, right, wrong, try, again, a, winner.
The entire Add-A-Voice program, including one of the word sets and the driver program, uses 4K of memory. Generating Voice Output
To generate a voice output, use these two Basic statements in your program: POKE 15694, X
G=USR(1) where X is a decimal between 3 and 12 that indicates the word to be generated. WIN is word 0 in the Game Set; Winner is word 11 in the Quiz Set.
To change the pitch of the voice, use
POKE 15987,X where X is a decimal number between 1 and 20 with 11 being the normal pitch.
The typed five-page manual (two pages are program listings) says you can add a filter to the program), "to smooth the voice." The sound is just about the same with or without a filter, resembling a voice transmitted from a million miles in space, surrounded by white noise. However, it is recognizable, especially after you become familiar with the short list of words. Add-A-Voice Demos
Two demonstration programs provided, one for each word set. The Quiz Set demo asks to you to add numbers, such as:
6 + 3 = and if you answer 9, you'll hear
GOOD, RIGHT AGAIN or
YOU ARE A WINNER or
YES, YOU ARE RIGHT or
YES, YES, YES. Enter a wrong answer, and you'll hear NO, YOU ARE WRONG or
SORRY, TRY AGAIN.
The stored words include enough blank space after each so that when several are used in a phrase, they don't run together.
Run the Game Set demo, and first you'll be asked to specify a voice pitch (6 is high, 15 is low), and to turn the filter on or off. Then enter a number between 1 and 5, and a voice says a few words at the same time the words are shown on the screen, to demonstrate phrases that might be used in games, such as:
YOU WIN--I LOSE or
OH! OH! STOP! HELP! or
I MISSED YOU or
I GOT YOU, HEH-HEH or
YOU HIT ME.
That's all there is to it, except for two "Tips to conserve memory in you Basic program," the second of which is: Use a DATA statement to specify the number of each word in a phrase, like this: DATA 1,5,7,4,9. Then READ these numbers and POKE them into memory to generate a voice output.
Complete listings of the two demo programs are provided to show how simple it is to add voice to a Basic program.
Add-A-Voice is $14.95, plus $1 for shipping and handling, from H.I.B. Specify 16K or 32K. Short Program 49: Twinkle 2
The November 1983 column ended with a short program (p. 330) that creates the effect of twinkling stars. But not quite, so readers were asked if they could improve on the original program. Many sent in responses; the better ones will be repritned here. One at a time, that is, so as not to bore you with all that twinkling.
Fred Burggraf of Port Tobacco, MD, has a straightforward approach:
110 DIM A(100), B(100)
130 FOR Z=1 TO 100
140 A(Z) = RND(127)
150 B(Z) = RND(47)
220 FOR ZZ=1 TO 20: NEXT
260 GOTO 180
This clever adaptation and expansion of the original uses twin arrays (110) to turn on 100 pixels (stars)(130-170) in random locations across the sky (screen). Then it randomly resets a star (190) along with two others: the stars to the immediate southeast (200) and northwest (210); that is, if there are stars in those three lcoations. After a slight delay (220) to provide a more realistic twinkle than a fast off-and-on, these three stars (actually, from zero to three stars) are turned on again (230-250). Line 260 recycles the program, to continue the twinkle process among the 100 stars in this fixed TRS-80 firmament.
Because not many stars in this display are accompanied by immediate SE/NW companions, almost the same effect can be achieved without lines 200-210 and 240-250. However, the delay in line 220 should then be increased to 40 from 20 to make up for the delay provided by the eliminated lines.
For more twinkle programs, stay tuned to this station.