Apple cart. (new books, software, accessories, and a contest) Stephen Arrants.
The first cold spell has struck Morris Plains, bringing temperatures down to a chilly 60 degrees. Of course, as you read this, it is a lot colder! To warm you up a bit, this Cart will present a hearty stew of suggestions, questions and answers. Most of the column will be the First Annual Holiday Wish List. Also, we will have our first contest in a long, long time. So put on a sweater, curl up in front of the fire, and start reading.
The First Annual Wish List
No matter who you are, buying your Apple or Franklin Ace probably took a large chunk of your savings. You got a great deal in return, though--a reliable, well-built, and versatile machine. The trouble is, the poor thing is always hungry. It can never get enough utilities, references, games, peripherals, and other goodies.
This is also the holiday season. If you are tired of receiving yet another sweater from well-meaning relatives, why not give them this column? Who knows? You may get that peripheral you have always wanted, and maybe even another computer user in the family.
The first software I would recommend for anyone is anything from Beagle Bros. Everything they publish is topnotch. Utilities, games, graphics packages--all worth the money. In addition to a disk, you get a chart of PEAKS and POKES, a Tip Book or a Tips and Tricks chart. Every disk is unprotected, listable, and can be modified by the user. With so much junk being offered for sale these days, Beagle Bros. products are light-years ahead of the pack. Their products are the only ones I will buy without reading a review. Prices range from $20 to $39.50.
Another publisher I recommend without any hesitation is Infocom. From Zork I to Planetfall, each game is exciting, innovative, and addictive. All are pure text adventures--no graphics at all. You may have to search for an object, investigate a murder, or save an entire planet. These are not games you boot up and finish in an hour. Getting through one adventure can take many weeks. I am still trying to complete Planetfall after two weeks of play. If you want games that really challenge you, games which do not insult your intelligence or wallet, try Infocom. Though a bit more expensive than the "twitch' games, you will get more enjoyment out of them. They exercise your mind, rather than your fingers.
Electronic Arts is one of the newest--and best--software publishers. My favorite game of the moment is Hard Hat Mack. Though nothing more than a chase game, the nice graphics and the novel premise make this a good game to give or receive. Mack is a construction worker menacted by vandals and an OSHA agent while he works on a high rise building. Mack must complete different sections of the building before moving on to higher levels. Timing is important in this game. You must time Mack's movements preceively on levels two and three. There are also definite patterns to this game. Figuring out these patterns is the first step in mastering Hard Hat Mack.
Do you do a lot of Basic programing? Are you spending more time editing and debugging than actually writing programs? GALE, the Global Applesoft Line Editor from MicroSparc, Inc., has been upgraded for the Apple IIe. GALE is a great help when writing and editing programs. It is almost like a word processor for programmers. You can renumber lines, automatically number the program, cross reference variables, merge programs, and do a global search and replace. Individual line editing is very easy, and you can insert, delete, and compress a line without retyping and recopying the entire line. GALE can be used on a 48K or 64K Apple or the Apple IIe, and co-residently with MicroSparc's Ampersoft program.
An updated version of The Graphics Magician by Mark Pelczarski is now available. All of the routines are faster; the editors are easier to use; and more options are included. Text routines have been added to the Picture editor, and can be used with other programs as well.
Since its introduction in 1981, The Graphics Magician has been used to create programs published by other software companies, such as Sierra On-Line, Sir-Tech, and Adventure International.
With The Graphics Magician you can create and save on a single disk many multi-colored pictures which can then be recalled quickly in your own programs. This is one of the most flexible graphics packages available for the Apple.
Peripherals and Cards
The SuperSprite peripheral card from Synetix Inc. puts real spirite graphics on your Apple or Franklin Ace. Sound effects and speech are included. This is one of the most exciting products for the Apple in quite a while. For $395 you get the peripheral card, an operator's manual, and software. Apple graphics are OK, but for truly amazing sights, check out the SuperSprite at your dealer. You can not only have sprite graphics on screen, but also standard Apple graphics at the same time. Programming the sprites is made easier by the software. The Ampersprite programming utility speeds up your job by doing all the difficult tasks. A full review of this innovative product will appear in an upcoming issue. But from what I have seen of it, I would recommend it.
The toughest part of programming is writing a logical, error-free program. The most boring part, however, is entering line after line of commands. It is the same with other computer operations. Somehow, the complicated commands and repetitive tasks get in the way of what we want to do. Keywiz from Creative Computer Peripherals Inc. takes some of the unpleasantness out of using your Apple.
Keywiz is a user definable keyboard featuring 31 keys which can be shifted and unshifted for a total of 62 keys. The memory of the unit can store up to four different keyboard configurations at one time. Unlike other keyboards, Keywiz is complete. You don't have to buy extra PROMs for different applications. With one Keywiz you could have Apple Writer, VisiCalc, Basic and Pascal keyboards available at one time.
Installation is tricky, involving disassembly of the case from the motherboard. Once installed, you can forget about it. Keywiz does not have to be discounnected when not in use, and it will not bomb and program. Keywiz is not cheap, either, at $299.
Programming Keywiz is easy. Touch the P key, the key to be programmed, and enter up to eight characters from the keyboard. Touch the P key again, and you have just programmed one key. After programming your first set of commands, you may switch to another keyboard by using the S (for switch) key. An LED at the top of the board indicates what mode you are in and which key is being programmed.
The documentation consists of an installation guide and an instruction booklet. Keywiz is supplied with blank templates to be placed over the keyboard. While the booklet is complete, the installation guide leaves a great deal to be desired. More than both sides of one page are needed for such a complex operation. Creative Computer Peripherals never tells you that installation of Keywiz could void your Apple or Franklin warranty.
At first, I thought Keywiz was a poor product. After using it for a few weeks, I began to see how useful it can be. The only drawback is the poorly written installation guide for use on the Apple IIe. The instructions for use on the Apple II+ and Franklin Ace are much better. I hope Creative Computer Peripherals comes out with better instructions for the IIe.
News and Notes
Apple Computer has announced its participation in a Community Affairs Program, which will support the formation of microcomputer networks between non-profit organizations. Apple will supply the equipment, software, and training.
For purposes of this program, microcomputer networks are described as cooperative groups which share information by connecting computers through telephone systems. This program is aimed at groups using computers in a communications environment, where they can use electronic mail, conduct teleconferencing, share databases, create community bulletin boards, and take advantage of other services.
For a complete description of the requirements and standards for submitting proposals, contact the coordinator of The Community Affairs Program, Apple Computer, 20525 Mariani Ave., M/S 9L, Cupertino, CA 95014. The telephone number is (408) 996-1010. Grant dealines are February 15, May 15, August 15, and November 15, 1984.
Apple Computer just won a major lawsuit against companies that make Apple clones. A court ruled that information in ROM can be copyrighted and considered proprietary information. No other information was available at press time.
Apple has produced the Tool Kit for Logo. The Tool Kit offers extensions and utilities for Apple's own Logo package. The Tool Kit will be available free to registered Apple Logo owners. Just take some blank disks to your dealer, and he will make copies for you.
The surveys continue to come in. I am organizing them into a recognizable shape with the help of DB Master, which I will review in an upcoming issue. Here are some things you hold in common:
First, most of you are intensely loyal to your Apple or Franklin Ace. There are a few sore spots, such as no numeric keypad on the Apples, high prices, and a dislike of both the Apple and Franklin Ace manufals. Few of you own software that you refuse to boot. You ages run from 13 to 63, and about one-quarter of you are women. I'll have a statistical breakdown soon.
Many wanted to know how they might go about writing for us. If you have an interesting application or uitlity, an easier way of doing something we published, or a translation of a program published here, send it in. We look at everything that even remotely resembles a manuscript. Do you have a hardware modification? How about undocumented program fixes? We are interested. Typed and double-spaced, please. If it includes a program longer than 20 lines, please send a disk along, too. We will return it if you include an SASE. It may take a while, but you will ge an answer.
One reader had complaints about her Apple dealer. It seems that she decided that the Apple IIe was the machine she wanted. At the local computer store, the clerk said that the Apple couldn't run CP/M (wrong), wasn't very good for games (wrong), and was a difficult machine to use (true, if you have recently become deceased). I called her up, to get some further information. It turned out that the clerk was trying to sell her another machine which was more expensive. It also turned out that Apple Computer no longer sells to that store. This store was not a "Mom and Pop' operation. It was large, profitable, and well-known in its area. It is unfortunate that both the owners and workers in these stores underestimate the intelligence of customers. If something like this happens to you, tell Apple. They'll listen to your complaints and put you in touch with a dealer in your area who knows about Apples.
Jon Foster of Ann Arbor, MI wanted to know why Computerland stores are dropping the Apple product line. Actually, Jon, I think it is the other way around. Apple will lose some profits, but not a major portion. I got some information the other day in a newsletter that circulates in our office. One source estimates that 80% of Computerland's sales comes from 20% of its stores. If Apple lost 80% of these and only 20% of the business in these low volume stores, the situation would not be too serious.
As long as key dealers in the chain are happy, the so-called backlash is just sound and fury, but little action. Let's say a store with a volume of $15 million stops selling Apple, and Apple products make up 10% of its sales. $1.5 million against Apple's $1 billion annual volume is probably an acceptable loss. Apple benefits by having better qualified, educated, and loyal dealers. Clearly, Apple is building for the future on a topnotch dealer network. (Note: The anonymous store above was not a Computerland.)
Randomly reformats your disks! Causes Apple and Apple-compatible drives to emit high-power magnetic fields capable of crashing even the most expensive floppy! Locates VTOC on hub rings where they will be safe! Get 90 more tracks out of your disks with DISKILL! DISKILL! is unprotected, unlistable, and incomplete. Works with DOS 2.1, 3.0, and all DOS enhancement packages. Available for $49.99 at software stores everywhere! From Kludger Swillco.
Above is an advertisement for a new product. Readers are invited to submit advertisements for one imaginary product.
Rules: Postcards onlt! One entry per person only should be sent to December Apple Cart, 39 E. Hanover Ave., Morris Plains, NJ 07950. It must be received by January 5, 1984. Editors' decisions are final, and all entries become the property of Creative Computing. The winner will receive a software package as yet to be determined. One runner-up will receive a one-year subscription to Creative Computing. The results will appear in the April Apple Cart. Foreign postmarks are given two days grace.
Readers can contact me via CompuServe, at 75675, 1075. In January, we will have some exciting news about Creative Computing and CompuServe.
At The Last Minute
Ken Williams, president of Sierra On-Line visited Creative Computing recently. He brought along a copy of Home Word, a new word processor that uses icons instead of control codes for commands. Until now, about the only systems that used icons successfully were Apple's Lisa and the Xerox Star.
Designed for the home user and those who do not want to spend all of their time learning to use a computer, HomeWord is perhaps the easiest word processor to learn to use. Ken claims that it is more powerful and easier to use than Bank Street Writer. At a price of $49 for HomeWord, Sierra On-Line should give Broderbund a real challenge.
The bottom of the screen shows six icons: Print, a printer; Edit, a page; File, a file cabinet; Format, a ragged page with an arrow connecting it to a neatly organized page; Customize, a question mark; and Disk Utilities, a floppy. Using a joystick or cursor key, you select the the icon you wish to use. A second icon display then replaces the first. When you enter text, a representation of the page appears at the lower right of the screen. Words are tiny solid lines with spaces separating words and ending paragraphs. As text is entered, the display is updated. Thus, you can see an approximation of what the final product will look like.
How do I feel about HomeWorld? After using it for a few days, I must admit I was impressed. HomeWorld is so easy to use and well put together that it should be the hit of the market for inexpensive word processing. It can't do everything that Screenwriter II does, but for the casual user HomeWord makes a home computer more accessible, friendlier, and less frightening. I will have a comprehensive review of HomeWord in January.