UT, UT and AwayJon Loveless
If you are one of those who found an ATARI under your Christmas tree, welcome to ANTIC, and, I suppose, welcome to the world of computers. This regular column is designed to help you ease into computing with a minimum of intimidation.
Many people find the ATARI, or any computer, a fearsome and complicated piece of equipment. You may be encouraged to know that it is not so much the computer that you should be leery of, but the jargon. Bits and bytes, RAM and ROM, OS and DOS, are all new terms, very strange and confusing. Even the theme of this issue of ANTIC is a bit (pardon the pun) forbidding. By the time you have given these pages a fair reading, however, you may realize that there is hope that even you can understand this computer business.
So, let's explore our theme topic a little. We have decided to give you a taste of what are known broadly as "utilities." Utilities are computer programs that make life easier for the computer operator or programmer.
Many people think that only programmers use these utilities, and as a result they are not quite sure they want to get into it. Programmers do use utilitites, and many write their own to make the job of writing other programs easier, faster, and more efficient, or just plain fun. If you can turn on your computer and do something other than run a commercial program, then you are a programmer (though perhaps not yet proficient). Chances are that you already need, want and should have utilties to help you along.
One of the best ways to learn your ATARI is to fiddle around with utilities, and sooner or later you will write your own. If you have a disk drive and a diskette with some DOS files on it, type in this short routine which will illustrate my point:
10 REM ** DISK DIRECTORY FROM BASIC **
20 DIM TITLE$(20)
30 OPEN #1, 6, 0, "D1:*.*"
40 INPUT #1, TITLE$
50 PRINT TITLE$
60 IF TITLE$ (5,8)="FREE" THEN END
70 GOTO 40
Explanation of program:
ALLOW 20 CHARACTERS
OPEN THE DIRECTORY
GET THE FIRST NAME
PRINT IT STOP WHEN DONE
GO GET ANOTHER
Run this program and behold the magic of a utility! Before your very eyes the contents of the disk in drive #1 will be displayed on the screen. This, of course, assumes that you are not using a disk from one of the many software manufacturers, but an ordinary, formatted disk that has been used. This program allows you to see what's on a disk without having to resort to the DOS menu.
As you may know, when you load DOS into memory, it not only takes a few seconds, but it also normally wipes out your BASIC program. You can change the PRINT in LINE 50 to LPRINT and the information will be printed out on your printer. This routine, then, is useful, time-saving and definitely qualifies as a utility.
Here is another utility, or rather, the beginning of a utility, that will allow you to test and demonstrate the screen-editing of the ATARI. It simply accepts characters from the keyboard and prints them on the screen, but in so doing, it also accepts the screen-editing features built into the keyboard.
10 REM ** SCREEN TEXT EDITOR **
20 PRINT CHR$(125)
30 OPEN #1, 4, 0, "K:"
40 GET#1, A
50 IF A = 27 THEN END
60 PRINT CHR$(A); :GOTO 40
Explanation of program:
CLEAR THE SCREEN
GET THE KEYBOARD READY
READ A KEY-PRESS, CALL IT "A"
PRESS [ESC] TO STOP THE PROGRAM
PRINT THE LETTER AND GET ANOTHER
In its present form, this routine doesn't have a practical use other than to demonstrate the keyboard and to whet your appetite. Fiddle around and see if you can make it into a full-blown utility. As a starting point, LINE 50, rather than END you could have the program do something else. Or, in LINE 60 you could again replace the PRINT with LPRINT and have a crude typewrlter. Use your imagination, keep it to 20 lines fewer and send it in to me at ANTIC. We will publish the best expansion of this shortie in a future issue, and make you famous!
I hope that this has llghtened the burden that usually plagues the new computer owner. Remember that utilities are not magical, they are helpful. One line routines that make your ATARI easier to use are as much a utility as the professional programmer's character generator.
Above all, learn about your machine by playing with it rather than working with it. You will find it very responsive, quite patient, but very exacting. The pages of ANTIC will help you as you learn.
Jon Loveless is a contributing editor of ANTIC and Vice President of Marketing for Synapse Software.