Popular Computing Weekly 28 April 4 May 1983

Dragon upgraded

DRAGON will offer 64K upgrade for the Dragon at the same time as the disc drives are launched in late May.

The upgrade will cost in the region of £70 and will take the form of a board-swap of the main printed-circuit board. This will be undertaken either by Dragon themselves or by a number of selected Dragon service agents.

The reason for the upgrade is that when discs are added to the Dragon 32, followed by loading in the 0S9 operating system and perhaps another language from disc, there is little user Ram left in which to write programs.

The 64K version has the disadvantage that, because of the chip combination used in the Dragon 32, the 16K Microsoft Basic in Rom overWrites 16K of Ram. The way the Dragon’s memory map is arranged means that the 16K overwritten is the third quarter of the 64K Ram. What this means is that there is still only 32K of Ram addressable from the Basic — the remaining 16K above the Basic can be used to store machine-code.

“The 64K board really comes into its own when used in conjunction with the 0S9 operating system and discs,” explained Dragon’s marketing manager, Richard Wadman. “The 64K can then be used in several ways. You can use the 0S9 operating system to switch out the Microsoft Basic in Rom giving you a clear 64K soft machine. Then you can load into the 64K from disc any operating system you like — Pascal, Lisp, C and so on.

“Alternatively, because of the way the 6809 and SAM chips in the Dragon are configured, you can copy the 16K Microsoft Basic into a sensible position in the Ram giving you an uninterrupted 48K of user Ram addressable in Basic.

“Obviously the 64K board-swap is of less use if you don’t have discs, but you can store machine-code subroutines in the top 16K and then call them for use in a 32K Basic program.

“Also, when you buy the 64K upgrade it will be supplied together with a cassette which will contain the software necessary to switch out the Basic Rom, giving you a 64K of machine and also to move the Microsoft out of Rom and into Ram, giving you 48K addressable by the Basic.”

Spectrum prices slashed

IN a swingeing series of price cuts, W H Smith has brought the Spectrum down under the £100 price barrier.

The price of the 16K Spectrum drops from £125 to £99.95. With the Oric 16K machine still to appear, and the future launch of the Texet TX8000 uncertain, the Spectrum now becomes the first sub-£100 colour microcomputer.

In addition, W H Smith has cut the price of the two other Sinclair computers. The 48K Spectrum comes down from £175 to £129.95 and the ZX81 drops to £39.95.

These prices apply in W H Smith stores from April 26, and come into force a week before Sinclair’s own price reduction is introduced on May 2.

The price reduction bringing the 48K Spectrum down to under £130 will put pressure on other manufacturers to reduce their prices. Commodore is looking closely at its strategy for the Vic20, presently selling for £139, and the price revisions may also bring problems for Acorn’s new Electron machine, as yet unlaunched, but expected to sell for around £150.

Dedicated cassette player gets a face-lift!

COMMODORE has given its C2N dedicated cassette player a face-lift– however, it will continue to sell at £45.95.

Meanwhile, an American company, Bytesize Micro Technology, has produced a cassette drive interface which allows Vic20 and Commodore-64 owners to save and load data using any standard recorder. The Vik-Dubber cassette interface costs $36.95 – about £25 – and is available from Bytesize Micro Technology, PO Box 21123, Department GN, Seattle, WA 98111, USA.

Sord announces more low cost machines this year

SORD has officially announced its M5 home computer in the UK and plans four more low-cost machines this year.

The M5 home computer, originally planned for launch in November, will now go on sale in May and the price has been increased by £20 to £189.95.

The Z80A-based M5 has 4K Ram and 16K video Ram. An introductory Basic Rom cartridge, Basic I. is included in the price. Other Basics will also be available for around £35 — Basic G, a graphics package/picture editor and Basic F, a home business package. The machine will also be expandable up to 32K in 16K units available in July.

Sord’s President, Takayoshi Shiina, in London to announce the M5, also gave details of four new low-cost computers planned for this year.

These are (together with their proposed UK launch dates): the M2, a dedicated games machine with add-on computer keyboard option (August); the M5 Turbo, an up-graded faster M5 with at least 64K Ram (October); the M9, a hand-held computer with built-in microcassette unit and a 40×8 character display (September); and the M12, a 16-bit business system costing less than £300 (October).
Sord, Japan’s fastest growing company, had a turn-over of £54m last year.

Camputers get more funding

CAMPUTERS, manufacturer of the Lynx microcomputer has negotiated further financial backing for the company.

“We have completed a deal involving substantial interim bank finance tied ultimately to an equity based financing arrangement,” commented a’ Camputer’s spokesman.

The cash injection will be used to fund further development of the Lynx computer and to speed up the arrival of peripherals and software support for the computer.

Spectrum is networked!

A LOCAL area networking system is being developed for the Sinclair Spectrum computer.

The system will be included as part of the £30 Communications Interface needed to connect up the Microdrive units.

The interface unit will have three functions — it will allow up to eight Sinclair Microdrive units to be connected to the Spectrum, it will include an RS232 interface and it will also have the networking facility.

The Local Network will allow up to 64 Spectrums to be connected together using only a simple jack-plug to jack-plug connection.

Unlike a connection using the RS232 interface, the data transfer rate, using the Local Network output is very fast: over 100K bits/sec. This means, for example, that to transfer a screen of information from one Spectrum to another will take under 1 1/2 seconds.

The communications interface unit will be available at the same time as the Microdrive units, now expected to go into production in May/June.

Hitch- hikers writ served

A WRIT has been served on software company Supersoft by solicitors acting for Douglas Adams — author of The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

A High Court injunction is being sought to stop the sale of a computer game based on the book. A spokesman for Adams claims that Supersoft does not have any rights to use the Hitch-hikers characters and events in a computer game (see Popular Computing Weekly, April 21).

The inter-party injunction hearing at which both Adams and Supersoft will be able to present their case, is scheduled to be heard this Friday, April 29.

At the time of going to press it was expected that Supersoft would defend the case although Supersoft’s Peter Calver hoped “that a solution can be found before the case comes to court”.

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