Popular Computing Weekly 12-18 July 1984

Confusion over QL software

AN announcement by Sinclair’s managing director, Nigel Searle, that the four Psion QL software packages will be released in an enhanced form on a plug-ill Rom pack seems to have resulted in some confusion.

According to Psion’s sales marketing manager Gerry Kelly negotiations between the two companies are still at a preliminary stage, and no agreement has so far been reached.

Yet Nigel Searle publicly stated that the Psion’s Xchange suite of programs (a much up-graded version of Easil, Archive and Abacus will appear on the QL as a single 128K Rom cartridge option which connects to the expansion port on the QL. Psion’s managing director declined to confirm Nigel Searle’s claim: “Psion has made no statement about doing the Xchange programs on Rom on the QL.”

Psion will however release in the Autumn Version 2 of its Microdrive programs for the QL. The upgraded packages will be supplied free to QLub members. Explained David Potter. “We are not satisfied with the speed of Quill, for instance, since the QL. doesn’t have a dedicated video chip to speed up the process of printing to the screen. Version 2 cures the problem.” Another new feature of Version 2 is 3D bars on the Easil program.

Sinclair has announced the names of eleven software companies producing material for the QL. They are: Digital Research. Sagesoft. MicroApl, Scicon, Quicksilva, Lattice, Metacomco, Caxton, Psion, GST and Intelligent.

Digital is expected to produce a range of languages for the QL. Sagesoft is converting its accounting suite. Intelligent will produce a chess program. Sinclair is working on a number of peripherals for the QL, the first of which will be a 128K Ram board.

This will be followed bu a 512K Ram board, Winchester disc interface, combined Modem (from Prism) and terminal emmulator, monitor, printer IEEE interface and combined Centronics and Unix hard disc expansion unit. Sinclair is currently negotiating for the Unix operating system to be put onto the QL.

The QL manual is to be substantially revised and existing manuals will be upgraded in August.

Warner sells off Atari for $240 m

THE surprise sale of Atari to a new company headed by ex-Commodore president Jack Tramiel has now taken place (see PCW, July 5). Tramiel’s first move after taking over has been to substantially cut the workforce. Several hundred of the 1,000 employees at the company’s Sunnyvale headquarters will be laid off this week and Atari’s El Paso manufacturing base has been closed with the loss of 300 jobs.

Tramiel who founded ComModore, and turned it from a typewriter importer to a computer company, has set up Tramiel Technology Ltd (TTL). It bought the home computer and video game divisions of Atari, leaving Warner Communications with the coin-operated games section and Ataritel, a new telephone making project. However, it is thought Warner intends to sell these as well.

TTL paid $240m (£178m) in total for the Atari computer and video game divisions, and also aquired warrants giving it the option of buying one million Warner common shares.

The sale of Atari to Tramiel was unexpected. It was known that Warner had been looking for a buyer for the last year. but the Dutch-based company Phillips were thought to be main contenders.

The future of Atari projects such as its up-market $1,000 home computer and the video games designed by Lucasfilms is now unclear.

Atari’s rise and fall in the computer market was meteoric. Warner bought the company for $27m and saw Atari’s sales rising to $2bn in 1982.

But in 1983, sales almost halved and Atari suffered a of $538.6m.

Last September James Morgan was bought in from Pepsi by Warner as chairman. He set a target of profitability for Atari by the fourth quarter of 1984, and scrapped many Atari projects, which did not look to be immediately profitable. He also cut staff by 1000 in order to reduce overheads.

Morgan, however, has left the company since the TTL sale went through.

Tramiel’s strategy at Atari will be to concentrate on the low cost computer market — thus bringing it directly into competition with Commodore.

Imagine hits more trouble

IMAGINE, the troubled Liverpool software house, was still holding its head above water last week, although over two thirds of the staff have been laid off.

On Monday. July 2 a court ruling gave the company seven days to pay a £10,000 debt to VNU Business Publications. To raise the money Imagine last week sold 110,000 tapes from stock at 30 pence each to a German wholesaler.

So far Imagine’s creditors have twice called in bailiffs to the company’s Liverpool offices, and Merseyside police are also “monitoring” Imagine’s affairs, regarding non-payment to its creditors. The police spokesman stressed that no investigation into Imagine’s affairs has yet been started.

Tandy withdraws from Dragon talks

TANDY has dropped out of negotiations to acquire in part the assets of the failed Welsh micro manufacturer Dragon Data.

The company had hoped. said managing director John Sayers, to have acquired the Dragon name and finished goods stock in order to provide support for existing users.

However. Tandy has now decided that there is no possibility of restoring profits to the Kenfig assembly plant and, having failed to reach an agreement with the receivers Touche Ross, has pulled Out.

This leaves only one company — GEC — still in the bidding for Dragon Data. A GEC spokesman declined to comment on the situation but it is widely expected that GEC will now continue to market the Dragon machines, with the Dragon 32 dropping in price.

Its launch of the Dragon MSX machine at the Personal Computer World Show in the Autumn now seems likely to be delayed until early 1985. because of component shortages. John Hiley, GEC’s marketing support manager. said. “I am not aware of any problems surrounding an MSX machine, but then GEC has not made any public statement regarding MSX at all.”

Full of Eastern promise

MELBOURNE House is producing a joystick-controlled adventure for the Commodore 64 called Zim Salabinz.

The game’s format is reminiscent of Sierra’s 128K Apple adventure King’s Quest. While you control the main character around the screen with the joystick, text input is also required to make the character perform actions, such as eating and drinking. The action of the game is based on Arabian Nights’ tales.

Zim Salabim will cost £8.95 and should be released at the end of September.

Running total

SINCLAIR is again sponsoring the Cambridge Festival half marathon on July 15.

Among this year’s entrants are Olympic runner Joyce Smith, last year’s men’s winner Bob Treadwell. Sir Clive Sinclair himself, and an entrant from the Falkland Islands. The total number of runners will be a record 2,500.

Fast action against piracy

A NEW group has been set up by representatives from all sides of the computer industry to press for action against software piracy.

FAST (Federation Against Software Theft) specifically aims to lobby parliament in an attempt to get the 1956 Copyright Act updated so that it expressely includes computer software as protected material.

Donald Maclean, deputy chairman of Thorn-Emi Video Ltd, and chairman of FAST, said. “It looks like there will be no time in this parliament of the next to pass a bill amending the Act, so we went to do it through a private members bill.”

Nicholas Lyall, MP for mid Bedforshire, has pledged his support for FAST and will be presenting a bill to parliament under the ten-minute rule on July 24. Under this hearing, the matter can be aired, and can pave the way for a private members bill.

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