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The History of 8bit Gaming in the UK » Blog Archive » Popular Computing Weekly 26 Apr - 2 May 1984


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Popular Computing Weekly 26 Apr - 2 May 1984

New imprint to foil the pirates

LATEST in the line of software protection devices is Imprint 2 from A & F Software.

Imprint 2 has been developed from a system copyrighted by Jim Lamont in 1978. It was a later anti-piracy device of his that was seized by the MoD earlier this year.

The device is incorporated into the program in two stages; the first during the actual writing and the second at the duplication stage. Anyone who makes a copy of a protected program will find that it crashes while loading.

“We are 99 per cent certain that people won’t be able to get round this device,” said Mike Fitzgerald of A & F. “A lot of people are going to try very hard to do so, but they’ll find it extremely difficult.”

Jim Lamont has successfully applied for a patent for Imprint 2.

A & F is not the only company to be developing his idea, but it is the first to produce a completed version.

“A number of software houses are interested in our version,” Mike Fitzgerald continued. “As yet, we have not decided whether to supply houses with the complete system, or whether to manufacture a ‘master’ package which they can use to package Which they can use to protect programs, without actually discovering the method.

“There are only four people - the developers themselves - who do know how it works.”

A & F’s first program with the incorporated imprint will be Haunted Abbey for the BBC, available in two to three weeks time. It will cost £6.90, as opposed to A & F’s usual price of £7.90, in anticipation of increased sales. Chuckie Egg for the Commodore 64 should follow shortly afterward, and all A & F’s future programs will contain Imprint

Relative details from Einstein

TATUNG has now announced full details of its new micro - the Einstein — planned to be available in July.

Aimed at both the home and small business markets, the Einstein is priced at 1499. The machine is Z80A-based, has 64K Ram plus 16K video Ram and an 8K Rom (expandible up to 32K). This is-broadly the MSX hardware standard.

The Einstein also includes a single built-in 3 inch Teac disc drive. The unit has a formatted capacity of 400K (200K per side). Just over 43K is available from Basic after it has been loaded from disc.

It has a professional keyboard. Display is either 40 or 32 by 24 columns in text mode and 256 x 192 pixels in graphics mode. The machine has 16 colours with a colour resolution of any two colours per 8-pixel row. Up to 32 sprites can be displayed. A three channel sound chip is included.

The machine has a Centronics port, an RS232, twin analogue ports, an 8-bit user port and YUV and UHF tv connections.

Up to three additional disc units can be connected (the first costs £190) and an optional colour display will be priced around £240.

No details are available so far of which chains will stock the machine.

Although the micro’s Tatung/Xtal disc operating system is claimed to be CP/M compatible, being a 40-column only machine the Einstein will only work with software written for a 40-column display.

A +F, Crystal and IJK are writing a limited amount of games software for the machine but it will not be cheap, necessarily including the cost of a disc.

The Einstein has been designed entirely by Tatung in the UK and will be manufactured at the company’s Bridgenorth plant. Tatung is Taiwan’s largest company with a turnover last year of over £500m.

Low-cost modem from Protek

PROTEK has announced a new low-cost modem for home computers.

The device — an acoustic modem — connects to any machine with an RS232 interface and transmits information at a choice of speeds — 1200/ 1200 or 1200/75 baud.

The unit is battery powered and will operate for a 40-hour period on one set of four 1.5 volt batteries.

The modem should be available some time in June, priced at £59.55.

Details from Protek, lA Young Square, Brucefield Industrial Park, Livingstone, West Lothian.

QL non-appearance explained

THE reason for the spectacular non-appearance of the Sinclair QL has now been made clear.

Soon after its January launch it became obvious to Sinclair’s design team that the on-board operating system, SuperBasic and QDOS disc operating system software was not going to fit into the 32K Rom allocated for it in the hardware design.

In addition, Sinclair decided to further extend the software to include extra facilities such as turtle graphics.

With too much machine-code to squeeze into the Rom, Sinclair has decided to put a portion of it on to a separate chip.

First machines — which Sinclair has now promised will be in the hands of customers by the end of this month— will go out with the ‘overflow’ software provided as a separate Eprom board which will have to be plugged into the Rom cartridge port at the rear of the machine.

Later versions of the machine will have the software built into the main Rom, incorporated inside the computer, freeing the Rom cartridge port for the purpose for which it was intended.
People who receive the plug- in Eprom version of the QL will be offered a hardware up-grade later — well before Rom cartridge software appears for the machine.

Because the QL design has a fixed 64K Rom address space, the larger-than-32K internal Rom will mean that the maximum size of cartridge software will be only 16K.

Explaining the decision to deliver first machines with a sideways Eprom board, Sinclair’s spokesman said: “As far as customers are concerned, they want the machine they thought they were buying as soon as possible — and this is a way of doing that.”

Sinclair now has over 13,000 waiting customers — four thousand more than at the end of February.

The form of compensation to be offered to waiting customers has also been sorted out. Each waiting QL customer — regardless of whether they have ordered by cheque or credit card — will receive an RS232 printer lead which retails at £14.95. Those who originally ordered a printer lead will get a refund.

PCWs QL order: Week 14. Delivery is now scheduled for the end of April.

Prize money up for grabs

A $5000 prize is still up for grabs following international chess master David Levy’s latest win.

In 1968, David Levy made a bet that no computer would be able to beat him at chess within 10 years. In 1978, he extended the time limit, having successfully fought off all challenges and his $5000 still intact.

Last week, he played against the Cray MSC computer, reckoned to be one of the most powerful in the world.

After a two day match over four games, he won by four games to nil. The match, held at Brunel University, was sponsored by GEC/Dragon, along with a two day seminar on Artificial Intelligence organised by Queen Mary College.

David’s company, Intelligent Software, designed the forthcoming Enterprise (nee Flan, Elan, etc), computers.

One missing

satellite UOSAT-2, the satellite built and launched by engineers at Surrey University, appears to have gone missing.

The satellite went into space on March 1, made three orbits and then stopped transmitting.

The Surrey University group do not know what has happened to the satellite, but believe it is still orbiting the earth at the correct altitude.They have asked technicians at Stanford University, California, to blast high-power radio waves at the satellite in an effort to galanise possible electrical faults.

Stanford’s transmitter is 1,000 times more powerful than Surrey’s own.

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