Popular Computing Weekly 31 May - 6 June 1984

What future for the Lynx now?

THE future of the Lynx computer is in jeopardy.

Manufacturer Computers has asked its accountants to convene a meeting of creditors on June 8th.

Although the company has not ceased trading, 24 members of staff — over half the employees — were made redundant last week.

Managing director Stanley Charles said, “The company has been seeking additional finance for some time, and while one party has expressed an intent to ensure that the Lynx series will continue, no firm offer has been made.

“It is the desire of the directors on everyone’s behalf that owners are found for the project in the period between now and the creditors’ meeting.”

Geoff Sore, Technical director of Computers Ltd, added, “In my opinion, the Lynx will continue — the project isn’t dead yet, and the company is actively looking for means for it to continue.

Camputers is rumoured to have already received a firm offer last week via its solicitors which would reinstate the staff and set out a five year plan for the company. Its solicitors, Turner Kenneth Brown, however, declined to comment on the situation, and directors at Camputers said that there had been no such offer.

Although the three Lynx micros (48K, 96K and 128K) have sold well overseas, particularly in France and Scandinavia, UK sales have been disappointing. It is thought that this has been a major factor in Camputcrs’ financial crisis.

Dragon joins MSX bandwagon

DRAGON Data is soon to announce a new home computer which will conform to the Japanese MSX design standard.

The company will be the first UK manufacturer to acquire a licence for the MSX system.

At least seven other European manufacturers are known to be negotiating with systems house Microsoft for MSX licences including the Dutch electronics giant Philips, which is soon expected to announce it will adopt the system.

Dragon’s new machine will have 64K Ram, a Z80 processor and a built-in 3 1/2inch disc drive unit. And Dragon will work hard to get the machine out into shops like Boots before the first of the Japanese MSX machines makes its debut here in September.

Commented Dragon’s Managing director Brian Moore: “MSX could well dominate major sections of the home computer market and comparisons with VHS and video recorders can be readily drawn.”

Said Dragon’s Kevin Stephens: “Our view at the moment is that MSX is the way we will go. If so, we will almost certainly also be doing software for MSX.” It is not clear at this stage if Dragon will offer a hardware upgrade for the MSX machine to enable it to run the company’s present range of 0S9 software.

GEC McMichael, Dragon’s marketing arm, declined to comment on the possibility of Dragon embracing the MSX standard. So far, eight of Japan’s largest electronics companies have opted for MSX.

• Dragon has announced that it will be bundling the Dragon 32 in two special ’starter packs’. Both include a data recorder — one with Logic3’s Basic Tutor package, the other with four game cassettes and a Rom cartridge

MSX agree on disc format

THE 10 Japanese MSX computer manufacturers have reached agreement on a common disc format.

It is to be the Sony 3 1/2inch format. Said Toshiba’s Chris Greet — instigator of the UK’s MSX working party — “The 3 1/2inch format has been chosen as the disc standard for MSX — which will ensure compatability for MSX disc software.”

The 3 1/2inch drives will run Microsoft’s MSX disc operating system MSX-DOS. MSXDOS is data compatible with MS-DOS meaning that IBM files can be exported to an MSX machine. The system
calls running under MSX-DOS are also CP/M compatible.

The first MSX micros with disc units are expected to go on sale in Japan in two week’s time.
The decision of the MSX companies to adopt a 31/2inch disc standard is a blow to Hitachi, which had hoped that its own 3inch system might be chosen in preference to the Sony one.

Said Hitachi UK’s Alan Geckle: “A disc format standard is a fundamental part of the thinking behind MSX and it is inevitable that one of us has to lose out. Certainly it is not a problem though. We will conform to whatever is adopted as the disc standard.”

Hitachi’s 64K MSX micro — the MB-H801—will go on sale in the UK in September, priced under 1200.

Design change

DK’TRONICS has now modified the design of its successful add-on keyboard for the Spectrum so that it works with Interface 1 and Microdrives.

The unit costs £45. Details from DK’Tronics, Unit 6, Shire Hill Industrial Estate, Saffron Walden, Essex.

New machine from Atari

ATARI has launched a new video games machine in the US called the 7800 Prosystem.

With advanced colour graphics, the machine will play any game cartridge designed tor the Atari 2600 video computer. It can also be expanded, with a full-stroke keyboard, into an introductory computer. In addition, Atari also unveiled 13 new games designed for the 7800 Pro-system.

So far there is no price available for the machine and it is not known if it will be sold in the UK.

QL board for sale?

THE processor board from the QL may well be available in the not too distant future for sale to other systems builders.

Sinclair Research and GST Computer Systems, based near Cambridge, are currently negotiating prices, quantity and delivery dates, although the final agreement is unlikely to take place until Sinclair has sorted out all its own QL delivery problems.

Sinclair has yet to send out all the machines to customers given end of April deadlines for delivery.

Those few customers who have so far received machines arc still waiting to receive copies of the Basic manual.

Donations welcome

YOU can now donate computer software cassettes to Oxfam, along with the more usual clothes, books and toys.

The overseas aid charity is mounting a special appeal in June and July for any personal computer software from either individuals or manufacturers and retailers. The games can be donated at any one of Oxfam’s 650 shops in this country.

GOSH set up legal fund

GOSH — the Guild of Software Houses — has established a legal fund to fight software piracy.

Twenty-one member companies attended a meeting held last week and pledged over £50,000 to help establish a legal precedent for software copyright.

Commented GOSH chairman Nick Alexander, “All we have to do now is find a suitable case to fight — and believe me there are plenty of deserving causes.”

Valhalla goes US

VALHALLA, the big selling Spectrum title, is now confidently expected to be available on the Commodore 64 within the next few weeks.

A production version is almost finished, with only minor ‘tweaks’ left to do. Although the plot objectives and major features of the game are the same as the Spectrum version, Legend regard the 64 edition as slightly superior.

“Obviously we’ve been able to do more in terms of colour graphics for the characters on the 64 and have improved the backgrounds” said Legend’s John Peel. “We’ve also speeded up the action of the game — more happens sooner — I think we’re getting that bit closer to our objective of a computer movie.”

In what is believed to be an unprecedented move, Legend has insured itself, reportedly with Commercial Union — for up to 12.5m, to combat the ‘Star Wars syndrome’ — pirated copies of the game reaching the shops before the official version. The figure reflects anticipated sales in the US when a disc version of the game is issued there at Christmas. One of the companies believed to be involved in the American deal is video and tv giant CBS.

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