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ComputerAnswers Column 13


COMPUTER ANSWERS JANUARY 1986



Copyright 1984-1989 Simon N Goodwin

WORDSTAR AND THE JUKI

I use a Juki 6100 Daisywheel printer and Wordstar 3.3. I find myself continually requiring the less-than and greater-than signs, as well as the squared sign. These characters are present on the daisywheel (Elite Modern 12, for example) but I have not found any way of using these three characters at the same time. The degree sign would also be useful. Is there any way I can use these characters? Is there a daisywheel of maths symbols available for the Juki?

A second problem concerns variable spacing and the Wordstar commands .CW and .LN, which do not seem to have any effect. How can I utilise these commands with the Juki?
Ken Campbell, Nairobi, Kenya.

It doesn't sounds as if your copy of Wordstar has been correctly installed. Wordstar can drive many different types of printer, but the way in which the more esoteric features are called up varies from one make of printer to another. Before you start using Wordstar you should run the WINSTALL program, supplied with the word-processor. This asks various questions about your printer and then produces a 'customised' version of Wordstar which knows about your printer's special features. If you don't install the word-processor properly you are restricted to simple 'plain vanilla' features which are common to most printers.

When you run WINSTALL you will not see the Juki on the list of printers which are supported; don't panic, because the Juki works almost exacly like a Diablo 630. Select that option on the main menu and you will have access to most of the Juki features, with the exception of shadow printing. ".CW" and ".LN" should then work properly.

The 'User Function' option lets you gain control over the 'extra' characters: these are each generated by a two-character sequence: an Escape character - CHR$(27) - followed by a letter. There are six extra characters on every daisywheel, corresponding to the letters "H", "I", "J", "K", "Y", "Z". In each case, remember, you should preceed the letter with CHR$(27). The exact character you get will depend upon the daisywheel, but these sequences should give you access to all 100 characters on the wheel.

The procedure to set up User Functions is too complicated to go into here, but it is well-explained in the new Juki Manual (ring-bound, with a blue cover). Contact your dealer to get hold of a copy: it is the best peripheral user-manual I have ever seen, and a far cry from the 'Janglish' manual which was supplied with the first Jukis.

A little lateral thinking indicates that you can generate the squared sign and the degree sign on any wheel, even if it does not have appropriate characters. Select Superscript mode, with Control PT, and then type a 2 or a lower-case "o". Both characters will be printed above the base-line, so that they appear as a squared sign and a degree sign respectively. Use Control PT after the character to move subsequent characters back to the base- line. You can also generate subscripts if you use Control PV in a similar way.

Neither of these tricks will work until you install the word-processor correctly - superscripts and subscripts are not 'plain vanilla' features. You may need to change the line-spacing of your file (with Control OS 2, or ".LH") to stop the subscripts and superscripts running together between one line and the next.

I don't think there is a daisywheel of mathematical symbols available for the Juki, but you can use Triumph Adler daisywheels in the printer so you might be able to use a typewriter wheel, if you can track an appropriate one down. It is hard to be categorical about this, since Juki can make 'special' wheels to order, but I have not seen a maths wheel in any catalogue. Custom-made wheels are very expensive - a one-off costs several thousand pounds - so it would probably be more cost-effective to replace your printer with one for which a maths wheel was already available.



LOSING TOUCH...

In the November PCW I reported that I'd been unable to contact Touchmaster Limited, the graphics tablet and educational software firm. This was a pity, since their products were impressive. Well, it turns out that the company still exists - it has been bought by Panorama Office Systems (0689 820310).

It is even better news to hear that the new owners are selling the graphics tablet, with software, for just £50. Touchmaster could breathe new life into your Spectrum, BBC Model B, Dragon or Commodore 64. Panorama say that they "remain committed to the development of the product, and are working on a series of new products which will be introduced in 1986."

ATARI ESOTERICA

I recently purchased an Atari 520ST computer and have several questions about the machine which the two manuals I was supplied with cannot answer.

I have read that it is possible to make use of the facilities provided by GEM by programming in the C language and accessing the features via C bindings. Is it possible to do the same from machine code?

What is the procedure for accessing the Hi-res memory (not through GEM)? How do you program the function keys? How do you work the sound generator in machine-code? What parameters are required?

What is the procedure for getting into the 'unfriendly' TOS? What commands are provided, apart from the traditional CP/M commands?

Can you recommend any literature which would deal with these topics, and provide information on how to access the disks and read the keyboard through the routines provided by TOS?
Paul Gammon, Exmouth, Devon.

It sounds as though you are being sacrificed on the altar of New Technology! The information you mention is available from Atari, but it is not cheap or easy to follow.

Atari offer a 'Development Toolkit' which is intended to contain 'everything you always wanted to know about the ST'. The documentation includes reams of source-code, the hardware specification and lots of details of GEM and the TOS (alias CP/M 68K). You also get a text-editor, assembler, C compiler, linker, and the set of GEM bindings you mention. The snag: the whole lot costs £400 plus VAT.

The three items of documentation you need most are the Digital Research C manual, which documents the GEM bindings, the 'Hitchiker's Guide to the BIOS', which deals with low-level system calls, and the Digital Research GEM manual which covers BDOS facilities. I should warn you that (as ever) the Digital Research documentation is heavy going. The Hitchiker's Guide contains most of the information you need, including details of the traps to access the hires memory, function keys and sound generator.

You can get into the TOS by creating a file containing the instruction ".TTP" and running it (use a double click on the mouse). When you get there you should be warned that the rumours of its unfriendliness are well-founded - indeed, there is some speculation that Atari will not supply the TOS command line at all in final STs. If your version of the system is less than V.35 (shipped in November this year) you will find that there are no error-messages in TOS - if you make a mistake the machine simply ignores you.

At the time of writing there were several low-level bugs in the operating-system - it is possible to create several files all with the same name, with disastrous consequences, and the keyboard is not always disabled while menus are under mouse-control. One software developer compares the environment with that of Sinclair's QL 18 months ago. Sinclair sorted out the bugs eventually, and doubtless Atari will do so as well, but you should be warned that things are a bit shaky at the time of writing (early November).

There are two ways you can access GEM from machine code. GEM was written in C, so all the links to it expect C protocols to be used; these are long-winded and rather inefficient from machine code. One way to minimise the hassle is to write your machine code as a routine callable from C, and use a C 'control' program to pass messages between your code and GEM.

There is no official way of calling GEM directly from machine code, but several UK software producers have worked out appropriate techniques. The new assembler from HiSoft (0582 696421) should be released by the time you read this: it includes a set of macros which can be used to access GEM from machine code. You'll still need the Digital Research C manual, or some other document that explains what the GEM calls do.

If you wait a few months you will doubtless discover that the UK army of freelance scribblers will descend upon the ST - doubtless forests are already being pulped in preparation for the 'Atari ST Advanced User Guide', 'GEM explained', 'Understanding your Atari', 'The GEM Companion' etc, etc. It might be a good idea to wait for those titles unless you can cope with a good deal of experimentation to fill in the gaps in the supplier's manuals.

The video display is one of the few things you can play with without GEM or TOS documentation - it is a 32K bit-map from address $78000 to $7FFFF. Programs can move it around memory, again via a BIOS trap, but I don't know of any programs that actually bother to do so. Good luck!



MICRO CLUB LIST

I was wondering if you could assist me in acquiring as comprehensive a list as possible, of microcomputer clubs operating in the UK.
R McEnaney, Drogheda, County Louth.

Most UK micro clubs are members of the Association of Computer Clubs, which has its own column in PCW. You can get a set of club address labels from Rupert Steele, 12 Philbeach Gardens, London SW5 9DY. Other enquiries should be directed to the Chairman of the Association, John Bone, whose phone number is 091 477 0036.

If you need the addresses of clubs that are not affiliated you will have to search through back-issues of other computer magazines, which occasionally print lists of contact names and addresses - a good starting point is volume 4 number 7 of Popular Computing Weekly (published 14 February 1985), which listed about 100 clubs and user-groups.

Manufacturers and specialist magazines often keep a register of clubs and user-groups dedicated to specific machines. Your local library should have details of clubs in your own area.



THE SERIAL SERIAL

I am experiencing a technical problem in connecting my Smith Corona TP-1 printer to an Apple II+ computer. I am using a serial printer interface purchased in Hong Kong.

The problem appears to be that the printer's 12 characters per second is too slow to cope with the output from programs such as dBase II and Wordstar. Can you suggest any remedies?

I am also interested in getting a dot matrix printer and would be grateful if you could help me to decide between the Epson printers and the Apple Imagewriter.
Dr. D.D Ho, Hull, North Humberside.

The so-called 'simple' serial interface seems to have been the most popular topic for questions over the last few months, so I will try to answer your question in general terms. The problem you describe is very unlikely to be due to a fault in the printer, the computer or the interface - it is almost certainly a consequence of the way that you are using them together. Yet again I must advise readers to check that their system components are compatible before they hand over their money - this is the sort of problem that equipment suppliers should be expected to sort out for you.

A serial interface (generally known as an RS-232 or RS-423) is a two-way link which passes information bit by bit along a single wire. Other wires are used to control the data flow - to indicate that there is data to be sent, and to indicate that the receiving device is 'listening'. If these control wires are wrongly connected the sending device may transmit characters when the receiver is not ready to accept them, so that characters are 'lost' - this sounds as if it is your problem.

Serial interfaces are generally connected via a 25-way 'D-type' plug. Pins 2 and 3 are used to convey the control information. It may be that your computer and your printer both think that they are in control of the link, and are both using the same wire to issue instructions. This leads to confusion, since they both talk at once and neither of them listen. You can cure this problem by swapping the wires to pins 2 and 3 at either end of the link. You should also ensure that pin 7 is connected at both ends of the cable.

You can adjust the 'baud rate' of the interface and printer, but this is unlikely to help. The baud rate is the maximum speed at which characters are transmitted (assuming that the recipient is always ready to receive them). At a rate of 110 baud (the minimum on many interfaces) your printer may be able to keep up with the data even if the control wires are wrongly connected, but this is really only a temporary solution - it slows down the link needlessly and problems can still appear when many blank lines are to be printed, since most printers take much more time to process a 'new line' character than they do to print a letter or symbol.

If the baud rates at either end of the link do not match, or the format of the data (number of bits per character, error-checking information etc) is wrong, some or all of the characters printed will be incorrect. Make sure that both ends of the link are using the same rate (300, 1200 and 9600 baud are the most popular settings) and the same format - 8 bits, no parity, one start bit and two stop bits is the most general, but it doesn't matter much for text so long as at least seven bits are transmitted for each character and the rest of the format is the same at both ends of the cable.

I can't help you with your second question since it is beyond the brief of Computer Answers. We can't answer questions like 'what should I buy' since the question depends upon too many factors - the quality of dealer support in your area, the exact application you propose (and the future uses you envisage), the composition of the rest of your system, the amount you use your computer, your technical proficiency, and so on... Our answer might be different for every reader, so there's not much point printing it in the magazine.

As I have written before, you get pretty much what you pay for in the micro world, so long as you don't choose a really obscure program or machine, in which case you might get a monster or a masterpiece, and the only way to find out which is to try before you buy. The apparent difference between products stems more from marketing than manufacture. Your best guide is your own taste, together with the reviews and readers' letters published in PCW.




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