Thursday, 31 March 2011

Some girls have all the luck

Seriously some people need a reality check on what they think they can sell at any price just by bundling

and like a couple of others, repeat selling 78 microdrives for £79, who are they kidding?

Saturday, 26 March 2011

I Ain't Misbehaving

I just cannot believe it I have just been a victim of one of my own practical jokes, the 'boards have been pretty quiet today except for one item, which made me check a directory and file on the Quanta library CD.

Instead of looking at the directory I was trying to find, I got distracted by another directory, as I recognised the name as being one I created 'EYE LOCK'. This very simple SuperBasic programme was pretending (not very well) to be a protection utility for other QL programmes, however, I couldn't remember exactly how the joke  panned out. So I loaded the Superbasic programme in to QPCII and ran it. For quite a few minutes I was trying a variety of changes to the listing in order to get it working under QPCII, especially as it was a relatively simple programme.

After awhile, I got it to the point where I could more or less see on the screen the pseudo instructions. It was also telling me, to note the date on the screen, which was April 1st, hence the joke and spookilly close to the same date this year. Well, I quickly got tired of that and then realised I needed to pick my car up from being fixed with a few repairs to get it through the MOT. I got back an hour later and went to check my emails, Outlook gave me a strange message saying the server is not giving the correct certificate, did I want to continue.

Without much thought I said yes, well actually I clicked on Yes (I am not up to speaking commands to the computer yet), I had one from a bidding  website saying I had a winning bid on a QL book, great I thought. Pay Now? it asked and clicking the normal responses took me to the PayPal site, however Google Chrome interrupted saying the server was not secure, come back later.

After a few tries, with it reporting the same message I thought, I will try later and then sent an email to the seller saying PayPal site was down. Did a bit of surfing the web, and about an hour later I checked emails, same server message, checked PayPal still the same message, it was at this point I started to get a little concerned that I had a virus or something worse.

I was trying different websites, that an hour ago were quite accessible, now they were being blocked with this same 'uncertified server error' and telling me to 'try again later', getting more panicky I looked around  the computer screen for inspirational clues as to why this was happening to me. It was then I noticed the clock was showing significantly the wrong time, so I checked it. Not only was it showing the wrong time, it was showing the wrong month and the wrong year, it was, according the the clock the 1st April 1986.

It was set by my Superbasic programme 'EYE LOCK' I was playing around with earlier. This program was meant to be a bit of fun for OTHER Quanta people and a little dig at the 'SuperCharge Compiler' 25 years ago, nearly to the day and it was me it caught out. Talk about what goes around comes around, 25 years!!! suffice to say I have paid my winning bid now.

Friday, 25 March 2011

It sounds so nice, what you're proposin'

As we approach the Quanta's AGM, the first one for me, I note two things, the first is that there seems to be a flurry (if that is the right word I am thinking of) of activity on the 'boards (a name I will use to describe forums; mailing lists; emails and whatever from now on). Lots of things are being brought up, legalities, procedures, what should be voted on and what shouldn't, what is appropriately proposed and what isn't, my thought on what I observe is "is this normal a few weeks before an AGM?", for seasoned veterans of Quanta, they would know, for the first year for me, I don't.

My only other recall way back in I think, 1986 of the Quanta AGM was of a furore involving Freddy Vacha (I think I have got that right) from Digital Precision and a possible take-over. I am very hazy about the details mainly because, the only form of instant communication was the land line telephone then, you didn't have everyone's numbers stored up and readily available. So it was when you saw someone who then related it third hand, or reading it in a magazine (a watered down version) or in a letter from a friend or someone in the know, and if it was sent first class then you got the following day whoohoo.

The second thing I am reminded of from noting the goings on is that I haven't got time to reply, or that commenting on it is low on my list of priorities, I am reaching maximum capacity on things I am doing at the moment in regards to the QL. What amazes me is that I seem to be juggling about nine or ten things at the moment, and that I am still doing it, the fact that my brain hasn't given up on me and decided to have a lost memory shut-down sequence, unlike my laptop which has done so three time now.

The fact that I call it juggling and not multitasking is interesting, my other half would have a fit if she new I was doing more than three things at once. For some unknown reason, if I am washing up stuff and she is talking to me, I have to ask her to repeat what she has been saying, and then get accused of not listening to her, how unfair is that? When the boot (no QL pun intended) is on the other foot and I start talking to her about QL stuff, Quanta AGM on any STAR WARS related fact she falls asleep, and I am not allowed to criticise that situation, as if I do I then get accused of sounding nerdy. Oh well, roll on Friday 15, I am going up to Manchester early.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Oh!, think twice, its another day for you...

I am reliably informed by the students I teach that having a 'blonde moment' is not sexist nor insulting against blonde women it is just a normal expression used by the youth apparently, so taking that at face value, I have recently had a blonde moment, engaging in a thread (I wont say where but you can guess) just before doing something else, the conversation was about Miracle Systems floppy disk interface, I quickly added I recently got hold of two but they were not working and left it at that. 

Suffice to say that later when looking at that thread the response was quizzical as it referred to Trump Card, now I have heard this before on various mailing lists, websites etc. the Trump Card was a bit like the Gold Card or the Super Gold Card fancy name and it did stuff but I never got to know exactly what or I made assumptions about what it did. 

The problem here is that when you are trying to catch up several years worth of history, a lot of reading about STUFF tends to blur together, as reading most of the articles is a bit like watching the film The Exorcist with present day expectations, so what, mediocre special effects, naff  storyline. Its all out of context as The Exorcist was a turning point film with ground breaking special effects and covering taboo subjects.

With this mind, the STUFF tends to blur and I don't know what any of the significances are as I am reading about it all, just taking note of names that seem familiar, anyhoo, following the follow-up post I went to photograph the two interfaces realising they were not Miracle Systems but Micro Peripherals, if you squint your eyes at the two you will see that it is difficult to see the difference. That was my blonde moment.

I suppose all this will come with time but making those sorts of silly mistakes is inevitable as you get older, however its not until you look in to the history of the QL you then start to realise how many companies were involved. the ones that sold the most, notorious or lasted the longest are now familiar, but there were loads of others.

Finally I put a spin on the oft said CD-ROM publicity phrase Write once Read many times, for posting however it should be Read many times, Write once...

Thursday, 17 March 2011

And another one down

Further to the post below I have now had a look at the fuss over the FPGA Programmable Gaming Hardware website here The site doesn't tell you a lot on the main page just a few pictures and a revision type version blog really, so to find out a bit more to start with what does FPGA stand for me be a good start. The pictures do show what the board contains, how small it is and the plethora of connections, it also shows it connected to a power supply, a monitor and running something akin to workbench an Amiga operating system front end, emulating apparently a 68000 processor interesting.

So going down the left hand side navigation bar the next option under News, as that is the default, is Games. The games page just shows picture and further links to the code for the games, pretty basic games at that, frogger, pacman, space invaders all the classics but still no further in finding out what FPGA stands for.

Next is Platforms, again a memory lane trip showing early consoles from the 80's and even one from '78, however this is an emulation page where you can download the software for the consoles and also the Amiga and Atari, hmm 68000 now this is getting interesting except again another acronym to solve VHDL software, what is that?

Next is Parts, guess! go on guess!, yep

Next is FAQ, well hopefully this will contain:
Q. what does FPGA stand for? and 
Q. what does VHDL stand for? and yes it does 

VHDL stands for Very HarD Language, no seriously it stands for VHSIC Hardware Description Language, a high level language but with another added acronym, fortunately that is explained too. 

VHSIC stands for Very High Speed Integrated Circuit 

The footnote to the explanation was that IEEE adopted the language VHDL in the 1987, three years after the QL. However that gives us another acronym, IEEE which stands for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, an association for promoting electrical based technology.

Finally we get to FPGA it stands for Field Programmable Gate Array and the explanation goes on to talk about its operation sounding very much like I understood a ULA was described in the ZX SPECTRUM days, oops sorry reader (Uncommitted Logic Array). It is also on this page we get to see another name Xilinx which is significant to the QL, but thats later. 

Next is Developer, that just say's Soon! so lets go back to the console page, and last picture at the bottom seems like a test screen, it was clicking on this that was really interesting.
The Spartan 3e Starter kit made by Xilinx is described as having only 1bit RGB output meaning it can only cope with eight colours including black and white (though technically...), does that ring a bell anywhere at all? 

And another one down and another one down, another one bytes the dust

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in to the water, nope, scratch that. Just when you thought it was ok to, nope scratch that too. Just when I thought I had a fair number of acronyms under my belt and started to get a handle on things regarding the history of the QL since 1984. A kind soul gently reminds me directly and indirectly this is not the case. Directly being corrected, as the Super Gold Card (SGC) is not an add-on that increases the colours the QL has, no, in fact it adds processing power, memory, floppy access and printer port, quite popular by all accounts as seen below (which is a link to the QL Wiki where the image lies and a much better description than mine, an excellent wiki setup for all things QL and not an image I have have taken).

I presume its called Gold coz of the colour of that damn great big heatsink on the left. Anyway, when I thought I had finished a few understandings (is that a real word?) of acronyms etc. and after being corrected on an assumption about the SGC, another online conversation I observed (lurked) that same evening more acronyms. It was a conversation that referred to some new super duper system that could be used a replacement QL, infact this device could sit inside a QL case on top of a newly designed PCB to replace the existing QL circuit board. This was not only an exciting prospect and an exciting project but also full of more contractions to add to my (mis)understanding of the Sinclair QL in todays context, will it never end?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


Is it just me, that found that in the same week the Sinclair ZX81 is 30 years old and the disasters that have occurred in Japan are unfortunate that the '81 could be used to run a Power Station?

Give a little bit, Give a little bit of your code to me

Ok Ok I give up, I finally realise I cannot go on using a basic QL without Care Electronic's Toolkit II, or should I say TT's Toolkit 2. so I have an EPROM, an EPROM burner, the ROM code so whats next?

Monday, 14 March 2011

Many a tear has to fall

So you have made the decision deliberately or otherwise to get back into computing, specifically the Sinclair QL and you wonder what to do first. My way as I was laid up at the time was to read as much as I could. This has an upside as well as a downside, you do find out things by reading, the more you read, the more you absorb the information obviously. Unfortunately there is a a lot of information out there and it can be a bit daunting to the complete newcomer and very tiresome to the returner.

My advice is to not give up but to concentrate on one particular feature first and leave everything else alone, easier said than done I know, and there will be other things that pop up that either get in the way or distract you in what you are trying to do. At the present I have three projects on the go that need finishing within three weeks as a deadline is looming, all QL related and all interlinked and all with the same priority.

Occasionally I come across a link to a website that I don't recognise or haven't been on before, this has to be checked out to see if it's QL relevant, if there is anything worth reading, if there is anything worth downloading, if there is anything worth trying and irrespective of that it has to be bookmarked.

A lot of the time unfortunately the websites relating to the QL were written or designed during the early stages of the Internet becoming available and sadly are no longer relevant, become a broken link, were poorly designed especially when considering todays modern understanding of the younger target audience attention span. The thing is, is no one as far as I know, has a website that lists web page links that are not worth looking at, the "Bottom Ten" websites instead of the "Top Ten" so to speak hardly makes interesting reading, although in this case it might be useful.

Now what was I doing?

Saturday, 12 March 2011

This ain't no upwardly mobile free-way, this is the road to Hell

The anniversary of the ZX81 at 30 was portrayed in the press yesterday with quotes like 'running a power- station' a misquote to the computational power the '81 had. For me I bought the kit '81 as I was in electronics at the time, the bought version was £20 pound more, far too much in those days to extend to and the other alternative kit computer was the UK101 again in excess of £100 which was way out of my reach.

From an electronics point of view the ZX81 kit was disappointing, it required no real electronic skills other than soldering IC sockets, let down by that I programmed in space invaders (yes in 1K) from a book and I was hooked, but 1K was too limiting. I started saving up for the BBC Micro model A, got halfway there when out comes the Spectrum, this was too tempting and in colour so I got that.

I eventually produced a game called 'Play Your Cards Right' from the TV series (with sound) and got it accepted on to some  Compuserve BBs of all things run by BT, but it wasn't called that then, the name escapes me for the moment. The game got copied/moved/bought out and appeared on a Codemasters compilation tape for the Spectrum awhile after, under somebody elses' name, I wrote to Codemasters about it but never received a reply, never got any money for it either, oh well.

By this time the Sinclair QL was being advertised and having owned two Sinclair computers already, additionally having seen two of the earlier ones at my work (MK 14 and ZX80, I just couldn't resist buying the QL, the rest it seems, is my history.

I was this close >< to getting a C5 as well

Friday, 11 March 2011

I'm on the road to nowhere.....ha!

For a couple of weeks at least in the back of my mind there has been a nagging thought as to why I am currently so enthused about returning to the QL, this may or may not be unique to  me, I don't know. So to start I need to explore contextually how I got to this point, the advances in technology has been one driver, however going back even further before I left school and started work, my 'hobby' if you could call it that, was messing about in my parent's cellar with the electrics. 

Normally blowing the occasional fuse and sometimes complete sections of very old cable (yep pretty dangerous), however like most teenagers I had no real idea what I wanted to do when I left school, but with my interest in electrics, it seemed logical that my first step on the career ladder should follow this line, so my first job was to become an electrician. 

My hobby by this time had moved on from simple electrics to engineering, electrical motors and such. Changing jobs to become an engineer followed suit thereafter, however I moved on again and got in to electronics in a fairly big way, and so eventually so did my career, around the 1980s my electronic enthusiasm was starting to wane a little and that's when I turned to computing. 

So by now hopefully you can see the pattern, job follows hobby, hobby moves on, job follows hobby. At some point this must have become quite boring to me, never being able to separate the two things. of course this whole thing could be over simplification but nevertheless this is why I think retro computing and specifically back to the QL is so tempting and slightly out of control. This new hobby is it not something my current job can follow and unless I change career into journalism and the one Retro Magazine (as far as I know) that exists, I am not likely to pursue it either, therefore it can remain a hobby and keep it separate from work, hurrah. Am I the only one that has followed this sort of route I wonder?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Man Down! Get Me A Medic

I recently got hold of some QL peripherals, from that well known car parking space named and located between D-Bay and F-Bay. What attracted me to the purchase was one particular item, a floppy disk interface board that the seller stated was from Medic, and for those who do not know the history surrounding Medic in the early years of the Sinclair QL then they should look it up somewhere, I am sure an accurate description of what actually went on with that company is written down and just wants to be found.

From my perspective however, as a then QL owner and a potential buyer of QL add-ons but without the actual finances to do so, Medic appeared to have the X-Factor, the very flashy and colourful ads in the QL magazines couldn't fail to impress, they seem to be giving away nearly free, four colourful games while potential buyers were waiting for the all in one package of memory and interface to make its appearance as demonstrated at one of those Sinclair Shows. It was expensive I seem to remember nearly up to the price of the original QL and although I used to dream and drool over the advert (once a month it seems), I could never afford it. I did send off  for the games though,  I cannot remember if I had to pay anything, something like postage or some other cost, alas I never got anything in return.

The image of that cleverly design expansion box surround in keeping with the design of the QL, a very natural looking extension and the description of how good the system was, must of stayed with me, as when the Medic Circuit made its appearance I just had to obtain it, so I did. It was not guaranteed to work but that didn't matter, it was another piece of my QL history hunger that I find myself needing to satisfy. Well here is a picture of the interface card, you can see the external power coming from the large smoothing capacitor to the top right. Slightly above that, being a blank bit of the circuit board where I suppose the the voltage control chip and heat-sink would be, it seems about the right sized space for one with a linked out holes for a 3-pin 78?? regulator.

Two x dual row sockets which I am reliably informed is the floppy disk connection and a (bi-directional) parallel port. Of the three large chips top left, one is an EPROM 2764(middle), the one below is an 8059 or WD1770 and the largest chip is marked as a 4500A. The memory chips are M5K4164 and I suppose that filling the other 8 empty sockets with same would increase the memory to a maximum of 512K the standard for the original QL, that is if it works, still yet to try that, maybe at the weekend.

On another matter:
Considering the short and sporadic time I have been using a real QL he last couple of weeks, today I distinctly noticed two quirks (no not the Tetris clone, different spelling). The first was that I was starting to get used to the keyboard and not watching intently the keys being pressed, considering most of the commands I actually to is DIR LOAD MDV1_ and FLP1_ you could say his is hardly surprising, however secondly reverse side of things is that I still cannot get used to left/right arrow keys way over to the left of the space-bar and not to the right as they I expect them to be, hmmmn!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

I think I can, I think I can, I thought I could, I thought I could

Much to my other half's slight annoyance of using my current QL setup in front of the dressing table where I have perched our redundant second TV for anyone staying over to watch something, although it will have to be DVD as I haven't got around to putting in an aerial for that room yet and I lost the impetus since Virgin gave us cable.

I say gave, I seem to be paying a far bit for it, anyhoo, I had two QLs sitting in their boxes for some months before I got one out to test it (I haven't actually told my financial adviser that I got two yet, one is hidden up in the loft, maybe some other time), and obviously it didn't come with an aerial lead, rather than buy one I thought I'll make one up. A few days later using all white components I am a proud owner of a 4 meter aerial lead for connecting the QL to the TV.

Plugging everything in and switching it on was my first disappointment, I had flashbacks to a recent (either the QL forum or the mailing list not sure which) comment from someone who was experiencing what seemed to be a number of hardware issues under the bonnet of his QL with some home brew modifications to boot (no pun intended). One of the issues resulted in the appearance on the screen of streaks especially where white was the colour, across the display, unfortunately this was exactly what I had! My first thought was I had a fading fast QL.

However now with my proper head on I realised pretty quickly that the length of cable could have something to with it. so off down to the local electronic store to buy another extortionate priced component a seven pin DIN plug.

This is where yet another 'dawn of realisation' occurs, its been 20 odd years since I have done any serious electronic work, for a start I now wear glasses and looking at tiny pins for soldering with a steady hand was long gone. I un-retired my trusty rusty soldering iron however, and set to work making up a DIN to Scart lead. Well I am happy to say that worked fine except for one slight problem which you may be able to see in the image below. Somewhere along the lines of reading the pin outs, colour coding of the Scart plug cables seems to have gone awry, oh well.

Yes, I know "shouldn't that border be green?"

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Dont Just Stand There - Shoot Him

If you haven't already guessed by now, I like to use lines from film, television and music and titles for my various activities on the web and electronic communication have seen there fair share, this post being no exception.

Rather than just rant about how difficult it was/is for a person returning to the QL scene (albeit Quanta Membership, subscription to QL Today etc.) to find the right information or to be gently lead through a process I thought I would do something about it.

Now I am not coming up with anything new (I dont think), just putting the information through a filter so to speak, simplifying and making it slightly less daunting for someone new to the QL, returning to the QL or just want a refresher to the QL or QL related stuff.

So when it is more or less ready I will let you know here.

Monday, 7 March 2011

De-coupled for a moment

Its funny the things you stumble across while looking for something else, I found this site after a link after a link after a search I was doing for a QL e-books.

Although some duff links there on the page there are a few interesting ones about the QL, technical ones mainly about monitors and a PDF from Dilwyns web site on the PCML floppy disk interface and finally a PDF about the Q40. Actually thinking about a bit more I am not sure of the legalities of this site and it maybe what you would call a leech site or then again just a clever search engine.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Information Train, First Coupling

I wasn't intending to do entry each day but this one was important to me, yesterday, I formatted my first floppy disk ever! using an original QL, yes I know 'big deal' and 'only 27 years late' especially as most of the equipment is that old. But never the less it happened, it worked however the process didn't go that smoothly. Obtaining a PCML floppy disk interface from RWAP, a brand new disk drive from Maplin, retrieving a dust ridden sawdust covered floppy disk ribbon cable with a twisted pair and slightly rusty but older disk drive (also with a bit of sawdust on it) from my garage. I had everything to try to get things working, so first job was to plug in the interface, switch on and see what gives. The  extensions notice comes up, all well and good but there seems a bit of a delay before F1/F2 boxes appear, hmmn I thought that normally intimates something wrong or expanded memory, and as far as I know the interface doesn't have any. This is not looking good, but pressing F2 the noisy mdv whirring away and I set about checking memory and then finding out after trying every conceivable variation of PRINT MEM to PRINT FREE_MEMORY I came to the conclusion the JM ROM QL doesn't have that keyword, no I didn't have my QL manual with me, yes it's on my laptop in a PDF file downstairs and I am too lazy to get and go down there to look.

You have to consider here that besides all the other reasons for returning to the QL one important one to me is that sorting out these issues is part of the fun of QL'ing and that it uses my brain to do so, as recently I have felt I needed this particular level of challenging tasks to get it moving again. I will let you know if it works in a couple of years.

Well eventually I did go downstairs to the laptop and asked the question on the 'mailing list', got the answer and found out that my PCML interface had 256K ram on it, 'result', I did let RWAP know this just in case he had any others lying about, as this one was not advertised as such.

A few days later returning to the floppy disk set up, I went about thinking that there was something missing, there was, a power supply. I needed one for the floppy disk as unlike the USB version I have for the laptop which just plugs in and that is it, the old method needed a separate supply. I had visions of building one out of and old PC I have in the garage, didn't fancy that too bulky and over the top. Then I remembered I had a duff external hard-drive and casing with its own plug-in to the mains power supply and with a bit of adapting the Molex four pin power lead needed converting to the floppy disk style of power socket (well thats easy I've got that).

Floppy disk in hand, I am already to go, powering up the QL and the Maplin floppy disk drive, connecting the ribbon cable between them, typing in DIR FLP1_ and... nothing 'not found'. Oh well next thing to try was the other three combinations of the ribbon cable, polarity and before the twisted pair. Each time everything was powered down, powered up, F2, type in the command, still nothing.

Some general email conversation with Rich from RWAP covered the issue around new 3.5 floppy drive not having the D0/D1 selection link and causing a problem for the drive to be recognised, remembering this I swapped the Maplin 3.5 floppy drive for the sawdusted version and after another set of trial and error ribbon cable combinations hey presto I have a directory, now to try format!

The final working setup, still yet to be refined and cased appropriately

Anyone want a 3.5 brand new floppy drive?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Information Train, Second Carriage

Now here is a thing, I was pondering about one of the first niggles I had returning to the QL and cannot help but compare to the years spent programming in Quick Basic 4.5 (Microsoft's last finest hour) and MSDOS.

The copy and paste shortcuts but even more important for a command line operating system was keyboard history, originally in DOS it was an add-in from a third party until Microsoft  (as they did) decided it should be integral to their own OS by buying out the company who devised it and using or just copying oops I meant backward engineering oops I meant deciding it would be a good feature (in response to their customers feedback) and got their engineers (thats what they called them then) to write that original feature in to the next OS release. So keyboard history became the norm and was expected, simply by pressing the up/down arrow in the editing window.

Imagine my naivety when switching on the QL (real) or running an emulator, pressing F2 and seeing the big red screen,
Ok here goes, DIR [return]
--bad parameter   what!
Ah! DIR MDV1 [return]
--not found
Underscore yes thats it, underscore everything needs an underscore at the end, OK I am not typing all that out again, where's the UP ARROW

what! no recall? no history? bugger!

Right lets try QemuLator
JS ROM, Toolkit II very nice, never got to JS ROM my original QL was a JM and I saved like mad to buy Toolkit II at the Sinclair Fair at Olympia, London one year, anyway back from reminiscing, I tried the same thing and got the exact same results. I thought without that one basic requirement, typing out everything again without recall this is going to be a short dip in to retro computing.

Some days (it could be weeks) later and at the same, time reading/scanning/looking through Dilwyn's Site or Quanta Library CD (not sure which now) and at the specs of QPC2, I find a program called 'History' written by a contributor and that QPC2 has up/down history using the cursor keys, hurrah progress. 

Well by now you should have guessed I have QPC2 as my main QL emulator, but I also have installed on my laptop QL2K and QemuLator, registered with one still thinking about the other. Now before you start writing in any comments, this morning I was again perusing Dilwyn's Site at the 'emulator page' as it was updated last October and I didn't remember with what so looking down the list I noticed that there was an emulator for the Amiga and the Atari ST. It just so happens that I have come in to possession of and Amiga 1200 and an Atari ST yesterday, again got them off eBay while getting a little carried away with bidding using my secret methodology of 'this is my best chance of winning a bid ploy'. So you could say either 'stupidly' or 'accidentally' I now have both these machines, and I wasn't sure what to do with them but now I know, run the QL emulator on them, I will only need to get QL on a Stick (Linux version) working on my net-book and I will have the full set :)

My interest this morning was to read a bit more about the Amiga emulator, so I opened up the zip file qdos4amiga1.lha on Dilwyn's site and there is a DOC file for the Quill which surprisingly opened up in MS WORD with no real problem, so reading down the information I get to this point:

›1m›4m AMIGA-QDOS v3.24 FEATURES›0m

*  FASTER than the original QL
*  LOADS/SAVES to QL floppy disks
*  Hard disk support via QubIDE ROM
*  SOUND supported in full (all possible convolutions of BEEP)
*  SYSTEM VARIABLES movable (even into FAST RAM).
*  2ND-SCREEN fully usable (like MINERVA ROM)
*  SCREEN modes 4 and 8 BOTH supported
*  KEYBOARD history from standard <ALT><ENTER> combination
*  ALL known machines supported A500, A500+, A600, A1200, A4000 etc
*  FOR COMPATIBILITY, data and instruction caches can be enabled/disabled
*  QDOS support disk included with release
*  BASED ON a JS ROM with many JS ROM bug fixes.
*  SOURCE included

It was a double take moment, 'keyboard history', 'standard combination' and 'based on a JS ROM', could this be, using ALT+ENTER? no sooner was I firing up both QL2K and QemuLator with JS ROMs, low and behold ALT+ENTER recalls the last line, so where is this written? did I miss it before? was it in the JS ROM version of the QL Manual? can I be bothered to look? well maybe...

Friday, 4 March 2011

Information Train

Joining Quanta and looking at their website you eventually find a page directing you to a load of other 'useful' sites, some of which are very useful, some contain a loads of information others you only spend a very short time before you realise you need to move on to the next. All of these sites contain links pages but not all the links work, some of the links are dead, why?.

Information is worth money on the web, the currency is is time, spending time looking at information that is out of date is so so annoying. Especially when your trying to find out the latest information about something. If I am new to the QL scene or returning to the QL scene and I want to find out the latest situation on what I can get, do I need to know the history? maybe, do I need to know what I can get hold of now? definitely, do I need to know whats no longer available? well its not high on the list but some sites don't tell you this, dates guys information needs to be dated, blogs are really good for that automatically, unfortunately a lot of websites don't.

The Sinclair QL web ring is a great example of things all going wrong, with about three useful sites on it and the rest no longer exist, what a waste of time. Decent sites should take car how they are perceived went attached  to such annoying irregularities.  

The first two sites I came across that showed immediate promise will be no surprise to anyone, and looking for emulator on RWAP you get straight away that "it is becoming increasingly more common to use an emulator as a means of using older computer systems, without needing to clutter up your desk space.  In recent years, the QL has spawned many emulators working on various computer platforms.", this is exactly what you need, on Dilwyn's site, clicking on emulators what's the first thing we get "Updated:30/10/10", exactly the information we need and then on to the downloads. 

Why cant all cars be made this way? 

Receiving computer equipment from eBay

What is it about peoples pride in what they send parcels to others, amongst the box containing the QL I recently purchased were two broken CDs and dirt at the bottom of t he box as if it had been used as a table in a greenhouse for growing tomatoes with, and filthy, a quick once over with a cloth wouldn't go amiss surely...

Day One - what else would you put in a title?

Well, as a re-noobie or re-newbie depending on your preference of spelling, I have come back to the Sinclair QL, and have been 'in it' for a fair few months now. It was suggested to me by a veteran of the QL scene that a blog of my experiences may be beneficial to others and I thought why not!

So here we are, my very first entry 'Back to the QL' a label I have attached to myself obviously influence by three of my favourite films starring M J Fox who recently appeared on an TV episode of the Good Wife as a lawyer who lost but won his case against the main protagonist of the series.  Back to the QL describes where I currently am in the form of what we/I/people in generally describe as a hobby, and I ended here mainly due to the use of  Apples' iPad whose tied in software (APPS) have a few emulations and it was looking at those on the  worl wide web that I stumbled across QUANTA (for those of you who don't know, an acronym for the QL Users ANd Tinkerers Association).

Now reaching that certain age were things that have used to have 'no effect when you're young' but now 'overwhelm' you when your more mature, nostalgia took hold, and my own personal hard drive started up, the memory releasing bytes to the CPU in my head of just how much fun messing about with 'the QL'? or more likely 'Superbasic' really was. Nostalgia it may be but the fact that Quanta had a website and was still going, wow, the internet didn't exist when I left the scene around '87.

So I rejoined Quanta, got a few back issues and read, looked up as many websites as possible about the QL, joined the Mailing List' and read, or more appropriately lurked for awhile. In the meantime I decide to get a QL again and my first port of call was eBay. I had to sell my original QL as money was bit tight in those days, I expanded the memory internally myself to 640K soldering DIL sockets on top of the existing memory chips, that was fiddly, couldn't afford expansion and drooled over Medics adverts in the magazines with their built in floppy system. I could just about afford two or three microdrive cartridges a year! and had one game bought for me as a Christmas present.

Today its a little easier financially, and I was surprised by the amount of QLs being advertised in eBay, anyway I got one, then I got another and waited patiently for them to arrive. I say patiently, I did a lot of reading both online & PDFs and paper based trying to catch-up with what has been going in the QL World since the late 80s. Acronyms are a plenty and for a novice (which was now how I felt), I had no idea what people were talking about, SGC? why are they talking about Star Gate Control are they all SG1 fans hurrah! oh! nope, they must be talking about some such piece of hardware. Oh look they've even shortened it now to 'GC, oh there's a SGC and a GC and so it goes on. Ah ha 'Super Gold Card' and therefore it must be 'Gold Card', great so now we know, its a card, I wonder what type of card it is? A new language for some, perfectly normal for those in the know, the trouble being, you cannot interject every five minutes asking someone for an explanation of each turn of phrase or abbreviation thats used, there is flow in the conversation that must continue. Sometimes it took weeks and embarrassingly on one occasion nearly two weeks to find out one particular acronym. someone did suggest a list, which was countermanded by "started that, but never finished", any way can't agree on a format, so lets do two lists then, oh well move on to the next topic.