Update Issue 1 (Sep)

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NEWSLETTER OF THE DRAGON USERS GROUP


Issue 1

Chairman Paul Grade,                                 Editor Jeremy Hoyland,
6 Navarino Road,                                     17 Oxford Road,
Worthing,                                            Frinton-on-Sea,
Sussex,                                              Essex, CO13 9HX
Te1 207585.                                          Te1 3551.

Welcome to the first edition of our newsletter. As you can see it lacks an inspired title. I favoured Dragons Song, but it seems that Ann MacCaffery devotees are rare amongst our correspondants. This leads me to the first announcement of this piece, a poll for the name of the newsletter, send your suggestions on the back of a completed membership form, and whichever name gets the most votes will be it.

The users group is being formed due to the demise of both Dragons Teeth and Dragon Data. Our beloved box of tricks is now in the hands of the perfidious spanish and it was thought that some sort of voice was needed to promote our interests and exchange information. Which brings me to the main message of this editorial, any club -and especially a national one- can only survive with a large and active membership. THIS MEANS YOU, so if you have any problems, opinions, comments or contributions write in, also if you know anyone with a Dragon show them this and persuade them to join up, in short go forth and multiply. Subscription for this year is set at £7.50, this may seem a bit steep but with the club relatively small costs are high, however next year we hope to be able to drop the price.

There has been some interest expressed in networking either by modem or RTTY, if anyone has views on this, or already posseses the equipment, let me know and I'll pass it on. That's enough from me, at least wearing this hat, so remember from here on in it's down to you.

A PRINTER FOR TWENTY POUNDS

by Peter Willis

If only a way could be found to interface a printer to your Dragon without spending £200. There is a top quality printer, produced originally for a very large company, which is readily available second hand for £10-£20. The machine in question is a Telex terminal or Teleprinter.

Of course it is not just a matter of buying a Teleprinter and plugging it into the printer port of the Dragon. Indeed, at first glance, it is no use at all. Teleprinters do not understand Ascii code and they demand signal letters of plus and minus 80 volts. In addition they have a limited type font with no $, *, # etc. However, there are ways round most of these problems and the few that remain are amply compensated by the attractive cost.

Let's look at the problems one at a time. The Dragon, like most computers, puts its characters out to the printer in 8 bit Ascii code whereas Teleprinters only understand a 5 bit code known as Murray or Baudot. This can be overcome by translating the characters in suitable software.

The next problem is that the Dragon printer port is parallel whilst the Teleprinter needs its data in serial form and at the re1atively slow baud rate of 50. This could also be dealt with in software, or as a hardware solution, using a handy IC chip called a UART.(Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter) This is specially designed to translate parallel data into serial format and can be clocked to provide the correct baud rate.

So now we have serial code at the right speed and in a suitable format but its signal is at TTL levels where 'space' is represented by about 0.3v and 'mark' by 4.5v. We need to convert this to -80 for 'space' and +80 for 'mark'. Fortunately Teleprinters come with a control unit which also has a very good power supply. This can be tapped using a transistor switching board or high speed relays.

The remaining problem is missing characters. There are three approaches that can be taken. You cou1d print a space and then write the character in later; or a different character can be printed which is similar to the missing one (L in p1ace of £ for instance); or you can overprint two of the available characters (S and / to give $).

If this has whetted your appetite watch this space for further articles giving more detai1s of the software and hardware needed to get the budget printer into operation.

CLUBNET

<P> This spot is for the local clubs and users groups that are scattered about the country, at present the idea is that it will contain a list of addresses so you can be contacted by prospective members, and I hope that you will also treat it as a bill board to publisise meetings, events, ideas and opinions.

We are also considering some form of membership deal for clubs, either as an affiliate fee for the club, or as reductions for club members and would like to hear your opinions. Finally if anyone is interested in starting up a loca1 club we will give whatever help we can; including space in these pages and putting him in touch with nearby Dragon users.

So here are the addresses of the first three clubs to contact us:

Sheffield Dragon Users Group,         N. Down Microcomputer Users Group,
c/o Mr. R. Crompton,                  c/o E.S. Doak,
131 Harringthorpe Valley Road,        1 Meadowville Crescent,
Rotherham,                            Bangor,
S. Yorks,                             Co. Down,
S65 3RU.                              BT19 1HQ.
 
Also W.S. File runs a local users     A late entry was the Romsey Area
group in Sussex and he can be found   Dragon Users Group and they can
c/o Mu1tisoft Systems,                reached via their chairman:
St. Martins, Orchard Road,            Mr. Ashley Anderson,
Bexhill-on-Sea,                       St. E1mo, Slab Lane,
Sussex.                               West Wellow, Romsey,
                                      Hants,
                                      SO5 8RG.

REDUNDANT INFORMATION DEPARTMENT

(or things you wou1d have liked to have known but the book didn't tell you.)

Yes I KNOW you're all expert programmers who know every POKE on the machine, write a couple of Mb of hex before breakfast, and converse only in assembler. It is just possible however, that somewhere out there exists someone who isn't quite up to your standard of genius, (me -ed), and if this is the case, then it's possible also that this deprived person might find a few of the POKES and EXECS that you no longer bother with, quite useful. If you'd like to pass on any of your BASIC knowledge, please feel free to do so...(you tell us and we'll pass it on!), but meanwhile, someone might find a use for the following:

EXEC 46080 COLD RESTART CONDITION
EXEC 41194 WAIT FOR NEXT KEYPRESS
POKE 359,60 SLOW SCROLL, RESET WITH POKE 359,57
POKE 329,0 LOWER CASE, RESET WITH POKE 329,255
POKE 383,157 THEN POKE 383,158, WILL STOP LIST FROM WORKING< RESET WITH
POKE 383,126.
POKE 111,254:DIR DUMPS DISC DIRECTORY TO PRINTER
 
CLOADM "PROGRAM"
PRINT PEEK(487)*256+PEEK(488) GIVES ADDRESSES TO COPY NON-
PRINT PEEK(126)*256+PEEK(127)-1 AUTORUN M/C PROGRAMMES.
PRINTPEEK(157)*256+PEEK(158)
THEN TYPE CSAVEM"PROG NAME",FIRST NO.,SECOND NO.,THIRD NO

ASCI CORNER


by Neil Scrimgeour

Welcome, Readers, to ASCI (Adventures, Simu1ations, Conumdrums, Inc.) Corner. The object of this Corner is to review past and current adventures and simulations, and to offer help and advice to other ASCIers.

The one thing that we need more than anything else is input from YOU, fellow keyboard bashers, the programs that you like, or don't, as the case may be, and of course information.

There's always someone out there who is stuck at some point, (which you, being an Adventure Genius, have long since passed!), and who is seriously giving thought to testing the aerodynamic qualities of his Dragon (Not recommended as it takes off well but lands disasterously.).

This month, there being no questions I don't have to work very hard finding answers! So let's get down to the serious business of reviews.

I have just received one of Channel 8's adventures. Yes, contrary to popular belief, they can be found! The example that fell into my mucky paws was Feasibility Experiment. The plot is as follows:

There is a race of beings who have no life form as such (no not politicians!), and they are searching for a bodily life form that will suit their needs. You have been captured by them, to be one of their 'guinea pigs', and in order to survive, you must complete a quest by conquering the obligatory monsters etc., in the maze of locations into which you have been dumped. There's also something(??) to do with the legend of Alexander the Great, (you come across the odd lion or two!).

The actual screen layout uses PMODE 4, in white on black. The top third of the screen is for descriptions, or if you have a 64, graphics. Only possessing a 32 I can't comment on the quality of the graphics, but the descriptions do convey a certain amount of atmosphere. The remainder of the screen is for communication using the standard Verb-Noun combinations.

The game itself is not easy, and sometimes rather illogical. At one stage you have to dig up a room but it gives you no clue as to which one, so you spend precious time searching for the correct room. This brings me to the second point, you are allocated a limited number of moves, about 700, and at times this becomes irritating to say the very least! I much prefer to wander about and experiment which, of course, I can't do in this game. </P>

Apart from these gripes, and the fact that I managed to crash the programme, it is reasonable value for anyone wanting a challange. Mind you it isn't cheap at ten pounds, but then what Dragon programme is?

I've just got space to mention two other programmes; Dragon Datas 'Shenanigans' and 'Cricket' by Peaksoft. If you are looking for a pleasant, easy adventure, then buy Shenanigans, if you can find it! Although it only took me a few hours to so1ve, it was extremely enjoyab1e. A good one for first time adventurers.

Cricket is the best simulation I have seen for the Dragon. All the action, apart from the scoreboard, takes place in PMODES 3 and 4, Nearly everything is taken into account, batsmens skills, bowlers, varying amount of movement, spin &c, not to mention luck! There is so much more but I don't have space to mention it here. It's a must for cricket fans. See if you can do better than England! (That shou1dn't be difficult!). By the way joysticks are required. </P>

Don't forget to send in your questions, and information, and let me know about any program you'd like to see reviewed.

STRING SEARCHER by N. Edmunds.

This short machine code routine can be loaded anywhere in memory, but you must use the CLEAR command before loading. What it does is quite simple, it searches the current programe in memory for a specified character string and prints the line numbers where it occurs.

To use it type DEF USR0=start address, A$ = "string to search for" and to activate type A=USR0(VARPTR[A$]). To send a list of 1ine numbers to the printer type:- POKE&H6F,254:A=USR(VARPTR[A$]).

Hex loader and dump:

0 'IF NO ASSEMBLER USE THIS
10 'HEX LOADER
20 FOR L=&HH7F78 TO &HH7FF7 'LOOP
30 READ A$:A=VAL("&H"+A$)
40 CS=CS+A:POKE L,A:NEXT L'AGAIN
50 IF CS<>119l9 THEN PRINT "DATA ERROR":STOP:ELSE PRINT "OK-SAVE":ED
60 'PLACE HEX DATA FROM HERE ON
70 DATA BD,83,2D....&c.
 
           BD 8B 2D 1F O1 A6 84 A7 8D 00 79 10 AE 02 10 AF 8D 00
           6D 10 9E l9 A6 9D 00 66 AE A4 AF 8D 00 65 AE 22 AF 8D
           00 5C 3l 24 A1 A0 27 0B l0 AC 8D 00 54 24 46 8D 31 20
           F1 E6 8D 00 49 5A AE 8D 00 40 30 01 A6 80 A1 AO 26 13
           5A 26 F7 34 20 EC 8D 00 3l BD 95 7A 86 0D BD 85 4A 35
           20 8D 09 10 AC 8D 00 23 24 15 20 C2 C6 02 6D AO 26 08
           5A 26 F9 32 62 7E 8C 37 A6 9D 00 08 39 10 AE 8D 00 07
                        20 96 00 00 00 00 00 00 00

When ok use DEF USR0=&H7F78

An assemly listing is available for anyone who wants it from the editor, please send an sae.

AN OPEN LETTER FROM THE CHAIRMAN

Well we're here, in print (more or less!), but before we start congratulating ourselves, perhaps it would be as well to get a few things straight.

If you were sent this copy, i.e. you didn't borrow it, nick it, or find it on a nail behnind the loo door, then you are one of the Dragon owners who wanted a Users Group enough to write in and take the trouble to say so. Thank you. Some of you have gone to a lot of troub1e to get this copy out, and to you even more thanks. But we need more, a LOT more, if this Group is going to exist long enough to make a second edition!

Quite simply keeping a group running isn't a matter of sending off a subscription (please do -ed)and sitting back and reading what someone else has written. All of you must know someone other than yourse1f who owns a Dragon and WE NEED THAT SOMEONE.

If you want a really functional Group, one that can provide you with news, reviews, help you with Dragon Problems, a Group that can he1p you to exchange views information and anything else you wish, then it is absolutely essential to have the highest possib1e membership. It's all a matter of economics; unless you are all te1epaths we need a newsletter, and to produce even the most basic one costs money, which I, (and I assume most of you), don't have.

To produce such a basic Newsletter, collect material, (p1us such items as phone costs and postage &c), printing and distribution, wou1d cost £1.80 per copy if our group numbered less than 100, which would be ridiculous and quite impractical. Add a zero to that figure and cost percopy would drop to around 60p, a far more viable figure. Make the membership 2000 and cost drops to its lowest possible figure of 40p per copy. This would mean that we cou1d not only reduce subscription rates, but provide a far better service, not to mention a top quality newsletter.

A few of us have tried to get this started at our own expense. It may not look much, and this edition certainly doesn't cover half the things we'd like it to, it's not even a proper printing job. Whether this is the first edition or the last depends entirely on YOU. If you can recruit enough additional members then we could have the best Users Group in the business, which is what the old Dragon deserves, and I'll look forward to hearing from you in the second edition. If not then we'll just have to refund your subscriptions, and say it's been a pleasure knowing you, however briefly. I've done what I can to get things rolling, but now it's up to you to find enough members to keep 'em going. Good Luck. I hope you succeed. Thank you for all your help and encouragement.

Paul Grade.

DRAGON ADVENTURES by Pauline Hampson.

I hope to encourage you to play and enjoy adventures. In an adventure you have to complete a task. You may even have to discover the task for yourself. Most good adventures are the mainly text only type, I find the sort thayt you play on a grid, where you encounter various foes, boring and frustrating.

Here are a few tips for anyone attempting a text adventure. It is essential to make a map on a piece of paper. When this is done you can rush around to each location with ease. I always make my map first, exploring each location and seeing what happens if you go North, South, East or West. Often you are given available directions but in some games they may forget to mention them. Here is an example of a simple map:-

                          |
    dead end - passage- circular-
      |                   |
    junction
      |
    crystal cave

In some adventures (Dragon Datas) reading the description of your location is essential. You may not be able to go N,S.E,W but must "GO PATH" if a path is mentioned. You may also find it helpfull to write on your map which objects are where. Some games have a use foe every object but in others objects may be red herrings (try Salamander). Examine each object because this description often provides vital clues. Try picking them up, there may be something underneath, or "Look under" may work. There is often a limit to the number of objects you can carry, forcing you to drop one to get another. Typing inventory will give a list of what you are carrying.

There will usually be several levels to an adventure game often connected by stairs. The Franklyn trilogy has 2 very novel ways of changing floors. In the course of the game you are bound to encounter doors which must be unlocked by a hidden key or magic word.

You will rarely play a game which does not include a maze. It may not be called this but is the sort of place where going N,S.E or W you end up in a similar sounding place. For example Dragon Datas' Seaquest has a meadow and El Diabolero an endless desert - or is it? Mazes always contain usefull items and once they are mapped present no problem. Always enter a maze with lots of objects on your person. Drop an object now and then to see what happens when you go N,S,E or W. You will then see if you have moved or not. The maze will always have a limit to it. Explore it to its limits. Here is an example of a maze map:-

   [flashlight]         token]        The [] mean you don't go
        |                 |           anywhere trying to move
     wallett-------------cup]         in that direction.

Occaisionally mazes seem most illogical. Just ignore this and draw an arrow round to wherever you end up, even if it is odd. Going East can end you up somewhere North West of where you were, but these events are rare. Sometimes when this sort of thing happens it is better to give up the map and reort to a table, negotiating with this. I had to do this in Franklins Tomb. Here is an example of a table:

              N         S         E         W         Up         Down
Sword         dog       dog       sword     sword     sword      sword
Slimy dog     sword     carrott   carrott   dog       dog        dog
Carrott       dog       sword     sword     dog       sword      carrott

If your game has a game save facility use this frequently. It saves you having to start again as you are bound to be killed occasionally

With your map done you can start your adventure and hopefully you will solve it. If frustration becomes too great the manufacturers will often provide a help sheet. While on the subject can anyone help me to find the final treasure in 'Keys of the Wizard' because even Microdeal can't do it.

I find adventures a real challange. Unfortunately I also tend to burn the tea when playing so I advise you to switch off the computer when cooking. Next time I hope to recomend some of my favourites and include a few tips and answer queries which you, the reader, will provide. Happy Adventuring.

LETTERS

This One is in reply to the original PCW letter of Paul.

Dear Sir,

I am writing in reply to your letter as publishned in Popular Computing Weekly vol 3 no. 26.

Multisoft Systems began life in l982 by producing software for the Dragon 32, we have since moved on a bit but wish to offer continued support for Dragon 32 and 64 computers As a result of our activities with the Dragon we have built up many useful routines and peripherals eg. text and hi-res screen dumps, RS-232 cards, speech synthesiser, MIDI interface and many other useful utilities which have been included in our software at various times

In addition to this we run a small local user group to which we make available the above facilities. For a long time I have thought about setting up a non commercial 'Dragon net' service and now that modems can be obtained at reasonable cost perhaps this is the right time.

I hope that this information will be of interest to you and look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

W.S. File, Multisoft Systems (see Clubnet).

PROBLEMS

Some of our members have been having trouble getting games to work, the offenders are Nightfly, Lionheart and Dragbug, so if anyone can help write in.

POSTSCRIPT

Well now everything's in and typed up -oh my aching finger it's time to take stock. We could do with some contributions on arcade games for the next issue, anything and everything will be welcome for 'Pixel Park'. On the subject of contributions please send them to me, Jeremy Hoyland, at the address on the heading.

We will take private adverts so long as they are not too long, for the minimal charge of a second class stamp, please put it in the envelope with your advert and to make a start here's one of mine: if anyone has a copy of Smeed and Somerville's Inside the Dragon going I've got a cheque waiting to come your way.