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The QL has landed - Sinclair delivers! [message #128095] Fri, 11 October 2013 18:11
dfc is currently offline  dfc
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Registered: May 2013
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Message-ID: <4431@edai.UUCP>
Date: Thu, 19-Jul-84 13:23:43 EDT
Article-I.D.: edai.4431
Posted: Thu Jul 19 13:23:43 1984
Date-Received: Wed, 18-Jul-84 02:15:52 EDT
Organization: Art.Intelligence,Edin.Univ.
Lines: 66

( or is it Crash-Landed)
    Six months after the first announcement, the first  batch  of
Sinclair QL's are being delivered up and down the country.
    For new readers, this successor to the ZX series  (QL  stands
for  Quantum  Leap)  is 68008 based, with a basic 96k of RAM (ex-
cluding screen memory), colour display (32k RAM is allocated  for
the  display),  twin  micro-drives  (based  on  a continuous tape
loop), and a proper keyboard, and  comes  with  operating  system
QDOS,  "Super-Basic" and four application programs.  All this for
the UK price of 400 pounds.  Since it was announced  in  January,
there  has  been delay after delay.  The reason for the delay has
been mainly in the development of the software.
    Part of the problem was that the software is bigger than  ex-
pected.   Instead of the intended 32k, it at present is allocated
48k, and occupies 44k of that.  As a result, 3 16kx8 EPROM's  are
needed instead of two.  The very first machines came with the ex-
tra ROM hanging off the back, in the slot for ROM cartridges, but
now  two are arranged in nasty piggy-back form in one ROM socket.
That's going to be fun to replace when updates come along.
    Updates will be necessary.  The software seems to  have  lots
of bugs hiding below the surface.  The machine essentially works,
but anyone trying something slightly complex  may  find  that  it
fails in some unexpected way.
    The documentation, such as it is, appears to have  been  hur-
riedly  thrown  together.  Information on the commands appears to
be there, but there is no index!  You have to know what  you  are
looking  for,  or  scan every command to find the information you
want.
    The operating system is supposed  to  be  multi-tasking,  but
there  is no documentation of it, and there is a little demo pro-
gram included to set up an  asynchronous  task  -  which  doesn't
work!   It is definately not the user friendly system promised at
launch time, one comment is
                      "It makes CP/M look friendly"
    The "Super-Basic" is an enhanced  version  of  the  language,
with  structured  constructs (conditions and loops) and recursive
procedures and functions with parameters and local variables.
    The colour graphics are based on true  bit-mapping,  so  that
any  of the eight colours (4 in hi-res mode) can be used anywhere
on the screen.  It's bit-mapped only, though, so you  can't  PEEK
to find out what characters are on the screen.
    The microdrives seem quite nice.  Each holds about 100k,  ar-
ranged  in  512  byte  blocks.  Since it takes about 8 seconds to
scan through the complete loop, access times could be a bit slow,
but it seems that the free memory is used as a buffer to remember
recently accessed blocks.
    Sinclair say QDOS documentation will  be  produced  sometime,
but don't promise when, and also a revised User Guide is promised
to everyone when they get it right.
    I haven't used the supplied programs yet, but someone  else's
comment was that the word processor, QUILL, seemed very slow, and
was little more than a text editor.  No doubt,  updates  of  that
will also be around.
    The overall impression of several people  is  that  it  is  a
machine for hackers, not the first-time and business users it ap-
pears to be aimed at, and  that  it  will  need  a  good  bit  of
straightening  out  before  it  can be relied on.  Still, for the
price, you get a machine with random-access  backing  store,  and
once  the  software  writers  start producing packages for it, it
could have quite a market.
    It's only being sold mail-order yet (supply hasn't caught  up
with demand) but watch out for when it makes it across the Atlan-
tic.


David Corner            edai!dfc
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