Date: Thu, 19-Jul-84 13:23:43 EDT
Posted: Thu Jul 19 13:23:43 1984
Date-Received: Wed, 18-Jul-84 02:15:52 EDT
( 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
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-
David Corner edai!dfc