THE 14TH ZX MICROFAIR
THE 14TH ZX MICROFAIR was held at Ally Pally on the weekend of 17/18th November.
There was initially a threat of it being overshadowed by the MICROMARKET which originally was scheduled to be held at Ally Pally, but was then moved to the Wembley Conference Centre. The result was a very poor attendance in Wembley and the usual crowd gathering at the ZX FAIR — old habits die slowly (which should please Mike Johnston the organiser). Less positive was the line-up of software houses. Very few of the biggies showed up, most stands being occupied by high street dealers and smaller software houses. Amongst the noteworthy exceptions were DK’tronics with their usual 5th Avenue stand, Automata with their entertaining fairground activities, Fantasy, Microsphere and CCS. Fantasy were displaying their latest hit Backpackers Guide to the Universe, priced at £7.50, which has generated hefty sales figures within the first week of its launch, as Fantasy boss Paul Dyer told me with pleasure. Also just recently out is Drive In, which is another shoot’em up space arcade game selling at £5.50. CCS have no less than 12 new titles lined up. The Prince is a role playing strategy game which has won the Cambridge Award. It costs £7.95. Other strategy games all priced at £5.95 are War Zone, Superpower, Air Defence and Insurgency. Blue Riband is an arcade style strategy game, while Barrow Quest and Mission 1942 cater for the adventure players, again at £5.95 each. Tomb of Akhenaten and Nuke Lear are further games in the ‘Charlie Charlie Sugar’ budget range and are both arcade games costing £2.99 each. Realtime Softwares stand was being run over by arcade freaks trying to get a go at Starstrike, the ultimate Star War game with excellent 3D graphics (price £5.95). ‘We are being flooded with mail orders and distributor enquiries’ Realtime Softwares Andrew Onions said elated. Softstone was making itself heard above the din of the crowd with the excellent tune of Fahrenheit 3000 written by Perfection Softwares Timothy Williams. A sequel is already in preparation. Odyssey 1, Force Fighter and Turtle Timewarp are now being marketed as budget games for £2.99 each. Also available from Softstone is American Football at £6.95 and Word Seeker and Super Bandit as a combo for £2.99.
Softstones Tony Knight told me that two further Spectrum arcade/strategy games are being developed. One is based on the Milk Tray TV ad and the other on the Dune novel and soon to be released film, with the player being able to choose more arcade or strategy content during play. At Red Shifts stand I met Chris Shafte, who has moved away from Microdealer UK to become Sales and Marketing Director of Red Shift and seems to be doing an excellent job of it. Just released is City of Dead, a role playing adventure game, and in preparation is the release of The Tripods based on the popular BBC series. It would appear more and more games players are turning to more intelligent and demanding strategy games and Red Shift has an interesting range. Apocalypse is now available as a complete set with 14 different scenarios. Stardreams appeared in force and were displaying their new adventure game The Sandman Cometh priced at £10.95, the presentation including a video ad of the game — a novel approach in this market. After their excellent adventure Waydor (price £7.50) IMS Software are already releasing Ghoulies (nothing to do with football), which hopefully will send you shivers down your spine (price £7.50). William Stuart was demonstrating his speech recognition unit with a lovely Meccano bridge crane, controlling it solely with speech commands and this above the roar of the crowd. The unit will recognise up to ten different commands at any one time, but the library of words can be extended and stored. His new product is Lifeline, a self analysis career counselling program, an interesting piece of software which no doubt CRASH will be reviewing shortly. The price is £14.95. Microsphere were dressed for the occasion in proper school fashion for their excellent Skooldaze (price £5.95). On display was also Skyranger, which is definitely not school material, but should nonetheless tax your intellect (price £5.95). Seeing an Act Apricot Xi at the ZX Fair is rather unusual, but upon investigation the reason becomes apparent. Steve Betts Software offers Crass 80, a Z80 assembler for the Act Apricot to produce machine code to run on the Spectrum with a ZX Interface 1 and Microdrive or any other Z80 system with an RS 232 port. Serious machine code programmers will agree on the many advantages of assembling the code on a separate computer such as the Apricot, but required is obviously a lot of capital with an Apricot and Crass 80, which includes a 3.5 inch floppy disc, a microdrive cartridge and a User Manual and is priced at £95. Among the many add-on keyboards appearing on the market is the MO184 from Mancomp Ltd. Costing £54.95 it has very legible keys, includes extended mode, delete and cursor keys and a numeric pad and provides space for the fully housed ZX Interface 1 and the ZX power supply. Despite the emergence of the Spectrum Plus the market for add-on keyboards should continue for all the many existing Spectrum owners and for those not too keen on the soggy Spectrum Plus key action. Several floppy disc interfaces are already in existence for the Spectrum, but none as complete as the surprise Timex FDD System displayed by Micromatic. It offers a complete operating system with disc and communications facility for the Spectrum and at £225.00 + VAT is competitively priced. The CP/M upgrade option should make it an interesting proposition for small business owners. On display was also a Spectrum keyboard upgrade from Timex with excellent key travel and feel. For the assembly it is necessary to remove the glued metal keyboard mask and the rubber membrane pad from the Spectrum. The new keyboard mechanism is fitted in place and secured with screws. At £14.95 this must be the most cost effective way to improve the standard Spectrum keyboard.