FRANCO FREY takes a close look at the New, Improved MULTIFACE ONE from Romantic Robot. It has everything you could need, except possibly for Biological Action!
Romantic Robot are now making an improved version of their MULTIFACE ONE — which we reviewed in the March issue of CRASH in its original form. Most of the promised additions have been implemented and the interface must now be one of the most versatile and user-friendly units on the market.
MULTIFACE ONE features an incredibly versatile SAVE facility for tape, Microdrive, Wafadrive and disk drive. It copes directly with the BETA and OPUS DISCOVERY drives and now also handles the KEMPSTON disk interface. Transfers to other disk systems can be effected via tape. A Kempston compatible joystick interface still appears on the upgraded unit, as well as an 8K RAM extension that can be used as buffer area or as a RAM disk or for machine code routines.
The unsatisfactory video output, which was linked to the noisy video signal at the edge connector, has been abandoned. In its place has come a toggle switch to make the MULTIFACE ONE invisible. This means that MULTIFACE ONE need not be physically removed should it clash with another peripheral connected to the system.
There are also major changes in the software area. Pressing the all important button reveals six options. EXIT returns you to BASIC with the condition that the standard system variables are still intact, RETURN continues the interrupted program, SAVE initiates the SAVE routine, TOOL accesses the new MULTI TOOLKIT routines, COPY copies the screen to any printer or printer interface which can interpret the COPY command, and JUMP provides direct access to any utilities within the Spectrum ROM/RAM.
The JUMP address is located at 8192 and 8193. At address 8194 is a flag determining whether the ROM (0) or the MULTIFACE RAM (1) is paged, (active). For direct access without going through the MULTIFACE menu, the identification code for RUN (Decimal 82,85,78) can be POKEd into 8195–8197, after which pressing the button BREAKs the program and a direct jump is made to the required start address. The JUMP command is useful for jumping directly into a resident disassembler, assembler or monitor.
One advantage of storing routines within the MULTIFACE RAM is that they remain unaffected by the NEW command. On the other hand, to save the contents, the whole RAM or part of it must be copied to the Spectrum RAM and saved from there. A BASIC program is provided in the manual for block moves into and out of the MULTIFACE RAM. The TOOL selection presents a new list of options. HEX toggles the display of the current byte between hex and decimal. To view a different memory area, the new address is typed and entered. SPACE clears the address. REG displays the Z80 registers which are held at 16358–16383. WINDOW opens a window in the middle of the screen to show 128 bytes pointed to by a flashing cursor. The address may be changed by using the cursor keys. TEXT translates and displays the bytes within the window into ASCII characters. QUIT gets you back to the opening screen menu. With all these options TOOL provides adequate means to view any system memory either byte by byte or in scrollable blocks of 128 bytes.
The facility to scrutinise the Z80 registers in the state they were during the BREAK is very handy indeed. This makes MULTIFACE ONE the perfect tool for investigating commercial programs by interrupting them manually at any given time either just to display the memory contents or to pass control automatically over to a disassembler.
The SAVE option makes the MULTIFACE ONE indispensable for transferring commercial programs onto the user’s own fast storage system, be it Microdrive, Wafadrive or any of the available Spectrum disk drive systems. Programs are saved with or without screen and require little space due to a compression routine. Only the relevant memory areas are transferred and so several programs can be saved on one disk. MULTIFACE ONE need not be present when loading the saved programs. The only disadvantage is the corruption of the top screen area, which gets restored as soon as the program is left to run. At £39.95 plus £1.00 post and packing, this interface is a must for any budding programmer or for any serious games player with a fast storage device.