LM’s Forum

My my, that M must be the biggest letter I’ve ever printed! Sorry for the terrible joke — it’s a natural reaction to grandma, who quite startled me over tea and toast this morning by muttering ‘if e’er it snow twixt Lent and May, then April’s robins have nowt to say’. I don’t know what provoked that...

You’ve got plenty to say, anyway, and this month’s letters raise quite a lot of tricky points which I’ve done my best to answer; apologies, as always, to those who got cut or didn’t get printed. I do hang on to letters month to month, so there’s always a chance of them cropping up later.

And so to business — this month’s £30 Letter Of The Month prize goes to a gentleman who knows that to give is better than to receive.


Dear Lloyd
I have bought every issue of CRASH since the first one back in February 1984 — they’re all in excellent condition. I feel it would be nice to use this collection to try to raise a small sum, perhaps for those less fortunate than me and my fellow readers — what do you think?

Maybe you could raffle or auction the collection through your magazine and nominate a suitable charity or cause, to receive whatever is raised.

I hope you like the idea and that you can help — my collection is at your disposal, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Robin Harley

What a generous person you are, Robin! A complete set of CRASHes is surely worth at least £100, but my suggestion — which I’ll shortly put to Ed Stuart — is that we raffle the collection, either through the magazine itself or at a show such as the Microfair or PC Show. In either case, CRASH would take care of all the organisation and publicity.

But I think since you’re giving away the prize you should choose a charity, so please give me a ring or drop me a line, as they say.

In the meantime, in a devastating proof of the ‘do as you would be done by’ principle, YOU win this month’s £30 software prize! You can take it as a prize, or add it to the money raised for charity — let me know.

And thank you again, on behalf of whoever ends up benefitting by your offer.


Dear Lloyd
I read with great interest the article in the February issue of CRASH on the imminent arrival of the MGT SAM. I had decided to buy the SAM as soon as I read the first article early last year. And then it was only 128k RAM and two screen modes. And now? Well, let’s just say that MGT will have, at least, my order for the machine.

However, the main point of my letter is to ask a few questions, some to do with the above-mentioned computer.

1 Will CRASH be following the progress of SAM and its software/hardware support? If so will it be a regular, dozen(ish) pages set aside, or will it be put on equal billing with the Spectrum (at least till it warrants its own magazine), or will it (horror of horrors) be relegated only to the pages of TGM?

I realise that it really depends upon the success of the machine, both initially and in the long run, so for the sake of argument, base your reply as if it was as successful as, say, the Amiga.

2 How much do you expect MGT will charge for SAM’s disk units?

3 Why is it that the staff at CRASH keeps changing about? The constant swapping about does not help the consistency necessary to stay an excellent magazine. But it still is the best 8-bit mag about. There again, it is better than most 16-bit mags!!!

4 By now you will no doubt have received many a letter complaining about the Adventure Trail intro. Don’t you think it was a little too far taken? Sure, it was different, but maybe a little more gentle style of approach is called for.

At this point I am going to cry because my pen has just thrown up all over the February issue of CRASH...

Be sure to have one of Phil King’s sheep shot and sold to buy Dominic Handy a new font. The latest is too readable!

Lastly, and this has just come into my head, how about a ‘Readers’ Page’ where readers can write in with messages and announcements, etc? ‘No sales, no sex and no swearing’ could be the rules. Even half a page...

Goodbye, good luck, and good sheep-shooting
Neil Rumbold

Ed Stuart (they do change quickly, don’t they!) assures me that CRASH will cover software — and, presumably, peripherals — for SAM as they come out. He reckons that if the machine takes off there’ll be a separate SAM section in CRASH, but obviously it’s going to be some time before there’s a rush of SAM-specific software.

As for the disk-drive question, I couldn’t get through to anybody at MGT today! The last time I looked into the matter, however, the cassette-loading version was going to be sold for £149.95 and the disk-drive model for £220; in other words the 3.5-inch drive costs £70, which isn’t a bad price in itself!

I imagine MGT will be prepared to upgrade SAMs from cassette to disk, and thanks for reminding us about the issue — CRASH should keep readers informed on this.

Your third question is a difficult one to answer, but I can always try... that’s what I’m kept at the Towers for, after all!

Though it seems that staff constantly come and go from CRASH, many of them remain at Newsfield and so they’re always available to put ideas (or even a spot of hard work!) into the magazine. For instance, Roger ‘Traitorous’ Kean, the original Ed, is still chairman of the board of directors (or something along those lines — they’re always changing titles to sound even more important) and keeps a close eye on CRASH.

Dom and Barnaby, two erstwhile Eds, are working on MOVIE and TGM respectively. In fact, Barnaby still pops into the office quite often to mock Nick Roberts by calling college ‘school’ (I’m told it’s the best way to get on Nick’s nerves — frustrated tipsters please note). And Kati is working on ZZAP! — it seems traitorousness (LMLWD) never dies.

But some things do. The editorial team offer apologies over that Adventure Trail intro. Perhaps we should have made it clear that, far from being the work of a blood-crazed imagination, it was an accurate report of the unfortunate end which Samara met.

And after much consideration we felt that, though the grim facts were likely to offend some readers, we had an obligation — nay, a immutable duty, a sacred trust handed down by all those who have carried the torch of truth and understanding through the ages — to say what was said, that generations yet unborn may learn from our mistakes and also, let it not be forgotten In these dark hours, from our triumphs.

Finally, and this is true, there is a Readers’ Page of sorts — my Forum! And I don’t believe in money, sex or swearing, so it’s obvious that great minds think alike.


Dear Lloyd
Now that the 16-bit market is off the ground I think it is about time we assessed the argument for and against these new machines. The market has now passed its Horace Goes Skiing stage with alarming rapidity, and enhanced versions of ‘modern games’ are appearing in the shops.

Games such as Starglider 2, Elite, Ingrid’s Back and Heroes Of The Lance have made their debut on the Amiga and met with an acceptable reception from the consumer. And yet all the critics seem to say about the games are ‘the graphics are great’.

While discussing the game Elite with an Acorn-using friend, the Amiga version wormed its way into the conversation.

My comment was ‘too many pretty colours and little atmosphere due to these bright shades’.

His reply was ‘yes, but have you seen the menus and information screens? Beautiful.’

Later on, my snobbish Amiga-owning ex-friend (who shall remain nameless) ‘stole’ my copy of CRASH and found great pleasure in sneering at the screenshots (I’ll provide his address if you want to send someone round).

Personally, I don’t care about the graphics of a game. I find great fun in playing games like Barbarian I/II, Afterburner and Elite without snazzy, pointless graphics on my trusty slow multiloading +2.

Keeping with the theme of long multiloads, I’m sick of the nameless snob boasting about his superfast disk drive. Some games, like Heroes Of The Lance, have megalong loading times and equally massive manuals. While the game is loading I usually read the manual and revise the game controls and other aspects of the game.

So here’s a stake in the heart for all yuppie Amigas — long live the Spectrum!
D Lascelles

Dear me. Why is it that people always feel the need to criticise other machines? First it was Spectrum vs C64, now it’s 8-bits vs 16-bits, and you can be assured that in the rarefied atmosphere of TGM a bitter war rages over the relative merits of the ST and Amiga.

Surely it’s all a bit irrelevant to real computing life. If you have a Spectrum, you have a Spectrum and the qualities or disadvantages of 16-bit machines should mean nothing to you — unless you’re planning to buy one.

Having said all that, I’ve often felt it would be a fine thing if there were only one home computer in existence. All the quarrels would stop, and all the programmers currently busy on conversions could do new games!


Dear Lloyd
Here are the average percentages for the best ten software producers last year:

1Incentive95% (only 1 game)
System 391%
4=Digital Integration89% (only 1 game)
9Marlin Games82%

Ben Hales

PS Keep up the good work at CRASH!

Thank you, Ben — and now let me request a chart I’d really like to see! How about a list of the last year’s top ten subjects for Forum letters? A mystery prize of a Spectrum game to the first entry received by me at the Towers!


Dear Lloyd
I thought I should raise one or two points about your usually very good mag.

Please bring back the cartoons in the Forum, they were BRILL, and also please bring back the Value For Money rating.

Finally, I’m fed up of those people writing in and making unnecessary changes, DO NOT PRINT THEIR LETTERS.

By the way, I have found that the inlay cards on most games are very, very unreliable. Take Renegade — you are not told how to do the moves, and a lot of games don’t even tell you the PAUSE and QUIT keys.

Yours sincerely
Timothy Jeeves

PS You vvear a bag on your head because you are so ugly, don’t you? Everybody... Lloyd is ugly!

Ugliness is in the eye of the beholder — but your comments have been noted, as bank managers say.


Dear Lloyd
I am writing on the subject raised by Scott Maddy in Issue 61. For the past few months I have been writing an adventure with the PAW utility. The problem is that I am unsure if it is legal for me to include a copyright message in it.

I’m not sure if a fee or some such thing has to be paid to someone along with all the ‘red tape’. One book I have read states:

In the UK, in order to qualify for protection under the Act, it is not necessary for a British subject to make any formal registration to bring his work within the protection of the Act.

My older brother (who is extremely experienced in the field of large business computing) seems to disagree with that statement.

I would be most grateful if you could provide a brief explanation of the copyright law according to computer software.

I have also stumbled across the Personal Data Protection Law of 1964. What is this and what are its implications?

I would be grateful if you could explain it.
Philip Gleghorn

I hate to say it, but your brother is wrong. Anything that is covered by copyright — eg books and musical works — is protected as soon as it is written.

However, there are still many uncertainties about the law as it applies to software, probably because there have been few major cases to explore the ins and outs of the relevant legislation, which is the Copyright (Computer Software) Amendment Act of 1985.

For instance, not even the major Copyright, Designs And Patents Bill introduced last year covers ‘look and feel’ in software — so you must prove that someone has ripped off actual code or algorithms from your program, rather than just stolen your ideas.

So, the answer to your question is no, you don’t have to register. You don’t even have to put a copyright mark on your program for protection within the UK, though it’s necessary for some foreign countries.

Your brother may be confusing copyright with patents, which do require registration — if so, perhaps he’s thinking of hardware rather than software, as programs are not patentable.

Finally, as you’re writing with PAW, I suggest you look at its documentation to see if Gilsoft demand to be acknowledged on any program produced with the utility. Even if they don’t, if you decide to put ‘produced using PAW’ on your packaging anywhere, you’d better find out whether PAW is a trademark — if so, you’ll also have to say (in tiny letters!) ‘PAW is a registered trademark of Gilsoft'.

Ah well, it all keeps lawyers in business. As for your final question, when you say ‘Personal Data Protection Law’ I presume you mean the 1984 Data Protection Act, which essentially means that you can’t hold personal data on a computer without telling the person it’s about.

I hope this clears up some muddy legal waters!

‘In my end is my beginning’ — and just to surprise you, that’s not one of grandma’s sayings, but a riddle! I forget the answer (typically), but it might as well be ‘Lloyd’s Forum’, because as soon as I’ve finished reading each month’s letters and writing the replies another huge batch arrives.

Well, don’t forget that there’s £30 worth of software up for grabs for the best letter every month, so set quill to sheepskin and get writing to: LLOYD MANGRAM’S FORUM CRASH TOWERS

And, as always, remember to put ‘personal attention of Mr Mangram’ on the envelope — I don’t trust nosy-parker Nick with my letters...