Datel Electronics are one of the country’s leading hardware retailers. You may have seen their advertisements in CRASH or may even have bought something from them. If you are thinking of sending off for any of their products in the future WAIT! NICK ROBERTS has checked them out for you first and given marks out of five on the Nickometer!
Making music on the Spectrum has never been an easy affair. The BEEP command is now seen as a joke when you look at what some computers can achieve, but for those who still want to create musical masterpieces on the Spectrum: here comes The Music Machine.
This is a sound sampling system that allows any sound to be recorded and stored in the computer RAM. These sounds can then be replayed either in a keyboard or drum machine situation. The package comprises a plug-in unit that connects to the back of your Speccy, a software tape and a microphone for use in sampling. The unit has a level control, headphone, microphone, audio out, MIDI in, MIDI thru and MIDI out sockets.
The quality of the samples The Music Machine can produce is quite good when you think of the limitations of the Spectrum — sample time is very limited though. Writing music has been simplified by using the on-screen facilities. You write as you would a normal song by using notes and bars, and once written, songs can be stored on tape for future use. Making new songs can be done by selecting bars from songs and merging them together into a new composition.
For those with a MIDI instrument, you can connect it to The Music Machine and use it to trigger sampled sounds or play a mixture of the MIDI instrument sounds and The Music Machine effects. The songs and sounds you can create using this system are hardly Top Of The Pops quality but The Music Machine does provide a good starting point for the beginner.
How do you spoil your Spectrum rotten? By buying it one of these super dooper colour printers with software, that’s how!
With the LC200 Centronics printer you can print out any screen that has been saved on the Spectrum using the SCREEN$ method. The printer goes down the screen line by line printing each colour in turn, gradually building up a picture. This method of printing is time consuming and printouts range from a few seconds to quarter of an hour depending on the number of colours and the detail in the picture.
With the accompaning software you can change the screen you want to print in a number of ways. You can swap the black and white in the picture around, turn brightness off, get rid of the black altogether and even print the screen double the normal size for extra large printouts.
The everyday Spectrum user may find having a colour printer a waste of time. The only real use I can see for it is for computer artists in displaying their work as a hard copy. Of course the printer can be used for normal letter printing as well if you have a word processing package, and a number of different fonts are available. To use it for normal printing all you need do is swop the colour ribbon for a black ink one.
With the printer package you get the printer itself, a Centronics printer interface and the software to run it. There’s nothing else to buy. If you’ve got £240 knocking about and are wondering what to do with it then this is a really good buy.
One of the big problems with word processing on the Spectrum is connecting the computer to the kind of printers that will give you good quality print. The +3 has a built in printer port, so all you need there is a printer lead but for the 48K/128K/+2/+2A users an interface is what’s needed.
The Parallel/Centronics Printer Interface comes as a plug-in unit, connecting to the back of the computer. The lead included in the package connects to any of the top parallel printers. All you do is load in the software and you’re away!
So, what exactly can you print from your Spectrum to the printer? You can use any of the top word processing packages (Tasword, Devpac, etc) to create your documents and then, using the print option, send the information to your printer. You can also print out hi-resolution screen dumps to a dot-matrix printer. For people who want to use their Spectrum as a wrod, erm word, processor this interface is an essential purchase.
The Ramprint is basically the same item as the Parallel/Centronics Printer Interface but with one important difference. It has a built in word processor that can be instantly accessed from BASIC.
The Ramwrite software is not the best word processor I’ve ever used but it does the job and doesn’t cost you anything extra once you’ve bought the interface. It works without using up any of the computer’s memory, leaving it all free for the storage of files. If the thought of having to read through an encyclopedia of instructions before you can start using your new toy is a little daunting for you, then fret no more. Ramwrite is controlled using simple, uncomplex commands. The only thing you really need to worry about is how to write!
Ramprint also includes a Kempston compatible joystick port so you can blast your favourite games in style. A perfect solution to your word processing blues.
For all you budding Leonardos or Oli Freys comes the best graphics package imaginable for the Spectrum. The OCP Art Studio has been around for ages but the whole system is enhanced by the Genius Mouse.
Mice are used on 16-bit computers as standard equipment but with 8-bit machines there’s been no such luxury — until now. In the Genius Mouse pack you get everything you could possibly want when using a mouse (no I don’t mean a cage and a little wheel for it to run around!): you get the mouse in a neat storage box, a mouse holder to keep it in, a rubber mouse mat, and the Art Studio software.
I had only ever used Art Studio on the keyboard, so using the mouse gave the program a whole new dimension. You can now accurately draw freehand instead of struggling with fingers everywhere. The mouse has two buttons on the top. On an Amiga or Atari ST they do different things, but the Genius Mouse buttons both have the same effect, similar to pressing fire on the joystick. And if you have a joystick then the interface that connects the mouse to the computer has an extra bonus for you, a Kempston compatible joystick port.
Any serious graphics artist on the Spectrum should not be without a Genius Mouse, it’s an essential piece of kit!