BUYERS’ GUIDE LIARS!!!! (PART 4)   Leave a comment

BUYERS’ GUIDE LIARS!!!! (PART 4)

CoverIssue No. 2 of “The A-Z of Personal Computers”, which I actually read in 1984

Unfortunately, various Commodore peripherals, such as disk drives and printers, were compatible with the Commodore 64, as well as with other Commodore computers, so the Commodore 64 got credit for that on the front cover of Issue 1, saying “every peripheral you’ll ever need”. There was no mention of the lack of a proper BASIC or DOS commands to manage printers or disks, though.

These grossly inaccurate or biased reviews are what doomed me to several months of mind numbing stress trying to program the Commodore 64. It was without any warning or what’s known as “informed consent”, so it was like rape! I think it was similar to what happened to the character T’Pol in the Star Trek: Enterprise season 1 episode “Fusion”, when she was subjected to a then illegal and invasive mind meld.

spartan_commodore_fixAn expensive fix for the Commodore 64! (Scan downloaded from http://www.vintagecomputing.com who claim no rights over this image but would appreciate a mention)

It’s mainly the fault of the staff of that magazine, especially the Editors! Companies could produce crappy computers, but they could have warned people not to buy them. This magazine had a total of FOUR Editors, as well as THREE “Technical Consultants”! Editors are supposed to delete or insert text as they feel appropriate, as well as make sure that everything fits into the same vein. I don’t think all the computers were reviewed by the same person, so they must have required editing for that reason alone. I don’t know what knowledge the staff of this magazine had. It was published by a company called VIDEOPRESS, which had previously only published a video recorder buyers’ guide called “Video A-Z”, so there was no real comparison, because lots of video recorders were quite similar and compatible, unlike most computers of the time (i.e. 1981-1983). There were about 17-20 different computer types or formats reviewed in the under £500 section, if you consider that the Tandy Colour Computer isn’t quite compatible with the Dragon, or that not all BBC/Acorn Electron software is compatible, while there are further formats such as Apple DOS, CP/M 80, CP/M 86, MS-DOS, PC-DOS, and UCSD-P for computers over £500 and even over £1,601. AFAIK video recorders (VCRs) came in only three different tape formats, which were VHS, Betamax, and Philips Video 2000. As you may have guessed, the winning format VHS was inferior to both Betamax and Video 2000. Betamax tapes were smaller than VHS and had better picture quality, while Video 2000 tapes were bigger than VHS, but could be recorded on both sides, show steady freeze frames, and had a movable switch for write protection, instead of a tab which had to be broken off, then have a piece of sticky tape stuck over it to re record. Some Video 2000 machines had a real time tape counter. I remember once practically breaking a thumbnail off while frantically trying to peel off some Sellotape to stick over a VHS cassette’s broken off tab hole before an episode of Doctor Who started! When my family got a VHS VCR in December 1979 the TV equipment rental store only supplied VHS machines. I think people actually had to buy Betamax OR Video 2000 VCRs outright. Philips had started with their “VCR” format in 1972, then modified it into the incompatible new Video 2000 format in 1979, while VHS was introduced in 1977. Apart from these 3 formats, there was just the question of which video recorders had a timer record function, or how many events they could be programmed for. Another format called Video 8 didn’t come out until 1985, was much smaller than and higher picture quality to VHS, as well as having FM audio, but was mainly limited to camcorders.

A-ZPersonalComputersNo1Issue No. 1 of  “The A-Z of Personal Computers”, which I only got hold of in 2014

 

I think most of the staff had previously worked on “Video A-Z”, especially as the review of the TRS80 Model 1 said it had been in their office for four years. It may have been that the company decided to cash in on the new market for computers, then told some of their staff to work on this new magazine and just get on with it, or else! I should just mention at this point, to avoid any confusion, that the Managing Editor was a woman. Her miserable face and lank light brown or blonde hair in a small B&W pic on one of the pages near the front will haunt me forever. I wonder whatever happened to her? I personally hope that by now she’s “come to a sticky end”, as my Mum used to say. Obviously a suitable fate would have been to be repeatedly mugged for at least £300 (including compensation) by various Commodore 64 owners, one after the other, who bought a Commodore 64 because of reading “The A-Z of Personal Computers”. Some misguided people might think that she shouldn’t be mugged because she’s a woman. To them I say that with equal rights comes equal responsibilities. If she didn’t want to be mugged or sued, then she shouldn’t had edited this crap! In any case, I wrote to that magazine asking for compensation, but these bastards just sent me a Solicitor’s letter in return. I’ve only just noticed the legal disclaimer at the bottom of page 3, because the text is so small. It includes the words “While every care has been taken in the preparation of The A-Z of Personal Computers we cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of any information given and any consequences arising thereof”, but to that I say don’t make me laugh! I don’t think that much care had been taken by this magazine at all! They relied on that legal disclaimer to get them out of trouble! I think mine is a totally understandable reaction to being lumbered with a BASIC written 5 years before my computer was released, which doesn’t support its graphics or sound chips. I can’t help thinking how much Commodore paid them to write this crap. I think that Jane Ashton of the TV series Database and “4 Computer Buffs” would have made a much better editor. She reminded me of Michelle of the French Resistance in the BBC sitcom “Allo Allo”, even sometimes looking from side to side before she spoke. Unfortunately, after co presenting these series she only seemed to do some acting in the series “My Husband and I”, but I think she should have co presented the BBC TV series “Micro Live”, or worked on the magazine “Amiga Format”. Here she is interviewing graphics artist David Thorpe, who says he often programmed his screens using coordinates and in BASIC, although TMR claimed some time ago that the only sensible way to to this was to draw or paint them using a graphics package http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULGDTtGZcN0 . A collection of David’s title screens for the Sinclair Spectrum can be viewed on http://www.binaryzone.org/thezone/davidthorpe.php .

That’s all for this installment! More details about “The A-Z of Personal Computers” soon.

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Posted June 2, 2014 by C64hater in Uncategorized

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