Your IBM Computer, Jan-1984
by Lloyd Borrett
Your Computer, January 1984
It is not feasible to carry out a full evaluation of all
similar software packages before selecting one as 'The
Best'. To overcome this, I carefully study all product
reviews available and select one package in each category
for review. If it meets my requirements it's added to my
list of recommended packages.
When consulting with potential users I find most of their
software requirements are met by items on this list. If not,
we track down a suitable product, and update the list. Often
these users have come to me after talking to the sales staff
of IBM dealers. Usually they complain of feeling the dealer
was recommending only items in stock, or those with the
greatest mark-up. Potential users are not in a position to
carry out full evaluations, so they look elsewhere for
For what it's worth, here's the list. The items marked **
are in day-to-day use. Those marked * are packages which
have only been reviewed. The unmarked items are on my wish
list, having been selected after reading reviews by others.
IBM/BASIC Compiler **
IBM/BASIC Program Development System **
Computer Innovations/Cl C86 C Compiler
Logitech/Modula -2 Compiler
Digital Research/DR LOGO
Central Point Software/Copy II PC **
Peter Norton/Norton Utilities
Micro Ware/87 BASIC **
Micro Ware/87 Macro
Micro Ware/87 Fortran
Persoft/SmarTerm/PC TE400-FT **
PersoftlSmarTerm/PC TE100-FT *
Microstuf/Crosstalk XVI *
Ashton Tate/dBase II **
Fox and Geller/Quickcode **
Fox and Geller/dUTIL **
Micro Technical Products/Cardbox
Financial and Spreadsheet:
Lotus Development/1-2-3 **
Software Arts/TK!Solver **
Software Arts/Financial Management Pack **
BPS/BPS Business Graphics
Harvard Software/Harvard Project Manager
Softword Systems/Multimate **
Oasis Systems/The Word Plus
Oasis Systems/Punctuation and Style
Individual Software/The Instructor **
Individual Software/Professor DOS **
Of equal importance would be a list of the packages tried
and rejected, but I haven't the space to include it. Some of
these packages are not handled by distributors in Australia,
and have to be purchased via United States mail order
Naturally, there are gaps in the list. In some cases this
is because the category hasn't come under close study yet,
in others it's because the packages available have been
Getting An IBM-PC At A Discount
I have found you can buy your IBM Personal Computer for
18 per cent less than IBM wants you to pay. IBM manufactures
certain parts of the PC, while other manufacturers produce
the rest of the system with IBM acting as the middleman.
Some of the IBM components are competitively priced.
However, for most of them, and nearly all the components
manufactured by other companies, it is a different story.
Prices there range from high to outrageous. This is where we
can obtain our discount.
I will assume that you require some serious computing
power. A suitable configuration would include at least 256K
of memory, two double-sided disk drives, one serial port, a
printer and a monochrome screen. The following table shows
the price for this system, as purchased from your IBM
dealer, with only IBM components:
* System unit:
64K memory, 360K disk drive
* Monochrome and printer adaptor
80 cps graphics printer
64/256 memory expansion option
Two 64K memory expansion kits
Second 360K disk drive
Async communications adaptor
Async communications cable
To obtain a discount, first buy those items which are
unique to IBM. These items are marked in the previous table
with an asterisk. The total cost is $3945.
Next, focus your attention on the remaining items. This,
bargain shoppers, is the part of the computer that IBM does
not make, and can be purchased in single quantities from the
normal distribution sources. The following table gives the
prices you should expect to pay:
Samkor MCG-12G green video monitor
Epson RX-80FT printer
Tandon TM100-2 disk drive
Sigma Design SDI-ESC
192K memory, one serial port, games adaptor,
free software, one parallel port, calendar clock
Async communications cable
That is a saving of $1444, or more than 18 per cent. If
you are still with me, you must be interested, and you will
be waiting to find out the catch. Welt, there are a few.
First, and most obvious, you must give up the convenience of
The sources of the cheaper components? Ellistronics in
Melbourne assure me that the Samkor video monitor is
compatible with the IBM PC, although I haven't tried it yet.
There are IBM dealers and electronics stores which have
other compatible monitors. Try out any monitor before
buying, to see if you find the resolution acceptable.
Most computer stores carry the Epson printer. Just shop
around to find the best price. The Sigma Design SDI-ECS
multifunction board is but one such board now readily
available. If you follow a 'Buy Australian' policy, you
might want to check out the Plus-5 board from Personal
The Tandon disk drives can be obtained from Adaptive
Electronics, 418 St Kilda Road, Melbourne 3044. Phone: (03)
267 6800. They should also be able to put you in contact
with a Tandon dealer in your local area. For the cables, go
to your nearest electronics store and buy the bits to make
them up yourself.
Another catch is the aesthetics of buying the cheaper
equipment. The printer will not sport an IBM paint job.
Worse still, the printer, monitor and diskette drive will
not have an IBM logo. The rest of the items are out of
sight, so who cares?
This next disadvantage might put some people off. If you
buy a complete System from your friendly local IBM dealer,
it should be delivered completely assembled and checked out.
If you buy individual components from different sources, you
have to assemble and check them out yourself. The only
component that may cause problems is the second diskette
Installing Diskette Drives
You will find detailed instructions in the IBM 'Guide to
Operations' manual about removing the cover and gaining
access to the internals of the PC. As you should already
have the IBM controller board and one diskette drive, you
should also have the associated installation manual. For
those who don't, a brief description follows.
Probably the hardest part of the whole installation is to
remove the cover plate over the opening where the drive
goes. Once you have the cover plates out of the way, slide
the diskette drive half-way through the front mounting
panel. Keep the drive as straight and level as possible as
you install it. If you cock the drive, you can catch board
components and break them off.
Connect the power supply connector to the bottom side of
the logic circuit board. Either connector may be installed
in either drive; just make sure that it's orientated
correctly. Now, connect the signal cable. These connectors
are not interchangeable. Slide the diskette drive in until
the front panel is flush with the system unit face plate.
Mount the diskette drive, with two 6-32 by 3/8" screws
through the side mounting plates.
The final task is to carry out termination and
configuration. Termination is easy: just make sure the
terminator chip is plugged in to drive A, and remove the
chip in drive B.
Configuration requires that you remove the jumper DIP
from the new drive and break six of the seven links. Only
the third link — counting from the left-hand side, looking
towards the front of the system unit from the rear — should
remain. The easiest way to do this is to turn the jumper DIP
over, lay it on a hard surface, and punch out the unwanted
links with a jeweller's screwdriver.
Now, reinsert the DIP, being very careful to get the
remaining link in the proper position. To complete the
installation, set the system board switches as instructed in
the 'Guide to Operations' manual. Replace the cover on the
system unit and run the IBM diagnostic program.
The final complication in this method of obtaining a
discount has to do with your warranty. If you buy all the
recommended components new, they are all individually
guaranteed, but not by IBM. If you have problems, it will be
your responsibility to determine what component is in error
and send that component to the proper place for service.
If an IBM component needs service you must (according to
IBM) remove all non-IBM parts before sending the unit in for
repair. However, there are already a number of independent
service firms which will take on the maintenance of the
complete system. So, if during the warranty period you have
a minor problem with an IBM component, it should be easier
to have an independent service firm carry out the repairs.
If it's a major problem, take out the non-IBM components and
use the official channels. Once out of warranty, the
independent service firm would be used for all repairs.
The problem is not as great as it may at first seem. You
can buy less expensive monitors and Epson printers from most
IBM dealers. Some IBM dealers are installing Tandon diskette
drives, but charging IBM prices. You may be able to get your
IBM dealer to install the Tandon drive and charge Tandon
prices. Many dealers and independent service firms will
supply IBM compatible cables which cost a lot less.
In summary, you can obtain large hardware savings if you
are prepared to put up with the possibility of some
inconvenience. If you talk to your IBM dealer, you may still
be able to achieve one-stop shopping with full warranty
cover, but may not achieve the same level of savings.
I admit that a near optimum case has been presented and
that I didn't use all these options when putting together my
system. At the time my system was purchased, compatible
monitors were not readily available, although I've yet to
see one with a standard of resolution which matches the IBM
monitor. I did buy an Epson MX-100 printer, an AST Research
MegaPlus multifunction card, and two Tandon diskette drives.
It is up to you to decide how far you are prepared to go.
IBM-PC User Groups
Don Richards is trying to start up an IBM-PC user group
in South Australia. Those of you who are interested should
contact Don on (08) 261 9590, or write to PO Box 68,
The first meeting of the Melbourne PC User Group was held
late in November 1983. My thanks to those dealers who
offered their help, and special thanks to Computer Power,
who provided the venue and organised the refreshments.
Over forty people attended the meeting, and a simple
survey showed it was a fairly representative group with a
diverse range of interests. Everyone was keen to see the
group properly established, and an interim committee was
appointed. The second meeting will be held at 5.30 pm on
Wednesday, February 8, 1984, at IBM's offices, 211 Sturt St,
The contact for the group is:
c/- Pannell Kerr Forster
500 Bourke St
Another user group has been formed in the Illawarra area.
The Illawarra IBM-PC Club holds its meetings on the first
Tuesday of each month, starting at 7.30 pm, at the John
Lysaghts Springhill Training Centre.
Public Domain Software
As the deadline for submitting this column grows near I'm
close to finalising arrangements for the distribution of the
PC/Blue User Group Library diskettes. A summary of the
library contents will appear in the next column, along with
full details of where to get the diskettes.
The full catalogue, which contains a table of contents
and brief description of the files, is available, post-paid,
for $10. The address for orders is:
c/- PC Connection Australia
8/34 Elizabeth St
Elsternwick VIC 3185.
Make your money order or cheque payable to PC Connection
Australia. All orders must be prepaid.
Unprotecting Lotus 1-2-3
For those of you sick of not being able to back-up Lotus
1-2-3, or fed up with requiring a diskette to use 1-2-3 on
the XT, here is a patch which disables the Release 1A
program's protection mechanism.
First, format a new DOS system diskette, and then use the
COPY command to copy all the files from your Lotus 1-2-3
system disk onto the new diskette. The example assumes that
a DOS system diskette with DEBUG is in drive A and the new
Lotus 1-2-3 diskette is in drive B.
Enter all bold text exactly as shown; be sure to include
spaces. End each entry line with the 'enter' key. The
computer responds with all other output.
B>rename 123.exe 123.old
-eaba9 90 90
Writing 15F00 bytes
B>rename 123.old 123.exe
Epson FX Series Printers
All the Epson FX series printers I've installed recently
came with the internal DIP switches set to select the
English character set. Unless the US character set is
selected, you will have some strange-looking printouts.
The FX series of printers has a 2K buffer. However, the
factory setting of the DIP switches disables the buffer,
which allows you to down-load your own definitions for two
additional character sets (256 characters). As I've yet to
come across a software package which makes use of this
feature I suggest you change the switches to enable the
buffer. Then, short documents can be printed while you
continue with other work.
The settings recommended for Switch #1 (SW1) are:
Saturday, 15 October 2011