Your IBM Computer, Nov-1984
by Lloyd Borrett
Your Computer, November 1984
First, an apology: it's March since I last wrote a
column, and June since it
was published. I promise to try and get this column out on
regular basis in future.
So, what has been happening?
My personal highlights have been getting the Melbourne PC
User Group on a firm footing; starting up the group's
newsletter upgrading my computer with a 10-megabyte hard
disk and dual half-height floppies; bringing on line
Australia's first IBM-PC-based bulletin board system; and
MELB-PC's stand at the Melbourne PC84 show. As you see I
haven't been sitting around doing nothing.
Meanwhile, there have been some announcements of
particular interest to PC users. The release of Lotus
Symphony, Ashton-Tate's dBase III the IBM 3270-PC, and the
IBM Portable, would be those getting most of the limelight.
That gives me plenty to write about, so let's get on with
To Symphony, Or Not To Symphony
Is Lotus' new Symphony the greatest thing since sliced
bread? Well, if you listen to the gossip and read the
reports coming out of the US you would have to think so.
Everyone is aware of the success of the first offering from
Lotus Development Corp, Lotus 1-2-3.,and justifiably so; but
I'm just a little bit concerned about the reaction the
announcement of Symphony has received.
Now don't get me wrong. I've every reason to believe that
Symphony will be a superb product, as good as, if not better
than, 1-2-3. But will everyone need it.
The success of 1-2-3 was due to the fact that it was the
best spreadsheet package available on the IBM-PC. Not only
did 1-2-3 have more built-in functions than most other
spreadsheet packages, but it was the first to be written to
use the features of the Intel 8088/8086 chips at the heart
of the PC. The result was a product that out-performed its
rivals in almost all categories.
The runaway success of 1-2-3 proved that personal users
would willingly pay for a product that integrates the main
operations they want to perform with their computers. Who
wants to mess with a shelf full of software products, each
with its own command structure, and to have to pass through
an operating system when going from one function to another?
1-2-3 was the clear answer to a major need.
Symphony aims to take the concept further. It strengthens
the database functions, and adds telecommunications and word
processing. Best of all, it adds 'open slots' that will
allow other software to be integrated into the Symphony
structure. But could it be too much?
Most users of 1-2-3 are extensive users of the
spreadsheet facility. They use 1-2-3 because it's the best
spreadsheet. Many complaints have been heard about the 640K
memory limit in the IBM-PC restricting the size of 1-2-3
worksheets. A number of users have asked for an expert mode
where the 1-2-3 on-line help facility is cancelled and the
resulting extra memory then made available to the worksheet.
Do these people need Symphony?
The answer must be no. In order to provide increased
functionality, Symphony soaks up more memory in overheads.
This reduces the maximum size of the worksheet.
Unfortunately, there will be more than one 1-2-3 user who
overlooks this and 'up-grades' to Symphony, only to regret
it. Upgrading to Symphony means you lose your rights to use
Consider the situation of the new computer user. Given
the press and marketing that Symphony is receiving it would
seem to be the only choice. (I wonder how many people held
off purchasing 1-2-3, and waited for Symphony.) Many PC
users are going to purchase Symphony only to find in a few
months time that 1-2-3 was the product they should have had.
Will there be an 'up-grade' policy for Symphony users
wishing to switch to 1-2-3?
Symphony will be a very successful product, and
deservedly so. Unfortunately, it also has the potential to
cause much grief if not sold correctly, and I've seen little
evidence that it will be. But all is not gloom and doom. The
introduction of an Advanced PC, based on the Intel iAPX 286
chip which can handle up to 16 megabytes of memory, is
likely to see us asking Lotus to include more functions as
standard, and introduce yet another product.
Australia's First IBM-PC BBS
Australia's first IBM-PC-based Bulletin Board System went
on line in July. My PC will be enabled as a BBS whenever I'm
not using it (that is, most of the time). Electro-Medical
Engineering kindly donated a Sendata 2000 auto-answer,
auto-disconnect 300-baud modem to the Melbourne PC User
Group for use on the BBS. PC Connection Australia provided
the telephone line.
The phone number is (03) 528 3750. You need a 300-baud
direct-connect modem or acoustic coupler, a telephone line a
serial asynchronous/communication port, and a program such
as PC-TALK III, Crosstalk or MODEM7. I think you'll enjoy
the opportunity to ask questions, share tips, and access
public domain software in this way. Check out the articles
by Bill Bolton and Evan McHugh in last month's issue if you
require more information on how to connect to bulletin board
About two megabytes worth of software from the MELB-PC
library is available for downloading. Two files are of
special interest: the first details how to 'unrestrict' the
various versions of Lotus 1-2-3, the other does the same for
Public Domain Software
I'm aware of IBM and/or Compatible PC user groups
operating in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, IIlawarra,
and Sydney. Most of these groups have taken on the task of
distributing public domain software to their members.
Additions to the Melbourne PC User Group collection include:
CHASM - A cheap assembler.
Finance - A set of BASIC finance programs.
MVP-FORTH - Mountain View Press Public Domain
Wordflex - A good word processing program.
Diskcat - Disk cataloguing program.
ASMGEN - An IBM Macro Disassembler.
Genealogy On Display - An excellent genealogy
Portworth - A portfolio management system.
These are but a sample of the major items. There are so
many great utilities now available, many of which have
become such an important part of my everyday command set,
that I feel lost when running on a PC without them. And
there are more disks coming in from the US all the time.
Many of the more useful files can be downloaded from my
bulletin board system, but for interstate users that could
become very expensive. I strongly recommend you join a user
group and gain access to these disks, as well as all the
other valuable services offered.
Avoiding A Hard Disk Disaster
Due to a bug in IBM's FORMAT.COM program, you may get an
"ERROR WRITING TO DRIVE C:" message when writing to the hard
disk. This is caused by FORMAT.COM marking the wrong
locations in the File Allocation Table when it finds a 'bad
track' mark on the hard disk.
These patches assume both DEBUG.COM and FORMAT.COM are on
drive A. User entries are highlighted, the computer
responses are not.
xxxx:0316 OB.40<space> D2.4A<space>
Writing 1780 bytes
Writing 1B00 bytes
Format Without Erasing
In the March column, I
included a suggestion to help hard disk users avoid having
the FORMAT command erase their entire hard disk. Well,
Wesley Merchant of the Capital-PC Club, has come up with a
The following patches will force users to include a disk
drive designation when using the FORMAT command.
xxxx:017B JMP 160<return>
Writing 1780 bytes
xxxx:0191 JMP 160<return>
Writing 1B00 bytes
Saturday, 15 October 2011