Sinclair QL

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Mitraglia

ongelezen,
8 jun. 1993 15:44:4008-06-1993
aan
Many years ago there was a wonderful machine called the Sinclair QL....

Did it ever appear in the USA market ?

--
_ _ _ _ _ _ e-mail addr (until 18-8-93):
' ) ) ) ' ) ) ) s...@bach.cefriel.it
/ / / __. __ _. __ / / / . . _ _ o ____ o (-: Marco Mussini
/ ' (_(_/|_/ (_(__(_) / ' (_(_/_/_)_/_)_<_/ / <_<_ Milano, ITALY


Phil Burg

ongelezen,
8 jun. 1993 19:47:4008-06-1993
aan
s...@bach.cefriel.it (Mitraglia) writes:

>Many years ago there was a wonderful machine called the Sinclair QL....

^^^^^^^^^

Hm. I'm not familiar with this usage of the word "wonderful" -
none of the standard definitions seem to apply to the QL I had the
enormous misfortune of hacking on for a few months...

Phil
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Phil Burg John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU Australia
"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"


Stephen Usher

ongelezen,
9 jun. 1993 03:47:0009-06-1993
aan
In article <1993Jun08.1...@cdc486.cdc.polimi.it> s...@bach.cefriel.it (Mitraglia) writes:
>Many years ago there was a wonderful machine called the Sinclair QL....
>
>Did it ever appear in the USA market ?

Yes it did, but is had a "scrunched" screen display so as to be able to
display on an NTSC television. As you might have guessed, it never caught on.

The QL had an OS ahead of its time but was let down by penny-pinching
hardware, that's a bundle Uncle Clive!

(Why on earth he chose to use the keyboard processor for the sound and RS232
receive as well I'll never know! And why the 68008 as opposed to the 68000?
By the time of production, the 68008 was double the price of the 68000.)

>
>--
> _ _ _ _ _ _ e-mail addr (until 18-8-93):
>' ) ) ) ' ) ) ) s...@bach.cefriel.it
> / / / __. __ _. __ / / / . . _ _ o ____ o (-: Marco Mussini
>/ ' (_(_/|_/ (_(__(_) / ' (_(_/_/_)_/_)_<_/ / <_<_ Milano, ITALY
>
>

Steve
--
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Computer Systems Administrator, Dept. of Earth Sciences, Oxford University.
E-Mail: st...@uk.ac.ox.earth (JANET) st...@earth.ox.ac.uk (Internet).
Tel:- Oxford (0865) 282110 (UK) or +44 865 282110 (International).

Dan Pop

ongelezen,
9 jun. 1993 09:09:2709-06-1993
aan

>receive as well I'll never know! And why the 68008 as opposed to the 68000?
>By the time of production, the 68008 was double the price of the 68000.)

For exactly the same reason IBM chose 8088 as opposed to 8086 when
designing their PC. It's _much_ cheaper to build an 8 bit bus system than
a 16 bit one. I always thought IBM used INTEL because Motorola hadn't
their 8 bit bus 68008 available at the time, but I may be wrong.

Dan
--
Dan Pop
Tel: +41.22.767.4534
Email: dan...@cernapo.cern.ch
Mail: CERN - PPE, Bat. 20 R-054, CH-1211 Geneve 23, Switzerland

Nik Clayton

ongelezen,
9 jun. 1993 09:10:4109-06-1993
aan
In article <1993Jun9.0...@zaphod.earth.ox.ac.uk> st...@earth.ox.ac.uk (Stephen Usher) writes:
>In article <1993Jun08.1...@cdc486.cdc.polimi.it> s...@bach.cefriel.it (Mitraglia) writes:
>>Many years ago there was a wonderful machine called the Sinclair QL....
>>
>>Did it ever appear in the USA market ?
>
>Yes it did, but is had a "scrunched" screen display so as to be able to
>display on an NTSC television. As you might have guessed, it never caught on.
>
>The QL had an OS ahead of its time but was let down by penny-pinching
>hardware, that's a bundle Uncle Clive!
>
>(Why on earth he chose to use the keyboard processor for the sound and RS232
>receive as well I'll never know! And why the 68008 as opposed to the 68000?
>By the time of production, the 68008 was double the price of the 68000.)

And BT (British Telecom) used it's guts for their Merlin machine, which was
then used and rebadged by ICL as the OPD (One Per Desk, great name eh?).
Marvelous machine, done up in beige as I recall. Complete with an almot
built-in phone (I kid you not) as well.

Lets see, the QL/Merlin/OPD was quite advanced for it's day. Had
semi-reasonable graphics, sound that shouldn't be mentioned, and quite a nice
chip at the heart of it. For the life of me I can't remember what it was (I
was too busy hacking and messing around with my 64) but I think it was a
Motorola jobbie. Was actually capable of multitasking (certainly in the OPD
anyway, I forget if the bog standard QL could do it) and had this semi-nice
piece of office software with it. Quill, Easel, Abacus and something else I
think.

God this takes me back. And it was only a couple of years ago. I'm gonna have
to try and get hold of one again. It would make a very adequate terminal
round here.

Oh, and I've just remembered it's most 'endearing' feature. It used
microdrives. Yes, Sinclair's answer to the disk drive (though you could add 3"
disks to the machine). With a really neat piece of software that would spin
the microdrive cassette for you and report back on how long it thought the
cassette would last. Wonderful things...

Christ, how can I be nostalgic, I'm only 19.

Rgds, Nik <sniff>

Mika Iisakkila

ongelezen,
9 jun. 1993 07:58:3209-06-1993
aan
pgb...@huxley.anu.edu.au (Phil Burg) writes:
>Hm. I'm not familiar with this usage of the word "wonderful" -
>none of the standard definitions seem to apply to the QL I had the
>enormous misfortune of hacking on for a few months...

Aww, come on! It was a great thing to have in 1983. Using it was quite
painless too, after you put a real floppy drive on it. The keyboard
still sucked... The real drawback was that the basic interpreter
wasn't multitasking, so you couldn't really enjoy the capabilities
without getting some kind of a compiler.

For uninitiated readers - the QL was one of sir Clive's great ideas
that were spoiled by bad choices of peripherals and marketing. The
first OS versions were also bug-ridden. It was a 68008 (8 MHz?)
machine with 128k RAM (expandable to 640k) and a multitasking OS
(QDOS, developed under the name Domestos...) Standard mass storage was
two Microdrives, improved from those that were used on the Spectrum
(something like 100k of data on a miniscule endless tape cassette;
faster than Commodore 64 floppies and the OS made it look like a
floppy). Display was graphical (256x256x8 or 512x256x4) and the OS had
sort-of windowing capabilities. Great structured Basic interpreter. It
came bundled with four business-like software packages which were
actually on par with those you could get for the PC at that time.
Loyal to all Sinclair traditions, it had a lousy keyboard, although
this time with moving hard-top keys. It looked way cool, a black plank
about the size of a PC keyboard.

I heard that in the end there was an OS for it that had decent
windowing instead of the mindless overwriting. Anyone know more?

--
Segmented Memory Helps Structure Software

Mike Smith x3297

ongelezen,
9 jun. 1993 11:28:2809-06-1993
aan

In article 9...@brunel.ac.uk, cs9...@brunel.ac.uk (Nik Clayton) writes:
>
>And BT (British Telecom) used it's guts for their Merlin machine, which was
>then used and rebadged by ICL as the OPD (One Per Desk, great name eh?).
>Marvelous machine, done up in beige as I recall. Complete with an almot
>built-in phone (I kid you not) as well.
>
From my recollection, it was sold as the ICL OPD before it was taken up by
BT and marketed as the Merlin Tonto. Merlin was BT's generic name for
personal computers. Did there used to be a CP/M machine in the Merlin range
or am I dreaming?

If they had got the machine out on time, with a working multitasking OS and
floppy disks instead of Microdrives it would have sold. (Well, I would have
bought one).

Mike Smith

Sinclair Microdrives! Save your data in 28 days, or your money back!

J Lothian

ongelezen,
9 jun. 1993 11:09:2309-06-1993
aan
In article <C8Cv9...@brunel.ac.uk>, cs9...@brunel.ac.uk (Nik Clayton) writes:
|> In article <1993Jun9.0...@zaphod.earth.ox.ac.uk> st...@earth.ox.ac.uk (Stephen Usher) writes:
|> >In article <1993Jun08.1...@cdc486.cdc.polimi.it> s...@bach.cefriel.it (Mitraglia) writes:
|> >>Many years ago there was a wonderful machine called the Sinclair QL....
|> >>
|> >>Did it ever appear in the USA market ?
|> >
|> >Yes it did, but is had a "scrunched" screen display so as to be able to
|> >display on an NTSC television. As you might have guessed, it never caught on.
|> >
|> >The QL had an OS ahead of its time but was let down by penny-pinching
|> >hardware, that's a bundle Uncle Clive!

Funnily enough, there was an interview with Clive Sinclair a few years ago
(but after the QL debacle) in which he said he wished they'd based it on
the Z80, and opined that they'd gone for an overly complex design. It
was all the engineers' fault, apparently.

|> >
|> >(Why on earth he chose to use the keyboard processor for the sound and RS232
|> >receive as well I'll never know! And why the 68008 as opposed to the 68000?
|> >By the time of production, the 68008 was double the price of the 68000.)
|>
|> And BT (British Telecom) used it's guts for their Merlin machine, which was
|> then used and rebadged by ICL as the OPD (One Per Desk, great name eh?).
|> Marvelous machine, done up in beige as I recall. Complete with an almot
|> built-in phone (I kid you not) as well.

And microdrives. See below.

|>
|> Lets see, the QL/Merlin/OPD was quite advanced for it's day. Had
|> semi-reasonable graphics, sound that shouldn't be mentioned, and quite a nice
|> chip at the heart of it. For the life of me I can't remember what it was (I
|> was too busy hacking and messing around with my 64) but I think it was a
|> Motorola jobbie. Was actually capable of multitasking (certainly in the OPD
|> anyway, I forget if the bog standard QL could do it) and had this semi-nice
|> piece of office software with it. Quill, Easel, Abacus and something else I
|> think.

The QL could multitask, but the bog-standard unexpanded machine
didn't really have enough memory for it to be worthwhile. Various
expansion options are still available, including a thing called the
Gold Card that contains a proper 68000, floppy controller, printer
port, toolkit rom, lots of memory and probably other things, on
a small card that hides inside the left-hand end expansion port.
The other member of the Psion software quartet was Archive, a database.
All four of the software packages were buggy, but the big Archive
bug (which meant that copying a DB file over a certain size in
Archive would cause it to become corrupted) was particularly insidious.

|>
|> God this takes me back. And it was only a couple of years ago. I'm gonna have
|> to try and get hold of one again. It would make a very adequate terminal
|> round here.
|>
|> Oh, and I've just remembered it's most 'endearing' feature. It used
|> microdrives. Yes, Sinclair's answer to the disk drive (though you could add 3"
|> disks to the machine). With a really neat piece of software that would spin
|> the microdrive cassette for you and report back on how long it thought the
|> cassette would last. Wonderful things...

Ghastly bloody microdrives! I wrote my honours dissertation on a QL,
and swore never to touch the thing again. It was very odd; some people
had no trouble at all with the microdrives, and others (like me) were
plagued with constant dud cartridges. I gave up the QL for ever when
I got my pdp11/40 (much more fun and a lot more reliable). I think my
QL is gathering dust in the garage somewhere -- any takers??

|>
|> Christ, how can I be nostalgic, I'm only 19.
|>
|> Rgds, Nik <sniff>

James
--

-------------------------------------------------------
James Lothian | "It's life, Jim,
ja...@uk.ac.ed.caad | but not as we know it"
-------------------------------------------------------
These opinions have nothing to do
with Edinburgh University.

Ger van der Kamp

ongelezen,
10 jun. 1993 04:40:0110-06-1993
aan
In article <1993Jun9.0...@zaphod.earth.ox.ac.uk>, st...@earth.ox.ac.uk (Stephen Usher) writes:
|> In article <1993Jun08.1...@cdc486.cdc.polimi.it> s...@bach.cefriel.it (Mitraglia) writes:
|> >Many years ago there was a wonderful machine called the Sinclair QL....
|> >
|> >Did it ever appear in the USA market ?
|>
|> Yes it did, but is had a "scrunched" screen display so as to be able to
|> display on an NTSC television. As you might have guessed, it never caught on.
|>
|> The QL had an OS ahead of its time but was let down by penny-pinching
|> hardware, that's a bundle Uncle Clive!

For those who love QDOS (the OS of the QL (Wasn't there another QDOS????)) and
want some more reliable hardware then the usual junk from Sir Clive, a company
called Miracle systems produces a PC plug-in card which turns the PC into a
QL. It has a MC68040 25Mhz and up to 8Mb of memory. (This is more than enough
in QDOS which doesn't waste large amounts like ms-windows!)

Ger van der Kamp
(g...@turing.com)

PS. And yes, I still prefer my QL instead of the Sparc 10 I sitting behind
right now!

Mitraglia

ongelezen,
10 jun. 1993 10:09:3410-06-1993
aan
In article <pgb213.739583260@huxley>, pgb...@huxley.anu.edu.au (Phil Burg) writes:
|> s...@bach.cefriel.it (Mitraglia) writes:
|>
|> >Many years ago there was a wonderful machine called the Sinclair QL....
|> ^^^^^^^^^
|>
|> Hm. I'm not familiar with this usage of the word "wonderful" -
|> none of the standard definitions seem to apply to the QL I had the
|> enormous misfortune of hacking on for a few months...

Well, I think the Sinclair QL was, in 1983, a *big* little machine because:

1-True multitasking
2-Reasonable high resolution built-in graphics with (wow) pixels in any color
(no 8x8 - box constraints..)
3-32 bit MOTOROLA (Not Intel, nor Zilog!!) processor with *clean* Assembler,
general purpose registers, and FLAT and "big" (1983) address space
4-Good OS, simple and efficient
5-Windowing mechanism
6-Excellent *structured* BASIC (SuperBASIC)
7-Fast networking built-in capability
8-Compact, all interfaces built-in

And there was no big success because (note the 1:1 mapping between
the two lists..)

1-yes, but not with standard BASIC interpreter - you had to compile your
programs or to write them in some other language.
2-Too few colors, and no palette mechanism, Note that


iisa...@vipunen.hut.fi (Mika Iisakkila) writes:
>Display was graphical (256x256x8 or 512x256x4)

but x4 and x8 are NOT the bitplanes... aw, they're the colors.
Sure, in 256x256 mode there was a free bit left every pixel, so they thrown
in a lovely 'flash' feature.. but, gee, uncle Clive made it a flip-flop
mechanism (he used too much VideoText I guess..) so that the rasterizer chip
designed by Sinclair had less trouble (?).
3-but no memory expansions for the first two years, so when they appeared
640K (128K+512K) wasn't a big value.
68008 8-bit version - ugh, bus bottleneck.
4-Implemented at 75%.
5-But no "expose" or "repaint" management: only "clipping" in a rectangular
area. Gee, it had BORDER capability.
6-Aw, some insidious bugs, and When Error was never nicely implemented.
7-It never worked
8-Serial interfaces were awkward (and the underlying architecture makes us
smile. A chip managed the transmission, another one received the data, but
at 19200 baud only transmission worked (in some machines only) and with 1
stop bit only. The transmission was handled by a wonderful *Intel* 8049
4-bit microprocessor with built-in small ROM. (Hi Intel fans, it was a
disaster.)
Lack of a "true" expansion bus.

Although this project had a few deep errors and was badly finished, too,
I did appreciate *very* much the QL. It had only a 48K ROM (with 10K free
in the latest release) with OS, Basic and fonts, but it worked (especially
for careful programmers !..). On the other hand, the Amiga needed 512K
memory (part ROM, part RAM) to hold its software. In comparison the QL seems
like a miracle - its bugs might have been fixed and its windowing system
might have been improved, without filling up the 48K ROM available.

At the same time there still was no Amiga available, but there was the
Atari ST. This was a genuine 68000 machine, with simpler (and much cleaner)
architecture than the QL. But its firmware was *not* better, nor more elegant,
than the QDOS + SuperBASIC pair.

Now the QL is :

1-For people who "really" used it: a legend.
2-For people who "tried" using it: a nightmare.
3-For people who had other machines: a disaster, a monster, or an error.

On the other hand, the Atari ST is now a *wonderful* MIDI controller
and the Amiga is now a faded game machine with many folks still working on
it to do something else (marvelous 3D graphics, for instance).
[When the 3D0 will appear, I think the Amiga as a game machine
will fade out completely, and if Motorola will not release something
that goes faster than those ugly x86 chips, also the "3D graphics
processor" Amiga will disappear]

Well, the QL, the ST and the Amiga may be compared to a Saab 900. People
may only hate it or love it. The PC is the "world car". Ugh.
Now the market is flat (or a "commodity" market). There are no
*particular* machines: the way you select your next computer is very
straightforward. Many years ago hobbysts and workers chose their machines in
two different ways. Now they choose almost the same way, in my opinion.

Do you remember the years in which you chose between Pet, Apple, TI-99/4A,
Vic, C64, ZX80, ZX81, MicroProfessor, Spectrum, Dragon, MSX, QL, Amstrads,
Acorn BBC and Electron, ST, Amiga etc.?
And all those comparisons with the friend's machine?
Now all you say is - "I've a 386DX-33". "Ah." :-( sniff.

Anybody knows if a time machine has been invented? Please let me know.

Bye!

--M.Mussini

Scott Telford

ongelezen,
10 jun. 1993 08:25:5110-06-1993
aan
In article <37...@castle.ed.ac.uk>, jlot...@castle.ed.ac.uk (J
Lothian) writes:

> Funnily enough, there was an interview with Clive Sinclair a few years ago
> (but after the QL debacle) in which he said he wished they'd based it on
> the Z80, and opined that they'd gone for an overly complex design. It
> was all the engineers' fault, apparently.

Yes. It was David Karlin who wanted the 68k. From the interviews I've
read, Clive seemed to think a Z80 (maybe Z80H?) was quite powerful
enough for most people. Umm.

> The QL could multitask, but the bog-standard unexpanded machine
> didn't really have enough memory for it to be worthwhile. Various
> expansion options are still available, including a thing called the
> Gold Card that contains a proper 68000, floppy controller, printer
> port, toolkit rom, lots of memory and probably other things, on
> a small card that hides inside the left-hand end expansion port.

Actually, the Gold Card didn't have a printer port, but did have a
non-volatile clock and 2Mb of RAM. The designer discovered that most 16MHz
68000s will actually run at 24MHz, so they put in a software
switchable CPU clock, but most QLs won't keep up with a 24MHz Gold
Card. The same guy has now done the QXL PC-card, which somebody has
already posted about.

> Ghastly bloody microdrives! I wrote my honours dissertation on a QL,
> and swore never to touch the thing again.

Luckily, I never wrote anything bigger than a second year project
report with Quill....I do know somebody who wrote a PhD thesis on
1st Word Plus on an Atari ST though....8-)

It was very odd; some people
> had no trouble at all with the microdrives, and others (like me) were
> plagued with constant dud cartridges. I gave up the QL for ever when
> I got my pdp11/40 (much more fun and a lot more reliable).

Bit bigger, bit noisier and burns a bit more 'lecky, though, I imagine?

PS. Not a lot of people know this, but Jez San, the games hacker who
wrote Starglider an is now going to become insanely rich, judging
by the hype surrounding Starwing, used to be member of a QL user group...

--
Scott Telford, Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, <s.te...@ed.ac.uk>
University of Edinburgh, Mayfield Rd, Edinburgh, EH9 3JZ, UK. (+44 31 650 5978)
------- Rollin' over like a big, big cloud, Walkin' out in the Big Sky! -------

Nik Clayton

ongelezen,
10 jun. 1993 10:51:0010-06-1993
aan
In article <1993Jun10.0...@turing.ac.uk> g...@broom.turing.ac.uk (Ger van der Kamp) writes:
>In article <1993Jun9.0...@zaphod.earth.ox.ac.uk>, st...@earth.ox.ac.uk (Stephen Usher) writes:
>|> In article <1993Jun08.1...@cdc486.cdc.polimi.it> s...@bach.cefriel.it (Mitraglia) writes:
>|> >Many years ago there was a wonderful machine called the Sinclair QL....
>|> >
>|> >Did it ever appear in the USA market ?
>|>
>|> Yes it did, but is had a "scrunched" screen display so as to be able to
>|> display on an NTSC television. As you might have guessed, it never caught on.
>|>
>|> The QL had an OS ahead of its time but was let down by penny-pinching
>|> hardware, that's a bundle Uncle Clive!
>
>For those who love QDOS (the OS of the QL (Wasn't there another QDOS????))

Yeah, Quick and Dirty Operating System, written by Tim Patterson and the
immediate precursor to MSDOS.

>and
>want some more reliable hardware then the usual junk from Sir Clive, a company
>called Miracle systems produces a PC plug-in card which turns the PC into a
>QL. It has a MC68040 25Mhz and up to 8Mb of memory. (This is more than enough
>in QDOS which doesn't waste large amounts like ms-windows!)

I want one. Any more info?

Rgds, Nik

J Lothian

ongelezen,
10 jun. 1993 12:13:0010-06-1993
aan
In article <1993Jun9.1...@crc.ac.uk>, msm...@crc.ac.uk (Mike Smith x3297) writes:
|>
|> In article 9...@brunel.ac.uk, cs9...@brunel.ac.uk (Nik Clayton) writes:
|> >
|> >And BT (British Telecom) used it's guts for their Merlin machine, which was
|> >then used and rebadged by ICL as the OPD (One Per Desk, great name eh?).
|> >Marvelous machine, done up in beige as I recall. Complete with an almot
|> >built-in phone (I kid you not) as well.
|> >
|> From my recollection, it was sold as the ICL OPD before it was taken up by
|> BT and marketed as the Merlin Tonto. Merlin was BT's generic name for
|> personal computers. Did there used to be a CP/M machine in the Merlin range
|> or am I dreaming?

In the issue of Practical Computing that contained a review of the OPD,
there was also a competition in which you could win one. The review
*utterly panned* the machine (they apparently went through about four
before finding one that more or less worked); I always wondered how
many entries they got for the competition.

(Totally off the subject, whatever happened to Practical Computing?
I haven't seen one in ages.)

|>
|> If they had got the machine out on time, with a working multitasking OS and
|> floppy disks instead of Microdrives it would have sold. (Well, I would have
|> bought one).
|>
|> Mike Smith
|>
|> Sinclair Microdrives! Save your data in 28 days, or your money back!

Oddly enough, I never had any bother with the microdrives on the
Spectrum, but the ones on the QL were just hopeless.

Phil Burg

ongelezen,
10 jun. 1993 20:01:3410-06-1993
aan
iisa...@vipunen.hut.fi (Mika Iisakkila) writes:

>pgb...@huxley.anu.edu.au (Phil Burg) writes:
>>Hm. I'm not familiar with this usage of the word "wonderful" -
>>none of the standard definitions seem to apply to the QL I had the
>>enormous misfortune of hacking on for a few months...

>Aww, come on! It was a great thing to have in 1983. Using it was quite
>painless too, after you put a real floppy drive on it.

[...]


>Standard mass storage was
>two Microdrives, improved from those that were used on the Spectrum
>(something like 100k of data on a miniscule endless tape cassette;
>faster than Commodore 64 floppies and the OS made it look like a
>floppy).

[...]


>Loyal to all Sinclair traditions, it had a lousy keyboard, although
>this time with moving hard-top keys. It looked way cool, a black plank
>about the size of a PC keyboard.

Sure, it might have been great in 1983 - but *I* was forced to use one in
1989-90! And this one *still* had two microdrives (I can still hear them
going whirr...whirr...whirr :-)

I was bashing away on Sun-3 workstations by day, then at night / on weekends
I had to hack on this...thing...for a "friend" (who couldn't write code to
save himself) but was convinced it was the greatest invention since sliced
bread.

I'm sorry, but (IMAO), 'wonderful' and 'Sinclair QL' are not terms that can
be used in the same breath.

Geoff Mccaughan

ongelezen,
11 jun. 1993 04:23:5911-06-1993
aan
Mika Iisakkila (iisa...@vipunen.hut.fi) wrote:

>machine with 128k RAM (expandable to 640k) and a multitasking OS

^^^
Aaaarrrgghhh - the number of the beast!

--
Geoff, Sysop Equinox (equinox.gen.nz) +64 (3) 3854406 [6 Lines]
"If you have to run heating in winter, you don't own enough computers."
Vote SPQR Ski Nix Olympica Freedom for Axolotls


Geoff Mccaughan

ongelezen,
11 jun. 1993 04:34:1811-06-1993
aan
Nik Clayton (cs9...@brunel.ac.uk) wrote:

>And BT (British Telecom) used it's guts for their Merlin machine, which was
>then used and rebadged by ICL as the OPD (One Per Desk, great name eh?).
>Marvelous machine, done up in beige as I recall. Complete with an almot
>built-in phone (I kid you not) as well.

I have one of these sitting right next to me. Makes an OK phone, I've never
found much use for it as a computer though.

>Lets see, the QL/Merlin/OPD was quite advanced for it's day. Had
>semi-reasonable graphics, sound that shouldn't be mentioned, and quite a nice
>chip at the heart of it. For the life of me I can't remember what it was (I
>was too busy hacking and messing around with my 64) but I think it was a
>Motorola jobbie. Was actually capable of multitasking (certainly in the OPD
>anyway, I forget if the bog standard QL could do it) and had this semi-nice
>piece of office software with it. Quill, Easel, Abacus and something else I
>think.

This is interesting. I have never figured out how to multitask this thing.
The manual certainly doesn't mention it 8-(. What I like is the note that
says if you're formatting a microdrive an *incoming* *phone* *call* will
terminate the operation.

>God this takes me back. And it was only a couple of years ago. I'm gonna have
>to try and get hold of one again. It would make a very adequate terminal
>round here.

Now if I had a terminal program for it this thing would be almost useful.
The built-in 300 1200/75 modem is useless as is the [tty/prestel only]
terminal. In these beasts one serial port is tied to the modem, and I think
the other one comes out the back [there's a 9 pin connector there anyway],
but the manuals don't give a pinout for it, nor to they give any clues about
how to use it.

Anyone got any old microdrive cartridges they don't need.

Ger van der Kamp

ongelezen,
11 jun. 1993 05:48:5211-06-1993
aan
In article <IISAKKIL.9...@vipunen.hut.fi>, iisa...@vipunen.hut.fi (Mika Iisakkila) writes:
|> I heard that in the end there was an OS for it that had decent
|> windowing instead of the mindless overwriting. Anyone know more?


Yes there is some kind of decent windowing system for the QL but
first some history:

When they started developing the QL they wanted to put in some kind
of CP/M in the machine. Then Tony Tebby took a prototype home and
wrote QDOS, the multitasking operating system for the QL. The basic
which is used in the QL was originaly developed for some kind of
super spectrum. So Sinclair decided to put it all in one machine.

Then there were some problems. The "kludge" was born. In the
original plans they reserved 32k for rom. But QDOS and SuperBasic
needed more. An extra rom had to be plugged in at the back of
the machine. Another problem was the inability of SuperBasic to
multitask. And of course...those microdrives! They are better than
tape and as long you made backup's you didn't have any problems.

The microdrives introduced a nice build in feature of QDOS. The
reading/writing to microdrives was buffered in spare memory.

Tony Tebby had written QDOS so that it could be expanded very easy.
After he left Sinclair Research Ltd. he started QJUMP. he wrote
an extension to QDOS which is included on most disk-interfaces. He
also wrote the device drivers for almost every disk-interface.

He is also the guy who wrote the Pointer Environment. This is a
window system for the QL.

Currently he is living somewhere in France and still does some
development for the QL.

And then there were: Those wonderful guy's at Qview! After Sinclair
went bust, the rights to the QL, QDOS and SuperBasic were sold to
Amstrad. Amstrad only wanted the spectrum rights I think but bought
the QL rights as well. So nobody could do could release new versions
of QDOS. Qview started rewriting the whole thing from scratch and
the result is called Minerva. Minerva is a QDOS compatible operating
system with many extra features and less bugs!? Minerva for example
contains Multibasic which can multitask more than one basic.

Then there is the QL emulator for the Atari ST. This emulator runs
SMS2, a succesor of QDOS written by Tony Tebby (for as far as I know).

In a previous article I mentioned the PC board. This board runs QSMS.
This is probably a special version of SMS2, but I haven't seen one
running so I can't say anything more about it.

There is also a QL emulator for the Amiga. I think that wouldn't
surprise anybody. I don't know which operating system is used.

So to come back to what Mika wrote: There are a lot of different versions
of the OS, but the windowing system is an extension which can be
used with any of those versions.

Ger van der Kamp
(g...@turing.ac.uk)

Stephen Usher

ongelezen,
11 jun. 1993 06:58:0111-06-1993
aan

>|> Sinclair Microdrives! Save your data in 28 days, or your money back!
>
>Oddly enough, I never had any bother with the microdrives on the
>Spectrum, but the ones on the QL were just hopeless.
>
>James

I had the opposite experience..

I found my ZX Microdrives for the Spectrum far more troublesome. The drives
themselves were a bit flaky too.. One died the day before my roommate needed a
first year report he'd written using Tasword 2 on my Speccy (upgraded from 16K ->
48K -> Plus) so I had to run down to Totenham Court Road and spend 50 quid on a
new drive! :-)

My QL's drives worked wonderfully and I only ever had one cartridge drop out on
me too! I wrote my final year project report on the machine in 48Hrs flat,
including recovering from a power outage during the early hours of the second day.

Quill was slow, but generally reliable, unlike many Mac word processors I've used.

Stephen Usher

ongelezen,
11 jun. 1993 07:11:3111-06-1993
aan

Ge...@equinox.gen.nz (Geoff Mccaughan) wrote:-

>Mika Iisakkila (iisa...@vipunen.hut.fi) wrote:
>
>>machine with 128k RAM (expandable to 640k) and a multitasking OS
> ^^^
>Aaaarrrgghhh - the number of the beast!

Don't worry, the Trump Card took it up to 896K. :-)

In the following article he wrote:-


>This is interesting. I have never figured out how to multitask this thing.
>The manual certainly doesn't mention it 8-(. What I like is the note that
>says if you're formatting a microdrive an *incoming* *phone* *call* will
>terminate the operation.

I don't no much about the OPD, but on the QL you'd just use exec to run a program
and use ^C to switch input between tasks.

As for the microdrive format stopping when the phone rang if the phone interface
interrupted the processor. The QL/OPD microdrives were fully processor controlled
and required acurate timing in sending the right things to the I/O port at the
right time, and interrupts would cause the format to be incorrect, hence it would
be aborted.

Steve

Remember, we are talking about the same time period as when the IBM PC XT was
still leading edge in micros in the office and 300baud full duplex modems cost an
arm, a leg and several other appendages.

Nik Clayton

ongelezen,
11 jun. 1993 06:53:1311-06-1993
aan
In article <Geoff...@equinox.gen.nz> Ge...@equinox.gen.nz (Geoff Mccaughan) writes:
>Nik Clayton (cs9...@brunel.ac.uk) wrote:
>
>>And BT (British Telecom) used it's guts for their Merlin machine, which was
>>then used and rebadged by ICL as the OPD (One Per Desk, great name eh?).
>>Marvelous machine, done up in beige as I recall. Complete with an almot
>>built-in phone (I kid you not) as well.
>
>I have one of these sitting right next to me. Makes an OK phone, I've never
>found much use for it as a computer though.

ROTFL.

>>Lets see, the QL/Merlin/OPD was quite advanced for it's day. Had
>>semi-reasonable graphics, sound that shouldn't be mentioned, and quite a nice
>>chip at the heart of it. For the life of me I can't remember what it was (I
>>was too busy hacking and messing around with my 64) but I think it was a
>>Motorola jobbie. Was actually capable of multitasking (certainly in the OPD
>>anyway, I forget if the bog standard QL could do it) and had this semi-nice
>>piece of office software with it. Quill, Easel, Abacus and something else I
>>think.
>
>This is interesting. I have never figured out how to multitask this thing.
>The manual certainly doesn't mention it 8-(. What I like is the note that
>says if you're formatting a microdrive an *incoming* *phone* *call* will
>terminate the operation.

Um...thinking back, you can use the START and RESTORE (possibly RESTART) keys
to switch between an application and the main menu. One of the menu options
gave you a list of currently running tasks I think, from which you could
choose the run to go back to. I can't remember if the tasks still ran in the
background or were suspended.

Anyone know of an FTP site for QL programs?

>>God this takes me back. And it was only a couple of years ago. I'm gonna have
>>to try and get hold of one again. It would make a very adequate terminal
>>round here.
>
>Now if I had a terminal program for it this thing would be almost useful.

It came with one didn't it? Or the phone bit included one of those dinky
little plug in cartridges which added the software.

>The built-in 300 1200/75 modem is useless as is the [tty/prestel only]
>terminal.

Certainly not, it's perfectly capable of managing 300/300 (I used it to
connect to Micronet, I still remember the first flush of excitement when
playing Micronet MUD).

>In these beasts one serial port is tied to the modem, and I think
>the other one comes out the back [there's a 9 pin connector there anyway],
>but the manuals don't give a pinout for it, nor to they give any clues about
>how to use it.

I'm gonna do my damndest to scarf one this weekend, along with any manuals I
can get my hands on. I'll dig out whatever info I can for you.

>Anyone got any old microdrive cartridges they don't need.

Nope, need all mine.

B-)

Rgds, Nik

Neil MG Gall

ongelezen,
11 jun. 1993 11:24:0611-06-1993
aan
In article <1993Jun08.1...@cdc486.cdc.polimi.it>, s...@bach.cefriel.it (Mitraglia) writes:
** Many years ago there was a wonderful machine called the Sinclair QL....
**
** Did it ever appear in the USA market ?
**


I had a shot of one for a while... really unusual BASIC, with windowing
and things. All on a Z80 or something too. Incidentaly, the Amiga can
emulate the QL too.

--
Neil

John Verhoeven

ongelezen,
12 jun. 1993 05:15:2112-06-1993
aan
Mike Smith x3297 (msm...@crc.ac.uk) wrote:

> From my recollection, it was sold as the ICL OPD before it was taken up by
> BT and marketed as the Merlin Tonto. Merlin was BT's generic name for
> personal computers. Did there used to be a CP/M machine in the Merlin range
> or am I dreaming?

The OPD's landed up here in Oz as the Telecom 'Computerphone' selling
for around A$3000 several years ago. Rumour has it that they got stuck
with a warehouse full of them.

Last I heard of them they were practically giving them away....

--

John Verhoeven (jo...@acix.DIALix.oz.au or jo...@DIALix.oz.au) _--_|\
Treasurer, Amiga Developers Ass. of Western Australia (ADAWA) / \
For more info on ADAWA mail adawa...@dragons.DIALix.oz.au *_.--._/

Geoff Mccaughan

ongelezen,
11 jun. 1993 19:54:2011-06-1993
aan
Nik Clayton (cs9...@brunel.ac.uk) wrote:

>Um...thinking back, you can use the START and RESTORE (possibly RESTART) keys
>to switch between an application and the main menu. One of the menu options
>gave you a list of currently running tasks I think, from which you could
>choose the run to go back to. I can't remember if the tasks still ran in the
>background or were suspended.

START & RESUME. Actually I don't have any non-interactive programs, so it's
hard to tell if they're running or suspended 8-).

>Anyone know of an FTP site for QL programs?

8-). The ultimate in frustration, FTP some programs and then try to figure
out how to get them into this thing.

>It came with one didn't it? Or the phone bit included one of those dinky
>little plug in cartridges which added the software.

Yes there's a built-in terminal, but I can't make it do anything other than
talk to the modem. A terminal capable of some speed and that could talk out
the other serial port would actually be useful.

>>The built-in 300 1200/75 modem is useless as is the [tty/prestel only]
>>terminal.

>Certainly not, it's perfectly capable of managing 300/300 (I used it to
>connect to Micronet, I still remember the first flush of excitement when
>playing Micronet MUD).

Yeah OK, so it *does* work. Do you have any local systems that still talk
300bps? I don't.

>I'm gonna do my damndest to scarf one this weekend, along with any manuals I
>can get my hands on. I'll dig out whatever info I can for you.

That would be interesting. I have manuals for this, but no manual for the
BASIC, which makes any programming rather hit & miss. All the graphics
commands seem to be absent from the BASIC I have.

A. Khattri

ongelezen,
11 jun. 1993 23:55:1611-06-1993
aan

Erm, it was a 68008 and it multi-tasked. Which is more than could have
been said of the PC or the Apple at the time.

Aj.
--
.-------------------------[ The Eno ]-------------------------------------.
| "The trouble with New Age | JANET : da...@uk.ac.city |
| music is that there's no | e...@uk.ac.city.cs |
| evil in it.." - Brian Eno | US : da188%city....@cunyvm.cuny.edu |

Geoff Mccaughan

ongelezen,
12 jun. 1993 05:14:4112-06-1993
aan
John Verhoeven (jo...@acix.DIALix.oz.au) wrote:
>Mike Smith x3297 (msm...@crc.ac.uk) wrote:

>> From my recollection, it was sold as the ICL OPD before it was taken up by
>> BT and marketed as the Merlin Tonto. Merlin was BT's generic name for
>> personal computers. Did there used to be a CP/M machine in the Merlin range
>> or am I dreaming?

>The OPD's landed up here in Oz as the Telecom 'Computerphone' selling
>for around A$3000 several years ago. Rumour has it that they got stuck
>with a warehouse full of them.

Ditto here in N.Z. except Telecom were renting them at $360/month. At that
time you could buy a QL for ~$1000.

>Last I heard of them they were practically giving them away....

Ditto again. How do you think I got mine? [I didn't pay for it].

Stephen Crane

ongelezen,
12 jun. 1993 09:04:3012-06-1993
aan
In article <Geoff...@equinox.gen.nz> Ge...@equinox.gen.nz (Geoff Mccaughan) writes:
>Anyone know of an FTP site for QL programs?

Geoff> 8-). The ultimate in frustration, FTP some programs and then try to
Geoff> figure out how to get them into this thing.
Actually, some years ago I connected my QL directly to one of the tty
ports of a MicroVAX-II. Transferred source code to some utilities but
gave up when my lousy C compiler (very early Lattice-C, I think)
refused to compile them. So it's not impossible. I think it even ran
at 9600 bps. My memory is fading though.

Then there was the time I tried to use it as a "file server" for my
UK101 (Ohio Superboard clone). Perhaps it's not fading fast enough.

Geoff> Geoff, Sysop Equinox (equinox.gen.nz) +64 (3) 3854406 [6 Lines]
Steve
--
Stephen Crane, Dept of Computing, Imperial College of Science, Technology and
Medicine, 180 Queen's Gate, London sw7 2bz, UK:jsc@{doc.ic.ac.uk, icdoc.uucp}
The revolution failed, or so I've been told.

SillyWiz

ongelezen,
13 jun. 1993 11:43:0813-06-1993
aan
In article <Geoff...@equinox.gen.nz> Ge...@equinox.gen.nz (Geoff Mccaughan) writes:
>>Anyone know of an FTP site for QL programs?
>
>8-). The ultimate in frustration, FTP some programs and then try to figure
>out how to get them into this thing.
>>I'm gonna do my damndest to scarf one this weekend, along with any manuals I
>>can get my hands on. I'll dig out whatever info I can for you.

>That would be interesting. I have manuals for this, but no manual for the
>BASIC, which makes any programming rather hit & miss. All the graphics
>commands seem to be absent from the BASIC I have.

I have an OPD which has a damaged power supply board in the monitor -
does anyone out there have any technical diagrams ? ( I'm not good enough at
electronics to work from the PCB...) -- I phoned up the distributors who
offered to sell me a new colour moitor for 450 quid which is 450 quid more than
I paid for the thing but I'd like to get it working. It looks like a blown
capacitor, when I power it up the thing resets repeatedly, the relay in the
phone buzzing at 50hz, so it might be the DC smoothing bit.

I have a manual for the BASIC but I don't remember seeing any graphics
commands in it ( I could well be wrong tho..)

Give the Audience a Grin..
SillyWiz.
-------------------------------------+--------------------------------------
The University of Warwick cares little | Speaking as some-one who's idea of a
for my opinions the rest of the time so| high capacity storage system is a new
it can't have these if it wants them. | C120 cassette...
-------------------------------------+--------------------------------------
Keith Lucas ---- sill...@dcs.warwick.ac.uk , cs...@csv.warwick.ac.uk
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Geoff Mccaughan

ongelezen,
14 jun. 1993 02:21:0314-06-1993
aan
SillyWiz (sill...@dcs.warwick.ac.uk) wrote:

> I have an OPD which has a damaged power supply board in the monitor -
>does anyone out there have any technical diagrams ? ( I'm not good enough at
>electronics to work from the PCB...) -- I phoned up the distributors who
>offered to sell me a new colour moitor for 450 quid which is 450 quid more than
>I paid for the thing but I'd like to get it working. It looks like a blown
>capacitor, when I power it up the thing resets repeatedly, the relay in the
>phone buzzing at 50hz, so it might be the DC smoothing bit.

Sounds to me like you might have lost a rectifier.

> I have a manual for the BASIC but I don't remember seeing any graphics
>commands in it ( I could well be wrong tho..)

Well if I was there I could fix your PSU and look at your manual in
exchange. I'm not about to travel to the other side of the world to do it
though. Still, if you happen to be in the area... 8-)

Nik Clayton

ongelezen,
14 jun. 1993 10:58:5714-06-1993
aan
In article <Geoff...@equinox.gen.nz> Ge...@equinox.gen.nz (Geoff Mccaughan) writes:
>>Um...thinking back, you can use the START and RESTORE (possibly RESTART) keys
>>to switch between an application and the main menu. One of the menu options
>>gave you a list of currently running tasks I think, from which you could
>>choose the run to go back to. I can't remember if the tasks still ran in the
>>background or were suspended.
>
>START & RESUME. Actually I don't have any non-interactive programs, so it's
>hard to tell if they're running or suspended 8-).

Hmm, you could always write some.

Never did play around much with the BASIC with the OPD. Was it the same as
the QL BASIC?

>>Anyone know of an FTP site for QL programs?
>
>8-). The ultimate in frustration, FTP some programs and then try to figure
>out how to get them into this thing.

Hmm. I suspect I could either get them across the 3.5" disk connection, or
download them into the thing...

>>Certainly not, it's perfectly capable of managing 300/300 (I used it to
>>connect to Micronet, I still remember the first flush of excitement when
>>playing Micronet MUD).
>
>Yeah OK, so it *does* work. Do you have any local systems that still talk
>300bps? I don't.

Most of them use it as the absolute minimum beyond which they will not
maintain a connection. Wonder if I could use it to connect to the Unix boxes
here.

>>I'm gonna do my damndest to scarf one this weekend, along with any manuals I
>>can get my hands on. I'll dig out whatever info I can for you.
>
>That would be interesting. I have manuals for this, but no manual for the
>BASIC, which makes any programming rather hit & miss. All the graphics
>commands seem to be absent from the BASIC I have.

Didn't manage it this weekend, possibly next. In the meantime, I've forgotten
one of the OPD's best features... the speech synthesis! Yes, you too can have
Kenneth Kendal (I think that's the voice they used) answering all your phone
calls for you.

Rgds, Nik

Geoff Mccaughan

ongelezen,
15 jun. 1993 05:05:0415-06-1993
aan
Nik Clayton (cs9...@brunel.ac.uk) wrote:
>>
>>START & RESUME. Actually I don't have any non-interactive programs, so it's
>>hard to tell if they're running or suspended 8-).

>Hmm, you could always write some.

>Never did play around much with the BASIC with the OPD. Was it the same as
>the QL BASIC?

Pretty much I think, but it seems to have the graphics stuff excised 8-(.
Anyway I thought you couldn't multi-task the BASIC?

>>8-). The ultimate in frustration, FTP some programs and then try to figure
>>out how to get them into this thing.

>Hmm. I suspect I could either get them across the 3.5" disk connection, or
>download them into the thing...

No floppy on this thing, and the terminal doesn't have any tranfer options.
I guess it would be possible to write something in BASIC to do it, if I
could figure out how to talk to the serial port 8-/.

>Didn't manage it this weekend, possibly next. In the meantime, I've forgotten
>one of the OPD's best features... the speech synthesis! Yes, you too can have
>Kenneth Kendal (I think that's the voice they used) answering all your phone
>calls for you.

Yeah that's a scream, pity you can only choose the built-in words though.

Ger van der Kamp

ongelezen,
15 jun. 1993 07:01:3815-06-1993
aan

You can reach Miracle systems at (+44) 904 423986.

I made a mistake. The clock speed is *only* 20Mhz. I don't think you'll be
able to crank up the clock speed as you could on version 1 and 2 of their
Goldcard. The current version of their Goldcard can't be switched to 24
Mhz eighter.

The reason why you could change the clock speed on their Goldcard for those
who are interested:

When they developed the Goldcard the programmable logic chip couldn't cope
with the 16 Mhz they wanted the 68000 to run. So they thought about producing
a 12 Mhz version and upgrade them later when a 16Mhz logic chip was available.
They designed the board with a 24 Mhz crystal and put some logic in this
chip to divide it by 2. Updating would be simple. Exchange the logic chip
which would divide the frequency by 1.5

But the 16 Mhz version of the logic chip became available with the start of
the production so no 12 Mhz version was ever sold. But the 24 Mhz crystal
was still there. Somebody found out how to switch of the frequency divider
by poking into the memory area of the chip and you have a 24 Mhz 68000.

Ger van der Kamp

ongelezen,
17 jun. 1993 03:59:3917-06-1993
aan
In article <C8M9M...@brunel.ac.uk>, cs9...@brunel.ac.uk (Nik Clayton) writes:
|> In article <Geoff...@equinox.gen.nz> Ge...@equinox.gen.nz (Geoff Mccaughan) writes:
|> >>Anyone know of an FTP site for QL programs?
|> >
|> >8-). The ultimate in frustration, FTP some programs and then try to figure
|> >out how to get them into this thing.

There are some basic programs on garbo.uwasa.fi
For the real stuff you need to call a BBS which has a qdos area. On the ftp site which
I mentioned there are a few issues of the QL Hackers Journal. A list of BBS-es is given in
one of these issues.



|> Hmm. I suspect I could either get them across the 3.5" disk connection, or
|> download them into the thing...

For downloading I have to carry my QL to my working place. It might be oke if your
traveling by car, but I have to use public transport. I usualy write the data on
MS-DOS format disks on a sun workstation and then convert them to QDOS format on
the QL. Works fine as long as you don't convert (the stupid CR PCs use in) the files.

Martin Beckett

ongelezen,
17 jun. 1993 23:49:5717-06-1993
aan
In England the OPD's ended up working bingo halls! I worked for them one summer about 5years ago, we had an OPD in each bingo hall accross the country which recieved the numbers to call from a central machine so you could play a synchronised game accross
the country for big money!

PS - the QL had a peer-peer network built in a bit like apple-talk but the machines had to synchronise each other which took about 30 secs so it wasn't any use for two player games, did anyone get this to work.

Sinclair QL smartest looking machine this side of a Next-station

Martin Beckett, Institute of Astronomy Cambridge.


Ger van der Kamp

ongelezen,
19 jun. 1993 19:45:2519-06-1993
aan
In article <1993Jun18.0...@infodev.cam.ac.uk>, m...@mail.ast.cam.ac.uk (Martin Beckett) writes:
|> PS - the QL had a peer-peer network built in a bit like apple-talk
|> but the machines had to synchronise each other which took about
|> 30 secs so it wasn't any use for two player games, did anyone
|> get this to work.
|>
|> Sinclair QL smartest looking machine this side of a Next-station

I don't know what you tried to do, but the QL network doesn't take 30 seconds
to "synchronise". If you try to access a station on the net which doesn't
exits you have a 30 second "default" timeout. During this time the QL will
retry to get in touch with the other QL. After 30 seconds he gives up.

The QL network is not fast. There is an extension (TK2) which allows you to
set up to 8 QLs as file server for the total number of 64 QLs in a net. The
file transfer is to slow to do extensive IO on another machine. Just simple
IO.

I have a half finished interactive game which runs on 2 to 4 QLs. It uses
the standard network. The trick is to use a separate task to wait for the
net IO. Problems occur when one of the QL stops. The QL which tries to
reach that QL will have this timeout problem.

When you look at the hardware Sinclair used to implement his network you
will be amazed that it works. The connectors are the default 3.5 mm headphone
connectors. There are a few resitors, and one transistor. On one of the IO
chips there is one pin which does the work. This pin is shared with the
microdrives I believe.

You could also connect a ZX Spectrum in the same net.

There is one game I know which uses 2 QLs. The writers didn't thrust the
QL network and they provided a nul-modem to connect the QL's.

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