The Basic IdeaApplications Programmation
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Simon fails miserably to come up with any new puns on the word BASIC in his review of a new beginners' guide to BASIC package from Campursoft. It's sad he's even trying, really.

For several months now, we've been running a BASIC tutorial series in AA.

But some people just can't wait from month to month to discover how to access the power of their CPC. Campursoft might have timed their latest release perfectly, then; a BASIC tutorial book accompanied by a disc full of examples so that you can learn what you want when you want.

The book is designed for the total beginner to use - it starts with making a back-up of the BASIC Idea disc, and goes onto the very first skills you'll need to get around the keyboard, and enter the simplest of programs.

From then on, it's Captain Trojan all the way - by the end of it all, you'll be producing full animations, decent tunes, and complex mathematical operations. And what's more you'll understand how you've done them.

The truth of the matter is that as a BASIC tutorial guide, this book really has to be something really special to get a glowing review - I'm a firm believer in the ability of anyone to pick up this language by simply experimenting with the odd, archaic symbols and words they find in listings with the odd reference to the CPC manual. So any tutorial will have to either be extensive in its coverage of the language, or take a hands-on learning approach, making use of the fact that the reader has the mental ability to work some things out for themselves.

BASIC Idea has got the basic idea - it'd be almost impossible to fully detail every aspect of BASIC and so what the book can't tell you can be worked out with a bit of thought, a lot of patience, your manual and skills that the book can give.

Having said all that (in an incredibly roundabout way), there is still a lot that the book covers extensively -the main emphasis seems to be on producing things to impress, which means not only will you have something pleasing at the end of your had work, but you'll have learnt a lot of techniques and routines you can use to knock out some pretty mean Type-Ins.

Still working...

One thing we can clear up right now is that this book is written for absolute beginners. As the title suggests, it covers the basics of the language and builds on that. This means that although what we're dealing with is potentially quite complex to a lot of people, you won't be thrown in at the deep end without a rubber ring. In fact, the style is really quite excellent -nothing moves too fast, and plenty of explanation is given with every topic covered.

Not only this, but the whole thing is structured in such a way that you're not just trying to memorise several BASIC commands and what they do - you'll be using what you've learnt throughout the rest of the book and, by the time you've finished, should know quite a few particular commands, routines, and techniques like the back of your hand.

But that's machine code!

It threw me at first as well - we're happily trundling along learning all about palette switching, when out of the blue pops a sprite handling routine in machine code. The most obvious reaction to this would be to run away screaming, hoping that common bacteria would kill it before it had a chance to take over the planet. It's not quite as bad as it seems, though -at no point are you expected to start thinking in a second programming language, as it's all done for you, and presented in neat bundles for you to easily use. You could just think of this as a fairly successful attempt to prove that BASIC is easily powerful enough to suit anyone's needs with the subtle addition of the odd machine code routine here and there courtesy of Campursoft. The point is, you'd be absolutely right.

If you look on this month's covertape, you'll find the AA Toolbox, a set of extra commands to load into your machine and use to turbocharge your CPC. In many ways, this is what Campursoft have done - sure, the stuff is machine code, but you don't have to step outside the cosy BASIC environment to use it.

It's all on disc

As well as the book, when you open your jiffy bag something else should fall out - a disc, stuffed full of example listings, and bits from the book that were either too long or too boring to type in yourself. This is extremely handy because when you first receive the package, you can have a quick look through the disc and see just what you'll be getting up to in the many chapters to come. Looking through the disc personally, I'm impressed - you potentially clever lot.

Sum it up, Simon

Tutorial books are never going to be a thrill-packed ride - you buy them because you want to know what goes on inside your machine, and you want to be able to use that to your advantage. It's not a wild and crazy time, no. Knowing this, it is difficult to see how Campursoft managed to come up with a tutorial that will not only hold your attention long enough to shove information down your throat, but will be friendly and straightforward enough that you'll want to swallow.


★ YEAR: 1994
★ AUTHOR: Sean McManus
★ PRICE: £15
★ RERELEASE: Sean McManus Software Collection


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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent  du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.