Mini Pilot (Computing With the Amstrad)Applications Programmation
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IF ever a program could be described as of mixed parentage, our version of Pilot can. The form books would describe it as "Pilot, out of N. Dealey, via Chuck Carpenter, adapted by Gordon Mills for the Apple and BBC Micro and translated for the Amstrad by the A Team".

It is rather surprising that no version of Pilot seems to be available for the Amstrad CPC464 despite the fact that the Pilot language was originally written for teachers to help them produce computer-aided learning programs.

Perhaps one reason for this is that the "Super" Pilot such as that available on the Apple is even more complicated to learn than Basic.

One advantage of a simple Pilot is that beginners in programming can be more easily initiated into the techniques of simple program structures. The disadvantages are that it does not allow subroutines/ procedures nor any form of mathematical calculation.

T: Text line.
A: Accept user input.
M: List of strings to check if there is a Match with the last user input.
J: Jump to another line
C: Clear the screen.
R: Remark or comment line
E: (or END:) End the Pilot program.
S: Allows a score to be kept (that is requires a number).
DONE To end writing a program and return to menu.
Table 1: Table of commands
However, for the teacher who wishes to make up simple quizzes or tutorial material on a question/ response basis, this simple Pilot may save considerable time when compared with a similar program written in Basic.

The version described here is based on the Apple version (lines 500-4900 are almost identical). It requires only a few simple command letters with each command followed by a colon as shown in Table I.

After typing in Program II this should be saved. On running the program, to write a new one press 1 (new program). Then enter the name which you wish to give it. After a few seconds, a zero followed by a question mark will appear.

This is your cue to start typing in Pilot. It is important not to put in unnecessary spaces and to ensure all letters are capitals.

The text command T: can be used to put any normal keyboard character on screen. Crude graphics can fce displayed by using *, + and a full-stop to build patterns spread over a number of lines.

All the main commands can be modified by Y or N immediately following the command symbols and before the colon. This causes the command to operate only if:

The modifier is Y and the iast Match is positive.


The modifier is N and the last Match is negative.

Additional symbols used are * to precede labels of lines to which the programmer wishes to jump and $ to precede string labels in lines accepting user input - these can be used later in the program in text lines. There has to be a space between the colon : and the $ of the label.

Examples of their use are given in Program I or Program la and in the instructions contained within Program II.

When using the Match command more than one string can be checked providing each is separated by a comma. Note also that the last symbol on a Match line must always be a single quote (').

As there is a limitation of 33 characters per line, if the number of matches to be checked is greater than can be accommodated on one line, then the continuation Match lines must start with MN: as shown in line 6 of Program 1.

Apart from improving the integrity and structure of the Carpenter program, additional features include:

  • A comprehensive menu: on running the program, press 1 to start a new program. All other commands are self-explanatory.
  • Improved editing by allowing the insertion and deletion of lines in a Pilot program.
  • option for the Pilot program to be listed on a printer.
  • Paged screen listing of the Pilot program.
  • Maximum number of Pilot program lines is 400. This could be enlarged further if required by increasing the value of MX in line 130. Alternatively, initialising/editing delays could be reduced by decreasing MX.
  • Instructions and commands together with a sample Pilot program included within the Basic program.
  • The addition of a Score command, S: which can be followed by any number (positive or negative). If the Score number is less than 999, then that number is added to the current score: if 999 or greater, the score is reset to zero. At the conclusion of the program, the score is printed out.
  • A facility for Pilot programs to be saved to and loaded from cassette.

When writing or editing a program, to tell the micro that you have finished type DONE on the next line (without a colon) and you will be returned to the menu. Don't forget that you will need the command E: to end the program you are writing.
One of the simplest uses for Pilot in education is to present simple knowledge tests. Program I is intended to illustrate how program structures can be developed from the simple to the more complex, thereby providing an ideal teaching medium for beginners.

Question 1 allows one attempt only. Question 2 shows how a multiple choice question can be written.

Questions 3 and 4 allow the user any number of attempts but it is important to include, as in Question 4, the option (?) to escape from what would be an endless loop if the answer is not automatical!/ given after the user response.

Question 5 shows how to obtain two answers from one question. This involves a much more complex structure than the previous questions. The five types of questions demonstrated in Program I can serve as a model for similar questions in any discipline.

If you find Program I corrplex try Program la. This has onl/ three questions and contains only one jump.

This Mini Pilot interpreter, although written in Basic, is surprisingly fast.

The only delays - of several seconds - occur on initialising and when inserting blank lines or deleting lines (under EDIT).

Also, the modular construction allows the expert programmer to readily experiment with additional commands if desired.

Now is your chance to experiment with a simplified Pilot. It may be that more elaborate versions are on the way. but this is a cheap method of finding out whether you think a more expensive Pilot with graphics and mathematical facilities could be a worthwhile acquisition.

I hope you and your friends - or pupils - don't groan too much at the riddles in Program I.


★ PUBLISHER: Computing With The Amstrad
★ YEAR: 1987


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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.