|★ APPLICATIONS ★ UTILITAIRES PROGRAMMATION EN LIGNE DE COMMANDE (RSX) ★ ULTRA-BASIC v1|Amstrad Action) ★|
|Ultra-Basic v1||Ultra-Basic v2|
Ordinary Locomotive BASIC not good enough for you, eh? Think you need something with a bit more power, do you? Well if you do, Ultrabasic could be just the program to get...
Everyone knows that the CPC's Locomotive BASIC is one of the best around, with a comprehensive set of powerful commands and functions. However, there are always those specialist needs that it can't fulfil.
Luckily, however, one of the most useful features of Locomotive BASIC is its ability to define easy-to-use external commands. These have to be written in machine code, but can be accessed from BASIC easily with a simple keyword.
Ultrabasic essentially tacks fifty or so of these extra commands onto BASIC for use in your own programs. It will work on the 464 and 664 to a limited fashion, but only 6128 owners will reap the full benefit of the software, as the extra memory available on this machine is needed by many of the commands. (Though 464/664 owners will be able to use them if they have the necessary ROM/RAM upgrade.) In addition to Ultrabasic itself, there are one or two (or three or more!) extra goodies included on the disk.
Documentation consists of a few sheets of paper stapled together. All the information is very clear and well presented, and looks like it's been printed on a laser printer. Detailed instructions are included for most of the commands, but in any case you can run a tutorial program that takes you through the extra functions.
There are a fair number of extra commands available, too. Some, it has to be said, are rather less useful than others. For instance, there's the |SILLY.SAYINGS command. Every minute, no matter what you're doing, the computer will come up with some ridiculous comment or proverb. Amusing for a while, but not exactly a vital function.
There are plenty of real goodies, though. The cassette motor can be switched on and off, useful for re-winding the tape on external cassette recorders, for example. And |HEADER,"filename" will read the header information of a file, and display the contents. There are various commands for loading and de-protecting BASIC programs, too.
Many of the commands are screen tricks. The screen clearing command |FADE dissolves the screen, a very nice effect. You can |AND, | OR, and |XOR the display. Characters can be printed at twice the normal size, and can be inverted. Extra fonts, bold and italic are available, as well as up to eight defined by yourself.
While there's no question that the extra commands are easy to use, a package of this sort must be genuinely handy. Many of the additional commands in Ultrabasic have their uses, but they're not necessarily going to transform your BASIC programs. Some come in very useful as utilities -for instance, finding out disk header information is a valuable function - but are unlikely to be used in an everyday program. Indeed, a lot of the commands don't actually achieve that much that couldn't be done via normal programming. For instance there are commands to increase and decrease integer variables - a task easily accomplished with standard BASIC techniques.
In addition to the main Ultrabasic program, there are lots of other bits and pieces on the disk. Some of the programs are almost good enough to stand alone on their own. and they should certainly be taken into account when considering the purchase of the package. Bar Tetris is a special utility for players of the famous lateral thinking game, Tetris - the supreme challenge. It allows you to play the game in an instant, without the bother of saving your work. On boot-up, the Tetris code is stored in the second bank of memory. All that needs to be done to play is to type |TETRIS. Your BASIC program 'flips'places with the game, and you can play away. When you think it's about time you got on with some work again, the program you're working on can be brought back with similar ease.
A font editor allows you to design your own character set for use in the program. Ultrabasic allows you to make use of these custom characters in your own programs.
A Silicon Disc program allows you to use the memory as a temporary disk drive. You can save and load programs and data very quickly - just don't forget to save any valuable work onto a real disk at the end of the day!
Added to this are such treasures as a Mandelbrot set generator, a utility that allows disks to be examined, and a disk-to-tape archiver. A lot of these programs are extremely useful or interesting, but it's difficult to see them as saleable products in their own right. As part of a compilation, however, they're most welcome.
Ultrabasic is quite a mixed-up program. There is the feeling that a the majority of the commands aren't all that useful. One or two however, are worth their weight in, if not gold, then certainly m carbon steel. (Er, yes - ed.)
Added to this are all the other bits and pieces on the disk. It should really be viewed as a compilation of programs and, in that light, you do get an awful lot for your money. All things considered, six quid for a disk crammed full of programs ain't bad.