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A Month in the Life of 8BS

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A Month in the Life of 8BS Written Late 1994 

I wrote this article for 8BS-37 and refer to it now and again. Here it is for your perusal. This was written when I was really busy with the disc based magazine and gives you an idea of the amount of work I used to put into it:

Right! I thought to myself just as I was putting the finishing touches to issue 37 that it would be a good idea to do a "month in the life of 8BS" type article for this issue. WARNING!!! This article is about 10 miles long, I have taken out the vital points and put them into another article for quick reference. So here goes:

8.9.94 I come home from a hard days slaving over a hot Ambulance to discover only one envelope lodged on the 8BS desk. Great I think this is my lucky day as I have to dash out a bit later to a training evening. On goes the switch to power the 8BS hardware up. The monitor flashes into life, the disc drive lights up, but DISASTER! The Master is dead. OH no. So a structured approach to the problem is taken: Three circuits of the room resembling a headless chicken, trampling under foot various offspring is the first action taken. Out come the screwdrivers and pliers from the understairs cupboard. The Master is soon in pieces. Proddling around with screw drivers and various nasty burns from capacitors produce no joy. It is now after 1800 hours so I ring the 8BS repair man. I place the power unit into a shoe box, not before it manages to give me one last nasty jolt. I now have to go to Hull Royal Infirmary to give my training officer a bit of hassle, leaving John my eldest lad formatting discs on the BBC. I arrive back at about 2130 hours and ring Barry Maslin. He turns up with just the job. A 5.25" and 3.5" setup for the Compact. Saved!

9.9.94 Floated to lates instead of the early that I should have been on. Post the power supply. Three pounds 80 pence. Whilst there, I ask if my post is there. This is because sometimes my postman doesn't arrive until after 1200. There are a couple of packages, but the rest isn't even sorted yet. Off I trot home to sort out what I have. Enough to keep the BBC busy for a while. 1145 the postman drops the rest through the door. Two of note. One enquiry from Malaysia and one from South Africa. One member tells me he is selling his gear and I must seriously consider acquiring it for the group as spares. Off to work. Quiet day. Home at 2300 hours. My bro has brought me a belated birthday pressie. A Theakstons T shirt. Great! No Theakies though, BOO.

10.9.94 Up early to format a few discs ADFS. The post arrives at 1130. Six items. One from !Shawty! of DSPD saying that he forgot to include this disc with the other three in his last package. The problem here is that I have not received package one yet. Lost? I ring up his mum, but !Shawty! must be on a binge somewhere as she hasn't seen him for a week. A member wants several Eproms blowing. Guess what? Catch 22 here, I have the Eprom blowing software on disc, normally I load it into the Master SWR. The Master is still dead. The BBC has no SWR and I need to blow the blowing software onto a ROM before I can do any blowing. AAARGHH! Just have to leave that one for now. Hurtle off to work.

11.9.94 Sunday. The postman isn't going to disturb my lunch today. Finish off yesterdays post. Put 8BS-37 and Destroyed Realities 1 into the catalogue (TBI-64-1 1D). Update TBI-00. Have a tittle around with issue 38. Phonecall/enquiry from the Orkneys. Haircut on number 4. Go to work at 1600-2300.

12.9.94 Home at 1630. Monday is a quiet post day. There are only 4 packages today. All from members requesting discs from the pool and the latest issue. One enquiry about Eproms. I hope he doesn't order any before I get the Master fixed up. Only been an hour and a half tonight. The phone is a bit hot tonight. Several calls. One from K2O Stephan Richardson who offers to save the day by helping out with the Eprom blowing software. He suggests the "Regular Contact" section in the magazine.

13.9.94 Home at 1630. 7 Packages plus one at a neighbours house for some reason. One contains a Master power supply, YAHOO. Clap it into the Master and Bobs yer auntie. I catch up with the backlog in seconds. Blowing Eproms to cobble Dogs with. !Shawty!'s discs arrive, the envelope is open but nothing seems to be missing. Three new entries for the 8BS catalogue for the Digital Solutions PD section (TBI-55-3 4 and 5 all 1D). One new entry in the GLM section (GLM 14 1D) and one in the TBI section (TBI-65-1 some Mad Rabbit stuff). Quite a busy day even by Tuesdays standards. Seven and a half hours solid.

14.9.94 Print out some labels. A fairly fatal flaw in issue 24 is reported to me. Form Master on issue 24 will not run on the BBC due to an error in the cursor off command. Now fixed. 1145 the postman arrives with 9 packages. Some messages for issue 38. A new member. A new disc for the pool BBC-35 ADFS. Finished by 1415, just enough time to get ready for work, 1515-2300 with standby until 0700.

15.9.94 Day off. Type in some text info for a new radio amateur disc I am compiling. Send off a preliminary copy to Lorin Knight for checking and further additions. Some amazing mathematical calculations in the text that I have no chance of understanding. Hope they are copied in correctly. Had a bit of bother getting some of the signs to appear correctly on the BBC. Should be ok now. Post arrives at 1230. Two packages. One contains a donation of software from a member. He also wants me to alter a CJR disc to his specifications, this I do (hopefully). Finished by 1400. Down the post office and then feet up, I hope! Phone call, someone after help to fix an ADDER support eprom that he has inserted in the wrong way and ruined. I ring all members with eprom blowers and finally manage to sort out the problem.

16.9.94 Home at 1700. Only one letter arrived today, a member enquiring after another members address. Several phonecalls. One enquiry after a colour dump for his printer, quite a long chat. Another call from an A3010 owner who cannot get TBI-00 to run. I ring a member to get the info needed. Later the A3010 owner rings back to ask for the info, I give it to him. Later he rings back to say it works. Later he rings back to ask if it can be speeded up (apparently the *RUN files are terminally slow under emulation). I don't think so. K2O Makes his regular call. !Shawty! of Digital Solutions PD rings to say a big thank you for help received from various members after his cry for help in the mag. He is chuffed when I tell him that 15 copies of his software have been sent out already. DSPD is a popular section.

17.9.94 Start of a week of lates, at the end of this week I am usually zonked as the shift is 1500-2300 +standby 2300-0700. Finally take the bull by the horns and go into town to buy a decent desk for all the computers. It costs `125 but is worth every penny, the whole lot fits onto it and all the kelter fits in the numerous drawers. The postman arrives at 1100, just as I have fitted the hardware back together. Four items. One from Trevor Crapper, he is compiling a gazeteer for 8BS. It is to be on its own disc, entitled 8BS-00. It is coming on quite well, and will probably be on the streets before the next issue. Ring Trevor to offer encouragement. He says he is turning into a hermit doing this. Well, why should I be the only one in trouble?! Phone call from Sam Jackson. Joins over the telephone. Membership now 179 and growing steadily. Will we be up to 200 by Christmas?

18.9.94 Sunday. Start by writing a menu for 8BS-00. Decide after long consideration that one of the text files Trevor has sent isn't suitable. Ring him to tactfully suggest that all the hours of work he has put into that particular file have been wasted as I don't think it will be of any use. He takes it quite well. Tidy up the new desk a bit more. Decide that this file is going to be too big for a mode 7 file and convert it to 80 column. &600 bytes saved already.

19.9.94 Yesterday, my son John thought it would be amusing to tie a rope across the front gate. I didn't find it in the least funny when the rope brought my bike to a sudden halt as I tried to pedal through. As a result of the bike stopping, I flew over the top in a graceless somersault, landing on and injuring my right shoulder and arm. Postman arrives at 1030, early today! 9 packages. Nothing startling, promises of software to come, questionnaires, messages and orders. I add the messages to issue 38. The new desk works a treat, no more grovelling around on the floor. Stephan Richardson rings up. Two telephone enquiries regarding hardware problems, one BBC that doesn't seem to have Basic, another person with a broken monitor and disc drive. Replace the Z88 batteries. A quick test to see what size this editorial will be reveals that it will be huge and will just fit into EDIT after 4 weeks. Spend 13 pounds on stamps. Heartbreaking.

20.9.94 Questionnaire analysis. Takes about 45 mins. Got home from work last night to be told by Gill that there had been a phonecall from someone after an Electron. He had told Gill that he works for the BBC. The usual procedure here is for Gill to tell the enquirer to ring back the next day (save the club money). Somehow he managed to avoid the expense of this, ending up with me supposedly ringing him. A search through a couple of back issues adverts files soon revealed an Electron looking for a new home. Ring up the present owner, it is still for sale. Ring up this bloke from the BBC and give him the member's phone number. Apparently, despite all the hi-tech stuff they have, there are still a few bits and pieces of BBC hardware in use there. The Electron is used by technicians on BBC radio to run a prompt system for presenters such as Melvyn Bragg that don't like to use headphones. This bloke had been put onto me by Beebug. Beebug had told him that 8BS had bought all their old odds and ends in April. Something had to be done about this. It is great that Beebug put all these people onto 8BS, but the stories they tell them are getting wilder. Again, the bull must be taken by the horns and money must be shelled out on another probably long phonecall to Beebug. I speak with several people about various things. To cut a long story short: 1. Beebug are now going to put people with hardware for sale our way. 2. Beebug Volumes 6 to 12 are on their way to 8BS HQ! Yahoo! They only have the master copies left now and are going to post them today, they want them returning after I have backed them up. OK, whats happened? This is the first Tuesday ever that I have received no post. Stephan Richardson rings. !Shawty! of Digital Solutions PD (DSPD) rings.

21.9.94 Have another mess around with the data handling program for 8BS-00. I realise that it could be quite a handy program if I add the facility for searching any data. The program will now theoretically search any file on disc. Add a function to print percentage of the search carried out as it searches. Look through the pending disc box and discover the OPCODES texts. Ring up the BBC regarding the release of the text to PD. Get nowhere again (well, they say they will ring back. HaH!). A little further through the box are my Disk Users. I make a few calls again to try and have these released. No joy so far. Write to Alan Blundell to ask his advice on a number of things and to try to get the outstanding discs from his library. Postman arrives at 1100. Five parcels. One from Bill Jowitt containing an update for his MPG calculator. Put it onto issue 38. Finally manage to contact Mark Webb (sold 8BS the copyright on Fast Access) to discuss The Disk User copyright. He is going to look in his loft for his documentation to see if he owns it. The problem with a lot of software is actually getting people to admit they own the copyright.

22.9.94 Stunned today. Not too much sleep last night due to callouts. Program some 8K eproms with utilities from my teletext editing suite. The teletext editor and the *RUN file producer. Alter catalogue accordingly. Stephan Richardson rings up. Good news, Mark Coulton has agreed to allow View Professional to be distributed by PD libraries. He will charge `50 for a distribution licence. The software will not be PD. You will be able to obtain the package from 8BS as soon as we can fork out the fee. It will consist of the disc and two optional eproms for BBC users. The manual needs further consideration. Thanks for your efforts Stephan. Post arrives at 1130 again. 6 packages. Several phonecalls. Peter Davy sends an update for TBI-46-5, plus a copy of a new talking program, not ready for release yet. J.de Boer sends an update of TBI-54 Mandelbrot disc.

23.9.94 Called out again, not fit for much today. Final checks to Radio Amateur disc, make one or two slight changes and corrections. Realise that the search in the menu for 8BS-00 could be speeded up if assembler is used. Write a lower case conversion in machine code which cuts the search down from 6 min 4 sec to 2 min 33 sec. Realise now that this program will be ideal for searching the catalogue data on TBI-00. Make a slight alteration to the read in from disc routine and the menu, that's it. Must decide whether to put this program onto the next issue, there is probably no room for it on the DFS version of TBI-00. Phonecall from Stephan Richardson regarding some cheap hardware in Micro Mart. Phonecall from someone after a joystick. Postman arrives at 1130 again. 5 packages, orders, messages. Phonecall, technical enquiry, refer it to K.Tilbrook (8BS repair man).

24.9.94 Four Days off. Decide to make a start entering the details of the Acorn User cover discs into the catalogue. Start off a new section of the catalogue to edit separately from the main data. What a boring job. Postman arrives at 1130 with 5 packages. Phone is ringing constantly with enquiries (probably about 10 or 11 calls). !Shawty! writes, another disc for the pool, TBI-55-6, a disc of miscellaneous utilities from DSPD. Phonecall from Lorin Knight regarding the Radio Amateur disc. A few suggestions for corrections/changes. Put what I hope are the finishing touches to the new disc and send off a copy to Lorin for checking. Letter/order from Saudi Arabia. New member joins over the phone, membership now 180. Magazine side of issue 38 is now exactly half full. David Lowless of Destroyed Realities rings up to say he has just written a program that will convert a BBC screen to a 3D Magic Eye picture. He says he is going to send me a copy. I promise him the earth in return.

25.9.94 Sunday. Enter the rest of the info into the Acorn User section of the catalogue. Amend all copies of TBI-00 accordingly. Four and a half hours of tedious work. There are now 530 entries in the 8BS library. Another 80 are expected in the coming weeks. This should then be the end of sudden large entries. When I calculated this I was surprised, I thought we had about 500. Various other calculations show that the DFS version of TBI-00 is about to burst. Fortunately, with a bit of jiggling, the planned 8BS-00 will be able to catch some of the bits from the explosion.

26.9.94 Another two discs into the library, is there no stopping this man? TAU-87 and TAU-88, two Acorn User yearly compilation discs. I found them lurking in a disc box along with a load of other stuff. Postman arrives at 1015. 5 Packages.

27.9.94 Convert CJR 1 2 and 14 to one ADFS disc, enter it into the catalogue as CJR-1-2-14. Postman arrives at 1145 with 9 packages. Lorin Knight has approved the new Radio Amateur disc and suggests a couple of minor changes. This I do and enter it into the catalogue as TBI-66. Trevor Crapper sends a some data for the new 8BS-00 disc. He has settled on a format for the data so I alter the menu system accordingly and return the disc for approval.

28.9.94 Home at 1600. 8 Parcels. 3 Huge orders. Messages for the mag. Four hours work. Mag is now 229 K full. One member has asked me for an explanation of Witchcraft, the puzzle on the ADFS version of issue 37. The idea is to make the grid on the left look the same as the grid on the right by pressing the keys QWEASDZXC. Pressing a particular key causes a certain pattern of tiles to toggle. The letter Q for instance toggles QWAS. You cannot toggle a letter if the corresponding tile is red. That is enough for now!

29.9.94 Home at 1630. 7 Parcels. One huge one from Daniel Shimmin. New member, membership now at 182. Issued discs smash the 4000 mark. Now at 4030. 401 TBI-00's sent out. More time being devoted to issue 38 now. The issue is 230 K full with 179 K free. Finish at 1930 hrs.

30.9.94 No post. Four phonecalls. Listen to a bit of Yes.

1.10.94 One phonecall last night was a gentleman looking for, amongst other things a View Printer Driver. I have been asked for this so often that this morning I decided to compile a disc of View Printer Drivers. TBI-67 is a new entry to the catalogue, 5 drivers, one example. 13 files 27 K. During my search I discovered that a file on side two of TAU-4, the printer help disc is corrupted. It is corrupted on all my copies of the disc, so I assume it arrived at 8BS HQ corrupted. Has anyone an intact copy of The Acorn User Printer Help Disc? Post arrives 1140. Three packages. One with a disc from Trevor Crapper. The 8BS Magazine Database is now ready for the streets. Add to TBI-00. 8BS-00 is now available as 2D, a database which allows you to search for articles and software from any 8BS issue. Floated to another 7 days of rotten lates, I only just recovered from the last lot.

2.10.94 Sunday. Mess around trying to convert some of my own private printer software from the Citizen 120D to the BJ 130. What a pain, a mixture of machine code interrupts and direct pokeing of memory in a Basic program finally crack it. Work out issue dates for 1995. Phonecall from !Shawty!, full of new ideas for more software. I make this entry at 0231 Monday morning after getting home from a call out. If Gill finds out I switched on, I am dead meat.

3.10.94 Making some pictures with the 3D Magic Eye program I decide to put a menu into it. Options to load an picture and *LDPIC too. I see these pictures the wrong way out, when the image is supposed to come out at you, I see it set back. Having now sussed out how the program works, I decide to make a version that looks the right way to me. I add the option to toggle between the two ways to the menu so that other people that have this problem can see what 3D Magic Eyes are supposed to look like. Spend far too much time working through the collection of pictures trying to find reasonable images. Called out again, tired already.

4.10.94 4 Packages at 0950. One from Steven Flintham with new versions of the messaging system, questionnaire and ASCII to Message file converter. Place onto TBI-00 and onto issue 38.

5.10.94 Post arrives 1030. 6 Parcels. Several large orders of software from the pool. A couple of odds and ends for issue 38. Finish off sorting out Steven Flintham's submissions, testing and so on. Two new discs for the pool sent. They are BBC 114 Clip Art, two DFS discs in all. BBC 152, Astrological Chart Drawing, 2D. Put them into the catalogue and copy to TBI-00. A couple of phonecall enquiries via Beebug. Finish off after coming home from work at 0015. K6X could not get Sumvaders on TBI-2 to work on his Master. Two common compatibility problems here, so they are worth a mention:

1. The first is that PAGE should have been set to &1900 before running the program "Sumvade"

2. The sprite lookup table is in a different place. You can tell this problem when all the movement of the game is on the top line of the screen of your Master. Cure it with the following program:

50?&FE34=&18 60FORJ%=0TO31:K%=J%*640:P%=(2*J%)+&C375:[OPT2 70EQUB K% DIV 256:EQUB K% AND 255 80]:NEXT

Then chain your program. In the case of Sumvaders it was:


It is now 0045, so I had better call it a day (or night).

6.10.94 I do not normally read the private messages, but I spotted a note from one member to another by chance. It concerned filing systems. You can find out the filing system that your machine is currently using. Type this:


Then if A%=1, you are using TAPE. If A%=4 DFS. If A%=8 ADFS. Simple when you know.

Realise that this article is so big that no one will read it. Write a short summary of the salient points. My VW camper's engine bursts into flames whilst backing out the drive. Fortunately I managed to put it out before too much damage is done (I had 3 good quality fire extinguishers, 2 of which are now empty). 6 Parcels. Orders, submissions. Spend 15 pounds on stamps.

7.10.94 Postie at 1130. 3 enquiries, one order, one submission for the mag. Steve Hanson of Superior Software pops in for a coffee and a chat. Show him the scorch in the drive. All the neigbours are keeping their eyes on our drive now, who needs the telly down the road. Pyrotechnics and stunt riding, free show, roll up, roll up. A number of phonecalls.

8.10.95 Two days off. Postman at 1145 with 8 packages. 2 From long lost members, 3 new enquiries. Phonecall from Wales, new member joins over phone. Welcome Victor K7P. 183 Members now. Work out how to print calendars by just typing the year. Adapt one of my programs for issue 38 that prints out a calendar onto 1 sheet, any year. Only 127 K free on issue 38 now.

9.10.94 Find a disc, Screen Thief. Read the info. It says freely copyable for educational use. The disc contains useful utilities to freeze the computer. The screen may then be saved to disc. The screen may be dumped to the printer later. The disc contains several printer dumps INCLUDING COLOUR DUMPS which I have not been able to test, but I reckon that some of you will want to try them out as I have had numerous requests in the past for colour dumps. The disc is TBI-68 1D.

10.10.94 Working a few day shifts this week. Come home to a long list of telephone messages that Gill has fielded. Two packages. One contains three BBC PD discs that I have been waiting for. Twenty one to go. BBC 21, 52 and 85. Three ADFS games discs. See the editorial summary for more details. Enter the discs into the catalogue whilst answering the telephone which isn't going to stop ringing tonight it seems! D.MacGraw suggests a 512 section in the ADFS version of the mag. This seems like a good idea. Come on you lot with 512 boards, how about some messages/articles relating to your 512's? I am at present on the look out for a 512 board. Andrew Nelson of BEEB Developments rings up. I thought he had popped his clogs. He promises some submissions.

11.10.94 Home at 1630 to a huge pile of post. 9 packages. Some Eproms to blow. A new member (now at 184). Several submissions for the mag, the deadline is in a couple of days, the rush starts. The disc has now 102K spare. Things are getting a bit tight.

12.10.94 Home at 1630. Now 2211 and have not eaten my tea yet. Pile of post, 12 items. One new member, now 185 in the club. Loads of messages. 7 New discs (TBI-69) for the pool. Humour. See the editorial summary for more details. A couple of phonecalls. 82 K free on issue 38 with one day to go. Letter from the organisers of The Acorn User Show. The next one at Harrogate is on 6 and 7 of May 1995. Keep your diaries free. 8BS is going to have a stand there again!

13.10.94 Day off. Issue deadline today. 11 items of post at 1145. No free filename space on side two of issue 38 now, may have to do a bit of jiggling to free a space. 9278 bytes free on side 0. Nearly there. 9 hours work.

14.10.94 Day off. Time to start tying up the loose ends on issue 38. When this is done I shall send a preliminary copy off to Paul Clucas K6X for spelling and general compatibility checks. Meanwhile, I shall then start work on the ADFS version of 38. Starting tomorrow I am on 7* 1500 to 2300 + call to 0700 shifts again. During this time I shall get the issue backed up to the 80 or so packages waiting on my shelf today (more of course in a week or so), and then sit on my laurels for a few days.

Congratulations if you have got to here by reading everything.

More on the Acorn User Show in the next few issues. DONT FORGET! 6 and 7 May. This promises to be a good do again. Dont miss out! This time Gill will not be able to come with me to help as Peter is at school now. We cannot leave him with my parents as it will probably wear them out!

Lets make this an 8BS get together (again).

See you all next time. Chris. 2J3.


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