We're trying a new column out this month, and we hope you enjoy reading it. Whenever anybody is crazy enough to write for us, we're smart enough to put it in print!!!
Over the last six months, I have heard several comments concerning a desire to see Extended BASIC (E.B.) software reviews. It seems that many of you would like to invest in some new and worthwhile software, but don't care for the "pig in a poke" risk. My intent is to give you complete reviews on all E.B. software that I receive. Strictly from an owner-user's point of view, I will thoroughly test each item and put it "through the mill." If it is a game. I will have several people with varied game interests try it out, and get their comments. I have no ties with any of the major software producers. I will attempt to handle each item on its own individual merits and without bias. I will try to make it possible for you, the potential software buyer, to make your E.B. software purchases with the confidence that you will get your money's worth.
I feel this first installment should answer some basic questions about extended memory itself, for those of you who are contemplating making the initial investment. I will be referring directly to the Blue Ram system by Perkin's Engineering because that is what I'm most familiar with. The general conversation should apply to the other fine systems available as well.
The principal question seems to be whether or not extending the memory on the Arcade is worthwhile. If you, or your children, are interested in programming, then the answer is a resounding yes! The ease of use and learning (friendliness) of the E.B. language, as compared to other major systems, is incredible! The SNAP and SHOW commands make graphic and animation effects possible on our machines that on other machines would be almost out of reach, unless you were an expert programmer with unlimited memory. The PLAY command makes it possible to use the machine's full sound capability without interrupting and slowing down the execution of your program. The program speed is greatly increased. In E.B., the on-screen color capability is doubled, actually. I can say that the E.B.-advertised features are all that they claim and much, much more! If you are not really into programming, but like to play the games, then your question has to do with software support of the extended systems. The support is definitely there. Most, if not all, of the major software producers are turning their talents and efforts to E.B. Many of the truly great games we have seen in AB are being redone in Extended BASIC with outstanding results. Full details on this is just what this column will be all about.
The next consideration is cost and comparison. Extending the memory and capability of your Arcade is a somewhat costly move. Every day we see price reductions and fantastic deals on other systems. The cost of transforming our machine to 16k and adding Extended BASIC begins at about $275. The question now is: what do we have as compared to some of the other systems for much less? My opinion is that we have a unit that will compare favorably to the rest, not only the bargain units. The E.B. language is a more efficient language than most BASICs, and our graphic capabilities are far easier to use. Our bulk storage (tape) is faster than other cassette systems. With most of the others, you must buy their recorders at prices nearly equal to the price of the unit itself. With ours, of course, that isn't necessary. Others mention printers, phone modems and other options with one of the extended systems in place on the Bally Astrocade. It too will support these peripherals with ease.
I also own one of the "top of the line" major systems with disk, cassette, printer, monitor, etc. It seems this outfit has become just an exotic game machine. When it comes to putting one of the machines to use, as a computer, it's always the Astrocade. The Astrocade drives my printer and is hooked up to my monitor. I have written several programs on the Astrocade with extended memory (16k). I have written none on the other. A couple of issues ago, the Arcadian printed an E.B. conversion of the popular "golf" program of a year or two back. I wrote that conversion. It finished-up in about 2.5K of memory and turned out very well. The same game, with equal graphics and play features, in my other 48K system would take somewhere between 12-16K of memory in BASIC. This is just one small example of the efficiency of the Extended BASIC language. Possibly the old saying, "You get what you pay for," applies in this case.
Actually, extending your Astrocade system depends on your individual situation. If you happen to be caught up in the wave of enthusiasm toward the Bally/Astrocade (as so many of us are), and if you are fascinated with and love your Arcade, then the E.B. systems are a very good investment (a much better investment, in fact, then buying one of the bargain systems for less and never being able to learn to use it well).
Those of you who already have E.B. know all I've said and could add much more. To those considering the purchase, I hope I've helped you decide if it is for you. From what I've been hearing about some of the software being developed in E.B., I think we are all going to be in for a pleasant surprise. I am looking forward to reviewing some of this material, making all of you aware of just what is available. I invite comments and questions. A S.A.S.E. will guarantee a reply. Any software you may have for sale, written in Extended BASIC or making use of extended memory, that you would like to have reviewed in this column, please send it to me with all documentation. I will test it extensively and write the results as completely and as fairly as possible for all to see.