Haemogoblin wrote:The haul came with two QL's, one working and one not. I've since parted out the none working one to a friend. As he's a big Sinclair fan like myself, but not overly sure on the QL.
I do have a question about these machines. I understand you can upgrade the roms, what is the benefit of doing so? Also I keep reading about mice and pointers. Does the QL have some sort of GUI interface?
(Reply to a post in the Welcome area).
1. Upgrading the ROMs.
The main benefit to this is fixing bugs in earlier versions of the ROM and to some extent the introduction of new facilities. The ROMs were identified by a 2 to 4 letter prefix, which strictly speaking was the version of SuperBASIC - QDOS had a separate version number which was not easy to check from BASIC, but there's a list of QL ROM versions on my site at http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/qlrom/index.html. Check the rom version with the command PRINT VER$ in BASIC.
FB - disaster area of a first public Sinclair ROM for QL, eventually recalled and replaced with anything from AH, JM or JS.
AH - substantial improvement over FB. Slightly less common than JM. Only allowed one peripheral card to be plugged in.
JM - slight improvement over AH, the most common of the early ROM versions. More than good enough for general use, though still only allowed one peripheral card to be plugged in.
JS - major enhancement, added error trapping (WHEN ERRor keywords which remained largely undocumented for ever), allowed more than one card.
MG - by and large only ever released on the continent, an international version of JS with a few changes.
Minerva - a non-Sinclair ROM, produced by the team at QView. Fixed all sorts of bugs in the Sinclair ROMs. Surprisingly, introduced software incompatibilities despite the bug fixes, as prior to this software writers had been very lax in terms of writing software which complied with standards laid down and this started to show as Minerva tightened the rules a bit. To be fair, the authors of Minerva put in a lot of effort to improve compatibility so in time it became rare to find software which didn't run on it.
SMSQ/E - this is an entiely new non-Sinclair operating system for the QL and compatibles. It runs in RAM on these machines and emulators so requires more memory than a standard QL, usually 2MB or more (e.g. Gold Card or Super Gold Card 2MB or 4MB RAM on a QL or Aurora card). Largely compatible with QDOS, it also adds loads of new facilities. On suitably equipped systems like Aurora, Q40, Q60, some emulator it adds 8-bit and 16-bit colour modes, for example.
Of the original QL ROMs, the most common are versions JM and JS and both are perfectly good for everyday use.
2. Mice and Pointers
The original Sinclair QL had no form of windowing (save and restore windows as you switch between programs) or mouse system. So various companies produced add-on hardware and software.
Probably the most widely used early one was the ICE (Icon Controlled Environment) from Eidersoft. Added a mouse and a form of windowing system via a small board which plugged into the EPROM connector at the back of the QL. In its time was a pretty good system, but largely obsolete now.
Mice came in two forms, the first emulated the arrow keys (mouse movement) and space/enter (mouse buttons). OK if you just want cursor emulation.
QJump introduced a system called the Pointer Environment and it quickly became the standard windowing system for QL systems. It changed the "CON" (console) driver so that as you switched between programs with CTRL-C the contents of windows were preserved and restored automatically. It also introduced things like standard appearances for programs via something called the window manager, and hotkeys (key definitions which are assigned to key combinations such as ALT A).
The Pointer Environment is actually supplied as three separate system files:
PTR_GEN - this is the 'pointer interface' which saves and restores window contents and also provides the mouse drivers
WMAN - the window manager
HOT_REXT - the hotkey system
The combination of all three is called the Extended Environment although most people just call it pointer environment or PE. They are usually loaded via a simple BOOT program:
100 TK2_EXT :REM activate toolkit 2, not required on every system
110 LRESPR FLP1_PTR_GEN
120 LRESPR FLP1_WMAN
130 LRESPR FLP1_HOT_REXT
140 HOT_GO : REM activate hotkeys
That little program proides a minimal pointer environment system while you get used to what it can do. You can get the pointer environment files themselves from my website at http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/pe/index.html. There are plenty of articles about the system on my website and other sites out there.
The most common mouse systems compatible with pointer environment are the QIMI, a small board which plugs inside a QL, and a Serial Mouse which plugs via a small plug adapter into a QL serial port and needs a small driver software to interface it to the pointer environment.
Probably the most modern and most used GUIs for QL are Jim Hunkins' QDT (QL Desktop) http://www.jdh-stech.com/ and my Launchpad http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/gen/launchpad/launchpad.html
(Slightly longer posting than I'd have liked, hope it answers someof your questions).