Review writing

Thirty years ago I was a regular writer for computer magazines that provided support for Acorn computers. My own machine was the Acorn Electron so my prime magazine was Electron User.

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Review writing was great. You got sent a program, played with it and then got paid for writing the review – a thoroughly lovely way of earning some extra income on top of my day job.

This review was for a starter pack. It appeared in the Electron User magazine for August 1985

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Product: BEEBUGSOFT ELECTRON STARTER PACK
Publisher: Beebugsoft
Compatibility: Electron, BBC B, B+ and Master 12

And this is what I wrote.

Let’s face it, the User Guide that comes with the Electron isn’t the easiest of books to understand. Many people get frustrated if they find programming a problem and can’t find the answer in it. Beebug have attempted to help them with their STARTER PACK.
What you get in the pack is a slim, but well-written, booklet explaining how to use the features of the micro that beginners want most – graphics and sound. There is a strong emphasis on the structured approach to programming, with not a GOTO in sight. The booklet also has a hotchpotch of hints, which almost everybody should find interesting.
These cover features of Basic, the operating system and memory, as well as books to read and where to find help if you have a problem. The pack is aimed at both the BBC Micro and the Electron. One chapter is concerned solely with Mode 7. However, it’s clearly marked BBC only, so should not cause any problem.
It also contains a cassette of programs (described in the book). There are eight games programs and six utilities. The utilities include a “Bad Program” aid and a character definer. In theory, these are useful, but the other utilities – a function key editor, a memory display, a utility editor and a sound wizard – are rather poor. Having two different programs in memory is never easy.

The games are a varied and tidy selection of arcade-type and strategy games. Old favourites are there such as Life, Galaxians, Connect 4, Reversi and Marslander. There is a version of Zombies and a football game. The pick of the bunch is Blockblitz, which provides all the frustration and irritation to make you play it again and again.
To complete the pack, you also get a screen planning sheet, some character planning sheets and a function key strip. The trouble with the package is that the cassette and booklet don’t complement one another.
If you are a real beginner, the booklet may be beyond you, but then the tape provides a selection of good magazine-type games to keep you occupied. However, if you wish to dabble in programming, then the booklet is useful, and, if you want the programs as well, the whole package represents good value.

I have no memory of this at all now. I still have my magazines but the images and text here come from the Acorn Electron World site.

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