BBC Micro Starter Pack (Dorling-Kindersley) Review | A&B Computing - Everygamegoing

A&B Computing

BBC Micro Starter Pack
By Dorling Kindersley
BBC Model B

Published in A&B Computing 3.01

BBC Micro Starter Pack

This is rather an odd mix - two books in a Screen Shot programming series (also available for other popular micros) plus a typing tutor program on tape. The books consist of relatively few pages of the large glossy variety and make use of very attractive page design. Their aim is to teach programming in a step by step manner, using screen shots of both program listings and consequent VDU displays. The text is well written and the teaching good up to a point. The snag is that the program examples fail to make proper use of the extra facilities in BBC BASIC.

I feared the worst when GOTO was introduced as "one of the simplest and most useful commands in the BASIC language". This notorious command does indeed feature large in subsequent examples even when more appropriate structures are introduced. Apart from one brief example, REPEAT...UNTIL is ignored entirely and the section on loops misleadingly implies that IF...THEN...GOTO was the only means of achieving certain effects. Although procedures are eventually introduced, numerous examples of horribly unstructured programs are littered throughout both books.

I rather liked the typing tutor - "Touch 'N Go" - on the accompanying tape. The only other than I have for comparison is the one Computer Concepts supply with Wordwise. I am not too keen on the latter, whose ferocious demands for accuracy seem more appropriate to typewriters than wordprocessors to me. Touch 'N Go sensibly allows use of the delete key which evokes a penalty only for the time wasted. There are in all 62 lessons which are loaded as separate small data files. Each provides exercises in copying words and sentences so as to gradually build up knowledge of the various keys. Speed and accuracy statistics are provided on the basis of which progression is *recommended* by the program. I again preferred this to the dictatorial Computer Concepts' program which quickly loses patience with its victims' efforts and throws them back to the beginning!

In summary, the books are beautifully designed but suffer from a common fault of those produced in different versions for a variety of micros. The BASIC is of the 'standard' variety that I used to hate so much before I discovered BBCs and I would not wish to expose any pupils of mine to the unstructured examples provided. I don't know whether Touch 'N Go is available separately at a reasonable price, but if so I can definitely recommend it as an uncomplicated but useful typing tutor.

Jonathan Evans

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