The Micro User

Car Cure

Author: Gabriel Jacobs
Publisher: Simtron
Machine: BBC B/B+/Master 128

Published in The Micro User 4.01

It's the drive-in database

Software developers have long been juggling with ideas about computerised diagnosis.

The logistics are simple enough. Almost everything depends on the quality of the knowledge base, and therefore on the experts who have pooled their experience to produce it.

Car Cure from Simtron applies this system to the world of motor vehicles with, as far as I can make out as an interested but inexpert car mechanic, a pretty impressive knowledge base.

It covers 300 symptoms and 900 faults concerned with every aspect of vehicle maintenance, from starting the engine to body vibration.

And it comes up with sensible answers.

You enter the database either by a Symptoms "gate" or, if you have a good idea what the offending part may be, a Parts "gate". From then on, you proceed down the text-only tree using the cursor keys, making a choice from a menu of items at each node.

When the program has enough information to explain the fault it suggests a course of action, together with an associated level of difficulty.

Built-in Help screens can be called up at any time, but they are hardly necessary since there are few commands to remember.

And all you need, in any case, is in the manual, which contains diagrams of engine parts, worked examples, and lots of safety advice on not following the program slavishly, especially when dealing with things like brakes and steering.

Car Cure is available in two versions, one for private use, the other for colleges.

The college version can be upgraded to run on Econet, and also includes two extra functions, an adjustable time delay. intended to allow group discussion before the program moves to the next screen, and a screen dump. Why this print option should not be there on the private use version, beats me.

According to Simtron the package is now being used in more than 100 colleges by motor vehicle students, and I can certainly see its potential as a teaching aid.

But I have my doubts about its real usefulness for do-it-your selfers. Those who know about cars will hardly need it, and those who don't are not likely to begin tinkering simply as a result of having used it.

I hope I am wrong. Apart from the fact that the program hangs if a screen dump is attempted with no printer attached - I wish developers would knock that one on the head, it's easy - the program deserves to succeed.

Gabriel Jacobs

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