A&B Computing


Datamaster
By Master
BBC/Electron

 
Published in A&B Computing 2.04

This is a graphs and charts package aimed, apparently, at people who own high resolution monitors (Mode 0 displays throughout) and printers, but no disc drives! The programs can be transferred to disc but need to reside at &E00. The usual downloading tricks leave the disc system disabled for saving and loading data files. All accompanying documentation suggests that the system is designed only for tape storage; disc users being instructed to *TAPE and reset PAGE to &E00, etc.

Turning to the programs themselves, there is a short INTRO which must be loaded prior to the other programs, which sets up user-defined graphics and an Epson screen dump routine. The other three programs are UNIDATAM, BIDATAM and MULTICART.

The first of these displays either histogram or pie-chart displays of a single set of data. I quickly discovered that the data must be totals or averages of different categories - the program does not process raw data. In the pie-chart option the data is, however, rescaled to the extent that percentages are printed in the sectors. You may also enter labels which are printed around the chart in appropriate places. In the histogram option the data is presented as vertical bars in the order in which you typed them in. You have options for user-defined or auto-scaling, and for a horizontal and/or vertical grid display of the scale used.

A nice feature is the legend option, which allows you to move a cursor around the screen printing labels wherever you wish. You may save the data (to tape) or even a 20K screen dump which, though much slower, does preserve the legends, etc.

BIDATAM has similar features, except that one enters data as x/y pairs. A Cartesian option simply draws a graph by joining up successive points with straight lines. A so-called "Regression" option draws instead the best fitting straight line function.

In fact, this is the correlation, not the two regression lines, which allows compromise predictions of x from y and vice versa from the same graph (the program will compute these for you). MULTICART allows you to draw multiple Cartesian graphs by defining several sets of y scores corresponding to one set of x's.

The Mode 0 screen sacrifice colour for accuracy and the main use of this package seems to me to lie in producing hard copy on a printer, rather than on-screen displays. The legend writing facility assists greatly, and a number of impressive screen dump examples are provided at the end of the detailed documentation.

The screen dump provided "wil work for the Epson RX-80 printer, and probably many other printers". Well, I tried in on one of the popular "Epson compatible" dot-matrix printers, which normally runs Epson graphic programs, and it crashed (it did work on an Epson FX-80 though). The programs are not protected so you can substitute your own screen dump routine. However, this requires programming expertise in a package designed for people who want to use software rather than write it.

There is much that I like in this package, but there is an undeniably amateurish feeling to it. The press release with the review copy indicates that it is aimed at scientists and businessmen. Someone should tell the company that such users do not mess about with tape recorders. If they want to make any impact with these programs they must produce a disc-based version and a screen dump routine tested on a wide range of printers.

Jonathan Evans

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