Electron User

By Century

Published in Electron User 2.08

This BBC/Electron program is described as a starfinder and home planetarium. It comes in a very plush library case, complete with a book of about 140 pages. Chapter one in the book is designed to help you with the software (you'll certainly need that). The bulk of the book is a treatise on astronomy. Most of the text could be read by an intelligent older teenager.

The program itself loads very smoothly to present a menu of options. To start with you enter date, time, position and which way you wish to look. This is fairly straightforward.

You may then look at a section of sky. This rather untidy screen plots stars very slowly. It takes about a minute to complete. Using the "space probe" (a small cross) you may identify any star shown by positioning the probe on the star. The screen displays information in the form Az=W15 Alt=31 Omicron Cet!!! This cryptic clue is somewhat explained in the text.


Incidentally, the program includes planets, the Sun and Moon and even Halley's Comet as well as stars.

Having got your display you can change your direction of view left or right by 45 degrees or look up instead of along (with a one minute pause). You can also move forward in time.

Returning to the menu (ESCAPE) gives you the chance to search for any of the heavenly bodies contained in the program. The computer will display them at your specified time or at their highest point in the sky. This can be of great interest. For example, as you eat your Christmas tea in 1985, Halley's Comet will be at a height of 36 deg between south and west and Jupiter will be beneath it.


While search and time stepping facilities are excellent, the screen star maps take a lot of getting used to, but with perseverance constellations can eventually be learned.

One particularly useful function for the lucky few is the ability to print a star map at the touch of P. This produces a high quality screen dump on Epson-compatible printers.

Overall this seems a worthwhile program for the enthusiastic astronomer, but perhaps rather overpriced at £12.95.

Rog Frost

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