Arthur S. Covert
112 Front Street
Schenectady NY 12305
518-374-7658

August 15, 1986

Dear Doctor,

I have decided for variety to try the double column format which I used in the the first letter written with this word processor. That was about four hours ago. Since then it is true I had a quick snack, but as usual the problem was solved by careful reading of the manual. Let this be a warning to you.

WORD PROCESSORS
I am now surrounded by word processors. The one I’m using is ST_WORD it is nice because it has this half column, and fonts are easily changed from the control keys, it doesn’t use the GEM desktop and that nasty little mouse. Its defect is that the files it produces don’t look like text, unless you print them to disk. This means that if you get a file by downloading or from some other source and want to edit, the program first changes it into it’s special form and it’s never the same again.

The second one is FIRST WORD it has its own format too, but if you read it an ordinary text file it doesn’t rewrite it but handles it in its original form. This makes it the method of choice for editing downloads where you want to remove big chunks of data. However it uses the GEM desktop and the mouse which slows it down a lot.

Finally there is EMACS. The virtue of this is the small amount of memory it uses. On the other hand every key on the board, about sixty has a control and an alternate value. Many of the commands have duplicate symbols and to do anything but the simple things you need a page of reminders in front of you. A story so sad should have a moral.

THE SIX LETTER GAME
Since visiting you I have spent most and I mean most of my time rewriting the Six Letter Word Game, making the change of having only a single array to store the complete dictionary and subdividing it into a working and saving area bother alphabetized, both revised on every play, new words added in the proper place, etc. All of this because the program will not allow an array to exceed 32K bytes, which works out to be about 4,000 six letter words, in spite of the 512K bytes of memory.

This task is finished except for the polishing, centering output and that sort of thing. The disappointment is that it is slower than the Osborne program which uses two arrays. At this point I am considering trying it in MODULA2 or at least finding out if this will support a large dictionary. It plays so slowly I sometimes win. When it is polished I intend to put it out on the local bulletin board and see if anyone salutes.

PASCAL
Pascal has the advantage of being the cheapest and most convenient language you can get that compiles into machine language. Turbo is a lovely realization of this. OSS Pascal has one advantage in the ATARI it permits access to all the fancy things in the GEM desktop, the windows, the menus, the mice etc. But is is ponderous, you write the code with a pretty convenient editor, you tell it to compile, it groans and loads the compiler, then it groans as it read your program line by line, then it groans a bit more and does the compilation, it then groans and writes a file to disk, it groans and reads in the linker, then it groans and reads the file it has just written, groans and writes the final program to disk. The ATARI file writing was for some reason timed to agree with the more primitive IBM operating system so all of this is very slow. I am beginning to guess that this was written for a 32k machine. All of the groaning could be eliminated by doing everything in memory.

ADDENDUM
Well just when you think you’ve got them licked they spring a surprise on you. The first printing of this found the second column all printed like the titles in elongated type. Then I corrected that and the printing of the heading has gone to hell for some obscure reason. Strangely I can get a good printing to disk, but that loses the elongated font. Well here we go again. Well that was a disaster too. I think I have deduced what was wrong, if I have, this will be the end of this letter. I had stopped the printer in mid letter when I saw the second column printed in large type. The printer in its own little mind stored the command to make the letters large and did so when I wanted them small. The remedy is to turn the printer on and off we hope.

I have been going on and on to provide enough material to let the processor do its stuff. I have been so tied up with the word game that I haven’t even been cycling but once. Well lets run it up the flagpole.

Yours truly
Featherstonehaugh

At this point I am fed up with this thing and don’t care what it did with ER GAME above or why the yours truly isn’t at the bottom of the page, F.

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