Sinclair QL on a Stick

Bill Loguidice's picture

For those interested in the obscure, but very intriguing Sinclair QL from the mid-80's, you can now get a type of turn-key QL environment for use with a modern Windows PC that can be transferred to a USB memory stick (minimum 128MB). This is a great idea and I'd like to see implementations of this for other systems. I personally own a very robust real Sinclair QL setup, but I think this would also make a fine companion for that, particularly in regards to data exchange. More information here.

DSC04775

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Cecil Casey
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Nice shelf...

I have to say that whatever detail (that's a shot of your QL collection?) you were wanting to share via this photo was lost.

-Cecil

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Bill Loguidice
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Crap photo
Cecil Casey wrote:

I have to say that whatever detail (that's a shot of your QL collection?) you were wanting to share via this photo was lost.

-Cecil

Yeah, I know. That was an old shot when I went around and took photos of all my stuff back in June. That was the only shot of my Sinclair QL shelf handy on Flickr or here. I didn't have time (or the inclination for this post) to go and take a new one.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
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Nous
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Ah ... QL, the machince that

Ah ... QL, the machine that could have been ... despite its shortfalls (bad marketing, bad timing, initially faulty machines) it was still the first affordable 32bit computer and it was great when it worked -- although software support was at best unremarkable. Linus Torvalds honed his skills on a QL (after upgrading from a Vic20) before embarking on his great Linux adventure a few years later... :)

"Elegance has the disadvantage that hard work is needed to achieve it and a good education to appreciate it."
"You must not give the world what it asks for, but what it needs."

-- Dijkstra

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yakumo9275
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QL

The only good thing to come out of a QL was... The Pawn and Magnetic Scrolls!

-- Stu --

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Nous
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I won't argue that -- there

I won't argue that -- there wasn't much in terms of great software on the QL, hell there wasn't much in terms of ANY software .. period!

That said, there were some good development tools on the QL, even SuperBasic was very decent. In fact the QL application suite, developed by Psion, was quite interesting; you can already see some of the greatness that was later embedded in Psion's own PDAs (the 3 and 5 series specifically).

"Elegance has the disadvantage that hard work is needed to achieve it and a good education to appreciate it."
"You must not give the world what it asks for, but what it needs."

-- Dijkstra

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Bill Loguidice
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Sinclair QL musings

It really is an intriguing system that's mired in a weird mix of 8-, 16- and 32-bit technologies (and as we've seen countless times over the years, lack of purity in technological vision is almost always death for a system). For every powerful option matched only by the much-more-expensive Lisa/Macintosh systems at the time, there were odd compromises that harkened back to the days of 8-bit computing. Besides the mediocre keyboard, probably the worst feature of the QL are the unreliable microdrives. Low speed cassettes were unreliable enough in their own ways, but as was proven with the Coleco Adam, any time you move tape technology at high speeds, you're just asking for trouble. Still, the QL looks cool even today and it has a certain charm, including the aforementioned Psion applications and overall interface. I really need to spend more time with mine...

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
===================================

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Bill Loguidice
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Magnetic Scrolls stuff?
yakumo9275 wrote:

The only good thing to come out of a QL was... The Pawn and Magnetic Scrolls!

-- Stu --

Can you elaborate? I didn't realize those were released for the QL. I have only a couple of QL games, and hardly any of them are what I would consider true commercial quality. Obviously I'm very familiar with what you mentioned from having them on more popular systems of the day, including the Amiga, where they really shined.

On a related note, does anyone have a list of all the commercial games released for the QL? (I'll ask on the QL mailing list, too)

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
===================================

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yakumo9275
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Basically Pawn was written

Basically Pawn was written first for QL, then the QL died a horrid death. The quickest way to get the game on other machines was to write a 68k QL emulator, which became the "game driver" for Magnetic Scrolls. The version of Pawn or any other Mag Scrolls game (pre Wonderland) basically was a 68k cpu emulator that ran QL compiled code on the pc/st/apple etc.


The first game released by Magnetic Scrolls was QL-Pawn, the originate
version 1.o of the later so popular The Pawn. QL-Pawn came on two
micro drives that were enclosed within a micro drive wallet that was badged
by Sinclair Research. A sleeve was also produced for the wallet along with
an instruction booklet containing a short narrative to introduce the
adventure. The game was text only, but it already had the powerful
parser which was one of the basics for the success of Magnetic Scrolls.
QL-Pawn also was the only Magnetic Scrolls game that was produced for
the ill fated QL.

All the ports of QL-Pawn, then called "The Pawn" had version numbers
2.0 or higher.

Released: 1985
Distributed by: Firebird / Rainbird
Story: Rob Steggles
Graphics: Geoff Quilley
Programming: ?
Packaging: There are two different packages known, which can
roughly be separated into "small banner" and "large
banner" cover. The small banner version seem to be the
early releases and are rarer than the large banner
packages.
Goodies authoring: A Tale of Kerovnia by Georgina Sinclair
Package contents: A tale of Kerovnia (there exist at least two versions
of this novella. The second issue states "Version II"
on the front page),
The Pawn Guide (platform dependent),
The Pawn Game play,
The Pawn poster,
Addendum,
Disc,
At least the early Atari ST versions contained
a "STOP PRESS" indicating a minor bug in the
online hint system (all ciphered answers must be
terminated with CO)
Platforms: Amiga, Apple2, Archimedes, Atari ST, Atari XL/XE,
Commodore 128/ 64, Macintosh, MS-Dos, Schneider CPC,
Sinclair QL, Spectrum 128K, Spectrum +3
Known versions: 1.0 (QL-Pawn)
2.0 (Atari ST)
2.2 (Amiga)
2.3 (Archimedes, Atari XL, C64, MS-DOS, Schneider CPC,
Spectrum 128k)
2.4 (Spectrum +3)
Version unknown: Macintosh

Addendum: The beautiful graphics were created with "Neochrome"
on Atari ST.

======

Major parts of the games were implemented with a tool called FRED. Mainly
Fred was a data entry tool which was used to store the descriptions of
objects, rooms and NPCs and describe the properties of each object (e.g.
weight, movable, burnable, container,...). Each object had a 14 byte
descriptor block. For The Pawn Fred 23 was used, the later games were
done with Fred 23junior, which were both developed by Hugh Steers. In
several games magazines (e.g. the german Happy Computer) FRED was
incorrectly denoted as a "language".

* Eventually this game code was compiled into an intermediate code called
ELTHAM (Extra Low Tech Highly Ambiguous Methodology or alternativly
Extra Low Tech Highly Ambiguous Metacode).

* The ELTHAM code implemented a subset of the 68000 machine code. It was
executed "natively" on ST, Amiga, QL, Macintosh and emulated on the
other systems. The virtual machine used up to 64k. On 8 bit machines
they used virtual memory mechanisms. On the C64 non-active pages were
held on the floppy disc. Only "read-only" pages were swapped.

-- Stu --

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yakumo9275
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hmm code tags dont work

hmm code tags dont work properly which kinda messed up my response. ohwell

-- Stu --

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Bill Loguidice
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Cool

Very informative, thanks! I was hoping it was a graphics version, though! That's one thing the QL library sorely lacks (well, it lacks a lot of things) and that's visual showcases!

===================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
===================================

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