MICROREVIEWS- January 1994


MICROREVIEWS for Micropendium January 1994 by Charles Good


Don Shorock, known in the TI community for his spoken Japanese and other language teaching software, is releasing some new fairware products at Fest West '94 for use in conjunction with TI Artist. Hopefully those attending Fest West will see this review in advance of the show and know what to expect. The most amazing of these products is his Japanese Writing System. As you may know, Japanese is not written in "left to right, top to bottom of page" and is not written using standard keyboard letters. Don has created a way of creating "what you see is what you get" Japanese text for on screen display and printing. Jim Peterson (Mister Tigercub) agreed to Microreview Don's Japanese Writing System for me. Jim is fluent in Japanese. His cover letter to me that accompanied his review says, "This is really quite an achievement. I just can't imagine going to the work of creating 881 "kanji" instances, but Don Doesn't think it will be such a job. He seems to have become a master of TI-Artist and Page Pro.

Below is Jim Peterson's review:

Many centuries ago, the Chinese developed a system of writing using a different stylized picture, or ideograph, for each word in their language. Since China was the center of Asian culture, this impractical system was later adopted in the ancient kingdoms of Annam (now Vietnam), Korea and Japan. In modern times the Vietnamese and Koreans have abandoned this system and use their own phonetic alphabets, and even the Chinese have simplified many of the more complex ideographs. The Japanese, however, stubbornly cling to their version of this impractical system.

Since Japanese, unlike Chinese, is a conjugated language, it was necessary to develop a supplemental phonetic alphabet for verb and adjective endings. For some reason, the Japanese developed not one but two such alphabets. Japanese newspapers are printed with thousands of different "kanji" ideographs combined with characters of the "hiragana" alphabet for conjugation, characters of the "katakana" alphabet to spell foreign words which have come into use in Japanese, and sometimes the Roman alphabet for foreign names.

Japanese typewriters are therefore very complex and extremely slow, and typesetting is very difficult. I have no idea how they have managed to adapt their writing system to the computer age, but it has certainly not seemed possible to do it with the TI-99/4A. Even their phonetic alphabets cannot be properly downloaded as printer fonts because they have optional diacritical marks which will not fit within the standard dot matrix.

Don Shorock had previously included Japanese in his series of foreign language tutorial disks, and had managed to display the Japanese phonetic characters on screen. He even used the Speech Synthesizer to actually speak the language with a fairly high degree of accuracy. He has now developed a remarkable method of using TI-Artist to create text which can be output to a printer.

Requirements are the TI-99/4A console with Extended Basic, 32k memory expansion, at least one SS/SD disk drive, RS232 card and 9-pin dot matrix printer, and TI-Artist (TIA-Plus preferred). To fully use the system, Page Pro is also required.

Don's Extended Basic program enables you to lay out text in blocks of up to 12 x 14 or 14 x 12 characters, although a maximum of 12 x 12 is recommended. After these blocks have been converted to Japanese by TI-Artist and saved as pictures or instances, Page Pro can be used to combine eight or more blocks into a full page of text.

It is not even necessary to memorize the Japanese alphabets in order to use this program, because text is entered in normal keyboard letters. Japanese is a language built on syllables rather than individual sounds, and each syllable is represented by a phonetic character. For instance, to print the name of that famous mountain you would enter "fu" and "ji" and "ya" and "ma". As these syllables are entered, they appear within a hollow cursor which automatically advances to the next space; it can also be moved with the arrow keys. Text will normally be entered for conversion to the "hiragana" alphabet but can optionally be wholly or partly in "katakana". A screen prompt as well as the size of the letters informs you which mode you are in. Standard Japanese punctuation and special characters can also be entered, and blank spaces can be left for "kanji" ideographs to be added later.

When this text has been completed, the "print" command will output to the printer the codes which must next be typed manually into TI-Artist. The printout gives two code layouts, one for the usual vertical left to right Japanese printing and one for standard horizontal printing. Two layouts are also given for any "katakana" text, and instructions are provided.

TI-Artist is then loaded, the "hiragana" font file is loaded into it, and the coding is carefully typed in. The "what you see is what you get" Japanese text can then be viewed on screen.

If the text was entirely in "hiragana", it is now ready to be saved and/or printed. However, if "katakana" characters were also used, the "katakana" font file must be loaded in, and the "katakana" part of the code must be typed in. This will overlay the previously created text, making a complete block.

The test disk that Don sent me contained 50 of the "kanji" ideographs, saved as instances. He plans to create all 881 of the "essential" ideographs. These can be loaded and moved into the blank spaces left in the text.

All this is really far easier than it may sound. Although I am totally unfamiliar with TI-Artist, I was able to create a block of mixed "hiragana" and "katakana", convert and overlay them, and print out the result with little trouble. Students of Japanese will probably prefer to do most of their printing in "hiragana" alone, and this will be even easier."

Don is also releasing some really cute TI Artist fonts. These are regular fonts all with normal upper case keyboard letters and characters and some with lower case letters as well. My favorite are the fonts called HEARTS_F, LINESHOW_F, and JUSTDOTS_F. These three consists of very large block letters (upper case only) each of which has a shadow offset a bit to the right and down from the actual letter. HEARTS_F letters have little hearts within the letters and would be suiable for creating valentines or writing notes to spouses and other loved ones. LINESHOW_F and JUSTDOTS_F have dot patterns in the letters and are perhaps more generally useful. There is also a font (IMAGINE_F) that produces normal sized shadowed letters, both upper and lower case.

Some of the other fonts in Don's package include olde English calligraphy (OLDENGL_F), hand written "cursive" calligraphy that allows letters to appear to touch each other (WRITEMED_F and WRITETHN_F), a reduced size version of the RODEO_F font that comes with TI Aritst, and others. They all seem quite creative.

All of these products require TI Artist and can be run from SSSD disks. Don is asking a fairware donation of $10-$20 for the Japanese Writing System and an unspecified fairware donation for the fonts. For more information phone after 6PM central time most evenings or write: Don Shorock, P.O. Box 501, Great Bend KS 67530. 316-792-3097.

GENEALOGY PLUS! by Mickey Cendrowski

Till now, if you wanted to keep genealogy records using the TI you either had to use dedicated software such as the public domain "Genealogy Workship" by Les and Cindy Cattin, or you had to use a generalized commercial or fairware data base program such as "PR Base" or "TI Base". The problem with dedicated software is that it is often inflexible. If you don't like the kind of data it accepts and the format of its printed reports you are usually out of luck. The problem with generalized data base software is that although it is very flexible, it is difficult for some to use. You have to create your own data base outline, deciding what data to store and in what form and deciding how exactly to format printed reports. Ordinary mere mortal 99/4A users often feel uncomfortable trying to do this. GENEALOGY PLUS! deals effectively with both these problems. It is both flexible and easy to use.

The software package includes a TI BASE template, a PERSONAL RECORD KEEPING module template, and a bunch of TI Writer templates. The TIB and PRK templates allow you to enter data for each individual under the categories of first and last name, date and location of birth, chart #, lineage #, forms, and documents. These data can then be sorted, displayed on screen, and printed according to the capabilities of TIB and PRK. For both types of data bases, but particularly for TIB, excellent documentation shows you step by step how to load the data base, then how to load the GENEALOGY PLUS! template into the data base, and then how to enter and display data.

I find the blank TI Writer templates particularly handy and well designed. Each is the size of a single 8.5x11 inch page. You load a template into any TI-Writer type of text editor, turn off word wrap, and type your data onto the appropriate sections of the page, using the text editor to easily modify the data or sheet format as needed. You can then save these pages back to disk and print them. Use a hole punch on the printed pages and insert them into a 3 ring binder. I think genealogical data is best displayed and appreciated by yourself and others as hard copy, such as some of the pages in the large 200 year old family bible I have in my living room.

The following TI Writer templates are available. Many are of the "one for each individual" type. -Personal Biography Sheet. -Research Calendar (used for library research; date, call number, source, period of time covered by source, results, doc that refers to source). -Correspondence Record (dates mailed and recieved, address, purpose, results). Research Extract (notes taken from library documents, date extract taken, call number, source, description and condition of source, indexed by, purpose of search, period of time searched, document number). -Family Group Sheet. -Lineage Chart (a family tree). -Additional Marriage Sheet (for multiple marriages). -Source Checklist (very useful and comprehensive). -Sibling Lineage Chart. -Extended Family Sheet (for adopted children).

Although the software documentation is not a tutorial on genealogy record keeping, a complete set of sample data is included on a separate disk. These data are entered onto the TW Writer templates to show how these templates are supposed to be used.

I know of no better Genealogy software for the 99/4A. You need a SSSD disk system and TI Writer or one of its clones for text editing. A printer and either TI BASE or the PERSONAL RECORD KEEPING cartridge are recommended but not required. GENEALOGY PLUS! costs $19.95 + $1.00 postage from MS Express Software, P.O. Box 498, Richmond OH 43944.

ADVENTURE DATA BASE by Mickey Cendrowski

Probably nobody knows more about adventure games for the 99/4A than Mickey. In fact she wrote the book on the subject, "The Adventure Reference Guide", published by Asgard a few years ago. Her current offering is a TI BASE data base that includes all the information from her book plus additional information gleaned in recent years. First you load TI BASE, and then you load in Mickey's Adventure Data Base from a SSSD disk. Almost 250 adventures are covered. These include public domain and fairware adventures, those published from commercial sources such as TI Infocom and MS Express, and type in adventure programs published in magazines and books. With the data base you can, for example, produce lists of all the Adventure Module adventures, all the Infocom adventures, or all the adventures that run out of the XB module. Most users of this data base will begin, as I did, by printing out the entire data base. This yields 8 printed pages of condensed print. Since this is a TI BASE template, you have all the features of a good data base available to you. You can, for example, add your own comments to the "comment" field that is part of each adventure's listing. You can also delete entries or expand the data base by adding information about additional adventures.

For each adventure title the data base provides the following information: Official TI software (Y/N); copyrighted (Y/N); fairware or public domain (Y/N); single or multiple file program; total disk sectors; source or publisher; module needed to run game; is software a role playing game an all text game or an adventure utility; is speech used; graphics (Y/N); runs from cassette or disk or either; level of difficulty (3 levels). Also included is Mickey's over all quality rating of 1-5. A difficult game is not necessarily a high quality game. If you disagree with Mickey's quality rating you can substitute your own complete with your own personal comments.

Adventure Data Base is available for $19.95 plus $1 shipping from MS Express, P.O. Box 498, Richmond Ohio 43944. TI BASE is available for about $25 from most TI dealers including TM Direct Marketing, 800-336-9966.

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