CURSOR #5 – November/December 1978

“Beginning February 1, 1979 our subscription rate for 12 issues will become $33/year in the U.S. and Canada, and $48/year for Foreign subscriptions. Even with this increase, CURSOR remains the best value by far in the PET software marketplace. (About fifty cents a program!)...our introductory price of $24/year was based on some very tentative ‘back of the envelope’ estimates of what it would cost to produce a monthly cassette magazine for the PET.”
—Excerpted from A Cursory Glance, Issue #5

Screenshot of a 16x5 grid of open circles with four circles filled in.
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Author: Uncredited
Original file name: COVER05
PRG file: cover05.prg

This month's cover is interactive. A grid of circles represents the keyboard; pressing any key causes one of the circles to light up. On Vice 3.8, I've been able to register up to six keys pressed at any one time. I'd be interested in seeing how this compares to the behaviour of the real hardware. I know that on the 64, some three-key combinations will not decode correctly. Although the flyer describes the cover display as a "matrix", it is not related to the actual keyboard matrix that the PET uses to decode keyboard input signals (diagram by Larry Kraemer).

Pressing SPACE takes you to the table of contents for the issue.

Screenshot of a Towers of Hanoi puzzle, with one disk in motion between two piles.
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Author: Glen Fisher
Original file name: HANOI
PRG file: hanoi.prg

HANOI is an implementation of the Towers of Hanoi puzzle, whose optimal solution is commonly used to teach Computer Science students about recursion. This version features PETSCII animation, with blocky "disks" floating from one pile to another. The animation is smooth but very slow. If you want to solve the full 7-disk puzzle, expect to be sitting at the keyboard for a while.

Screenshot of a crude gun barrel, projectile, and target drawn in PETSCII.
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Author: Gary Bainbridge
Original file name: SHOOT
PRG file: shoot.prg

SHOOT is a simple timing and reflex game. A PETSCII cross drops from the top of the screen, and you have to press a key at just the right moment to time your shot. I thought at first that you had to try and lead the target, but actually, you're just trying to stop the falling target at the moment it passes the height of the barrel of your gun. Hitting the target results in the tamest explosion ever.

You set the speed of the falling target by choosing 1 of 5 levels. Timing at the fastest speed is tricky; I only managed to score 2/10 even after a bit of practice.

Screenshot of a game of Battleship. The computer is winning.
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Author: Howard Arrington
Original file name: BSHIP
PRG file: bship.prg

BSHIP is an implementation of the classic board game Battleship that lets you play against a computer opponent. The computer is no slouch, either—expect a tough match. This version adds an additional wrinkle in that you fire a volley of shots, and the computer reports how many of them were successful, and which ship they hit, but leaves the results ambiguous enough that you will have to employ a bit of deductive reasoning to locate your quarry.

Sometimes the computer can be slow taking its turn, so it would be nice if there was some visual indication that it is considering its next moves. The first time there was a delay, I thought maybe the program had crashed. Aside from a bit of slowness, this is a solid version of Battleship.

Screenshot of randomly-generated faces composed of PETSCII characters.
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Author: Glen Fisher
Original file name: FACE
PRG file: face.prg

FACE is a little software toy where you can have the PET generate some random PETSCII faces, or you can select eyebrows, eyes, noses, and mouths from a series of menus and make your own face. The program reminds me a bit of later programs like Commodore's Home Babysitter or Facemaker from Spinnaker.

This program has a limited scope, because there are only a small number of random elements to choose from. Even so, as a kid, I probably would have played around this one for a while, because there is always the possibility of hitting STOP and adding new features to the BASIC program listing.

Screenshot of a word guessing game. The mystery word is DAN_EROUS.
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Author: Glen Fisher
Original file name: HMAN
PRG file: hman.prg

HMAN is a version of the word game Hangman "without the gallows". I remember playing a Hangman game (in French!) with a PETSCII drawing of a little stick figure rendered piece by piece as the game progressed, so I feel like Fisher is taking the lazy way out here.

Even so, the display is clean, and the game plays well. The word list is challenging, with enough variety to encourage replay, and it's easy to add additional words to the program. Of course, because HMAN is written in BASIC, and there's no attempt to disguise the dictionary, you can always sneak a peek at the game's vocabulary to improve your guessing strategies.

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