CURSOR #12 – July 1979

“As the summer of ’79 is ending, there are still only three mass market personal computers: Radio Shack, Apple, and the Commodore CBM (née PET)...Atari will release its new home computers in September on the West Coast...During the coming year, I think we will see at least one new computer from Commodore...”
—Excerpted from A Cursory Glance, Issue #12

Screenshot of 5 dots representing a firework.
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Author: Glen Fisher
Original file name: COVER12
PRG file: cover12.prg

This month's cover is called SYMMETRY. The PET cycles through a series of randomly-generated symmetrical designs drawn with the "rounded box" PETSCII characters. This cover effectively shows off the creative potential of PETSCII. Many of the designs are quite pretty, including several that resemble flowers.

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

Screenshot of a diamond character in the center of a long, jagged column drawn in PETSCII.
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Author: Larry Stevens
Original file name: CANYON!
PRG file: canyon.prg

CANYON! is a game where you have to manoeuvre your ship down the center of an endlessly scrolling, gradually narrowing track without touching the sides. The canyon walls scroll upward (following the natural scrolling direction of the PET), so you feel like you are flying downwards. The game is far too easy on anything other than the fastest speed, and even then, it feels too easy.

Joystick control is an option for this game. CANYON! also features sound, but as far as I can tell, the only sound that plays is when you crash your ship.

Screenshot of a bar graph showing the results of 2001 iterations of a binomial distribution simulation.
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Author: Glen Fisher
Original file name: GAUSS!
PRG file: gauss.prg

GAUSS! simulates a binomial distribution experiment. PETSCII balls are released from the left edge of the screen and bounce randomly through a pegboard to land in one of the twelve containers on the right. The PET keeps track of the results. This simulation is slow: it runs in BASIC and the animations slow it down even more, so it runs at a rate of 1,000 balls per hour. If you want to see interesting results, you'll need to leave this one running for a while.

This program has sound, because, according to the flyer, "a PET without sound is like a day without sunshine". GAUSS! uses pitch frequency to represent the height of each ball, but after a few iterations, the novelty wears off and you'll want to turn the sound off. Fortunately, Fisher provides a hotkey that mutes the simulation.

Screenshot of two PETSCII dice and a row of numbers from 1 to 12.
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Author: Larry Phillips
Original file name: PICKUP
PRG file: pickup.prg

In PICKUP, you move around a cluttered screen picking up matching PETSCII symbols and returning them to one of the goal squares in the corners. Control with the numeric keypad is tricky but according to the flyer, control with the joystick (optional) is even trickier. You can control the speed and time limit for the game. Blitz mode (maximum speed, one minute time limit) is a real challenge. Be prepared to embrace imperfection.

Screenshot of a 10x10 grid marked with numbers and symbols.
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Author: Sheila Dolgowich
Original file name: PIEGRAM
PRG file: peg.prg

PIGRAM is not a pie chart graphing program; it is a "hide and seek" game where you and the PET take turns taking shots at each other as you move around a 10x10 grid. For each shot you take, the computer reports the distance to the target of your three most recent shots. If you have a good handle on the Pythagorean theorem, you should be able to zero in on your quarry efficiently. The computer isn't especially smart either. I was sure it had me cornered at one point—two shots in a row landed 1 square diagonally adjacent to my position but the PET failed to take advantage of that information.

The title screen credits the author as SHELIA DOLGOWICH but the flyer correctly identifies her as "Sheila", who was also the author of WIPEOUT in Issue #11.

Screenshot of PETSCII rocket on a launch pad.
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Author: Ken Morley
Original file name: FLIGHT!
PRG file: flight.prg

FLIGHT! brings something new to CURSOR: a little "movie" with animation and sound. This program tells the story of a Canadian moon landing. The author was from Vancouver, so he's showing a little home-town bias here. The movie is simple but showcases creative applications of the PETSCII character set. I remember being enthralled by this program in the early 1980s. Although it may be a little slow for modern tastes, this one's still worth a watch today.

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