CURSOR #13 – August/September 1979

“I have the pleasure of reviewing a lot of programs submitted by CURSOR subscribers. The submitted material runs the full gamut from absolute trash to very well written programs. What excites me is that some of our best submissions come from folks who didn't know how to spell computer a few weeks or months ago. We get letters such as ‘...this is the second program I've ever written...’, and sometimes find a fresh and well thought-out program idea.”
—Excerpted from A Cursory Glance, Issue #13

Screenshot of two PETSCII fish blowing bubbles.
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Author: Chuck Bond
Original file name: COVER13
PRG file: cover13.prg

Fish! This month's cover is charming. Two PETSCII fish swim back and forth across the screen, occasionally blowing bubbles. The water line at the top of the tank is animated with rolling waves. Excellent work here.

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

Screenshot of a first-person perspective of branching hallway drawn in PETSCII.
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Author: C. T. Nadovich
Original file name: RATRUN
PRG file: ratrun.prg

These 3D maze things were always cool. RATRUN places you in a randomly-generated maze, where you are the "rat" with the goal of finding your way to the cheese. Your position in the maze is drawn from a first-person perspective, and you're given a little number in the upper left corner that indicates the as-the-crow-flies distance to your goal. This number can be deceptive, though—you may find yourself one tile away from the cheese but on the wrong side of a wall in a dead-end passage. The screen refresh will feel a bit slow to modern players but it's actually not too bad considering that the entire game is written in BASIC.

Screenshot of a data entry screen where a user can enter names of cars.
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Author: John Grove
Original file name: CARS
PRG file: cars.prg

This simple application tracks recurring expenses for up to three vehicles. The flyer admits that "CARS is an example of a program that could have been much nicer if it was written for a 16K system," (instead of 8K) which is absolutely true. I've looked over the listing, and while there are a few opportunities to save memory, I don't think you can squeeze out enough RAM to make this program user-friendly. The UX is subpar, even for 1979: the prompts are sparse, validation is weak, and options are limited. In these days of gigabytes of RAM, it's easy to forget that the memory limitations of these early home computers were really restrictive. While it's true that the programmer could have done a lot with an extra 8K of RAM, a significant portion of PET users would not have been able to run a larger program. CURSOR subscribers had been asking for more practical programs to be included on the tapes, but I'm not sure that programs like CARS were good value for their money.

Screenshot of a greater-than sign on a field of random dots.
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Author: Dr. John J. Matarella
Original file name: FERRY!
PRG file: ferry.prg

In FERRY, you move your ship (>) from the left side of the screen to the right while dodging a field of upwardly-scrolling dots. On the easiest level, you start near the top of the screen, which gives you a lot of time to see what's coming; on higher levels, you begin closer to the bottom, making your journey significantly more difficult. "Hope you have CB2 sound!!!" chirps the flyer, but I found the sound rather irritating.

Screenshot of a 4x8 grid of square cells. About two-thirds of the cells are filled with small circles representing pegs.
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Author: Glen Fisher and Sheila Dolgowich
Original file name: LEAP
PRG file: leap.prg

LEAP is a variant of the peg solitaire game played on a non-standard 4x8 rectangular board. You choose which cell is empty at the start of the game. I did a little research and learned that the 4x8 board belongs to a generalized class of solvable boards, so if you want to take this one on, you should aim to finish with only one peg remaining.

Screenshot of time-tracking application. The user is entering hours worked for a Monday.
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Author: Glen Fisher and Herb Sandy
Original file name: TCARD
PRG file: tcard.prg

TCARD is an employee time-tracking application with some clever ways to input and validate time "punches" in and out. The program is credited to Glen Fisher, and the BASIC listing has a line that says REM INSPIRED BY A PROGRAM BY HERB SANDY. I'm guessing that means that Herb Sandy submitted a program to CURSOR and Fisher had to put it through substantial refactoring to get it ready for publication.

I'm not convinced that anybody would have run this program as-is, but someone looking to write their own time-tracking application in BASIC would find some great ideas to steal in Fisher's code.

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