CURSOR #14 – October 1979

“We can say goodbye to an old friend: the 8K calculator keyboard PET is being discontinued. Taking its place will be the PET 8N, an 8K PET with the new full-size keyboard, new ROMs, and a price tag of $795. (Actually $895, because the cassette is no longer built into the computer.)”
—Excerpted from A Cursory Glance, Issue #14

Screenshot of a 3D box frame drawn in PETSCII.
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Author: Chuck Cares
Original file name: COVER14
PRG file: cover14.prg

This month's cover starts out by drawing a simple PETSCII crate, but if you let it run for a bit, the corners begin to shift to create variations of the impossible box illusion.

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

Screenshot of an 8x8 grid. Two cells show pi symbols.
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Author: Julia Hallford
Original file name: MATCH
PRG file: match.prg

MATCH is a computer version of the memory card game Concentration for up to four players. Players take turns flipping over pairs of cards looking for matched symbols. The similarity between some of the PETSCII glyphs you are trying to match adds to the difficulty. You can play this one as a solitaire game, and the PET will keep track of the number of turns it takes you to find all the matching pairs.

Screenshot of the SEARCH program title screen, indicating that a printer is required.
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Author: Hal Carey
Original file name: SEARCH
PRG file: search.prg

This program takes a list of words and builds a word-search puzzle, which is then sent to your printer. The intention is that you solve the puzzle the old-fashioned way—with a pencil (or a pen, for those who live life on the edge). While it's kind of neat to watch the PET generate the puzzle one word at a time, the title screen's warning that THIS PROGRAM NEEDS A PRINTER! is absolutely true—without a printer, there's not much to see here. I wasn't able to troubleshoot the printer emulation in Vice so I can't show you what a finished puzzle would look like.

Screenshot of a screen filled with various PETSCII characters representing bugs.
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Author: C. T. Nadovich
Original file name: BAT!
PRG file: bat.prg

In BAT!, you fly what the game's flavour text calls a "radio-controlled superbat". Your bat has momentum, bounces off walls, and is affected by gravity, so control takes a bit of effort to master. The sound in this game suits the action. I didn't play for long, but overall I think this one can be fun for a quick game or two.

Screenshot of the main menu of a Morse-code drill program.
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Author: Norman Parron
Original file name: MORSE!
PRG file: morse.prg

MORSE! is a drill program for practicing Morse code. The student sets the transmission speed at the beginning of each session; I know no Morse code aside from "SOS", so I set the speed as slow as possible, which was helpful. This program uses CB2 sound effectively, with short and long tones corresponding to the "dots and dashes" that make up the Morse-code representation of each character. While this program is okay for learning Morse code—in the short time I played with it, I learned a handful of numbers and the letter 'L'—I think it is more useful as practice for someone who already knows the system and wants to get better at it. To learn from scratch, I'd want to see a graduated system where letters are introduced a few at a time, and the ability to practice on real words instead of random strings of characters. Unfortunately, there's not enough memory on the 8K PET to add these features to the program.

Screenshot of two symbols representing cars on a 25x25 grid.
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Author: Glen Fisher and Sheila Dolgowich
Original file name: COPS
PRG file: cops.prg

CARS is based on an asymmetrical cops-and-robbers game known as "the hamstrung squad car" discussed in Martin Gardner's Mathematical Games column in Scientific American (February 1967, p. 116). I'd link to the article, but access to back issues is limited to subscribers (about $30 a year at the time of writing). If you search for "hamstrung squad car", you can learn more about the mathematical ideas that underly this game.

This PET implementation is functional, but the presentation is bland. The PET does not participate in the game; you need two players for this one. There's enough leftover RAM that Fisher could have programmed the computer to play as the robbers with some rudimentary evasion logic.

Screenshot that reads ' saw it here first! (When in doubt, press a key.)
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Author: Uncredited
Original file name: COMING
PRG file: coming.prg

This bonus program "reflects a bit of late night craziness." This program cycles through a bunch of pretend startup screens so you can try to trick your friends into thinking your PET boots up to development environments for Pascal, APL, or COBOL. These languages would all be supported for real in the SuperPET, a computer that would not be announced until May 1981, nearly a year and half after this program was written.

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