BOOK REVIEW #4

Getting More From Your Oric

by H.E.Hicks

INTRO. Sometimes you come across something like this and wish you'd seen it years ago. This is just the sort of book I yearned for in the eighties. If I'd found it then, I might have been programming in machine code by now.

THE BOOK. The back of this book declares, "The Ultimate 'How-To' Book for the ORIC-1 and Atmos Computers". A bold claim indeed! Some may say the Advanced User Guide is the best of the more advanced books. So is this any good ? You bet your bottom it is !
As it says on the back, "This book makes no assumptions - it takes you through ORIC BASIC and explains how to extend the use of BASIC by using system calls, machine code and the like. For the hardware enthusiast. Henry Hicks literally takes the ORIC apart and puts it back together - explaining exactly what each chip does.' A little bit exaggerated, but the book does cover most of the important chips and their functions. This is excellent for learning to understand how the Oric works, as well as how to program. It isn't a book dedicated to machine code, or to assembly language, though it gives a good grounding in both. It gives more of a holistic approach, showing you how to use the computer by showing you what makes it tick.

WHAT'S IN IT ? 200 pages are enough to cover many subjects. There are eight chapters with seven appendices. The first chapter starts at the beginning with useful things, such as, how to switch on ! Then we are introduced to Oric's BASIC. Perhaps this chapter could be a little bigger, but it gives a straight forward explanation with examples. Chapter three starts to delve deeper inside and gives descriptions of the main chips and shows how memory is mapped.
The following chapters start to deal with how computers count, and that's a sure sign we are into machine code land. BASIC isn't forgotten though and we are shown how BASIC works and how the computer deals with BASIC code.
Ever more complicated subjects are dealt with in an easy to understand manner, and you are led deeper and deeper into the complexity of machine code.
The final chapter list and explains some example programs. These vary from sideways scrolling to getting the Oric to play music. Following this the appendices list the usual useful codes and op-codes and also gives some assembly language programs including a cassette loader program !

SUMMARY. The Advanced User Guide is a wonderful book. So is this one. This book cannot take the place of the AUG as it has no ROM disassembly. The AUG does not cover all the aspects in this book and does not explain things so well, or in such an easy to understand manner. The ideal is then to have both books. One compliments the other so well.
If you want to get into advanced programming then this is the book for you. Alongside it you should have Geffers book, the AUG and your Atmos manual. That makes quite a formidable library of information.
Henry Hicks has done a wonderful job with this book and it is just what I wanted when I was trying to grasp how computers worked. It doesn't cover every aspect of assembly or machine code, but it gives you a firm grounding and will see you well on the way.

I think every home should have one, and I rate the book 9 out of ten.

 

 

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Copyright 2000 by S.D.Marshall email me