Phipps/Toms system

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Richard Bos
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Phipps/Toms system

#1 Post by Richard Bos » Sun Oct 26, 2014 8:53 pm

Would it be a good idea to add a System entry for the specific Basic system published by Trevor Toms and used by, amongst others, his employer Phipps Associates?

Contra: it's a Basic system, and if we add entries for every Basic system in use we'll never see the end of it.
Pro: it's a very specific Basic system. The details were published in a book, for everybody else to use, and some people did. It's closely related to Gilsoft's Quill, which took its inspiration from the same article which was the origin of this system. There is a decompiler for the ZX-81 Phipps adventures, which also works with at least several games not by Phipps but written in this system. The same system, or a close variation of it, has been used on the ZX Spectrum, and from the looks of the screen shots, the *cough*C64*cough* as well.

If this system is added, the following games at least should be added to it:

By Trevor Toms himself, or derived from his work:
City of Alzan, 5371, ZX81 version
Die Stadt Alzan, 3462, which is a German ZX Spectrum port of the previous

Phipps Associates:
Greedy Gulch, 968, both ZX81 and Spectrum
Pharaoh's Tomb, 398, ZX81 and Spectrum
Colditz Castle, 90, Spectrum
Knight's Quest, 312, Spectrum
Magic Mountain, 344, Spectrum (but apparently not, strangely enough, ZX81)

Others:
Mines of Saturn, 1335, Spectrum, ZX81 and presumably C64 as well
Return to Earth, 1334, Spectrum, ZX81, C64?
Fun Fair Adventure, 5097, ZX81

All in all, I think this system does deserve its own entry, if only because of its historical importance. Remains to be determined what to call it, though - I don't think it ever had an official name.
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Re: Phipps/Toms system

#2 Post by Alastair » Sun Oct 26, 2014 9:29 pm

Richard, I reckon that anything that inspired The Quill is worthy of consideration. Do you know the name of the book?

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Re: Phipps/Toms system

#3 Post by Richard Bos » Sun Oct 26, 2014 11:28 pm

Alastair wrote:Richard, I reckon that anything that inspired The Quill is worthy of consideration. Do you know the name of the book?
I don't think this system directly inspired the Quill; AFAICT it and the Quill got their inspiration from the same article by Ken Reed in Practical Computing, August 1980. They are, therefore, brothers or cousins rather than parent and child. Mind you, I've never seen that article. (There's a link on a web page somewhere, but it's currently playing silly-buggers for me.)
The book is "The ZX81 Pocket Book", and it can be downloaded from World of Spectrum: http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseek ... id=2000454
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Re: Phipps/Toms system

#4 Post by Gunness » Mon Oct 27, 2014 3:45 pm

I think it makes good sense to add the system. As you point out, every half-baked BASIC system doesn't warrant its own entry, but this one seems special enough to include.

I've added it as Trevor Toms adventure system and written a brief intro. I've located him via LinkedIn and will try to drop him a line.

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Re: Phipps/Toms system

#5 Post by Gunness » Mon Oct 27, 2014 4:07 pm

By the way, I'm a bit puzzled by Greedy Gulch. According to the packaging, it was written "with a machine coded English command line scanner for fast word recognition".

But Toms' system was written in BASIC, right?

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Re: Phipps/Toms system

#6 Post by Richard Bos » Mon Oct 27, 2014 6:04 pm

Gunness wrote:By the way, I'm a bit puzzled by Greedy Gulch. According to the packaging, it was written "with a machine coded English command line scanner for fast word recognition".

But Toms' system was written in BASIC, right?
Yes, odd, that. It does load as if it were machine code, but it loads that code file right over the start of memory, where the Basic program resides. In an emulator you can check what it looks like after it's loaded, and it clearly does show a Basic program in memory, complete with variables using the Toms system. And it's not as if the scanner is particularly fast, after all. I smell a marketing rat - just enough MC to justify advertising it as such, with the bulk of the program using the same system the ZX81 uses.
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Re: Phipps/Toms system

#7 Post by Alastair » Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:08 am

Richard Bos wrote:I don't think this system directly inspired the Quill; AFAICT it and the Quill got their inspiration from the same article by Ken Reed in Practical Computing, August 1980. They are, therefore, brothers or cousins rather than parent and child. Mind you, I've never seen that article. (There's a link on a web page somewhere, but it's currently playing silly-buggers for me.)
Thanks for putting me right.

I've found a site that has reproduced the article, and another that offers a PDF of the article (about two thirds of the way down, under the heading 'Feature articles' - the HTML link on that page is no longer available, except via the Internet Archive).

Gunness wrote:By the way, I'm a bit puzzled by Greedy Gulch. According to the packaging, it was written "with a machine coded English command line scanner for fast word recognition".

But Toms' system was written in BASIC, right?
It's quite possible to add machine code segments to BASIC programs. Perhaps the BASIC command line scanner was particularly slow so they replaced it with a line scanner written in m/c to speed things up.

Incidentally, whenever I've come across a Dragon game that uses m/c to speed some things up, such as a graphics screen display, but is otherwise a BASIC program I've listed it as BASIC only.

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Re: Phipps/Toms system

#8 Post by Gunness » Tue Oct 28, 2014 10:27 am

Alastair wrote:I've found a site that has reproduced the article, and another that offers a PDF of the article (about two thirds of the way down, under the heading 'Feature articles' - the HTML link on that page is no longer available, except via the Internet Archive).
As it happens, the HTML link is for Graeme Yeandle's former site - and since he's the author of The Quill, it makes sense.
I interviewed him many years ago:
"I was aware of an article by Ken Reed in the August 1980 issue of Practical Computing that described an adventure creating program. It appeared, to me, that the Artic adventure was based on Ken's article. I thought, "I can write an adventure at least as good as this" and wrote to Artic offering my services. They didn't reply.
...
I wouldn't call the Practical Computing article an "authoring" program but it depends what you mean by authoring. It was certainly an "Adventure-creating" program. It contained a printout of, what looks like, pseudo-assembler source code for an interpreter, and a way of creating a database using an assembler but there was no vetting that the various parts of the database fitted together correctly. From the quality of the code I would guess that it was based on an actual program."

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Re: Phipps/Toms system

#9 Post by Richard Bos » Tue Oct 28, 2014 11:47 am

Alastair wrote:
Richard Bos wrote:I don't think this system directly inspired the Quill; AFAICT it and the Quill got their inspiration from the same article by Ken Reed in Practical Computing, August 1980. They are, therefore, brothers or cousins rather than parent and child. Mind you, I've never seen that article. (There's a link on a web page somewhere, but it's currently playing silly-buggers for me.)
Thanks for putting me right.

I've found a site that has reproduced the article, and another that offers a PDF of the article (about two thirds of the way down, under the heading 'Feature articles' - the HTML link on that page is no longer available, except via the Internet Archive).
Yeah, that PDF was the link I found which didn't work. And Graham Yeandle has took site off-line some time ago, unfortunately - don't know why. But that text version is legible enough - I hadn't found that one. Thanks.
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Re: Phipps/Toms system

#10 Post by Gunness » Tue Oct 28, 2014 2:45 pm

He has another one here: http://yeandle.webs.com/advent
though it's not very detailed.

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Re: Phipps/Toms system

#11 Post by Alastair » Wed Oct 29, 2014 12:02 am

Gunness wrote:He has another one here: http://yeandle.webs.com/advent
though it's not very detailed.
'Tis a pity that the link to the 'Interview with Jacob Gunness' produces a '404' :)

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Re: Phipps/Toms system

#12 Post by Gunness » Wed Oct 29, 2014 8:29 am

Aye, 'tis a sorry state of affairs indeed!
But fear not, for a message to the site's owner has been dispatched forthwith :)

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Re: Phipps/Toms system

#13 Post by Richard Bos » Wed Oct 29, 2014 10:43 pm

Gunness wrote:Aye, 'tis a sorry state of affairs indeed!
But fear not, for a message to the site's owner has been dispatched forthwith :)
The Timeline link is still AWOL. If you've lost the file, a TZX version is available from WoS - though they call it Time-Line, with a hyphen.
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Re: Phipps/Toms system

#14 Post by Gunness » Thu Oct 30, 2014 11:32 am

No, it's still there - the link was just broken. Thanks for the notice.

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Re: Phipps/Toms system

#15 Post by df » Fri Mar 13, 2015 3:27 pm

digging this up, I have Trevors article, I forget where i dug it up from, had it for ages, as gif files, so I pdf'd it up for you.

I think the timeline is more like
Scott Adams -> Ken -> Trevor + Artic -> Graham

http://mega-tokyo.com/zx81_trevor_toms.pdf

Ken's Practical Computing article in August 1980
Scott published Pirate in Byte in December of 1980 (Adventureland was released in 78 tho)
Artic published Adventure A, CLEARLY based on Kens article in 1980
Trevors article was dated 1981.
Quill didnt hit until 1983

(I think Scott had published about 9? games on every platform available by the end of 81, so his games were everywhere for everyone to pull apart and see how they worked).

things to remember, Practical Computing was a UK magazine (so was Ken, Artic and also Graeme were UK based). Byte was USA. I know in australia, back in 1980 getting magazines from abroad was not easy, and not cheap, so I dont know the availability of either magazine in the other countries, uk was in dire shit straights in 80 too, thatcher was in charge and it was a BAD time. I'd be surprised in the Practical Computing magazine made it to the USA for sale, and prices for Byte on sale in UK would be astronomcal with uk's 1980 inflation + joblessness.

But you could still get Scotts games on tapes and stuff in the uk.
-- Stu / DF --
-- Mountain Valley + Softgold Adventure Fan --

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