There are a good number of specialist engineering programs now available for the Spectrum.
Three new packages from America are Grid, Frame and Truss, designed to aid structural engineers and the building trade in analysing the forces and displacements in these structures. (At present they are only available by mail order from S Okoloko, PO Box 3135, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106, USA.) Prices range from $40 for one program to $110 for all three. Each cassette contains three versions for output to screen, 32-column and 80-column printers.
The programs are all effective but by today's standards very crude. Data files are created separately with line numbers and merged into the main program. The structure of the data is set out in the manual. For professionals who want to do several what/if calculations this may be the best way to approach the data entry, although I prefer the question and answer approach to entering data with an option to change any item and then recalculate. It would also have been nice to see a diagram of the structure either as part of the input or as output, although I realise that the Spectrum's graphics capabilities make this difficult.
In addition to the numeric data a short question and answer session allows the user to enter the identifying details such as the project name, place, date etc which is used to give a heading to the output.
The output itself is comprehensive and provides a full analysis, although very little attention seems to have been paid to its presentation.
Depending on your point of view the manuals could be too big or too little. Experts may find the larger number of sample questions and print-outs unnecessary while I suspect for novices there is insufficient explanation of the data preparation and interpretation of the results.
These are very specialist programs which should appeal to those engineers who already own a Spectrum and who need to carry out such calculations regularly. The market for these programs is likely to be very limited and because of this they lack the professional veneer of a commercially produced title. Nevertheless, to run their PC equivalents would be orders of magnitude more expensive.
Label: S Okoloku (PO Box 3134 Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106, USA)
Reviewer: Mike Wright
Highly specialised engineering applications programs. Lack professional veneer but cheaper than PC equivalents.