FOLLOWING Building Price, designed to calculate the cost of materials used in the construction of a building, author J Redman has turned his attention to plumbing.
Plumbers' Price and Plumbers' Price (Drains) are also used for costings but could be used at the planning stage to estimate the cost of different pipe runs.
A program synopsis is supplied but the main instructions are held as a program on one side of the cassette. The instructions are written in a kind of shorthand, making them difficult to understand. It is also likely that reference to them will be needed while the program is being used, and that is not possible when they are only on cassette.
Before reaching the main menu you enter the job name and date. The main menu allows plans to be drawn, materials listed, the file to be saved and the price to be calculated. The majority of the work is likely to be spent on drawing the plans in 3D.
The draw option allows for any of three types and 10 sizes - four in the drains version - of pipe and for either type or size to be changed at any stage. There are extra categories for your own type and size. The pipe currently being used is shown in the top left corner of the drawing, while the name given to the drawing is top centre and in the bottom right corner is a representation of the keys used to draw the diagram.
The choice of L(eft), R(ight), U(p) and D(own) is easy enough to understand but the choice of O, P, J and K for drawing diagonally makes the choice of keys seem strangely scattered around the keyboard; perhaps the use of 1-8 on a clock would seem easier. In addition to the direction markers, which flash to show the direction the last line was drawn in, double pipe runs and insulated piping can be drawn and those are denoted respectively, by a flashing 'X' in the centre and a flashing 'I' just below the 'U'.
At the bottom of the screen is the draw menu which allows any one of 16 user-defined graphics to be added for room fittings such as baths, sink and tanks. There are five fittings in the Drains program. Twenty two types of pipe fittings - 21 for Drains - can also be added. An extra category in each program is available for a user-defined fitting. The Fittings option is used to change the pipe size and add T-joints.
There are three further move options included in the draw menu. Those allow you to erase part or all of the last pipe run, return to any one of the first 20 T-joints to draw a different branch, and thirdly change the rate of drawing from Slow, one pixel at a time, to Fast, one character at a time. The length of the pipe run is shown in the top left corner under the pipe size. You can be set a new run at any stage by selecting option 0 which then prompts to see if an elbow joint is to be included.
Once the drawing is finished it can be printed out onto a ZX-type printer before returning to the main menu to either list the materials used or to go through the pricing section. The pricing calculator lists the amount and type of each item used and prompts for a unit price. The cost for that item and the total cost is calculated and displayed.
One feature of the Drains program unfortunately lacking in its partner is the ability to store a diagram in memory at any stage and then to return to it later. That is the major problem with the program, apart from some poor error-trapping which may be necessary in order to fit the program into the Spectrum memory. The whole package would also benefit from a clearer manual or at the very least an option to print out each page from the program.
Publisher: J Redman, Stevelon House, Slade Lane, Tarnock, Axbridge, Somerset, BS26 2SH