TECHNOLOGY Research has upgraded its Beta disc interface for the Spectrum, and it is now probably the best stand-alone disc interface for that micro. TR has put all the commands in ROM, added sequential and random access files, provided auto-boot and made it possible to transfer any program to disc.
The new Beta, called Beta Plus, uses a system similar to the Mirage Microdriver. A tape-based program is loaded as normal and then at any point a 'Magic Button' on the interface can be pressed, which transfers the entire 48K to disc. When that is loaded back, the program continues from the point at which it was saved.
The system has some limitations in that it always saves that file under the same name in the same place on the disc, but once saved the file can be renamed and moved around. Unlike the Microdriver, which sometimes has problems fitting two programs on a cartridge, the increased capacity of a disc, 156K with a 40-track drive and up to 636K for an 80-track, double-sided drive, means that you can transfer your entire library to disc.
As well as the 'Magic Button', the Plus now has a reset button. When that is pressed, and on power up, the interface looks for a Basic program, 'boot', on drive one - up to four drives can be used. It also checks to see what sort of drive is connected, 40 or 80-track, single or double-sided, and the stepping rate. When another drive is used that check is made again so you can mix different types of drives.
In addition to the existing commands, LOAD and SAVE of Basic, Code and Data, MERGE, CAT, ERASE, NEW (Rename), MOVE (Compact), and PEEK and POKE (sector read/write), the ROM has been changed so that the Break key can interrupt an operation. The Password is no longer required - old discs can still be read - and FORMAT and COPY are included, plus the new filing commands.
The main additions are the sequential and random access files. A sequential file is opened using the usual OPEN # command, followed by the file name and then either a W, for write or an R for read. Information can by PRINTed to and INPUT from the file.
A random access file is opened in a similar way except that the file name is followed by the keyword RND and a number denoting the record length, up to 254 bytes. Records can be PRINTed to and INPUT from the file at any position.
Technology Research still includes a disc with the interface including a number of utility programs. Those include an enhanced CAT which gives details of file size and start address, FORMAT for old style drives, and a rudimentary tape to disc copier which copies all normally saved files, including Data, to disc.
For a stand-alone interface - one to which you can add your own drives - it is well priced at £109.25 including VAT, plus £2.00 p&p. Existing owners of the Beta can upgrade for £19.95 plus £4.00 p&p.
With the 'Magic Button', Technology Research deserves to have a winner with the Beta Plus; it could be the start of a new era.
Technology Research Ltd, Unit 18, Central Trading Estate, Staines, Middlesex TW18 4XE. Tel. Staines 63547.