IF you're frustrated by the limitations of Spectrum BASIC and you'd prefer a larger, more structured set of commands, Betasoft's BetaBASIC is probably the answer. It's a massive package, so this is just a brief summary.
BetaBASIC is a £16 extension of ZX BASIC rather than a new interpreter. It adds more than 100 new commands to Sinclair BASIC, and speeds up some of the old ones - such as GOTO, GOSUB and FOR loops. It runs on any Spectrum apart from the +3, though there should be a special version for that machine later this year.
But BetaBASIC is BIG! It consists of 18K of code on a 48K Spectrum, leaving you with about 22K for your program. The extra commands for the Spectrum 128K take up another 7K, leaving you only 15K. The compensation is that often one BetaBASIC command can do what would otherwise have taken dozens of lines. (You can also store up to 70K of array variables and routines in the 128's Instant-access RAM disk.)
The BetaBASIC editor is a fast, improved version of the 48K Spectrum editor, rather than the slow, clumsy screen editor that normally runs in 128 BASIC. You can type commands In full, use an extended version of Sinclair's keyword-entry scheme, or mix the two - entering the commands you can remember as single-keypress keywords, and typing the others in full. User-defined keys are also allowed.
You can renumber, move, delete or copy any section of a program. There are search and replace facilities, and you can join and split lines easily.
Procedures and functions are allowed, with no restrictions on parameter-passing or local variables other than available memory. Block IF THEN ELSE and DO LOOPs are allowed, but there's no SELECT or CASE statement other than the old-fashioned and error-prone ON GOTO and ON GOSUB.
Array commands let you sort, search and shuffle entire arrays or slices very quickly. There are 30 new functions to convert, combine and format numbers or strings.
BetaBASIC's graphics commands are faster and more flexible than ZX BASICS. Besides using faster versions of the standard commands you can define windows and FILL any shape; graphics operations are particularly fast in the 128K program. Flexible scrolling and new character sizes are supported.
A souped-up BEEP command for 128-users lets you use the full potential of the AY-3-8912 sound chip. Sounds are queued, so your program carries on running while a tune or sequence of sound effects is played. This is a vast improvement on Sinclair's weedy PLAY command, though it's a bit harder to use. And PLAY, like all the other Sinclair commands, is still available if you want it.
Since Tech Niche last reported on BetaBASIC, the software has been improved to trap errors generated by the Disciple and Plus D disk systems as well as BREAK and other standard reports.
Software-designer Andy Wright says he's been encouraged by 'lots of post' about the +3, and intends to get down to work on a new version soon. He plans to implement serial data files on the +3 disk, and ideally random-access files as well, but he can't think of much else that isn't already done by BetaBASIC 4.
Betasoft has moved: its new address is 24 Wyche Avenue, Kings Heath, Birmingham B14 6LQ.