MicroDesign Plus

Started by arnoldemu, 13:22, 03 December 17

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"Happy" Halloween............and here is a little macabre MD Memento Mori for this All Hallows Eve.
The skull graphic (Previously seen in the "AGE30" design) is a Rombo Vidi mode 2 grab from a music video but at the moment I'll be damned (ouch!) if I can remember which one - The Shamen, Front 242?  Maybe.
4K Portrait format, printed using the Star LC-10 9-pin printer.





The Osprey graphic is a converted mode 2 loading screen from a CPC personal finance program. Unfortunately I can't remember which - Money Manager, Home Finance? There was an Amsoft Osprey educational program but I'm sure it doesn't come from that. Any ideas?

Update 20/2/2019
I have found the original file - it is the loading screen for "Bank Balancer" from Osprey Software


First review of the enhanced MicroDesign Plus, in the last issue of Amstrad Computer User. Though positive it reads a little like a press release.

Page 1.



Advert in same issue.


And in the beginning (1)......

Thanks to Zeropolis, Micro-Draft, the precursor to MicroDesign, has now been found but as yet I have no information if Amsoft or some other company released it.
After the release of MicroDesign by Siren Software, Simon Hargreaves and Nik Holmes went on to form Creative Technology (MicroDesign) Ltd. Amongst many other programs they released MicroDesign 2 and MicroDesign 3 for the PCW.  Also released was MD2 for the PC



Better than the 16-Bits?
Read the extract below and see what you think.

For anyone wondering how the CPC and MicroDesign could produce such HQ printed output, the extract (grey box) from an article on Deluxe Paint 2, is essential reading.
The original article is from issue 12 of the Advanced Computer Entertainment magazine and was written by Brian Larkman, Contributing Editor at Future Publishing.


This is the pixel scale file from the original release of MD by Siren Software. It was used to position graphic files accurately on the MD page. Printed using the DMP 2160 set for draft quality.



Unfinished design using mode 2 Vidi screen. Knowing me, the speech bubble was probably for something crude, vulgar and puerile ::)


And speaking of the crude, vulgar and puerile - most of this page contains converted mode 2 screens, printed at 1/4 scale, of some of the infamous characters from the "Viz" comic founded in 1979 and still being published on a monthly basis.
These Vidi grabs come from the TV cartoon versions from 1994.
Due to the small size of these images it would be best to download the jpg and use Window Photo Viewer.


Can I ask you a favor? These are lovely and interesting for the most part, but 3.6MB for a 2-bit image is a bit too much... For instance, just saving it to gif saved 1,7MB and of course I don't think it really needs to be at such a size.



Of course. I have already been looking at reducing file size but haven't worked my way thru all the "modern" filetypes yet. The PNG copy of this file came in at 6.89MB, the TIF was 10.8MB :o


Yes, PNG doesn't result int a reduced image size - tried that too. But gif is perfectly nice for a black-and-white image, and of course it could do with a resize...

Thanks :)


This is page 5 of the MicroDesign Plus manual.

There is something interesting in the MicroDesign Page Dimensions table.

Strip format measures 7 inches (17.78 cm) horizontally X 2 inches (5.08 cm) vertically on the physical CPC screen.

Any ideas?


A question:

If both Stop Press (518016 pixels) and MicroDesign (522240 pixels) full A4 pages are Mode 2 -  what Mode is the 1/4 A4 page MD strip format at 491520 pixels?

The middle window in the screen below is strip format - 1920 pixels in width x 256 in height - 4 of these make up one full A4 page.



I seem to be losing pixels somewhere - now having counted the number of pixels in strip format I come to the figure of 1912 pixels in width as opposed to the 1920 quoted in the manual. Mmm.
Even so, this appears to be a much higher resolution than Mode 2.
Possibly the highest resolution ever seen on the CPC.

I'm not sure how this was possible, does anyone have any thoughts or ideas on this?


Christmas "card" for a friend.

:o  Trigger warning for individuals that prefer their Christmas to be traditional -  the following design contains characters, vulgar images and rude language from the British cultural highpoint  ???   that is the satirical comic "Viz". :o 

As awareness of Viz comic is likely to be minimal outside the UK I have included the following links below which will help in giving context:


The television cartoon versions of Sid The Sexist and The Fat Slags (from which the Vidi grabs were taken from) were both broadcast by Channel 4 in 1992 and are available on YouTube.

64K Portrait format.
The large font is from MD Extra by Siren Software and the Santa graphics are converted Stop Press clip-art.

Software:  MicroDesign Plus, Vidi Rom.
Hardware:  6128 Plus, Rombo Vidi Digitiser and Star LC-10 9 pin printer.

I made card this for a friend who, at that time, was sharing a flat in the city of Leeds with two other students. My humorous nickname for them was the "Thin Slags" -  strangely, neither of them seemed particularly impressed by this moniker. 
She liked the card - they didn't.
Oh well.


Two converted Stop Press screens.

An interesting quirk of Stop Press, when saving a 17K screen, is that it saves the program menu bar at the top of the screen as well as the large window/work area (known as the "canvas") that here displays the clip art.
When screens were loaded back into Stop Press the menu bar was automatically stripped during the loading process and only the canvas area was displayed. 
I think this clip art is by Tecnation and is from the "Extra! Extra!" utilities disc released in the same (?) year as Stop Press.


As fax transmission was implemented for the PCW but not the CPC it was necessary to print off a letter or document first and then use a dedicated fax machine. Buying the Panasonic Panafax telephone/fax machine was my solution to this irritating problem.
The machine pictured was used for sending/receiving technical documentation, screen shots, customer orders, bulk orders from other businesses and anything else that, pre-net, required speed.
An excellent machine (it still works), it also has a speaker mode that made it possible to continue to use the CPC while carrying on a telephone conversation.
The fact that is very similar in colour to the 6128 had no ??? impact at all on my decision to purchase it.

The fax below was sent to Ness Boubekri(?) at the French magazine "Amstrad Cent Pour Cent" in 1992 or 1993.


64K Portrait format.
Heading is by MD+, the text is a Protext file converted to MicroDesign format.


256K high resolution strip format map of Europe. Part of the "World Maps Library" disc licensed from Creative Technology. This particular map consists of three separate strip files that required to be printed in three operations.
Reviewed in issue 105 (June 94) of Amstrad Action.


Raw material 1.
Converted Rombo Vidi Digitiser mode 2 screens printed at 1/4 scale. Typically, converted screens were reduced from 17K to about 9K in size.


Raw material 2.

Nineteen converted 17k screens created by an Amstrad Action type-in. Portrait format, printed at 1/4 scale using the Star LC-10 9 pin printer. It was necessary to print off copies like this as the file names (shape1, shape2 etc) were/are of little use when looked at months or years later.
I wish I could remember the program that was used to create these, does anyone have any idea?


Office use.

A little background.

The IBM AS400 midrange computer was used by many Scottish local councils back in the nineties as the main computer for large scale data processing - in Glasgow some of the bespoke programs written for it were used by the Personnel, Stores, Training, Finance departments and it was also used by the vehicle workshops for maintenance records.
While the AS400 was a multi-user system there wasn't even a hint of a GUI - no Windows style interface or GUI of any description - and forget mice - text and data input was via the keyboard only - using the tab keys to navigate. On some programs keyboard macros were implemented which , depending on the application, speeded up input from the user in the relevant text and data fields. All in a lovely shade of Green.
The MD file below was made in response to problems with the layout (known then as the screen mask) of the fields for the new Bulk Uplift program.
As previously mentioned input was keyboard only and for this particular program input started at the top left of the screen and finished at the bottom right.


Amongst other problems (far too boring to detail) the call type was defined by the refuse types (chargeable/non-chargeable) and in the original screen layout this required the user to tab back up the screen to fill in that field!

Not good, not good at all.

So was this bad programming?
Nope - bad communication.

The programmers were given an initial spec and once the program was completed and then in daily use, their contact with users was minimal. Mmm.

Anyway once the design below was accepted, the changes were implemented within a few weeks and input to the program was made easier.
I have included a few AS400 photos for context.


This is the 256K Hi-Res map of the counties of the UK and Ireland.

It is part of the British Isles Maps Library licensed from Creative Technology (MicroDesign) Ltd.
These were originally PCW files converted to MicroDesign CPC strip format.
On the 128K CPC's, as with the 256K PCW computers, this design would be assembled from 4/5 strip files loaded sequentially and then printed to give one complete A4 page.
On the 512K PCW's these files would again be loaded as strip files but the larger memory of these machines enabled the complete design to be held in memory as one MicroDesign2 256K page - which could be modified/loaded/saved as required.


This is the 256K Hi-Res map of Ireland, again this file is part
of the British Isles Maps Library licensed from Creative Technology (MicroDesign) Ltd.
This particular design consists of three strip format files - IRELAND1.DR, IRELAND2.DR and IRELAND3.

Printed using the Star LC-10 9-pin dot matrix printer.

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