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© Geo

The surgeon general has determined
That all bands should sound alike
Failure to stay within these guidelines
May result in artistic freedom
And will be frowned upon
DON'T let this happen to you!
Mucky Pup

MULTIFACE ST VERSION 2.0
by Richard Karsmakers

Let me tell you of something that happened a couple of nights
ago, while I was word processing for ST NEWS (which I tend to do
quite often).

Several months ago, I was troubled by a blueish light outside,
which made all of the city of Utrecht seem as though it was
dipped into navy-blue paint. Now, the city looked as though
dipped in dark yellow paint.
Everything - the cars, the street, the people, the houses -
appeared yellow.

As I walked towards my window and looked up, my thought of the
light coming from some kind of extra-terrestrial object hanging
there turned out to be correct.
High in the air, an object hung much in the way like stones
wouldn't. It was shaped like an amoeba, and it changed its shape
several times in each minute.
When I came to think of it: It was indeed an amoeba. One of
giant proportions, that is.
I remembered these beings from my biology books: Small semi-
transparent shapes that moved and ate by means of pseudopodia
('fake limbs'). Very low animals, maybe the ancestors of all
fauna to date.
Though I couldn't get myself to cry "Hi, great-great-....etc....
grandpa!" or something like it, it captured my interest in that
same instant. This might maybe have been caused by the fact that
amoebas are generally so small that you'd need a microscope to be
able to see them.
This one was huge.
Maybe as huge as half a soccer field.
It hung silently in the sky, only slowly changing shape now and
again, is if in defiance of gravity itself.
I opened my window and looked at it more carefully. It didn't
quite look like the breakfast-plate that had visited me several
months ago and that resulted in me acquiring the "Multiface ST"
cartridge.
Definitely not.
It looked rather more like an...a...er....an amoeba, really.

I was about to start signalling so that they might notice me
when a flashlight appeared behind the 'skin' of the object.
Though I couldn't see anything in it, the flashlight surely had
no trouble getting through in the opposite direction. I was
blinded by the mass of photons flying at me, and had to cover my
eyes.
I nearly lost balance and dropped out of my window. NEARLY.
Suddenly, the light went out and when I looked to the place
where the amoeba had been I was startled to notice that there was
nothing anymore. No object. No amoeba - not even a small one.
Just air. Empty air.
The city of Utrecht had regained its old color - black and grey
in after-dusk.
I turned around and suddenly saw this creature sitting in my
lazy chair.

Just like the beings that had decided to visit my humble abode
several months ago, this one was fully nude. Also, its smell was
rather offensive and it looked non too human.
It had long arms and even longer legs, that it had put
nonchalantly through my room.
In one of its hands, which it had extended towards me, it held
two small creatures. It signalled me to put them on my glasses.
They looked a bit like sparrows but much smaller, differently
coloured and differently shaped.
After I had indeed put them on my glasses, it told me these were
Babel-birds. Whenever it would speak, these birds would make sure
I heard its speech in my native language.
Don't ask me how this should work.
It just did.
It smoked a cigarette and blew oddly shaped puffs to the ceiling
as though it was at home in his own house on some obscure and
little planet.
The being seemed to read my mind and seemed to be brutally
offended.
"My planet is by no means 'obscure and little', as you put it,"
it said rather irritated while sitting straight up, "Googlogulpex
is one of the largest planets in the known universe."
It saw me thinking, and hastily added: "In the universe WE know
- not that pathetically little fragment you have laid eyes on."
I looked at it as if I were impressed.
Which, to tell the truth, I indeed was.
It seemed to sense my emotions perfectly, and sat back more
comfortable again, puffing the same old triangles and cubes of
smoke towards the ceiling.
I decided to play it safe.
"Why do I have the honour of your visit?" I said, as humbly as I
could.
It looked at me as if it found this question quite stupid, as if
it could only have come here for one - and indeed very obvious -
reason.
"I have come to retrieve," it said solemnly.
I looked at it with frowned eyebrows.
It seemed to sense truth in my wondering, and said: "The Blue
Box."
Again, I looked at it with frowned eyebrows.
Then, it dawned upon me.
The being wanted the Multiface cartridge back. I should have
known this at the same moment it mentioned its home planet,
Googlogulpex. I knew the Multiface couldn't have been something
permanent. This device was so near to perfect...I should have
known that good things (just like girls) tend not to last very
long.
It immediately saw the disillusionment in my eyes, and wrenched
a smile on its lipless mouth. It uncovered some pretty fiersome
teeth, by the way.
"But I have also come to give," it said, trying to look rather
mysterious in the Googlogulpex fashion by sticking out its
yellow tongue, looking right with its right eye and looking left
with its left eye.
From a small pouch, it took another Blue Box.
He stuck up two fingers. At first, I thought he was trying to
offend me, but then he said: "Two. Version two."
Holy jeepers!! This being had returned to retrieve the old
version and give me the new one!
I guess I became quite happy, and the creature was pleased to
see this. I looked eagerly at the Blue Box it had in its hand,
and went in search for the old one.
After looking for several minutes, trying not to trip over its
long legs that it had put all through the room as stated before,
I found it.
It was stuck in my ST's cartridge port - where else could it
have been?
The creature smiled again, looking like a mother that holds a
delicious specimen of strawberry icecream in front of a baby
after having blindfolded it (I hope you get my drift).

"Give," it said.
I gave the old Multiface. I couldn't help feeling a tiny bit
desolate for a couple of moments, as if I was suddenly torn away
from someone or something I sincerely loved or desperately
needed.
"Take," it now said, in a rather commanding voice.
I took the Blue Box and felt warm inside again.
This was it. Multiface 2. Now I could finally do it all.
I looked at the creature with grateful eyes. Not failing to
notice the look in my eyes, it said: "Don't mention it - I've
only had to travel several million light years to bring it. No
sweat."
Was there some sarcasm in his voice?
The dark yellow light had appeared outside again, and the large
amoeba hung there again. Silently. Changing shape slowly, all the
time.
The being still seemed to wait for something.
I thought hard and deep. It seemed to sense pain as I did this,
and held tight to its chair as the throbs took place and pain
seemed to prey upon its nerves and veins like a hungry Golden
Eagle upon a myxomatoic rabbit.
It looked at me as if it was perfectly obvious that it wanted to
have something more - and what it wanted. If it had come to get
that old Multiface, it would probably also want....
No. That couldn't be...
The Brussels Sprout?
I looked at the being and saw delighted anticipation gleaming in
its eyes.
I digged as deep as possible in my garbage can. Maybe it was
lucky: Maybe I hadn't emptied it in the last four months or so.
It was, because I hadn't.
I took out a massive lump of purple, yellow and red fungi
covering a small piece of vegetation.
As the creature saw the Sprout, it again managed to smile - this
time a bit more easily.
It extended a hand. Strange enough, it had four fingers and a
thumb.
I put the sprout in it.
At that very moment, I felt as though in a vertigo of
conscious unconsciousness.
When I opened my eyes, the city of Utrecht had regained its old
colors again. The creature had vanished from its chair, and the
smell had disappeared as well.
I looked at the Blue Box in my hand.
Gosh. Multiface 2.
GREAT.
Great?
GREAT!!

*****

Multiface ST and the new English Copyright Law

For those of you eager for a full review of the "Multiface ST"
cartridge, please allow me to direct you to ST NEWS Volume 4
Issue 1. Here, chapter 1 of the above introductory novelette as
well as a full review of the device in question can be found with
relatively little trouble.
In this article, I'd like to concentrate on the changes
(improvements, mostly) made to version 2.0 that make it even more
worth your while to get it.

Uh.
"Multiface ST" seemed to offend some copyright law in the United
Kingdom so therefore it was no longer sold by its original
manufacturer, Romantic Robot. Some other companies outside the UK
still stocked it and sold it against amounts of money that may
vary from the retail price (about £40 now) to whatever a fool is
willing to pay (and ask) for it. Now, Romantic Robot is again
selling them, so it seems.
Anyway, I am very happy so say that I have mine now, and I value
it highly now I know it ain't being sold no more. It's my most
prized computer hardware possession except for my harddisk.

But let's get on with it.

The changes

First thing that strikes you when looking at version 2.0 is the
external chord that has to be put between computer and monitor
plug. It is now a bit slimmer, but the actual cable is shorter.
Since I have a plug-through Navarone clock card sitting at my
cartridge port, this means that I have to take it out before
plugging in the "Multiface" - the cable is too short to allow
other application to be between computer and "Multiface".
Bad news, guys!
But some soldering that I will do soon will take care that the
cable becomes a bit longer.
This is definitely not a flaw of pangalactic dimensions (don't
worry - I will not come up with some of those, either!).

The rest of the changes are improvements. Some big. Some
smaller.
There's the new picture format, for example. The old "Multiface"
saved its pictures in a very strange format with some trash
heading the actual picture data and a color palette that was
nowhere to be found; not ONE drawing package could read the
screenshots from disk, and unfortunately Romantic Robot didn't
supply the avid user with a conversion utility either.
The new version includes the generally accepted "Degas Elite"
standard. Hooray! Now, you can finally 'rip' pictures from
virtually ANY program you want! This is very handy when you have
to supply magazines with screen shots to accompany articles
you've written (like yours truly has to do often) or similar.
All pictures are perfectly represented on disk, except those
that use a color palette of more than 16 colors using raster
techniques. Only a part of the picture is then correct; this is
often the case with demos and the like.

Speaking of demos: The new "Multiface" is now actually capable
of interrupting screens of the "Union Demo"! This means that you
can read that eternal scrolling message a lot faster by simply
pushing the magic button and locating it in memory using the
'find' option of the built-in tool.
Of course, there are also less ethic ways of using the magic
button in demos that happen to have great music, fantastic
graphics and some pretty revolutionary machine code - but we
shan't mention those (eh, Stefan and Tim?).
Using a special way of installing the "Multiface", it is now
possible to interrupt ALL programs I tested. Some of the 'heavy'
cases, such as the "Union Demo" I mentioned, will not be
continued after leaving "Multiface" again, however, unless they
re-start on a reset (some demos and the odd game do this).
But that is no big problem.

The Disk Organiser is now also obtainable from the menu one gets
with pressing the magic button. Harddisks are then already
installed and should be usable as well. With version 1, it was
only obtainable from the hard reset menu or by loading it
directly off cartridge 'drive c'.
The Disk Organiser has been enhanced as well, and it doesn't
take ages anymore for the program to discover that the last file
is indeed the last file in a drive A directory.
Much better.
It is also VERY nice that it can be used now from any program
you can interrupt - at ANY time, thus.

The One Flaw

Something I still missed in this version, however, is the
ability to assemble and disassemble 68000 mnemonics. If this
would have been implemented, maybe together with a trace option
of some kind, "Multiface ST" would also have been the most
perfect debugger thinkable.
There is a way of skipping a part of the lack, however. The
lack of being able to assemble your own code can be evaded by
assembling some personal debugging routines on a pre-set spot in
memory using a real assembler and then load 'em in memory with
the "Multiface" 'load memory block' option. Principally, it is
also possible to load debuggers in memory this time - but then
you'd have to know how to load .PRG files on a specific address
(which happens to be explained elsewhere in this issue of ST
NEWS
). Further, you have to find a way to execute it.

Concluding

"Multiface ST" version 2 is an enhanced dream for all hackers,
games freaks, programmers and people that want screenshots of
games in "Degas" format. It is an excellent device, with which I
am wholly content (except for the One Flaw I mentioned) in spite
of the respectable investment that goes with it.
For professional ST users in the DTP, CAD or spreadsheet field,
the "Multiface" is a great deal less necessary.

Disadvantages:

- No assembling/disassembling
- Cable too short when using more cartridge appliances

Advantages:

- Very effective and easy to use
- Well thought out and fool-proof
- Can really interrupt just about ANY program at ANY time
- Can copy ALL software using memory backup techniques

Improvements since version 1

- Picture screen format is now "Degas"
- Success ratio greatly improved
- Booting is much better now
- Disk Organiser enhanced and easier obtainable

In England, "Multiface ST" used to be sold through Romantic
Robot but they are no longer allowed to do it. In Holland,
however, the device can be bought through the following address:

Data Skip
Oosthaven 58
NL-2801 PE Gouda
The Netherlands

The device costs 199 Dutch guilders (over £55) there. Many TNX
have to go to Ton of Data Skip for updating my old version
against this new one!

Disclaimer
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.