MULTIFACE ST by Richard Karsmakers
My hands flew with their regular though quite dazzling speed
across the keyboard of my ST; a soothing piece of music
(Kreator's "Terrible Certainty" CD) was gently bombing away my
eardrums. I was getting to be pretty much inspired for writing
reviews for this issue of ST NEWS - about time, too, because time
was running rather short.
It was just after dusk, and the many small lights of Utrecht
city were already displayed. I had not yet closed my curtains,
probably because doing that might drain my inspiration.
At first, I didn't notice anything in particular. I just sat
there, touching these keys and seeing their corresponding
characters appear on the screen before me.
Then, I noticed.
There was a hazy blue light coming from outside. I couldn't tell
where it came from, but it was just as if the whole neighbourhood
was dipped in light blue paint.
I checked the CD package. Yes, it was Kreator and not some kind
of hallucinative variation of a dull Acid-beat.
I checked my bottle of Cola. Yes, it was genuine Cola and not
some kind of stuff in which some weirdo had managed to put a few
grams of Extacy.
I checked my 'drink-nuts' and various other crisps. Yes, they
looked pretty normal, too.
I looked outside again. Now, I could see where the light came
from. There was a giant kind of breakfast-plate gently coming
down from the sky above the street. It shed a bright blue light
upon it, and I must have looked pretty ghostly, too.
The breakfast plate, that had an undecypherable kind of writing
around its edges, suddenly hung silent just before my window. I
took away the wire gauze (yeah...we have gnats here even in the
winter!) and opened the window a bit more.
Had my singing talents finally been discovered by some
extraordinary alien civilisation? Or had the popularity of ST
NEWS now stretched out even beyond the ultimate border thinkable
- the interplanetary one?
My questions would soon be answered, as there appeared an
opening in the side of the breakfast plate out of which white
light poured in all its abundance.
A shadow appeared in it, which first seemed out of focus but
slowly became better visible. It was a small creature, maybe high
enough to touch a human's belly button, rather ponderously built.
Two antennas were located on its head.
A foot-board appeared from under the door and came up to my
window. The creature walked slowly towards me, so that I now also
noticed that it had a short tail, hands with no fingers and a
hideously ugly skin - covered with all ageing women's nightmares!
About a metre distant from me, the creature stood still. I was
rather shocked, for it was nude and smelled rather offensive, but
I was even more curious why it had come to earth and, even more
important, why it had chosen to visit me instead of someone far
more interesting such as Samantha Fox, Kiley Minogue, Sabrina, or
even Ayatollah Khomeiny.
Therefore, I asked him.
He frowned the piece of his forehead where humans generally have
their brows and appeared to think deeply. He then had his
antennas tie themselves in a knot, shortly after which he had
them untie themselves again.
I shrugged my shoulders while trying to look puzzled, pointed at
him, then pointed at the world around us and ended with pointing
at myself. I continued to look as puzzled as I could.
"Why? Warum? Pourqoui? Waarom?" I said.
It seemed as if he recognized at least one of the words I had
just spoken, for his face had exactly the same expression as that
on Christopher Walken's when he eventually remembered "One Shot?"
in "The Deerhunter".
He seemed to understand my problem, and handed me a note that he
got from somewhere (I shan't say where ...). It looked as if it
was printed by some kind of computer. The characters were Arabic,
just like ours, and the language was...English!
"Good evening," it read, "I am sorry, but I'm afraid I cannot
speak your language. I had my transcoder do some writing for me.
We have travelled a long way from our planet Googlogulpex to
visit you. We heard that you do much good work for the computer
community and we wanted to award you a prize. Please accept it as
a token of our friendship; it will revolutionize 16-bit
After that text, something could be read that was probably a
signature of the creature. It looked up again and saw the lizard-
like hand (only without fingers) holding out a small carton
box. "Multiface ST" I could read on it.
I took it and bowed low, saying "Thank you, danke sehr, merci,
The creature now also bowed low, after which it turned around
and vanished promptly in the large breakfast plate. It made a
whizzing sound for some seconds, and then disappeared into the
sky. The blue light vanished with it.
I looked at the little box in my hand. No one would ever believe
this: I had actually received a token of appreciation from a true
I opened the box. There was another box in it, smaller and made
of blue plastic. Its surface was only interrupted by a light grey
touch button and a wire with a plug on it. Further, the box
contained a rather small manual, a note and a Brussels Sprout.
"Do you remember '??½????¬¿?÷!'?" was scribbled on the note.
In one of last year's "ST Action" issues, I read a most
interesting advertisement regarding 'The Answer to Life, the
Universe and Everything' (hear that, Ronny?!), 'the thing that
will revolutionize 16 bit computing on Planet Earth' and more
such: "Multiface ST", the Ultimate Personal Copier. The
advertisement, that has in the mean time appeared in many other
ST magazines as well as ST-Amiga Format, made me very greedy. I
wanted to have that thing! If all the promises were true, I could
finally copy all software, pause my games whenever I like, rip
pictures from whatever game I wanted, dig around in my memory at
any time during execution of any program, and more...
So I immediately ordered it.
I received the package several weeks ago now, and I have not
been let down - though I must say it is not yet perfect, but
we'll get to that in just a moment.
"Multiface ST" is a cartridge that plugs into your ST's
cartridge port (at the left of your machine) and that has an
extra lead that has to be plugged between your monitor cable and
your ST. When switching on your ST, it takes over control and
lets you boot from drive A or B or enter several other options
(that we'll get to in just a sec as well).
There is a small light grey button on it as well; this is the
magic button, which allows you to enter "Multiface ST" whenever
you want. And...."Multiface ST" doesn't take up any RAM!
The disadvantage of "Multiface ST" is that it doesn't fully work
together with my real-time-clock (something with starting and
When opening the cartridge, one sees several ICs, that also
contain the 64 Kb ROM that the cartridge has.
The main menu
At this very moment, I have the "Multiface ST" (and my Navarone
real-time clock) plugged in. When I would now press the grey
button on the cartridge, a menu would appear with the following
options. This menu will appear in just about ALL programs you are
running, and I have only noticed that the "Union Demo" doesn't
even pause when it's pressed.
UNDO SAVE FORMAT LOAD PRINT INSERT
Pressing the UNDO key would cause a return to whatever was going
on. This works very fine and quit full-proof, though some
programs (I've seen this with "Operation Wolf") will bomb out if
you've activated "Multiface ST" and return to them.
By pressing the "S" (SAVE) key, you enter the 'backup' option.
You will be requested to give a filename, and if you've done that
you can select if you want to save the current screen (nice for
picture ripping - although the picture format is not compatible
with any other drawing program!) or the 'program' (which means
that you can save the entire memory contents to memory in a
compressed form, to load them back using "Multiface ST" at a
By pressing the "L" (LOAD) key, one can load back a 'program'
(as described above) into memory. Pressing UNDO will then
continue the program where you left it off when you saved it.
This means that the "Multiface ST" cartridge has to be inserted
for the program to run again, preventing piracy.
By pressing the "F" (FORMAT) key, you can format a floppy disk.
You can specify drive (A/B), number of sector per track (9/10),
number of tracks per side (80-82) and number of sides (1/2). A
very useful feature indeed!
By pressing the "P" (PRINT) key, a hi-res screen dump is made of
the current screen, that is therefore temporarily restored.
During printing, it is impossible to do anything else or even
This is the most interesting feature of the cartridge. This
allows you to scan your ST's memory and edit it (unfortunately,
you cannot assemble or even disassemble, which would have been
great!). You can load and save blocks of memory, fill, search
(and replace), print a memory dump and display/edit in ASCII, Hex
or Decimal. It offers the basic features needed to make trainer
versions of your game, read scrolling texts a bit quicker, and
generally look at whatever is going on in your ST.
The Disk Organiser
The cartridge also contains the "Disk Organiser", that can be
selected by pressing the good old reset button and selecting it
from the menu that you will then get. The "Disk Organiser" was a
free bonus program added to the cartridge because it took such a
long time to supply the actual thing. Well, it is that one
doesn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but I am not quite
satisfied with this part of the cartridge.
OK, it's quite neat, but it has got problems with drive
recognition and it takes 01'10" for the program to find out that
there is nothing coming after the last file in a directory of
drive A. A massive drawback!
One has to run it directly from the cartridge directory (simply
install an icon with a non-capital 'c') to evade this drawback.
Anyway, using this hierarchical file system management tool, it
is possible to copy files using all available RAM, quickly delete
files/folders or create folders. Mainly, it's the DESKTOP options
with more userfriendlyness. But I simply HATE the waiting time I
just mentioned (which doesn't seem to appear when the program
recognizes disk drive B and you read a directory there). But,
what the heck. It's for free.
The .MLT format
Screen picture files are stored in an awkward format with an
.MLT extension. For those among you who have the "Multiface ST"
cartridge or those of you who intend to buy one: The picture
seems to be headed by 20 bytes of trash, so loading it 20 bytes
under the start of screen memory should display it properly.
You'll have to save the colours as well; since I do not seem to
find them anywhere in the .MLT files. You will need to do this
with the "Tool" option.
- No assembling and disassembling possible
- Doesn't boot properly on colour monitors
- Weird screen picture dump format
- Not much of a manual
- Very effective and easy to use
- Well thought out and fool-proof
- Can enter virtually every program at any time
- Copies indeed just about everything using memory backup method
The "Multiface ST" cartridge costs £49.95 plus p&p (UK £1.00,
Europe £2.00, Overseas £3.00), and can be ordered at:
Romantic Robot Ltd.
54 Deanscraft Avenue
London NW9 8EN
Tel. 01-200 8870
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.