Returning To The QL

QL image    

Updated: 07.09.2015

Whether your interest is general retro-computing, SuperBASIC programming, renewing old friendships with QLers from years ago, or simply wanting to restart an old hobby by tinkering with a computer that's just that little bit different to the PCs and Macs which are so prevalent in our working lives, welcome back to the QL scene and I do hope you'll find plenty of interest here.

From time to time, I hear from former QL users who decide to return to using a QL and want to know how best to proceed, what's available and so on. So I've decided to put together this page to help those people find their way back to the QL and its compatibles. Of course, browsing this website will help a lot - I'd suggest reading the About The QL, Emulators Of The QL, Links To QL Websites, QL Shows, QL Today magazine, QL Traders and Quanta user group pages on this website to start with then go through the QL Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list below.

The QL scene is naturally much smaller than it used to be - after all it's about 2 decades since the QL itself was last manufactured. But there are new expansions, compatible machines and emulators available and those who still use a QL are real enthusiasts who have good reasons to use a QL. Its BASIC interpreter makes it very easy to write well structured programs, good BASIC and C language compilers are available, and brilliant emulators and compatible computers available, with a more modern version of the operating system which is still being actively developed, along with thorough documentation. And there's a load of websites out there for this remarkable little computer, even a mailing list by email where users from all over the world stay in daily contact and discuss all manners of issues relating to the QL scene in general and get fast help with any problems they run into.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. I have a QL, but it no longer works. Can I still get it repaired?

Yes. Contact Rich Mellor at RWAP Software, Ian Gledhill at Mutant Caterpillar, or Tony Firshman at TF Services in England (see contact details on my Traders page), or one of the traders in your part of the world who may be able to put you in touch with a repairer in your country even if they can't repair QLs themselves.

2. I need a replacement QL manual.

As far as I know, the original QL manual is no longer available. Some time ago, it was scanned and OCRed, and is now available from several websites to download, although you'll need to print it out yourself of course. You can get the QL manual in several formats from my documentation page. It's also available in an online version here.

3. Can I still get QL microdrive cartridges?

They are no longer manufactured, but some may be available second hand from the QL traders. In all honesty, though, microdrive cartridges are pretty well forgotten about and you may be better advised to ask them for a cheap floppy disk system instead. Be advised that 30+ year old cartridges are prone to failures such as damage to the little felt pad which guides the tape, although some users have successfully replaced these.

4. What kind of floppy disk system is best?

One using 3.5 inch disks. Most QL disk interfaces can use 3 inch or older 5.25 inch disk drives, but the media are hard to obtain these days. It is best to get a system able to handle High Density (1.4MB) disks, as these are easier to buy nowadays, although you can also get older systems handling only 720K disks, and even one type handling 3.2MB disks (ED drives, ED stands for Extra-high Density). It is best to get a disk interface which allows for extra memory to be added to the QL as the 128K of memory originally built into the QL is barely adequate with a disk interface. There are types with built in memory expansion from 512KB up to 4MB (some of them even replace the QL's 68008 processor with a much faster 68000 or 68020 processor). Older disk interfaces without onboard memory expansions may require a separate memory expansion card which is pretty hard to find, but some traders may have second hand ones for sale. Make sure that the RAM card has what is called a "through port" which allows you to plug the disk interface card into the memory expansion card, since the QL has only one expansion slot under the keyboard on the left hand side. The disadvantage of separate memory and disk interfaces are mainly size, a QL becomes very wide with both a disk card and memory card attached to each other. This is why it is best to get a card with built in disk and memory expansion features. Most disk interfaces will allow up to 2 disk drives to be attached, whereas the ones known as Trump Card, Gold Card and Super Gold Card will allow an adaptor to be added for connection of drives 3 and 4. Most fairly modern types of floppy disk drives can be used. Older drives for the old BBC micro computer can also be used. If in doubt, ask the person selling you the interface if they can advise on the type of drive to be used or (better) if they can sell you a drive to go with it as well! Makes of disk interfaces you might encounter might include:

If you buy a disk interface second hand and it comes without a manual, worry not, as scanned manuals are available from my QL Documentation web page. Most disk interfaces use a pretty similar core set of instructions so the manual for one type will generally give you a fairly good insight into other makes as well, and there is a generic manual available which is generally suitable for most types of disk interface if no replacement manual is available for the type of interface in question. If the disk interface has a built in Toolkit 2, you can get a specific manual for Toolkit 2 from my QL Documentation web page too.

The QL uses the same floppy disks as those you buy for other computers, but formats them slightly differently, so if the disk has been used in a PC, you might have to FORMAT it on a QL before you can use it. Likewise, you'll need to reformat a QL disk to use it on a PC.

More recently, an SD card interface known as QL-SD has become available. This allows a small circuit board to take the place of one of the microdrives on the QL, allowing the now vacant slot to be used to plug in an SD card. Further details here. This device, when available (it is produced in small volumes), may be purchased through

The original QUBIDE IDE hard disk interface for QL is now being produced in small numbers by Jose Leandro in Spain. You can get further details by searching for Qubide at QL Forum.

5. What kind of monitor do I need?

The original Sinclair QL has three video outputs - a television connection which varies according to the country for which that particular model of QL was designed to be used, a composite video monitor monitor output, and a TTL RGB output. The QL can be connected to a TV with SCART input (see Richard Cooke's articles in QL Today magazine Volume 4 Issues 3 and 4), although you'll need to wire up an adapter lead and a few components to suitably adapt the signal.

Nowadays, you can get specialist video cards which are able to convert signal formats to allow a flat screen TV with HDMI or SCART connector input to accept signals from otherwise incompatible sources. One such device is a video scalar, which analyses and converts signals automatically to the resolution and format expected by a TV with SCART input connectors. Another device called a SCART to HDMI Video Converter takes a SCART video source and upscales it to a signal suitable for a screen with HDMI connector input.

There are a couple of useful helpline articles available to read on Quanta website on this subject. Go to the page and locate Helpline 31 and 49. They are PDF files and deal with devices such as the Simple Video Scalar from JS Technology (which is also available in a special QL version), wiring up a SCART lead from QL to TV set, RGBtoVGA Jamma board from and a few of the SCART to HDMI converters available from several companies on eBay and the like.

This subject has had a lot of discussion on the QL Forum. For example, the original thread about this SCART to HDMI device is on QL Forum at , while the discussion about the GBS-8220 RGB TO VGA Converter can be found at

6. Can I just use a PC SVGA monitor?

As far as I know, not directly, no. The signal from a QL is TTL RGB, whereas an analogue SVGA monitor requires a different kind of signal. Always happy to hear from someone who can prove me wrong though!

7. Can I get an operating system upgrade?

There are two main paths of upgrade:

  1. Minerva. This is an enhanced QDOS with loads of improvements such as a large number of bug fixes and better support for the two-screen mode of operation built into the QL hardware but little supported by original Sinclair QL ROMs. Minerva is available from TF Services and comes as an EPROM which replaces the built in QL QDOS ROM. Some versions of Minerva have been released as freeware and ROM images can be obtained from some websites if you have the facility to blow an EPROM for yourself.
  2. SMSQ/E is a replacement operating system for the QL and compatibles. SMSQ stands for Single user Multitasking System for QL. It is faster than QDOS, much more stable and free from bugs because of ongoing support and development, and provides many more facilities such as support for 8-bit and 16-bit colour graphics on suitably equipped hardware, plus an enhanced version of SuperBASIC called SBASIC. On an original Sinclair QL, you'll need a Gold Card or Super Gold Card expansion due to the memory requirements. SMSQ/E is now available to download free from the SMSQ/E Registrar's site, along with the sources.

8. I have a PC at home, can I transfer files between QL and PC?

Yes, provided you have suitable file and disk transfer software, since the floppy disk format used by the QL and PC are different. You will need two types of software:

  1. Disk transfer software - either a program running on the PC which will allow the PC to read a QL format floppy disk, or a program running on a QL allowing it to read files from a PC formatted floppy disk. An example would be the Discover software from Dave Walker running on a QL. On a PC, programs like Jonathan Hudson's WXQT2, WXQLTools and QXLtool can be useful.
  2. The second half of the equation is data format. Files from one program will rarely load into another, let alone on a different computer, so you'll need a program to reformat the data into a format suitable for import into the other program on the other computer. In the case of text files, there are programs such as Textidy from Dave Walker and QL2PC from Geoff Wicks of Just Words to run on a QL. If trying to transfer databases or spreadsheets, using an export format such as CSV or Psion Export may make the task easier. Data transfer is not the easiest of tasks beyond text files, be warned!
  3. If using a QUBIDE hard disk interface, there is the Image Editor software for Qubide from Habi in Spain. Details at

9. Can I run QL programs on my PC?

Not directly, not the least of which the hardware, operating systems and microprocessors are completely different. Even BASIC programs from one machine are unlikely to run on the other. But by using a QL emulator program such as QLay, QLay2, QL2K, QemuLator, SMSQmulator, uQLx for Windows or QPC1 or QPC2 under DOS or Windows you can have to all intents and purposes a QL built into your PC. Most QL emulators are very compatible with original QLs and run at a pretty decent speed on a modern fast PC (you may well find that some of these software emulators run even faster than an original QL!). Another option for those who prefer the hardware route is to get what's called a QXL card, an ISA slot card which to all intents and purposes contains a built in QL with from 2 to 8MB of RAM and uses the PC screen display, keyboard, mouse etc. It runs an operating system called SMSQ which is a kind of halfway house between QDOS and SMSQ/E described above. The QXL card is no longer made and many modern PCs no longer have an ISA expansion slot, so the QXL is probably a better option for an older PC because the speed at which it runs is pretty independent of the speed of the PC, unlike a software based emulator. One use for an older 286, 386 or 486 PC which might otherwise end up in a landfill site. QXLs do occasionally turn up second hand, so if you have an otherwise redundant older PC which you'd like to bring back to life as a QL, you might like to ask one of the traders if they have a second hand one to offer you! SMSQmulator is a Java-based emulator, so can in theory run on any system which supports Java - apart from Java on Windows, I've also seen SMSQmulator running on the most recent version of the RaspberryPi2. There's also a version of uQLx available for the Raspberry Pi. See my Emulators page.

10. What about running QL software on other computers?

QL emulators are available for Apple Macs, Unix/Linux systems, Raspberry Pi, Java systems, Amigas and Atari STs, see my QL Emulators page for more details.

11. Where can I get copies of the software that was supplied with the original QL?

Psion supplied a suite of four business programs with the QL. These were called Quill (word processor), Archive (database), Abacus (spreadsheet) and Easel (business graphics). Later, these became what was known as the Xchange suite, a version of whichis available for QL. There was also a little microdrive cartridge of games. You can get copies of these programs from my website - click here to visit that page on my website. Psion kindly gave permission for these programs to be made available for QL users on a non-commercial basis.

12. I have copies of old software on microdrive cartridge. Can I transfer them to floppy disk?

Some older commercial software on microdrive, especially some games, were supplied in a protected format which made it difficult to transfer or copy them to disk. The effort and knowledge needed with these means that they are best forgotten about unless you have working microdrives to run them from in their original form. A few of these will ONLY run on a QL with no memory expansion or disk interface.

The easiest way to copy microdrive based programs to disk is to use a facility called microdrive imaging, but it doesn't work on all systems. If the manual describes 'FORMAT RAM1_MDV1' (i.e. formatting ramdisks to the name of a microdrive) it means it can fast load an image of the cartridge into a ramdisk (a kind of temporary drive in the computer's memory called RAM1_ instead of FLP1_ or MDV1_). FORMAT RAM1_MDV1 tries to copy all files from MDV1_ to RAM1_. If any sectors on the cartridge were corrupt and unreadable, the filename is flagged with an asterisk, in which case best to forget it, as the software may be damaged and won't run properly. If it all copied OK, you can then copy all the files onto a floppy disk with any backup program, or if you have Toolkit 2, you can copy all files using WCOPY RAM1_ TO FLP1_. Likewise, if you have this command on your system, you can WCOPY MDV1_ TO FLP1_, although it might be a little slower.

Once the software is on disk, you need to reconfigure it to run from FLP1_ and FLP2_ instead of MDV1_ and MDV2_. How best to do this varies from program to program. Some programs will just need you to edit a little program or script called BOOT, changing all references to MDV into FLP. Some software will have programs to configure these details automatically. And you can also get programs called Transliterators which will search through all files on a disk or cartridge looking for the string "MDV" and replace it with the string "FLP". Note that although the vast majority of disk interfaces use the drive name FLP for floppy disks, one or two might use FDV or FDK. A final method is a little fiddle factor which involves temporarily swapping drive names so that the software thinks it's running from microdrive but in reality is fooled into running from FLP1_ or FLP2_ by means of an FLP_USE command built into some interfaces. FLP_USE MDV will change the names of the floppy disk drives to MDV1_ and MDV2_ instead of the usual FLP1_ and FLP2_. This command is available on most, but not all, disk interface systems.

Martin Head has written software called MDI and FDI, which is microdrive and floppy disk imaging software. The images generated can be on emulators and other systems having no microdrives. MDI and FDI are available to download here.

13. What software is available for a QL these days?

How long have you got? Seriously, there is quite a lot between the internet, Quanta user group's large software library, commercial software and the public domain and freeware scene. Have a look at my software download site, you might find some free QL software you like there too!

14. Is there still a user group for the QL?

Yes, Quanta (formerly known as IQLUG or the Independent QL Users Group) has been around from day 1 of the QL back in 1983/4. The group still has a healthy membership, organises QL shows, maintains a large software library, has a website of its own, publishes a regular newsletter and operates a helpline for members. Well worth the annual membership fee - details and prices here. For further details visit the Quanta website or my Quanta page.

15. Can I still get a regular magazine about the QL?

The only regular printed magazine for the QL is now Quanta magazine. There is an occasional free eZine called SMSQZINE published by Timothy Swenson as PDF files, available to download from

The last regular dedicated QL magazine you could subscribe to was QL Today is published in Germany by Jochen Merz Software and edited and available in Britain in English. There used to be a German language edition too. Scanned and digitised back issues of all 17 volumes are available on a large download from thanks to Urs König.

The main source of exchange of QL information and contact with other users is now the QL Forum. It is free to join, just by signing up on the Forum at

16. Can I get on the internet with a QL?

To a limited extent, yes. Jonathan Dent in Switzerland has developed a TCP/IP system called soql which manages a basic level of internet and email access, although the software is still limited. You currently have to use a text only browser called Lynx and some fairly rudimentary email and ftp client software, but it's possible to a limited extent. Users of the uQLx emulators have a similar level of access, and as of version 3.30 the QPC2 emulator plus recent versions of QemuLator and SMSQmulator also have TCP/IP access facilities allowing the Lynx browser and Jonathan Hudson's email and ftp programs to be used.

17. Does the QL exist outside of Britain?

Yes, there are a good number of QLers (as QL users have become known) in North America, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Scandinavia and Switzerland, for example. Some of these countries still have user groups of their own, but most QLers are either members of Quanta or keep in touch via the ql-users email mailing list or QL Forum. Users worldwide maintain websites about the QL, mostly in English but websites exist in German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish and French for example. See my QL Web Links page for a list of QL-related websites to check out.

18. A lot of the QL software on the internet seems to be zipped. How do I get these to run on a QL?

The best way is to download them and copy them onto a QL floppy disk and use the QDOS version of Info-Zip's UNZIP decompression software. Jonathan Hudson maintains the QDOS version of Unzip (it also works on SMSQ/E of course) and you can get copies of it from his website or from the usual sources of free QL software such as PD libraries and other people's QL-related websites. It is best not to try to unzip them on a PC or any other kind of computer even if you have a suitable Unzip program, since the QL zip files have additional file headers for executable QL programs which may be lost if unzipped on another computer, so the programs may then fail to run properly or at all once these executable program headers have been lost. Beware also of older versions of QL Unzip. In some cases these may work fine, but always use the official Info-Zip Unzip for QDOS if you can, just in case! I've created pages about QL to PC serial links and QL to PC file transfer to try to help a little with this process.

19. I accidentally started my PC with a QL floppy disk still in the drive and it locked up even before Wndows appeared!

QL and Windows use different floppy disk formats, and in addition to being unable to read QL floppy disks, the booting up process of a PC gets confused by extra information in the QL floppy disk file format and tries to run it as though it was a little PC program or script. Unfortunately, it's not a valid program so the PC crashes, so you'll have to restart the PC and remember not to leave QL disks inserted in the drive when the PC is switched off or restarted.

20. Can I add a hard disk to my QL system?

There is a QL add-on card called a Qubide which allows you to add an IDE hard disk drive to a QL (or an Aurora QL compatible computer). You will need a separate power supply and case for the hard disk drive unless the entire QL system is built into a PC-style case, and the floppy disk interface and memory expansion should be a type able to coexist with a Qubide (most can - settings on a Qubide allow a degree of configuration of memory addressing and so on to coexist with other interfaces). On the whole you do not need very large hard disks as QL software is generally more compact than Windows software, for example - most people find that a few hundred megabytes is perfectly adequate for a QL although there is nothing to stop you adding a very large hard disk as long as you check it's compatible with the Qubide interface. You will need to format the hard disk to QL standard to use it with the QL. The Qubide interface also allows you to connect other electrically compatible IDE devices such as Iomega Zip removable media drives and some types of CD-ROM, although you may need special software such as recent versions of Discover to be able to read CD-ROMs on a QL system. The Qubide format for hard disks is rather different to the format used by QL emulators, where something called the QXL.WIN format is more common. A QXL.WIN is basically a very large Windows hard disk file, a kind of container with the QL hard disk system contained within it, thus a QL emulator on a PC can share the hard disk (in a somewhat roundabout way) with Windows.

There is also an SD card interface for the QL, called QL-SD. Produced in small numbers and available via, further details here.

21. Is software available on CD-ROM for QLs?

QL software is generally quite compact and was much more commonly supplied on floppy disk than programs for other computers, which tend to be too large for floppy disks. That said, there are CD-ROMs available for the QL emulators. Such CD-ROMs tend to be collections of programs (e.g. PD software collections) or clipart or such material rather than commercial software as such. Individual programs are mostly still supplied on floppy disks for QL systems. Some examples here.

22. I've heard about "QL Compatibles" - what are these?

Computers designed and built to be completely or largely compatible with a QL and able to run QL software. Not emulators as such, which run on other computers, but purpose designed boards such as an Aurora card or whole computers such as a Q40, Q60 or Thor computers. The Thor has been out of production for many years and actually quite rare these days. The Aurora is a replacement QL motherboard designed by Zeljko Nastasic from Croatia and originally sold by Qubbesoft in England. Auroras are available second hand from many of the QL traders. The Aurora is broadly equivalent to a QL circuit board minus microdrive cartridges but with extra video modes with the option of higher resolution screen modes and 16 and 256 colour modes if you use a recent operating system. Auroras can use most QL add-ons like Gold Card disk and memory interfaces and are particularly suitable for those who wish to build a QL into a PC style case. They can run QDOS, Minerva or SMSQ/E (with enough RAM) operating systems. The Q40 and Q60 are complete computers in their own right, they can be supplied with either the SMSQ/E operating system, QDOS Classic (a version of QDOS closely related to that used on one of the Amiga QL emulators) or even Linux 68K for those who would like to try out Linux as well as QDOS or SMSQ/E. The Q60 uses a fast 68060 processor and is by far and away the fastest hardware based QL compatible system. There's some more information on these computers on my About The QL page.

23. I'd like to catch up on the years I've missed out on the QL. Where can I get some reading material?

Ask the QL Traders for second hand QL books and magazines like QL World, QL User and International QL Report. You can also visit my QL e-zines page, which has copies of disk-based magazines like the former Club QL International newsletters and national user group magazines like Q-Italy magazine and so on. Quanta can supply back issues of some of its newsletters to members and QL Today can also supply some back issues where available.

24. I've heard of people rehousing a QL in a PC style case. How do I go about doing this?

Not a job for the faint hearted or inexperienced QLer, but perfectly possible. Such systems are commonplace at QL shows and have the advantage of being neater and using ready made components like cases, drives, keyboards, mountings and connectors, but will require a combination of knowledge of QL systems and often something called a 'backplane' to allow the various interfaces and components and power supplied to be joined together. Building a cased QL can be an enjoyable and satisfying project if you have the necessary knowledge of the system concerned and it makes an ideal group project too, plus you have the satisfaction of a custom system made to suit your requirements. Parts you'll need will include:

25. My QL works, but has keyboard problems, not having been used for some time. I suspect it might need a new keyboard membrane - where can I get one?

For a while, these were extremely hard to get hold of as the original company stopped making them. Then a group of traders got together to source new supplies. RWAP Services and other traders can supply them.

26. Can I use a mouse with a QL?

Yes, although you'll need additional hardware and/or software. There are currently four main ways of adding a mouse:

  1. QIMI is a QL Internal Mouse Interface. Originally designed by one of the original QL designers, this is currently available from Quanta. It's a small internal interface which piggy backs onto the QL circuit board. It uses a 2 button Atari style mouse. Works with all QL pointer driven software.
  2. SuperHermes from TF Services provides a facility for a mouse (which I think is a PC style mouse) to be added to a QL system. If I remember correctly, the Lite version of SuperHermes does not cater for a mouse, though.
  3. Aurora boards have connectors to allow a mouse to be added.
  4. If you wish to use a serial mouse, with a suitable adapter lead for the QL serial port you can add a PC style serial mouse to the QL. You will need the SERMOUSE driver software from Albin Hessler to make it work (this interfaces the serial mouse to the pointer environment). This works with 99% of all QL pointer driven software, the main drawback being that it is probably the fiddliest (though perhaps the cheapest) mouse option. Once you get it working, it's a great system though.

The above systems tend to operate in conjunction with the QL Pointer Environment, which gives you an onscreen pointer and save/restore of window contents as you switch between programs in a broadly similar way to that in which other operating systems such as Windows works. Most modern QL software prefers mouse operation, although you can also use the keyboard if preferred (e.g. the cursor arrow keys on the keyboard will drive the pointer just like a mouse would).

There are other older mouse systems too, which often become available second hand. The older systems tend to make the mouse emulate the cursor arrow keys or specific keys such as SPACE, ENTER or the function keys on the keyboard for compatibility with older software which does not recognise a mouse. You may come across a Smiling Mouse, DIY Mouse (Simon Goodwin's mouse project from QL World days), Mersey Mouse or Eidersoft ICE mouse for example, as well as some early mouse systems from ABC Electronik in Germany. I have little experience of these systems and don't really know if it's worth investing in them these days unless you acquire one free of charge or just wish to generally tinker with them. The best mouse system is one of the four described above, in other words any which worls with pointer environment.

27. What is this "pointer environment" thing anyway?

The original QDOS operating system on the QL had no support for a mouse, on-screen pointer or for save/restore of contents of overlapping windows. After QL designer Tony Tebby left Sinclair and formed QJump following the launch of the QL, that company brought out a pointer environment system for QDOS which allowed an onscreen pointer to control (or "drive") QL programs, window contents to be saved and restored when windows or programs overlapped, added 'hotkeys' (user definable keys which could carry out a given set of actions independent of what software was running at the time), gave a means of allowing all programs to have a similar and consistent appearance ('Window Manager') and of course allowed a mouse to be used on the QL if you had suitable hardware. This 'Pointer Environment' system evolved and became ever more advanced until in time it got integrated as part and parcel of the SMSQ/E version of the operating system and today the vast majority of QLers use this 'pointer environment' on their QL systems. Once you get used to it, you wonder how you ever managed without it, but it does take a while to get used to it in the first place if you've ever used a QL without it in the past as it does somewhat change the way the QL works. Probably the best reading material for learning to use it is Norman Dunbar's Pointer Environment Idiot's Guide, which you can get from my QL documentation website. Once you've grasped the essentials such as the terminology involved, go for a package such as QPAC2 which includes a host of useful menus and programs for file handling and so on. Once you've got into Pointer Environment you'll wonder how you managed without it, it makes it so much easier to use a QL!

28. Does the QL have a GUI like Windows or similar ones on other computers?

(GUI=Graphical User Interface)

It's not built into the operating system, but a couple of such systems are available. At the time of writing (end of 2004) a brand new system called QDT (QL Desktop) is about to become available which gives you a full graphical user interface for the QL. It's written by Jim Hunkins (an ex-employee of Apple computers, though it's a private venture and nothing to do with Apple) and as you might expect of someone connected with Apple it is a very "pretty" and graphical system, very colourful with loads of icons and so on. Like many GUIs it's pretty demanding on the computer system. You need a recent version of the SMSQ/E operating system, probably needing support for the high colour drivers, a mouse is virtually essential, and of course you'll need bags of memory and plenty of space on your hard disk. It will cost just over 30 pounds from Q-Branch, Jochen Merz Software and probably a few other software sellers. At the time of writing, a pre-release demo version had been issued as a cover disk with QL Today magazine with the official full product launch due in January 2005. More information on the author's website at

A slightly older product called Launchpad is also available. This is a cheaper, less ambitious and less colourful product, but possibly a little easier to use and less demanding on your QL system. Unlike QDT, it can work on older QDOS systems too as long as you have expanded memory (i.e. a 128KB memory QL is not enough). It's best used with a mouse, but can be used via the keyboard if required. It's written by, errr, me and you can read more about it at ../launchpad/launchpad.html as well as download a free trial version from there. It should work on most QL systems with expanded memory, most emulators and most QL compatibles pretty regardless of operating system version.

The best thing about both systems is that they don't restrict the QL as you know it. If you've used the QL from the SuperBASIC command line before you'll know how versatile that can be if you don't mind all of the typing. With both QDT and Launchpad you can still go to BASIC and use the QL pretty well as you've always used it from the command line. You get the best of both worlds.

If you prefer a dock-style system, there's software called Q-Dock which implements a small Dock (a kind of "shelf" on which icons representing given programs or files reside). Further details of Q-Dock here.

29. How do I use a printer with a QL system?

Printers are generally attached via a serial port or parallel port on the QL. The QL itself has a built in pair of serial ports for connecting printers, modems etc at speeds of up to 9,600 baud (reliably) or 19,200 baud (less reliably). Many types of disk interfaces come with parallel printer ports built in, while QL compatible systems such as Q60 generally have these built in. Some companies have produced serial to parallel printer adaptor leads which allows printers with only parallel port connections to be connected to the serial ports on a QL which does not have a parallel port socket. The QL parallel ports on add-on disk interface cards such as the Super Gold Card generally use an IDC connector rather than the D connector used by most PCs, so a PC printer lead may not be appropriate, although QL printer leads are generally straightforward to make yourself or may be bought from the usual QL product suppliers. At the moment, the QL does not have USB or Firewire ports, so printers with only those methods of connections cannot yet be used. The printer also needs to have a control code set. The cheaper Windows-only or GUI printers are not suitable as they need dedicated Windows drivers. In general, if the printer can be used from DOS it can be used on a QL. There is generally no problem with older printers with a parallel port and Epson, HP, Canon or IBM control code sets (most manufacturers printer control code sets are based on one of those broad control code sets). I keep a list on my website of more recent printers known to be compatible wirth a QL - click here to visit that page.

If you have suggestions for other topics to be covered on this page to help those returning to using a QL after a long period of absence or those trying out a QL for the first time, send me a message with your suggestion.

Return to section index | Return to home page