Quanta AGM 2006

Quanta's Annual General Meeting for 2006 was held on 08-09/04/06 at the 3rd Davyhulme Scout Headquarters in Davyhulme, Manchester. Although not as well attended as some QL shows I've been to, those present had a great time as usual and there was plenty of activity. Below are some pictures I took over the weekend. Saturday evening saw the Quanta dinner take place at a nearby restaurant, and the AGM on Sunday passed all resolutions etc proposed, with the new committee now comprising of John Mason (chairman), John Gilpin (Treasurer and Membership), Roy Brereton (Librarian) and Sarah Gilpin (Secretary). John Gregory stood down as Librarian this year, but indicated a willingness to continue to assist with the testing and introduction of the Roger Godley suite of Psion QL programs enhancements. Beta test version previews of these programs were shown at the workshop - clearly some very hard work has already gone into these programs. Seeing Quill in pretty colours, Archive able to display so many fields on a large screen and so on was quite impressive. It is important to note though that these new versions, like the latest version of Xchange from Marcel Kilgus, will only run on very modern systems since they need high resolution displays or high colour systems.

One thing which stands out now is the prevalence of QPC2 and the number of people starting to really make use of the new colours and other new facilities. I saw previews of programs from Duncan Neithercut and George Gwilt for handling and converting graphics, and I was able to show a rather bug ridden version of a PC/QL graphics conversion utility I'm in the process of writing - I was quite glad to meet George and Duncan and I'm sure we will be co-operating to ensure the best possible programs are produced - a good example of the value of co-operation was that my program does not currently convert Q40/Q60 graphics correctly as I do not have a machine to test it on. Duncan was able to look at and suggest what I may have been doing wrong and kindly gave me a copy of his program for test viewing. We exchanged copies of our various codes in the interest of mutual co-operation.

David Buckley brought his collection of hand built little robots to the show - it was quite impressive and amusing to see these little mechanical creatures walking around, bumping into each other, beeping for attention when they got stuck and so on. David uses a special version of basic on a PC to program these beasts (programs are downloaded via serial link to onboard electronics), but their past is strongly linked to the QL, as David started out with a little turtle graphics robot linked to and controlled by a QL back in the 1980s. The QL has turtle graphics commands built into superbasic, of course.

George Gwilt gave talks on both Sudoku and the future direction of the QL as he saw it. In particular, he has focused his attention on the new instructions available on 68020 and later processors (as used in Super Gold Card, QXL, Q40 etc) because they give speed and code size advantages in areas like graphics programming etc which are highly relevant to us at the moment. Up until now, QPC2 is officially a 68010 emulation system, so programs like George's Gwass assembler programs cannot run on pre-68020 systems, so George and Marcel have co-operated on getting QPC2 to include the new instructions in its instruction set emulation and George already has a test version of this QPC up and running, and there is also talk of trying to get floating point instructions included too. Once QPC2 is completed, work can proceed on getting compilers like C68 and Turbo updated and new versions of existing programs written to hopefully make use of the enhancements which these new features offer. George's Sudoku program caught our attention as it is colourful, pointer driven and able to handle 3x3 and 4x4 grid puzzles and seems to be well up to the extremely high standard of software we have come to expect from George.

Geoff Wicks gave a talk on how he sees the QL scene going. Like many others, he sees a move away from native QL hardware in the direction of emulators, what with the high standard of the QL emulators we currently enjoy. This view seemed to be supported by the number of QPC2 users seen at the workshop.

Notable by their absence at this particular meeting were most of the traders. Bill Richardson has now retired, while Jochen Merz was unable to attend for health reasons, Tony Firshman had prior engagements and Roy Wood had experienced problems with his car just before the workshop and was unable to travel. Rich Mellor continues to be unable to attend workshops through ill health and Darren Branagh finds it hard to travel to workshops now because of his move to western Ireland and his son's health problems. This left us with a small handful of stalwarts like Geoff Wicks and a few people selling second user products.

It was noted over the weekend that the fairly intensive and popular program of talks and lectures at QL Is 21 last year meant that the traders were sometimes left facing an empty room at times, and there was some talk that future 2 day workshops may make efforts to concentrate the talks and lectures (and AGM where relevant) on one day, leaving the other free for people to meet the traders and generally enjoy the workshop.

The QL History Exhibition made its second appearance. Having been on display at QL Is 21 last year, Quanta took advantage of this workshop and AGM being in the North of England to put out the exhibition again to give more people a chance to see it. I had prepared the written material on display, while John Gregory, John Gilpin and John Southern kindly provided most of the old hardware on display. Some real rarities were to be seen, such as a Tony Tebby signed copy of the first ever QPAC2 released, which was originally in the possession of Peter Rowell of the QMAS group (which we think was Tony Tebby's local QL group during his time at QJump in England) and now acquired by John Gregory. Nostalgia galore when you see rare hardware like a Maurice Computers QSV400 sound and speech synthesiser card (there's a 3D noughts and crosses program in the Quanta library which makes use of this device...as if you could bear a QL game talking back at you!), a prototype Sinclair 128K RAM card, or a Colin Opie Q-Control I/O board from the old QL World Connections hardware series many years ago. Seeing a real Sinclair Kludge (the EPROM hanging out the back of the very first QLs), an Oberon Omni-Reader OCR scanner for a QL and other such collectors' pieces almost made me want to scoop up the whole lot and take them home with me! Although the exhibition is not scheduled to make any more appearances, most of the written material is on disk and could be sent to organisers of shows abroad, for example, if it was felt it would be of interest to QLers in your area who may feel more remote from the activities of QLers here in the U.K. - please contact me if you would like copies of the files to print for your local shows.

All in all, two very happy days spent in the company of like minded people and proof that over 20 years after it was founded Quanta is still giving QLers a valuable service. Long may it continue.

Picture of the venue Inside the hall early on Saturday
The venue for the meeting - the 3rd Davyhulme Scout Headquarters in Davyhulme, near Manchester, England.
A picture taken inside the hall early on the Saturday. The QL History Exhibition can be seen in the background.
picture of Chris Grogan The 2005/6 committee
Chris Grogan hard at work on his system.
The outgoing committee in session at the AGM on the Sunday. From left to right, Sarah Gilpin (secretary), John Mason (chairman), John Gilpin (membership and treasurer) and John Gregory (Librarian). John Gregory did not stand for re-election this time around, and Roy Brereton will become Librarian.
David Buckley and his robots David Buckley and mechanical friend
David Buckley and his display of robots
David Buckley and mechanical friend
The dinner after the workshop George Gwilt, Alex Wells and John M. Sadler
A picture taken at the after-workshop dinner on the saturday night. I think that chairman John Mason must be fed up by now of being reminded he did not manage to smash any glasses this time (unlike QL Is 21 meeting!).
George Gwilt (left), Alex Wells (standing) and John M. Sadler of SQLUG (Scottish QL Users Group).
QL History Exhibition Old hardware exhibits
The QL History Exhibition
One of the tables of old QL hardware on display at the exhibition.
George Gwilt's Sudoku presentation Geoff Wicks and Sarah Gilpin
George Gwilt, during his presentation on Sudoku
Geoff Wicks and Sarah Gilpin
John Butterworth Alan Horsley
John Butterworth
John Gilpin, John Sadler and Alan Horsley
John Mason, Sarah Gilpin and John Sadler John Gregory
Quanta chairman John Mason and secretary Sarah Gilpin in conversation with John Sadler
John Gregory
John Southern Tony Tebby signed first issue of QPAC2
John Southern, surrounded by all sorts of QL bits and pieces, and how refreshing it was to see the children all playing QL games, and nice to see that despite the children's tender years, Psion Chess seemed to be a bit of a favourite!
A real rarity - a Tony Tebby signed first ever copy of QPAC2!
Quanta's stand at the workshop Sinclair 128k RAM card prototype
Quanta's stand at the workshop, manned by John Mason, Sarah Gilpin and John Gilpin.
A very rare exhibit - an original Sinclair 128K RAM card prototype, believed to have been designed by Jonathan Oakley.

Some pictures taken at the Quanta Workshop and AGM in Manchester April 2006

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