Improvements, tweaks, and changes

People have been wondering how TableMaster II will be different from (i.e., better than) the original from 20 years ago. Aside from the obvious, like it not being an old DOS program that can’t be made to run on anything past Win98, what else is different?

My goal is to make it a superset of the original. That is, any table that worked with TableMaster will work with no changes with TableMaster II. The one exception to this is anything using .GRID — which is probably not going to be an issue, because that was always buggy and I don’t think anyone ever actually used it. If something using that does turn up and can’t be worked around, I can always put it back in the next iteration, but at this point .GRID isn’t going to be there.

I’ve already got some additions in. I mentioned the new formatting codes in an earlier post. Today, I added a new feature to the .NUMBER command.

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Fun With Tables

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m going to be modernizing and enhancing the old table packs. Needing a break from staring at code last night (not least because it was late and I’d probably be putting in bugs instead of taking them out) I started playing with a table that’s going to go into one of the Fantasy Table Packs.

Y’know, it’s just plain fun to be writing tables again. I started this as a quick little test table with more interesting output than ‘this is a line,’ then decided to make it into something that could go in a table pack, then it just kind of grew. It’s 157 lines right now and will probably get bigger as I think of more things.

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Table Packs

I’m busy working on the handler for .otherwise in TableMaster, which is enough to drive anyone to talk about table packs instead! And it appears there are people who are curious what I’m going to be doing with them, and if there will be new ones.

I’ll answer the second question first, because that one’s easy: damn straight! I’ve already got a big list of notes for what I want to do for a brand-new table pack, and I’ve got at least preliminary notes for a possible second one.

Now, as for the old ones…

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Fonts! (plus nattering about maps and magnifying glasses)

One of the more popular Wintertree products, back in the good old days, was a package of fonts called Arcane Alphabets. It was a collection of interesting fonts for gamers — mostly interesting alphabets like Ugaritic cunieform, hieroglyphs, and FUTHARK runes, plus really odd stuff like the secret script of the Vehmgericht. People did some fun things with them; I remember one convention where the organizers used the Ogham font as an “alien” sort of font along the bottom edges of the badges, which looked really cool. (that was a college convention unfortunately scheduled the same weekend as the school’s Homecoming … mostly, we vendors sold stuff to each other) I did some other fonts, too — a pack called Mapographer that would let you draw adventure maps in your word processor (how dated is that?) and the only licensed product I ever did, the dwarf fonts from Games Workshop’s Warhammer books. That one never sold very well; I remember writing out a royalty check to send to GW and it was like $5.

So what do fonts have to do with Wintertree Redux?

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Verbs? Nouns?

There are a lot of things about TableMaster that are dated, some of them painfully so. Some are things that I have to deal with as a programmer, such as the fact that TableMaster used to be two programs, not one, and there are some housekeeping issues raised as a result. (I was just dealing with one involving closing all open table files for .INCLUDE this morning) Some are matters of style and appearance; I’ve kept many of those for the sake of continuity and tradition, though the UI does look less Win3.1-ish than it used to. Some are simple practicality, such as my decision to continue using an .INI file (just like in the old days) instead of the Registry, so that TableMaster will be fully portable. But there is one that seems both quaint and, well, weird.

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Historical Natterings

I’m looking at the source code for the original GENERATE. The file of subroutines was, according to my comments, originally written for Turbo Pascal 6.0. Talk about a blast from the past! (for those of y’all who are staring blankly at your screens right now, I’m talking about this) I looked it up, and got a real burst of nostalgia from the picture of the box. I think it’s the kind of nostalgia we have for all the things we did the hard way decades ago, though — nice to reminisce about, but not fun to do that way ever again.

I upgraded to Borland Pascal 7.0 before the first release version. I just looked that one up, too. I remember that box very well. That big, cubic, shelf-eating box, stuffed to the top with manuals. According to the site I just looked it up on, there were 11 of them. Sounds right. I probably still have them in a box somewhere; I firmly believe that everything is in a box somewhere, probably in my attic. The scary thing, if you’re trying to find anything in my attic, is that I’m most likely right.

Aaah, nostalgia. Memory allocation on the heap. The whole table structure hanging from one variable, just waiting to become the memory leak from hell. Yeah, I don’t miss it one bit.

My old code has one very important thing, though: the listing of all the TBL keywords and their synonyms. That’s going to save me some typing.  And, in between the moments where I wonder “what was I thinking?” (or even worse, just “was I thinking?”) as I look at my old code, I find a few clever bits. Ima steal those from myself. 🙂

Also, looking at that old code reminded me of how much tidier it was back in the day when one’s compiler didn’t go sticking the event handler for a UI button click or something right in the middle of the lot. Also how much easier it was to find what I was working on. There are now include files. 🙂

Also, I’ve figured out what the first new table pack is going to be. I’d better get TableMaster running so I can start writing tables! 🙂

Same past, different blast

Here’s another scan from the box:

Old Packaging Cover

It’s the outsides of the packaging for TableMaster Deluxe — the pack that had TM/Win and all four table packs on a CD in it (the regular versions were on floppies). The cover was a color copy, so some of it has suffered a bit over the years for the same reason the catalog did — copier toner just doesn’t do well in 140-degree attics — but back in the day, it was pretty cool.

There’s a bigger picture after the jump.

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A blast from the past

I have a box in my lap full of old TableMaster stuff! I’ve got the manuals from versions 2 and 3, one of the TM Deluxe packages, and various other things. The TM Deluxe package contains, among other things, my Winter 1998 catalog. It’s half a page, admittedly, more like a price list (all of 11 items if you’re being generous and counting the DOS, Win3.1, and Win95 versions of TM separately). It’s been in a hot attic and it was originally photocopied, so the toner stuck to other pages, and they stuck to it, over the past 18 years. Thankfully the manuals and quickref card were offset printed, so they’ve endured intact.

I’ll put in a break here and put the scan after the break, so it doesn’t fill up the whole first page.

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First baby steps toward Generate

Well, I still haven’t quite recovered from the weekend trip to another time zone and the seasonal time change (organized, clearly, by people who think cutting a piece off one end of their blanket and sewing it on to the other will make it longer) at once, so I haven’t been quite up to par coding-wise today. But I did get one important thing done: the first bit of framework for what will become the TableMaster table engine. I can call it from the main program now (even though it doesn’t do much) and put the data where it needs to go. Now it’s just about writing code. Or, more correctly, re-writing the code I wrote over 20 years ago, better.

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