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The best of the Microdigital Mico manual

By Martin Bazley. Published: 6th Jan 2007, 15:35:53 | Permalink | Printable

Some good old fashioned sarcasm

An MD MicoMicrodigital are now all but a distant memory, although in its prime the company manged to get a few computers out of the door. One was the infamous Omega, and another was the Mico: A little 56MHz ARM7500-powered desktop machine that was fairly unremarkable apart from its manual. Here in this historical piece, Martin Bazley gives us a guided giggle tour of his favourite mistakes and clangers in the Mico user manual.

"The best of the Mico manual"
(Returrn of the Typoes)
Filmed in Glorious Technicolour. Well, HTML.

DISCLAIMER: All speeling mistakes and grammatical error are entirely authentic and intentional and part of the original text. The text in square brackets [] are our own comments.

Connect the mouse

Locate the keyboard port on the rear of the computer.

Display or monitor manager

Allows you to alter the screen mode sometimes called screen resolution to suit your own requirements, for further details see page xxx.

[Is that like trying to catch tomorrow? Or some kind of pornographic bonus chapter?]

Holding the mouse

Place the mouse on a flat surface, left handed users will find the mouse easier to control if they place the mouse to the left of the computer and right handed to the right of the computer that is when sitting in the normal working position. Other users will receive instructions from the suppliers of their particular mouse type device.

[Who, amputees?]

These are Radio Icon one of which can be selected at any one time. If you click select on the Off then the On button change state to On.

[Yes, how very clear. They could definitely have used a better set of radio buttons, there]

[From the instructions on the 'new directory' Filer option]

Having created the Apps directory you have to consider the type of applications you are going to purchase we will use general types Word processors, Imaging, Office, Music, Graphics, and DTP.

So in exactly the same way as we created the Apps Directory place pointer on the hard disc icon click select to display the $ Directory.

Remove default name directory by either Control U or the Delete key. Type Wordproc "word processing abbreviated".

[Because the revolutionary long filename support is for losers]

Place pointer onto the document and click menu. Move the pointer to Save wipe across in the direction of the arrow till the Save as window appears.

Head phones socket

Plug-in head phones are useful if you need to work in private. For sound mixed with computer generated sounds you should use the audio out socket at the rear of the computer.

[It's a new and exciting technology which allows you to hear babies screaming, telephones ringing, people typing, and dogs barking with perfect ease]

Using a CD ROM Drive

Place CD disc into the drive, place pointer on the CD ROM icon on the desktop. Double click select to open the directory viewer window in exactly the same way as you would a hard or floppy disc drive.

Your Mico computer is fitted with 16MB main memory so place pointer on 8MB directory.

[Later in the same chapter]


Setting volume from the desktop was dealt with in the chapter using a CD ROM drive.

Desktop boot

Have not got a clue

[?! That's just superb]


Place pointer on task manager, click menu, move pointer on to shutdown and click select.

Window opens to ask Are you sure you want to shut the computer down. Select cancel to return to desktop or shutdown to exist.

[Finally, Microdigital reveals the grisly effects of computer addiction]

Adapting Mico for your own use.

If you have purchased a complete system from Microdigital the computer has been set up to give you the optimum performance, so you can ignore this section for the time being.

[Bonus points for being smug]

Rotate and Mirror options perform rotations and mirror operations on the source image.

[Such a very helpful manual]

[Also not featured here was a graphical mistake in the ChangeFSI chapter. All the screenshots were taken on what appeared to be RISC OS 3.1. Definitely not the best way to show off RISC OS 4's graphics capabilities]


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Surprisingly, this actually made me laugh - even though I had seen many of these mistakes before, and I was less than amused just after having bought the machine.

I think there are two morals here: Firstly, that a spell checker is not an adequate tool for checking the accuracy of a document. Secondly, that writing computer manuals is a skill that requires not only an excellent grasp of grammar, but also a clear and concise writing style. That is why 'technical author' is a profession in itself. Clearly MicroDigital could not afford to employ one.

Personally, I will never again buy any product from a company that produces written material of poor quality. In the case of MicroDigital, I should have been forewarned by some of their advertisements in Acorn User. This is not because I despise people that can't spell or punctuate correctly (I don't), but because the failure to recognise this as a problem and rectify it is often indicative of some deeper malaise.

Any mistakes in the above posting are - of course - deliberate, and were included for ironic effect.

 is a RISC OS Userthesnark on 6/1/07 5:28PM
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I love it. It's almost as if they contracted out the writing of the manual to some far-eastern company who had no staff that spoke English, and who had never heard of RISC OS. Reminds me of the "light of nursing eyesight" we have. Guess what it is.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 6/1/07 7:07PM
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Good grief - you couldn't try to produce so many errors with such deep and meaningful wit.

What ever happened to RiscStation, by the way?

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 6/1/07 7:21PM
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I have a Mico DVD player - no relation I hope. I think I recognize the brand of shameful inarticulacy on display here - the ignorance of punctuation, the inability to express any logical connections between phrases. What was his name? The fellow does not even use quote symbols for reported speech. Over the years I have repeatedly offered free help to anybody who has difficulty expressing themselves. Occasionally this has been taken up by foreign authors, to their satisfaction and mine. But this stuff is not from a foreigner having difficulty with English. It looks more like the excerpts O-level examiners pick out to show the depths of illiteracy in our schools.

 is a RISC OS UserGavinWraith on 6/1/07 8:15PM
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I can't even comprehend why this was written: "Your Mico computer is fitted with 16MB main memory so place pointer on 8MB directory."

It sounds like this was not written by David Atkins, but by someone with even less RISC OS knowledge than him. ;)

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 6/1/07 8:52PM
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GavinWraith: "this stuff is not from a foreigner having difficulty with English"

It's perfectly sensible to regard Yorkshiremen as foreigners :-)

The punctuation, or lack of it, is classic David Atkins. Written communication was never his strong suit, but he could be quite witty in person.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 6/1/07 9:17PM
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Harmsy: AFAIK RiscStation are still at the same address and still willing to sell you an R7500 computer. Ask nicely and you could even get it squeezed into a distinctive and small case. And even though two manuals were produced for their RO machine neither approached the awfulness of the MD manual - in fact one had no grammatical or spelling errors!

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 7/1/07 12:08AM
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Do we have any idea how many Omegas / Micos were produced, and do any dealers still have new stock?

jc: Does RS have an e-Mail address? I tried e-mailing CTA to secure some stock a while back, but never got a reply.

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 7/1/07 5:52AM
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To me, the "Have not got a clue" example is a perfect illustration of the fact that this manual must have been written by someone who was eminently unqualified to write a manual on technical grounds, quite apart from his lack of linguistic skills. Really, it says it all; it's the very definition of profound ineptitude.

The RISC OS desktop boot option has always, since its introduction with RISC OS 3, been considered a somewhat mystical option, and many people seem to have found it incomprehensible (I'm not sure why). I'd contend that it's never been particularly useful, but it's hardly difficult to understand if you explore what it does. The author of this manual presumably neither understood it nor could even be bothered to try to find out about it while writing his guide. He just threw his metaphorical hands up in the air and blurted out to his readers that he had no idea what this aspect of his own new computer system was for.

It seems to me that the manual should have come with a big disclaimer on the front: *Every* *effort* *has* *been* *spared* *in* *the* *production* *of* *this* *guide*.

 is a RISC OS UserRichardHallas on 7/1/07 11:00AM
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timephoenix: Regarding Omegas - there have been estimates of the numbers but, as I've based mine on information from retailers 'not for publication' the best I could say is that more were sold than are indicated by a drobe readers' poll - but less than required to make a profit for the designer/manufacturers. I doubt the latter will surprise anyone but I'm sure some will want to reject the former.

As for RiscStation/CTA - I've not found their e-mail system to be of much use since Kathy left. The initial manual that I mentioned wasn't used because someone disappeared the copy from their e-mails! You could ring but be prepared for Roy to be busy on the other phone or for a two hour conversation with Roy! Snail mail appears to be dealt with reasonably efficiently - especially if it's regarding a stock item.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 7/1/07 11:55AM
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jc>Why would retailers *now* object to the publication given that (i) this is ancient history (ii) MD are unlikely to care. The only facts we have publically is that *very few* people who had Omega's responded to the Drobe survey. That could be interpreted in many ways including but not limited to: (i). There genuinely aren't many (ii). They have an Omega but really don't want to talk about it publically or (iii)Omega users don't read Drobe/use the internet.

Personally I'd prefer to think there were fewer rather than more as it would mean *fewer* people would have been left now with *no support* and no means of updating their machines OS/Firmware. If there were more then I fear the whole Omega debacle apart from taking more potential sales from better/faster hardware (Iyonix) and disimproving it's chances also may have damaged the RISC OS market.

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 7/1/07 12:20PM
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AMS: MD and some Omega owners were badly misused by elements of the RISC OS Press and the newsgroups. If they want to avoid responding to magazines and newsgroups then I couldn't blame them. Others have made the same decision for a variety of (similar) reasons. I'm still not going to discuss actual numbers though.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 7/1/07 2:46PM
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What puzzles me is why (to the best of my memory) none of this came out when the machine was new. I remember reading reviews that left me with the feeling that the machine was nothing special; I don't remember it being panned for having such appaling "parts" (the manual is, IMHO, pretty important).

I (and I guess many others) rely on reviews and reviewers to give a clear and factual run-down of products. This, and the Omega saga, is an indication that "being kind" is not good for the market in the long run.

 is a RISC OS UserTonyStill on 7/1/07 4:44PM
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In reply to TonyStill:

The review that I wrote for RISC Nation magazine (which is linked to from the Drobe article) does criticise the quality of the manual. I wrote:

"Unfortunately, like Microdigital's publicity literature it reads 'as though written by someone for whom English is not their first language' (the words of my sister). Correctly spelt, but grammatically strange. There is one section entitled 'Help its doesn't go', which didn't exactly instil confidence in me."

However, there are aspects of my review that I would change with the benefit of hindsight: I never received the network card that I had paid for (AFAIK they never produced a working network solution). The sound driver arrived very late and was never completely satisfactory (I had to fiddle with the volume to avoid distortion effects at high amplitude). When I made my blithe assertion that "the game port will save you 40ukp for a joystick interface", I didn't know I would have to write the driver myself. My statement that "the MIDI synthesiser on the sound card will be ideal for games" is also erroneous. I had a strong impression from MicroDigital adverts that the sound capabilities included MIDI synthesis, and MD never disabused me of this. My understanding now is that this referred only to the 'game port' on the sound card (i.e. you need an external MIDI synthesiser, which you can't use at the same time as joysticks).

 is a RISC OS Userthesnark on 7/1/07 5:27PM
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I agree with Tony Still that "being kind" is not good for the market in the long run. Honest criticism, that tries to avoid discourtesy, cleverness and irresponsible speculation, is the best. The producer must trust reviewers to behave fairly. We have seen some tragic instances of mistrust in the past.

 is a RISC OS UserGavinWraith on 7/1/07 5:32PM
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TonyStill: I told MD that I wasn't interested in reviewing an incomplete machine and would wait for a complete machine. I'm still waiting. NB Acorn User had previewed the machine to death before that. I agree entirely with Gavin.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 7/1/07 6:26PM
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Glowing reviews despite glaring quality issues? It was only a matter of time before Acorn User got a mention.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 7/1/07 7:11PM
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In reply to jc: I appreciate your approach to incomplete machines. It's funny how memory plays tricks: I realised I should have done a little research before making my previous comments. Looking on the Archive CD, I can't actually find a real review; just lots of previews, show reports and interviews. Your approach may have been common and we should perhaps have learned from it...

However, in January 2000, there was this attribution to David Atkins that bears repeating: "He is also keen to only advertise things he can actually sell rather than pre-selling computers that won't see the light of day for several months." Computers that wouldn't see the light of day for several years were excluded, I guess.

 is a RISC OS UserTonyStill on 7/1/07 7:12PM
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Gavin Wraith: "The fellow does not even use quote symbols for reported speech."

No-one should use quotes with reported speech, since then it would be quoted speech.

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 7/1/07 7:35PM
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"I wasn't interested in reviewing an incomplete machine"

Given this, what are views on Qercus reviewing the A9home?

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 7/1/07 7:38PM
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jc wrote>"MD and some Omega owners were badly misused by elements of the RISC OS Press and the newsgroups. If they want to avoid responding to magazines and newsgroups then I couldn't blame them."

The response to drobe was to an anonmyous survey, I can't think why someone with a "beef" against drobe (or the RISC OS press as a whole) would be deterred from responding to such a survey - it being just a click on a box.

jc wrote>"I'm still not going to discuss actual numbers though."

And why not? It's now of completely academic interest only it can harm no one, in fact if the numbers are *high enough* that may persuade ROL to do Select updates for Omega users as well (a benefit for those people surely).

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 7/1/07 7:40PM
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Pardon me for the above post. It should read "Given this, what are your views on Qercus reviewing the A9home?".

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 7/1/07 7:40PM
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AMS: No it's not. I'm sure ROL know.

fylfot: If you're a subscriber you'll get a copy. Like other important reviews it will likely include the opinion of two or three people.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 7/1/07 11:04PM
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jc: "MD and some Omega users were badly misused by elements of the RISC OS press and the newsgroups"

How so?

AMS: "[numbers of Omegas sold] can harm no-one"

The total number of Omegas shipped was only a few dozen, I'm afraid. Worse still, the number sold was higher than the number shipped. This did indeed hit Iyonix sales, as you suggested might be the case.

It's a great pity that MicroDigital - and David Atkins in particular - let us all down so badly, as so many people in the RISC OS market went to such trouble, both financially and otherwise, to support them.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 7/1/07 11:25PM
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jc wrote>"No it's not"

Actually given MD's long departure I am pretty sure it is academic (let's say we'll agree to differ on this).

jc wrote>"I'm sure ROL know"

Agreed, but here's the nub, if the number's were appreciable then surely ROL would support those users with updates wouldn't they - afterall they wouldn't ignore a large group of potential customers would they?

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 7/1/07 11:30PM
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AMS: Well, in this case I reckon they would. I'm not sure, and frankly doubt, if ROL has all relevant specs of the Omega's design, which they obviously need if they're going to build its OS. In the past they could cooperate with MicroDigital, to get RISC OS 4 and early versions of Select to work (I think by letting the Omega 'emulate' the RiscPC's hardware). In some reported instances, Omega's were found to be completely useless because they couldn't be 'reflashed', since it basically is a soft-pc with reconfigurable hardware components. Furthermore, I think ROL ought to be concentrating on, as you once put it, 'where the numbers are' which are the (V)RPC and A9home market.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 8/1/07 12:33PM
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hEgelia: "Furthermore, I think ROL ought to be concentrating on, as [AMS] once put it, 'where the numbers are' which are the (V)RPC and A9home market."

Or several thousand Iyonixes?

 is a RISC OS Userjymbob on 8/1/07 4:01PM
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in reply to jymbob: Or perhaps ROL is concentrating on finding a new programmer ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 8/1/07 4:12PM
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In reply to dgs:

Where exactly do you get your Omega sales from, assuming that you aren't actually just making things up?

In reply to hEgelia:

I've been running Select 3i4 on this Omega since it came out and haven't had any problems with it. Can't comment on the RO6 Preview as I haven't got round to downloading it yet. My Dad's school Omega was running Adjust and seemed to work fine too.

My Omega has worked fine for years, the lack of USB has only really inconvenienced me in the last year. Overall, my family and I feel we got our money's worth. I appreciate that others' mileage may vary, however.

 is a RISC OS UserJades on 8/1/07 8:21PM
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Correction to my last post. "Omega sales" should read "Omega sales figures." Netsurf posted the article when I hit Preview.

 is a RISC OS UserJades on 8/1/07 8:25PM
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Jades: "Where exactly do you get your Omega sales from"

I've not said what the Omega's total sales were; I merely commented that more were sold than were shipped. That's fairly easy to establish.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 10/01/07 6:22PM
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In reply to DGS:

I think it was this comment on yours: "The total number of Omegas shipped was only a few dozen" which lead Jades to ask his question on whether you knew how many were sold or whether you were speculating.

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 11/01/07 09:21AM
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That's not actually what he asked. There have been many claims made about Omega sales, quite a few of them have been misleading.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 11/01/07 10:17PM
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