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Written By B. A. Naylor & D. W. Boyce


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Superfile

BA Naylor and DW Boyce and a BBC database

Superfile is a versatile database written for the BBC Micro 32K model. This may be used for various applications ranging from the small home-based business to the family's video cassette library. The question is often asked what a database actually is. In short, it may be described as a computerised filing cabinet that allows rapid data collection and retrieval.

Data is stored on cassette in the form of a file, each file being split up into records, each of these records being further divided into individual items of data called fields. It is advisable to become acquainted with these terms as they are used many times in this article.

Superfile has a capacity of up to ten fields each with up to 25 characters, allowing 65 records with this configuration, or two fields with 325 records, these being the two extremes of the system. It is obvious therefore, that the number of records is calculated by dividing 650 by the number of fields entered.

Incorporated in the system is a unique Sort which can rapidly arrange records in order alphabetically or numerically, with the user choosing the field to be sorted. Another great asset to the system is the multi-function Search procedure. This allows the full use of equalities to seek a particular item in the file.

The whole system has been very efficiently designed and programmed to aid the user and process the data as quickly as possible. On many options, output may be directed to the printer or on to the screen. Only Parallel printers have been catered for in this version of Superfile. Options are accessed through a menu.

The great beauty of the database is its user friendliness, so that even the youngest member of the family may easily exploit the system.

(1) Filename: To enter this option simply press 1 on the keyboard, and immediately the computer will ask you to enter a filename. A filename is the label given to your data when it is stored on cassette.

If you have previously entered a filename, then you will be asked about whether you wish to change it. Pressing Y will allow you to input up to 10 characters for the filename. Any other key will return the user to the menu enabling them to use the options. It must be noted, however, that a filename is required if you wish to enter the options of Load (3) and Save (4).

(2) Define fields: This is the most essential option of the database, it must be entered before any data can be inputted via the Edit option. This is basically because it defines areas in memory for information to be stored, and thus is the crux of the program.

There are three main items of data to be entered in each field, these are:

  1. The type of data you wish to store in each field, i.e. String variables - letters and numbers, integers - whole numbers - and numerics - real numbers.
  2. The maximum number of characters allowed to be stored in each field - with a maximum of 25 characters per field.
  3. The label given to each field which identifies the contents of the field when displayed. The maximum number of characters allowed is eight.

To enter these important pieces of data you can either press the relevant field number or press A to enter every field. At any time pressing the space bar will return the user to the menu.

(3) Load: This option loads the previously stored data into the computer so that it may be processed. It is essential to input the correct number of fields for the file you wish to load, otherwise the computer will not accept the file, and the user will be informed. In this case, a message is displayed that tells the user to start again via option 0, and redefine the fields to the correct value if you wish to load this particular file.

To actually enter a file, the user must press L and then the usual searching message is displayed on the screen. The normal procedure for loading a program is then observed - refer to User Guide if unsure.

When the file has been loaded, pressing the space bar will return the user to the menu.

(4) Save: Both options Load (3) and Save (4) need to have a filename entered, before you can access them, if not the 'No Filename' message will be displayed with instructions for the appropriate actions to take.

This Save option obviously stores the data on tape, and is operated by pressing S on the keyboard. After this, the "Record then Return" message is displayed, at which point a cassette must be inserted into the tape recorder. The usual procedure for saving programs is then followed.

As with most options in this database, pressing the Space bar will return the user to the menu.

(5) Edit file: The fifth option in the menu is the edit procedure which allows the altering and adding of data to the file. All data is initially entered via this option.

Once the user has accessed this section of the system, the fields defined will be displayed followed by the space provided for the number of characters as defined in option 2 for the field. Altering data in a particular field may be achieved by typing the field number allowing data to be entered in the space provided.

Alternatively, the whole record can be entered by pressing A. Erasing a whole record may be achieved by pressing E. To access the next record simply press N or if you wish to edit a particular record press R followed by the record number and RETURN. Again the space bar will return you to the menu.

(6) Sort: The sort option enables the user to put the file in order according to any of the fields defined in option 2.

If the field has been defined as numeric or integer then the order will be of the algebraic nature, otherwise the file will be ordered according to character values.

Using the sort option requires only one entry; the user must choose the field on which the sort is to be based. Once the sorting is complete the user will be able to return to the menu in the normal way.

(7) Search: This is probably the most useful facility of any database. However, Superfile has a remarkably efficient and rapid search that is enhanced by its special mixture of machine code and hybrid Basic.

Search criteria used are the widely accepted mathematical in-equalities - these are as follows:

  1. >: greater than
  2. <: less than
  3. = : equal to
  4. >= : greater than and equal to
  5. <= : less than and equal to
  6. < > : not equal to

For the "equal to" sign, the user may enter part of a string/number, and then the computer will search for all occurrences of the comparison. Only one search criteria may be entered per field, but many fields can have comparisons thus performing a multisearch function.

The number of items that the computer has found which satisfy the conditions defined is printed on the screen as they are found. These records can then be seen either on the screen or in the form of a printout on the printer. Screen and printer output are explained in options 8 and 9.

(8) Display: This option is used to print the records on the screen, these may only be displayed if they contain data. Pressing RETURN will allow you to view the next record. When all records have been displayed, the totals of the numbers stored in the integer and numeric fields will also be printed up.

(9) Printer dump: As explained earlier, this version of Superfile can only cater for Parallel printers. We advise that you only use this option if you have a printer connected, otherwise the computer may appear to have crashed.

(0) Start again: This option is used if the user decides to change the format of the file, or if he just wishes to clear the memory. The computer asks you whether you wish to change your mind, just as a precaution before the computer clears the entire memory.