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Although 'Sunday computer art' is not quite in my line of criticism, I consented to have a quick look at three 'works' undertaken by the ZZAP! reviewers, done with the aid of MOUSE AND CHEESE. To be entirely frank, the results undoubtedly say more about the psyche of the individuals concerned than anything about the art utility involved.

Brigitte van Reuben



Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
Mouse and Cheese
1986 Euromax
Programmed by ?
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the fifteenth issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (street date: June 12th, 1986).

GARY LIDDON has long been considered an artist when it comes to making tea, but so far his fluency with the paint brush has remained an enigma. Still, he knows all about cheese butties and has been a keen rodent catcher in another incarnation, so it seemed logical enough to get him to take a look at MOUSE AND CHEESE, the new hardware/software package from EUROMAX.

Okay I might as well get all the puerile mouse jokes out of my system now. First the straight mouse joke:

Q: What squeaks and is attached to a computer?
A: a mouse.

Next the technical mouse joke:
What nybbles, and is attached to a computer?
A: a mouse

-- and finally the alternative mouse joke:
Q: What is really an upturned trackball and attached to a computer?
A: Dwight Eisenhower.

Well with those little jollities out of the way that other mags insist on reprinting any time a company dares to bring out any rodent-based hardware, I'll now be able to tell you all about The Mouse and Cheese from Euromax.

For all of you out there experiencing severe techno envy as the new 16 bitters flood the hardware market with their ever-so-trendy icons and pretty pretty graphics, Euromax's Mouse and Cheese could be just the bit of hardware you're looking for. The system comes in two parts and the 'Mouse' bit is, surprise surprise, a mouse, while the software, in a continuation of the silly insistence to label inept objects with cutey cute names, is called 'Cheese'. First the mouse:

Well this really is a bit of quality hardware. Unlike other models I have seen available for the 64 and other machines it is analogue. Some manufacturers cheat by making their mice digital and as a result they handle very badly indeed. Analogue is cool and means that when you whizz the mouse across your desk at great speed the pointer on the screen mimics your speedy movements almost perfectly. An analogue mouse not only comprehends direction but it can also sense speed of movement. A digital mouse only senses directions and as a result even the most artistic flourish will produce not curves and twists but diagonals and straight lines. The Euromax analogue mouse is a very good one.

The quality of construction is high indeed -- we took it apart to find the main ball underneath the mouse to be of plastic coated metal pushed against two potentiometers, one for each axis. There's also a stabilizing wheel to keep the ball's position constant. As well as the actual roily mouse bits there's also a couple of fire buttons on top of the animal. The 64 has quite good analogue to digital converters in both joystick ports so to use your new rodentoid add-on just slot it into port two. That's all that can be said about the hardware really as, after all, it's only a mouse and unless you intend to prog your own software there's not a lot you can really do with it. As with most hardware add-ons it's the software that really counts.

Countdown to Chernobyl by Gary Liddon

Mr Liddon has chosen a subtle palette to underwrite the strength of the containment dome (a feature sadly lacking it seems from the real thing) and the sharp delineament of the explosion. The added comic strip device of the word BANG, clearly shows that this is not from the artist's more mature period...

Cheese is an implementation of about the most useful thing a mouse can be used for -- it's an art package, working in the Commodore's high res multi-colour mode. From here it's possible to have up to four colours in any particular colour square chosen from the 64's quite complete range of 16 hues. The whole package is icon based and to see how 'user friendly' it is I used the usual reviewers' acme standard test and decided to ignore the instructions, plunging straight in instead. Even though I've often regarded such 'easy peasy even a cat could use it' claims for such packages as a bit exaggerated, I found myself doodling away within a matter of seconds after scrutinising the sensibly defined icons.

There is a row of seven icons to the bottom left of the screen and these are the command icons giving access to Cheese's various abilities. These seven can be cycled through the four different sets of commands, allowing you to use all twenty-eight of the software's functions. Next to this set of icons is a command box containing three different piccies that coordinate the whole show. The first is a mouse, and clicking on it cycles the command icons through their four sets of seven commands. When a command is selected a copy of the command icon is placed over the mouse so you know where you are. In the middle is a pattern icon; click your mouse over this little doobrie and it cycles through the inbuilt patterns that range from cross hatch to diagonals.

When accessing a command such us fill, Cheese uses the pattern selected as mask. Even though there is a comprehensive selection of 30 different patterns it's a shame that no pattern edit facility is supplied. The third icon in this little sub-section is a cat and when selected it 'scares away' the mouse's last operation. Really just a cute way of performing an undo.

The functions supplied by Cheese are quite comprehensive but I'll start with easy ones. To select a function just position the pointer over the required icon and click the select key. All you have to do then is drag the pointer onto the main screen and execute that function to your heart's desire. The first command any end user is bound to try out is the straightforward draw one, as the first thing anyone does when given such a piece of technology is try and scribble their signature on screen. When the draw icon is selected, or any option that needs to have a colour selected, the complete set of Commodorian hues pop into view and one of them can be chosen. Throughout operation of Cheese the default colour is shown in the border. With ordinary drawing there are three thickness of pencil that can be chosen and if you want to draw like a three year old then there is a thickness for you; the results bear more than a passing resemblance to Berol crayons.

Probably the next most fun to use are the box and ellipse functions that perform exactly what their names imply. With box just place the pointer at the start position and hold down one of the mouse's buttons. Moving the pointer from there draws a box with two opposite corners defined by the pointer and the start position. Wiggle the rodent around until a desired box is achieved and then let go of the button to indelibly etch the image onto canvas. Ellipse requires the bottom right quadrant of the desired ellipse to be defined. It may sound a little complex but it's really quite easy, just plonk peter pointer in an appropriate place and then define a box for the lower right hand side of the ellipse. Letting go of select then puts Cheese into ellipse drawing mode. There are two ways of using these most handy facilities -- one is to have them just produce a line outline of the required shape while the other is to have a filled-in shape. The box or ellipse is filled with the pattern selected as well so some very pretty effects can be created.

Other goodies included are a very usable zoom mode for close up pixel pounding, a symmetry selector that allows operations to be copied across various axes on the canvas, colour changing within a block, block move and copy, line drawing and many others that should keep even the most hardened digital Degas amazed for a fair long time.

My Dream House in the Country by Julian Rignall

Taking his influence from the post Impressionists, this view of an arboreal abode by Rignall has clear links to the bravura drawing of the French master, Cezanne. The artist has made good use of the strong crayon effect possible and could well be the founder of a new school -- Barrattism.

Mouse and Cheese is the best package of this sort I've seen to date, it's only real disadvantage is the rather large price tag. If, however, a computer artist you are, then after playing around with it I'm sure you'd easily find a justification for the investment. The hardware and software is of an excellent quality and it's nice to see how much effort has gone into the design of both, as it's often the case that adequate hardware is let down by inadequate software backup. Overall I must admit on this occasion to being surprised by the value of a type of utility and hardware I've oft considered as gimicky. Though undoubtedly pretty and cute, Mouse and Cheese is also very workmanlike and proves to be of infinite usefulness.

Squiffy the Bear (Bare) by Gary Penn

What we have here is a variation on the theme of 'Olympia' by Manet (completed 1863 and exhibited in 1865, it caused an immediate scandal and shocked the art world). Penn's elegant line emphasises the sensuous pose of his model, combining softness and strength by setting the figure against an enigmatic background. One of the last and most masterful of this artist's 'bear' period, the canvas should fetch a fortune at Regent's Park Zoo.


Mouse and Cheese hardware and software, is available now, price 64.95. If you can't find it in your local computer shop, Euromax are at Pinfold Lane, Bridlington, North Humberside YO16 5XR, Tel: 0262 60100



Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (29 Jan 2006)
D64 images and manual added 12 Apr 2006, thanks to Viktor Varga and WhiteWolf.

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Manual.doc (194k)

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