Macro Assembler V.11.1

Reviewed by Matthew Jones


Issue 32

Mar/Apr 88

Next Article >>

<< Prev Article





Since I first reviewed the Metacomco Macro Assembler, it has not changed drastically in its basic functionality, but overall it is now streets ahead. The first version included only an editor, the GST linker, and the assembler. In the new version, the linker has not changed at all but the editor is a GEM based editor (as discussed in my C review), and the assembler is much faster in operation. What really improves the new package, however, are the included program development tools now standard in Metacomco languages: MENU+ the GEM based 'shell' (for managing the programming cycle); MAKE the large program management and maintenance utility (a true UNIX style MAKE); DEBUG + the symbolic link-loading debugger; and Kumas' Resource editor for editing GEM resource files. Also included is a GEM library to link with for access to GEM functions.

The assembler is a full macro assembler, suitable for writing large stand-alone applications or for interfacing with high-level languages. In use, it is a standard 'big system' assembler, reading a source file and outputting an object file there is no interactive mode where you edit/assemble/run in memory but for serious programming work this is acceptable. As well as small pure 68000 programs, I have used the assembler to write special 68000 code for both the Lattice C compiler and the Prospero Fortran, and have had no problems linking.

The assembler has a full range of options, and can produce full listings and cross references. It can output object code suitable for either the GST linker or the LINK68 linker (not supplied).

The manual is three quarters of an inch thick, and covers each program supplied. The adverts describe the manual as 'with tutorials', but this does not include all parts, and sadly the assembler is one that lacks a tutorial. I have always found assembler manuals to be very unforthcoming they may tell you everything but they are very `concise', so if you have no idea as to WHY you would want to do something, knowing how to do it does not help. Such a tutorial may border on 68000 code, but I would have liked more information on such subjects as 'which instructions and psuedo-ops cannot be used in order to produce position-independent code rather than relocatable?'. Why can't this be included and why not say what the difference is for those not familiar (me first!). This is not unique to Metacomco though most (if not all) assembler manuals are like this and general books do not help because they tend to say 'refer to your manual for detail'.

If you need an assembler then the extras provided with this one (which all work with other languages too) make it a very good buy. The assembler is very suitable for professional use (despite a slightly archaic command line format) and I can certainly recommend it.