Solid Modelling

By Philip Robinson


Issue 26

Mar/Apr 87

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Many home computer packages exist that enable the user to draw 3-D images on the screen, however these are usually only simple 'wire-frame' drawings and do not provide much realism. Solid Modelling will enable the user to draw solid 3-D images with correct shading according to a given light source and also provide a variety of surface textures. The images are drawn by combining basic shapes (or portions of them) into the shape required. The technique of combining basic shapes makes the construction of complex objects extremely easy and quick without the need for the user to have any great artistic ability. The program also provides for the storage of the drawings on disk.


The whole screen is used for drawing and is in Graphics 8 Mode to provide the highest possible resolution (320 x 192). Very few on screen prompts are given while a drawing is being developed. This is done so that the drawing can be as large as possible and it also enables an experienced user to develop the drawing very quickly.


The shapes available in SOLID MODELLING are shown in the accompanying chart. By using only parts of the basic shapes (clipping) quite complex drawings can be made. The following steps are required to draw a basic shape (or part of it).

1) Press the key that denotes the required shape, e.g. 'S' for Sphere. A small single pixel cursor will appear which can be moved around the screen by the joystick.

2) Select the necessary number of points to define the required shape by pressing the joystick fire button when the cursor is in the required position on the screen. A short beep will indicate the point has been selected. The Sphere, Cylinder and Inside-View Toroid require two points to define them, while the Top-View and Edge-View Toroids require three. Refer to the 'Shapes Chart' for details. The cursor will disappear when all the required points have been selected.

3) This step is optional and allows the shape to be 'clipped' so that only a portion of it is drawn. It is important to understand that clipping is relative to the centre of the shape (always the second selected point). A shape can be clipped in up to four directions, right of centre, left of centre, above centre or below centre. When a shape is clipped only the part of the shape from the centre to 'clip-line' will be drawn. The clip-line for right and left of centre is a vertical line drawn through the 'clip-point' (see below), while the clip-line for above and below of centre is a horizontal line drawn through clip-point. For each direction of clipping define a clip-point as follows:

a) Press the appropriate 'arrow' key for the direction required, e.g. Right Arrow for clipping right of centre. The cursor will then appear.

b) Move the cursor (joystick) to the required screen position and then select (fire button) the clip-point. A short beep will indicate the clip-point has been selected. N.B. The clip-point will not be displayed.

4) When the shape has been defined and optionally clipped the 'D' key must be pressed to actually draw the shape.


The 'X' and 'Y' keys provide a cursor control function which is extremely useful for positioning basic shapes relative to each other. They can be used during selection of the points to define a shape. When either of these keys is pressed the cursor will move halfway between its current position and the last selected point. If the 'X' key is pressed the adjustment of the cursor occurs on the X axis, and similarly on the Y axis if the 'Y' key is used. For example, if you required to draw a sphere between two vertical cylinders but with the Sphere touching each cylinder this could be done as follows.

Select the first point required to define the sphere by positioning the cursor on the edge of the first cylinder. Move the cursor to the edge of the second cylinder and then press the 'X' key . The cursor will now be at the centre of the required sphere. Select this point and then press 'D' to draw the sphere. Many other similar uses can be found for these two keys.


The functions of the drawing program are selected by the pressing of the appropriate keys (e.g. 'S' to draw a sphere). These keys will immediately take effect. A short beep signals the pressing of a control key. If any error occurs during program operation a longer low buzz will sound. Sometimes screen prompts will occur and these must be responded to before any other function can be started. The control keys that determine the lighting and shading textures must be set prior to pressing 'D' to draw the shape.


One of the following keys must be selected before a shape can be drawn.

T - Top-View Toroid
S - Sphere
C - Cylinder (Vertical Axis)
O - Cylinder (Horizontal Axis)
E- Edge-View Toroid (Vertical Axis)
M - Edge-View Toroid (Horizontal Axis)

I - Inside-View Toroid (Vertical Axis)
H - Inside-View Toroid (Horizontal Axis)



1 - One light source.
2 - Two light sources i.e. shadows not so harsh.
3 - 3-D effect removed by direct light from front, however strength of light source (shade) may be specified. The shade value can be from 0 (white) to 64 (black).


N - Normal half-tone

R - Random

Writing on the Drawing / Fast cursor

W - Enables text to be written to the drawing. The cursor appears and should be moved (joystick) to the required position and then selected (fire button). A prompt for up to 20 characters of text will then appear and the text will be written to the screen. It will be noted that the cursor moves a character at a time and is therefore much faster. This key can therefore be used as a fast cursor option provided the fire button is not pressed prior to the next required control key.

Saving and loading

A - Alters the current filename to be used for filing and retrieving drawings. A prompt for the new file name will appear and this will then be used for any file or retrieval request. Remember to put the drive identifier and colon ":" in front of the file name you require.

F - File the drawing on the screen onto disk using the current filename (see 'A' above).

G - Get the drawing from diskette onto the screen using the current filename (see 'A' above).


Q - Quit the current drawing, i.e. erase the screen. A prompt will appear to check that you are sure! If you only require to erase part of the drawing this can be done by drawing over the unwanted part with a 'black' shape.


Because of the combination of BASIC and machine code routines which are read from disk by the Basic listing it is important to type the programs in correctly. Follow these instructions carefully.

1. Type in Listing 1 and SAVE with the filename D:LOADER.3D. This program is not directly used by the main program and is saved just as a precaution.
2. Make sure that you have a formatted disk in drive 1, then RUN the program you have just saved. This will create two additional programs on the disk, ASSEM1.3D and ASSEM2.3D.
3. Type in Listing 2 and SAVE it to the same disk with the filename D:INTRO.3D.
4. Type in Listing 3 and SAVE it to the same disk with the filename D:PROGRAM.3D.


1. Boot up the computer using DOS 2.0 or 2.5 and type RUN "D:INTRO.3D".
2. When the Ready prompt appears type RUN "D:PROGRAM.3D"
3. If you have any problem, you must switch off before running INTRO.3D again.

The program will load the machine code routines from disk and then show 'PROGRAM LOADED' on screen. You are now ready to start.

Listing 1

AtariLister - requires Java

Listing 2

AtariLister - requires Java

Listing 3

AtariLister - requires Java

Disk subscribers will find a slightly modified version of Solid Modelling on their issue disk. This loads two title screens as the program is initialising which give superb examples of what can be achieved. The disk also contains four example drawings.

Issue 26 disk is also available separately if required at 3.95.