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Going Retro: What's the DIF?



Having chosen Calc Magic as my A8 spreadsheet program, the next logical step seems to be to transfer the data into Calc Magic. Several of the files that are to be transfered started out as Visicalc files then migrated to Calc Magic, then to the ST, then to the IBM running Lotus 1-2-3, then to Microsoft Office, then to the iMAC running Microsoft Office, then back to an IBM compatible running Microsoft office, then to Open Office, then to Excel 2013, and now back to Calc Magic. I could have saved myself a lot of time and trouble (and money) if I had known.

The first attempt was with a file containing utility records. The first full year of recorded information is for 1994 and includes a sheet (or tab) for gas, electric, water and Yearly totals. Its been interesting over the years to see if any conservation efforts have panned out. Of course in 1994 there seemed to be a need to break up the bill to keep track of fixed charges, energy, and taxes. Now its just energy usage, total billing, and a calculated cost per unit of energy.

Calc Magic has a limit of 256 rows. This will make it necessary to have separate files for each utility and keep only the yearly totals and the last 16 years of monthly data. Calc Magic can use the extra memory of an 130XE. While populating a worksheet with the electric billing data the free memory went from 30137 bytes to 15495 bytes. Plenty of room to expand the sheet's width but the row limitation would have been exceeded if data prior to 2000 was kept.

DIF (Data Interchange Format) files have been around for quite some time. This file format was developed to move 2 dimensional data arrays between programs. Creating a standard way of moving data between spreadsheets, databases, graphing, statistics, and yatter-yatter programs definitely facilitated the process. The DIF files could contain 2 types of data; value or text. The files can also be read by any text reader, the data was written using ASCII code (for most computers). Only the results of formulas/functions were exported to the file. A RANGE of cells could be saved by column or row and imported to another program.

Things change. Some of the options for writing DIF files were gone in Excel 2013. When saving data to a dif file, Excel will send all the data on the active sheet to the file. There is no RANGE output option. The option of saving the sheet by row or by column was missing. If you can rotate the sheet with a click of the button, the option may seem of little value. The files are saved by column using ASCII codes.

Calc Magic will load an ATASCII - DIF file starting in a specified cell when you select DISK COMMANDS- LOAD DIF FILE - BY COLUMN - RANGE - file. A program was needed to convert the DIF file from ASCII file to ATASCII. The program ATASCIIView.EXE was recommended in a message thread and was down loaded at "hanken.co.uk/atascii/index.htm". The program ran under windows 10. Just load in the DIF and save it as ATASCII.

This should explain the steps taken to move the Electric Data back to the A8.

  1. Load EXCEL 2013 and spreadsheet file.
  2. Create a new tab(sheet). Name it DIF
  3. Copy data to clipboard.
  4. Paste special - Value into the DIF sheet
  5. Edit and organize the data.
  6. Make sure DIF is active sheet and SAVE as filename.DIF.
  7. Convert ASCII files to ATASCII format. Keep DIF extension.
  8. Make the file(s) accessible to Calc Magic.
  9. Boot Calc Magic.
  10. GOTO cell of upper left corner of target range.
  11. Execute START - DISK COMMANDS -Load DIF file-By Col - enter range - select file

You can keep adding DIF files to a sheet. Just keep in mind that the new data will overwrite any data in the target range.

The final touch is to format the Calc Magic cells. DIF files do not contain any of this cell format data. Gull-dang-it!


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