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Day by day on "The Far Side'

A desk calendar with The Far Side is on my office desk. Chances are, you have one close at hand, too. The Far Side has been the top-selling page-a-day calendar for the past five years. Last year alone, more than 4-million were sold.

And cartoons from Gary Larson's panel can now appear on your computer. The program offers more than a cartoon a day, however.

The Far Side Computer Calendar is a fully functional daily planner. It's available for the Macintosh, as well as IBM-compatible computers that use the Windows interface. A version for DOS (versions 3.1 and higher) has just been introduced.

The program is being marketed by Amaze Inc., a start-up company (it didn't have any seed money until a year ago) in Kirkland, Wash. It carries a suggested retail price of $69.99. Larson said he was attracted to the company because it was new and its employees were "all bright and enthusiastic. And the calendar program they were developing _ sans The Far Side _ was impressive in and of itself."

"The frosting on the cake, however," added Larson, "was that the Amaze people themselves seem to have an uncanny resemblance to some of the characters I draw."

The cartoons were entered into the computer using a scanner. Once on disk, computer artists cleaned them up by filling in lines or straightening out jagged ones. Finally, Larson went over them one last time.

Unlike the desk calendar, some of these cartoons are animated. Penguins drift across the screen, riding an ice floe. A critter crawls from the primordial soup. A caveman appears, arms waving. The feature can be turned off, so as not to interrupt users who don't want to be interrupted. (Probably those humorless "power user" types we read so much about.)

But, as mentioned earlier, this is more than just a gag a day. For long-range planners, the personal appointment side of the calendar is operational through the year 2999. The cartoons, however, don't keep going that long. They come in a one-year supply that runs for 12 months from the date the program is installed. When the year's supply runs out, send away for the new year's supply.

The calendar can be viewed in five ways: the daily cartoon, or by daily, weekly, monthly or yearly schedule. They can be printed on a printer, but the cartoon won't print _ only the appointments and calendar portion will make it to the hard copy.

To add an appointment, use the event editor. Enter the date and time of the event. The event can be up to 64 characters in length. There's also a drop-down menu box of standard event names (breakfast, trip, golf, errands, etc.) to save typing. Another box lets you type in notes about the event. If you want an audible reminder to sound at the time of the event, one is available. (You can pick from several, including "yowl" and "Charge!")

Additionally, you can assign an animated icon to the event, which will appear on the appointment calendar. For a party, balloons will float through the party icon.

The calendar also has the ability to handle recurring events. If, for example, you have to pick up mail at 1 p.m. every Wednesday, you can enter that into the calendar one time. The reminder would appear every Wednesday.

Printing offers several options. A range of dates without events can be printed for insertion into a personal organizer. Printed pages can be large (8{ by 11 inches), medium (5{ by 8{) or small (3} by 6}). In addition, the pages can also be printed to a custom size.

Does Larson use a computer? This, from a recent interview: "I was intimidated by computers initially, and I had one for a couple of years that I basically never turned on. One day, on a friend's encouragement, I upgraded to a newer and "friendlier' model, and found my intimidation being taken over by appreciation for this wonderful tool."

And finally, some technical limitations for running the program: Macintosh machines need System 6 or higher. It will run on all Macs except the 512-kilobyte machine. A hard drive with at least 3 megabytes free is also required. The Windows versions needs 400K of disk space, but 1.5 megabytes is better. An EGA monitor or better is also required.