by Albert Baggetta
Now you can let the kids dial up Santa--knowing that they won't be dialing a 976 number and adding significant Christmas cheer to someone else's pocketbook (and removing it from yours). the Santa BBS lets your children tell the old guy exactly what they want for Christmas, and whether or not they deserve it. This program requires a color monitor.
Talk to Santa now and read stories about Christmas customs in other countries. File SANTA BBS.ARC on your START disk!
Did you ever see that magazine ad for shopping via modem? There's usually a woman at a computer terminal in a warm, futuristic living room. It's snowing outside her window as she orders a new winter coat through her online catalog.
As a kid, having lived through many of New England's winter nor'easters, I often had dreams like that. Around Christmas time I'd think, "Wouldn't it be great to have a direct line to Santa Claus? Then I could express my wishes and thanks to him directly from the privacy of my own room." (Remember now, this was in a time when the most available computer was a Univac.)
With a computer and modem you can call anywhere in the world and there are bulletin board systems and online services to meet every interest. You can do business transactions or shop at the Electronic Mall and yes, you and your child can even dial Santa direct, free of charge, with Santa BBS. (Note: Santa BBS is not a real telecommunications program. You don't need a modem to use it.)
He's Making a List and Checking It Twice
Santa BBS.ARC is even easy enough for an adult to use. First, un-ARC the file SANTA.BBS onto a blank, formatted disk following the Disk Instructions elsewhere in this issue. The file BBSTITLE.PI1 must be in the same directory as SANTA.PRG. Double-click on SANTA.PRG. At the title screen, press the left mouse button or any key on the terminal to "dial" the Santa BBS. Sometimes the line's busy, so be patient. Eventually you'll hear a connect signal. Once you connect, the fun begins at a simulated 1200 baud rate.
- Wait for prompts on the monitor screen. Press a key or the mouse buttons, or type in a response and then press Return. No bad language is allowed--Santa checks bad language as well as bad behavior, and if you're guilty of either, he'll put coal in your stocking (and maybe ignite it).
- Most scrolling text can be interrupted by holding down the Control key and pressing C.
- Exit the Santa BBS by selecting "Bye" from Santa's Menu.
Enter your name (using a maximum of eight letters), which will be remembered for future sessions. Now you'll be notified of your time limit (15 minutes) and whether or not there's any important mail for you (from Santa, of course). If so, you can read it immediately. (You should--Santa's a busy guy.) You can delete your mail after reading it and since there's only a limited amount of space for messages, be sure to use this feature efficiently.
Next you'll see a message from Santa and the elves, followed by Santa's Menu. From here you can enter all of the assorted sub-boards on the BBS, using either the mouse or the keyboard. If you click on the snowflake--the asterisk next to each entry--or press the corresponding key number, you'll be whisked off to the appropriate area.
The Santa Menu
Here's what the menu looks like:
Santa's Menu______15 Min. left
* <1> Christmas Customs
* <2> Santa's Survey
* <3> Read Survey
* <4> A Christmas Poem
* <5> Write Message to Santa
* <6> Read Messages
* <7> Rudolph's Number Game
* <8> Story Time
* <9> User File *_____<0> Bye
North Pole Express ___ 9 degrees
- Christmas Customs--this option shows you how other countries and cultures around the world celebrate Christmas.
- Santa's Survey--your chance to tell Santa all about yourself. The survey is saved under the name you logged on with. If you do another survey, it will replace your old survey.
- Read Survey--read what other users have said about themselves.
- A Christmas Poem "The Night Before Christmas" in its entirety. The poem scrolls upwards a page at a time but you can interrupt the scroll and return to the main menu by pressing Control C.
- Write Message to Santa--you can write a 10-line message (or wish list) to Santa. (Actually, you can address a message to anyone ) When others log on to the board, they can list the messages in the READ MESSAGES area and look for any with their names. These messages are an "open book," so watch what you write. Parents take note: Santa's messages will be in the file N_POLE.MSG and are announced at log-on.
- Read Messages--these are posted to other visitors and to Santa. Select a message from the list that appears when you select this option.
- Rudolph's Number Game--you're invited to play a number-guessing game with Rudolph.
- Story Time--one of the more interesting sub-boards. One of Santa's elves invites you, with option A, to read an original story, "Winston the Winter Ant." You might have more fun, however, by choosing option B, which lets you "play" with the story, opening up a realm of unusual variations.
- User File--click here for a list of all the visitors on Santa's BBS.
- Bye--when you're finished with the board, press the 0 key or click on its snowflake to exit the board. If your time runs out, you'll be disconnected automatically.
Well, there you have it. In the dead of winter, when the new-fallen snow covers the ground, or in the heat of summer, with the air conditioner failing to chill the stifling air, you and your children can be like that lady in the ad: using a computer to contact the world. However, you can take it one step further: you can communicate with a dream.
Albert Baggetta is the author of "Haiku Poet" in the August 1987 issue of Antic Magazine.