DELPHI, The Official Guide
by Michael A.
Books/Simon & Schuster
488 pages, $19.95
by Clayton Walnum
no arguing the fact that the major online services are complex systems
that can be daunting to even the most experienced user. To the new
subscriber, however, the numerous commands required to navigate the
network can be intimidating to the point of frustration. Although
DELPHI is more userfriendly than most systems of its type, there's no
avoiding the fact that to provide the greatest "bang for the buck" a
certain amount of complexity must exist. DELPHI is an immense and
labyrinthine web. After all, there are literally hundreds of areas the subscriber
may access (everything from an online encyclopedia to more esoteric
areas such as AMSEX [American Sexology,] and the Hearing Impaired
Forum), and each area has unique features the user must become familiar
What to do?
If you're a subscriber to DELPHI, I've got great
news. There's a new book by Michael A. Banks that absolutely has to be
added to your library. DELPHI, The
Official Guide will not only escort the beginners among you
effortlessly through your inaugural DELPHI wanderings, but will also
surprise you old masters with myriad tidbits that will make your online
excursions even more fruitful than they were before In fact, this book
is so complete that DELPHI abandoned their own manual and took on DELPHI, The Official Guide as the
guide provided to new subscribers at sign-up time. (Could be why it's
called the official guide,
Almost 500 pages in length, the book is loaded with
"screen shots" that illustrate exactly what you'll see on-screen during
your DELPHI sessions. Command line examples, showing what should be
typed at the various prompts, are also included. When you combine the
sample screens with the command illustrations, you find that reading
the book is almost like being online. You could easily learn the basics
of the network without ever touching your computer.
Part 1 of the book, "Getting Started," begins with
chapters that describe DELPHI in a general way and explain what is
required to access the services. The basics of communicating with
DELPHI are then discussed, including the use of the various types of
menus and the entry of the control key and immediate (global) commands.
These introductory chapters are followed by a
description of DELPHI's main menu. In this section of the book, each of
the primary areas is briefly described, preparing you for the more
detailed chapters to come.
The real "meat" of the book lies in Part 2, the
"DELPHI Members Handbook," where each of the primary areas gets a
chapter unto itself. This 340-page section is where you'll spend most
of your time, where you'll learn how to send E-mail, how to participate
in a CO (conference), how to join and steer your way through SIGs
(Special Interest Groups), how to upload and download files, how to
manage your work space; how to use DELPHI's editors and so on. In
short, everything you need to know is described in careful detail, with
plenty of examples to ensure understanding.
Part 3, the "DELPHI User's Guide," offers many tips
to help you use your time on DELPHI more efficiently, and Part 4,
"Reference," includes a DELPHI index, the DELPHI membership agreement,
a troubleshooting section and a list of access numbers for Telenet,
Tymnet and DATAPAC. Finally wrapping up the book is a lengthy glossary
and an equally lengthy index. An extra bonus is the quick reference
card bound into the back of the book. After removal (no sweat; it
has a perforated edge), it will reside right next to your keyboard,
where you can Grab it the next time you need a quick answer to a
question regarding DELPHI.
The book's author, Michael Banks, is not your
average computer-hackerbecome-writer. He is a seasoned professional who
has to his credit many non-fiction books and science-fiction novels. He
also has monthly telecommunications columns in several magazines (not
the least of which is his "Database Delphi" column in ANALOG Computing)
and has published articles and short stories almost beyond counting. To
further substantiate his credentials, I should mention that he is the
primary manager of DELPHI's Science Fiction and Fantasy SIG.
If you're already a subscriber to DELPHI, you may
order a copy of DELPHI, The Official
Guide right online. The book is also available in bookstores
throughout the country or by direct order from the publisher. New
subscribers to DELPHI will receive the book as part of their sign-up
package, a bargain that's hard to ignore.
Official Guide is a complete, carefully organized and
wellwritten book that provides much more information than one has a
right to expect for a measly $19.95. (Equivalent computer-related
handbooks may run as high as $35.) An immense amount of labor went into
its creation, and it is you and I who gain the fruits of that labor-all
the fruits except the royalties.