Classic Computer Magazine Archive ATARI CLASSICS Volume 2, Issue 2 / April 1993 / PAGE 15

Correspondent's Corner:
Survivin' On The Island

Don Lebow, AC Correspondent, Hawaii

Isolated in Paradise?
    When it comes to feeling isolated with an Atari Classic in a PC world, I sometimes feel more isolated than most. After all, I live on a very small rock in a very large pond called the Pacific Ocean. From my perch here on the tropical island of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands, it's 2500 miles to anywhere. Even visiting Honolulu requires a somewhat pricey plane flight. There are compensations, mind you <ahem!>, but as far as things fuji, it would seem I'm pretty much on my own, no?
    Not really. As many have discovered, the key to an ongoing relationship with your "orphan" computer is networking. No, no... I don't mean go out and look for an Ethernet card for your XE! I mean logging on to the worldwide network of 8-bit users. And they are out there, believe me. That means using a modem to tap into the bitstream. Talk about your wonders of modern science! With modems so inexpensive these days it's easy to take telecommunications for granted (I confess to that), but if you think about it, it's a pretty amazing phenomenon. And it's saved my bacon innumerable times.

Long-Distance Repairs-and Friends!
    For instance, there was the time the keyboard on my XE went down. Not being a techie (I'm one of those who can never remember which end of the soldering iron one picks up), I was leery of trying to replace it. Hey, they said, anyone can do it. Not ME!, I replied. Finally Hardware Wizard Bob Woolley stepped in and told me not to worry. He would provide step by step instructions. Here's what he wrote:
    1. Pick up screwdriver.
    2. Remove old keyboard.
    3. Put in new keyboard.
    And by golly, it worked! Sometimes it takes a long distance buddy to convince you that you're capable of more than you thought.
    And that's the best part, of course. You people out there. In 8 years of telecomputing, I've met a lot of folks. Nice folks. It's hard to explain to someone unfamiliar with telecom how you can have a "good friend" whom you've never actually "met." But the phenomenon is very real, and it's one of the best things that's happened to me since I got into personal computing.

Staying Connected
    It's not really necessary for you to log onto one of the commercial services to start getting in touch (though if you drop by ATARI8 on CompuServe, be sure to say hello!). A local BBS is just as good a place to start as any, and there are more than you might think. If a BBS is hooked into a network like FIDONET, your reach is that much wider. If you have Internet access, consider checking out the very active 8-Bit discussion group.
    It goes without saying that being so far away from everything also means I have to rely totally on Mail Order (not unusual nowadays.) We're fortunate in having some dedicated vendors who continue to support the 8-bit, like Bob Puff at CSS (yup, that's an unsolicited plug!). It's amazing what stuff you can find out there. I never thought I'd see the day when I'd be running both a hard drive and a high density 3 1/2" floppy on my little XL, but there it is, right in front of me. Who says there's nothing new? Not to mention, it sure is nice to be able to call one of the vendors in AC, say something along the lines of, "I need an XL power supply", and actually have them know what you mean! Don't try this at your local Radio Shack... <heh>.
    I do practice one basic survival technique: I hoard equipment. Never know when something might go down, and you'll need a backup, while your regular is taking a long long plane ride to somewhere. The alternative is too grim to contemplate... . Aloha!